Tetsuya Mizuguchi (Rez, Space Channel 5, Lumines) has been all over the gaming news lately. A hi-def version of Rez is coming soon. He's constantly being pestered about a possible sequel to Space Channel 5 (a Wii version may be in the works). And he created the stunning opening sequence for the Live Earth event in Japan, featuring a holographic Al Gore (video here).
The real evidence of Mizuguchi's impact on gaming, however, can be found in the growing list of games by other designers inspired by Mizuguchi's style. Jonathan Mak's Everyday Shooter and PomPom's forthcoming Mutant Storm Empire are two good examples of brand new games that owe their very existence to Mizuguchi's signature blending of music, colorful trippy visuals, and fast-paced play.
Mizuguchi calls this design motif "synaesthesia," referring to the neurological condition wherein one sensory experience can trigger an automatic involuntary response from another sensory pathway, e.g. hearing colors or tasting shapes. Mizuguchi even attempted to enhance this experience in Rez by offering an optional Trance Vibrator Peripheral (insert naughty snicker here).
Mizuguchi recalled his inspiration for Rez in an interview with Gamespot UK:
I had many inspirations for Rez, particularly from rave culture. When I first saw a rave party in about 1993 there were many people dancing, and it was like they were jumping in time to the music. I had a big, big flash, and suddenly I just remembered about the concept of synaesthesia. I studied Kandinsky at university, so this concept came into my brain and it took three or four years to think about making a game around this concept, and it was a long journey.
And here's where it gets interesting. Kandinsky the abstract artist was interested in synaesthesia too and tried to capture something of the essence of it in his work. Mizuguchi brings his trance/rave sensibility to Kandinsky, bearing Rez. Which in turn stimulates Jonathan Mak, whose Everyday Shooter incorporates the music and visuals of Mizuguchi, but not the gameplay. The gameplay comes from somewhere else. Anyone who plays Everyday Shooter is bound to say, "Ah, this is the PS3's answer to Geometry Wars, which, of course, it is. But then Geometry Wars is really just Robotron with, you guessed it, cool music and trippy visuals. 2007 meets 1982 meets 1923.
At the risk of venturing into a place everyone is sick of going--games as art--I would suggest that this cross-fertilization of ideas and aesthetics is one of the hallmarks of art. It's essentially how art happens. Whether or not you like Rez is beside the point. I'm not terribly crazy about Kandinsky myself. But I would never for a moment doubt his credentials as an artist. Mizuguchi deserves no less respect.