The man who makes the most popular racing game series of the past 15 years fell in love with cars at age three. At 24, he crashed the first car he ever had. He was driving perhaps a bit too fast that day. These days, he's wrapping up development of December's Gran Turismo 6 and proposing an interesting idea: that humanity's love of racing can prevent wars.
I spoke with this man, Gran Turismo creator Kazunori Yamauchi, earlier this week at the kick-off event for a film festival hosted by Kotaku sister site Jalopnik and promoted by Yamauchi's partners at PlayStation. Our interview was conducted through a translator.
Kotaku: Where does your love of cars come from? What's your first memory of a car?
Yamauchi: What prompted my love of cars was that, when I was three, I remember hopping in my father's car when he would go to work. And it was almost everyday that I would drive with him. That made me, I guess, really like cars. But what gave me a love of actual driving was since I purchased the Nissan GT-R.
Kotaku: How old were you?
Yamauchi: I was 24.
Kotaku: Were you saving up for a while? Can you tell me the story of how you got your first car?
Yamauchi: It was a five-year loan. I scrapped the car six months after I purchased it. It was a big crash.
Kotaku: Oh no! What happened?
Yamauchi: I continued to pay the loan without the car.
Kotaku: Can you tell me what went wrong? Why you crashed?
Yamauchi: I was driving 200kph on a regular road. [Editor's note: That's about 124 mph!] I didn't have car insurance. After the crash the car wasn't insured, so it was gone.
Kotaku: A lot of people get cars and don't fall in love with cars the way you do. What do you think it is that spoke to you about cars? Something that struck you about cars that you were going to love and work on?
Yamauchi: I think it's pretty common among all the car lovers. The difference may be when one is aware of the car, because I love looking at cars, I love driving and riding on cars. I think everybody gets hooked.
Kotaku: Do you have a favourite car that you've owned?
Yamauchi: The Nissan GT-R was my first love.
Kotaku: How many cars do you have now?
Yamauchi: I have five.
Kotaku: Can you tell me what they are?
Yamauchi: I have two Ford GTs, Honda S2000, Mercedes SL55 AMG, and a Nissan GT-R.
Kotaku: You always have a Nissan GT-R handy?
Yamauchi: It's the newest model.
Kotaku: OK. It's not the one you had when you were 24.
Yamauchi: The current model is R35. The one that crashed was R32. I would love to have R32.
Kotaku: I'm sure you can get an old one, right?
Yamauchi: Not the kind of quality I'm looking for.
Kotaku: You also race as well, right? Is that something you expect to continue as well?
Yamauchi: I didn't really see what it's all about until I did the racing. By racing, myself, I think the goal I have for Gran Turismo went farther out. What I mean is racing is a lot like fighting a war. You have to build the ammunition, which is the car. And you have to organise a team. And you have to secure the logistics. And the actual racing. And you see people die in front of your eyes sometimes. Motor-racing is a smart way that humankind prevents war — real war — from happening. I was awakened to this fact, came to this realisation. And maybe to watch Formula 1, to see avid fans and grown-up adults get really into it, I think that's the reason why. And I want to express that enthusiasm and that sense of enjoyment you feel in actual racing in Gran Turismo, but it's not that easy to do.
Yamauchi: "Motor-racing is a smart way that humankind prevents war — real war — from happening."
Kotaku: And I want to make sure I understood that correctly. You're saying you feel like this parallel you're seeing between racing and war, you feel like one could be a replacement for people for the other thing? One could prevent the other? Is that the idea?
Yamauchi: Yes. I believe so.
Kotaku: This is influencing Gran Turismo 6 and the ideas you have here?
Yamauchi: Yes, we are planning to do online championships in Gran Turismo 6 and I am expecting a human drama that we have never seen in earlier versions in the online championships.
And that was that. An illuminating interview about what makes the man tick, I hope. Want more? Well, to help celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Gran Turismo series, Sony enlisted director Tamir Moscovici to create a documentary about Yamauchi. Here's a trailer that debuted at the Jalopnik event:
Gran Turismo 6 will be released exclusively for the PS3 on December 6.