PREVIEW: “It’s a miracle this game exists — and maybe fate” (Polygon)

The origin of Humanity (the video game) sounds like the end of humanity (the concept).

Visual director Yugo Nakamura and his team of creatives asked a simple question: “How many digital people can we put on a screen at once?” To find the answer, they created Humanity: a sterile, brutalist world in which infinite streams of humans marched up, down, and around towering structures before falling into an abyss.

At this point, Humanity wasn’t much of a game. Nor was it being made by game developers — not in the traditional sense.

The designers are part of tha, a Japanese creative firm that does a bit of everything, from a reimagining of the Tokyo public toilet and Uniqlo’s blocky branding, to experimental fashion and experiential art installations.

Unsure what would come next for their visual novelty, and unwilling to compost it, the team at tha presented a visual demo at the Unity Festival in Tokyo before a panel of judges — one of whom was Tetsuya Mizuguchi. If you don’t already know Mizuguchi by name, you know the games he’s helped produce: Rez, Lumines, Extery Extended Extra, and most recently and perhaps most famously, Tetris Effect. He’s the founder and CEO of Enhance, a video game publisher/experiential art creative studio.

Mizuguchi has used Enhance (and his bona fides) to help other projects get off the ground and through development. Sometimes that’s a logical project, like a modernization of the greatest puzzle game of all time. Sometimes it’s far more abstract, like an R&D lab “focused on synesthesia and the architecture of other multi-sensory experiences.” In this case, it’s somewhere in the middle: converting conceptual visual art into a playable, wholly new video game.

“We can call [seeing that early art] luck or chance or all about timing,” says Mizuguchi, “but I believe it was meant to happen. Yugo-san said the tech demo was out of curiosity. But I don’t take that word lightly. Curiosity leads to something. When we met, I felt his strong desire to make [something more]. Not saying his other work doesn’t have that feeling, but I felt like he wanted to create an experience that was unlike anything he’d done before.

Read the full preview in Polygon