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How a lecturing mentor propelled Resident Evil's producer all the way to the top

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Since joining Capcom in April 2001, Yoshiaki Hirabayashi has worked exclusively on the Resident Evil series, starting with the GameCube remake of the original and keeping on with it all the way to Resident Evil 6, which he produced.

Creativity, however, was not in his mind when he was searching for a job at first. "I majored in economics in college," he told Famitsu magazine in this week's issue, "and I received a job offer from a finance company near the end of college. Due to assorted issues, though, I wound up having to turn down the offer. It was probably for the better, because it gave me time to think about what what I really wanted to do in life. The conclusion I came to was 'Screw it, if I'm gonna live this life, I gotta do what I want.' So I went to a computer school for a year."

The idea of giving up a potentially lucrative major and spending the money to go to a game-making school would probably not strike many as too smart. But Hirabayashi, it turned out, had the talent to back up the risky decision. "I was part of the drama group in college," he said. "I always liked finding ways to express myself, from participating in plays to making leaflets and so on. This was right when 3D graphics were still in their infancy; I made a 3D movie as my graduation project, and that got the attention of someone from Capcom, which led to getting hired. Jun Takeuchi [producer for Resident Evil 5] and Shinji Mikami [creator of the Resident Evil series] happened to be at my interview, and I have to admit that I had no idea who Mikami was at the time. They asked me all of these questions unrelated to the job, like 'What have you gotten into lately?' and I was sure that I blew it."

Somehow he got in anyway, which is lucky, because Mikami literally changed his life. "Maybe I didn't know him before joining, but Mikami definitely was my favorite game maker at that time," Hirabayashi said. "I guess I'm like one of those baby chicks who thinks that whoever he sees first is his mother. He treats the design process so seriously, and he's really someone you can learn from. I'm leading the RE series now and I'm in a position roughly close to what Mikami was, and it really feels like a heavy responsibility."

How did Mikami affect the producer? Chiefly, by yelling at him until he stopped thinking about himself and started thinking more about gamers. "I remember one time, when I was just a regular designer, he had me go through several retakes on something. He told me 'When someone wants you to do something a certain way, don't filter that through your own perspective. It's important to start from your own perspective, but you also have to keep in mind what whoever receiving it is expecting.' That stuck in me. You have to understand what your partner wants and bring that out, or else you'll be left behind."

"In that way," he added, "all the times Mikami lectured me almost seem nostalgic now. I can laugh now about him yelling at me for so long that we'd both miss the last train home, I guess!"