My eyes roll at Aerosmith’s hit song “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing,” but game creator Tomonobu Itagaki gets tears in his eyes when he hears it. He explained how the song and the Bruce Willis movie Armageddon changed his life, during a talk at DICE Summit 2012 today.
Itagaki now heads up his own studio, Valhalla Games, which is currently working with THQ on the upcoming game Devil’s Third, but he started the talk by taking the audience back to a darker time. Around 2000, while still at Tecmo, Itagaki recalled that he only had a couple of months to create a PlayStation 2 launch title. He and his team worked hard, but the game never got to the level they wanted by the end of that short span. Around that time, a co-worker asked to borrow a build of the game to play for himself, but he was tricked, and that disc was actually put into production without Itagaki knowing. The game was Dead or Alive 2.
This incident sent him into a dark depression, causing him to hole up in his home, rarely leaving. Itagaki told us that he took to the bottle, drinking morning to night for about three months. He decided that he would quit making games.
After some time on the couch, drinking and crying, Itagaki’s wife suggested that they watch some movies. He says that he was indifferent to most of them, but one touched his heart: Armageddon. He says that he watched it time and time again, every time finding himself moved by the scene where Bruce Willis’ character says goodbye to his daughter. “If I close my eyes now and recall Armageddon, tears still come to my eyes,” he told the audience. The movie’s theme song, “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing,” was performed by Steven Tyler for his daughter, Liv. Both the scene and the song made Itagaki think of his young daughter.
Itagaki said that one day, while watching the movie again with his daughter in his lap, she asked him to stop the movie. When he asked her why she didn’t want to see it, she said, “This is the movie where Daddy dies.” This made Itagaki realize that he had died as a developer, without ever making his daughter and family happy. This became a turning point for him, he says, and from here he went on to create his own studio.
“No matter what anyone says, Aerosmith and Armageddon were the ones who saved my life, my company, my friends, and my family,” he said.