The Japanese Developer Of Downwell Used To Be An Opera Singer

The Japanese Developer Of Downwell Used To Be An Opera Singer

For all of 2014 I’ve travelled, via crowdfunding from my generous readers, to stay with game developers around the world and write about them.

It was something I called the Embed With Games series. I found Ojiro Fumoto in Japan in November, and he turned out to be a a genius game developer who was making the game Downwell and studying… opera singing at the Tokyo University for the Arts. Downwell is a game where you “go down a well with guns for boots” as Ojiro put it.

The coolest thing about Ojiro’s mobile Spelunky-like game Downwell, apart from that it has a lovely pyrotechnic feel to play when I played it, is that Ojiro only started making games last March and by November he almost had a whole game to show for it. Made with Gamemaker Studio, Downwell was picked up by Devolver.

“Why did you start to make games?” I ask.

“Braid and Super Meat Boy – those days when indie games got super popular. I’ve been playing games since then. I was even playing Cave Story and stuff before then. I’ve always loved indie games and dreamed of making games for myself. But I always imagined that programming would be way too hard for me.”

“That’s the biggest barrier right?” I say. “Everyone thinks that.”

“Yeah and I just gave up on it before even trying. But then I entered school and I was singing in front of people. I’ve always had this… ‘Why the hell am I singing?’ It’s so ridiculous. I’m Japanese, I’m pretending to be this Italian young boy who’s in love with one girl… I’m singing about my love for her… That’s not what I wanted to do. I thought hard about what I really wanted to do. If I could do anything in the world what would I do? I didn’t want to become the greatest thing in the world. I wanted to become a game developer. So I started studying really hard. I used Gamemaker Studio. It turned out to be quite easy to use. So I’ve only been making games since then.”

“For how many years?” I ask.

“I only started this March,” he says.


“That’s incredible,” I say. “You’ve got the hang of it… Pretty quick.”

“I’ve always had this game design stuff in my head. Just never actually… Used it,” Ojiro says, as if making a game like this was just like falling off a truck.

You can read my essay about when I went to stay in Tokyo with Ojiro here, if you like.