“Games x Supercomputers” published in Nikkei.
A talk between Satoshi Matsuoka, Director, RIKEN Center for Computational Science who is responsible for the world’s best supercomputer “Fugaku” and Kenji Matsubara, Representative director & CEO, SNK CORPORATION was published in Nikkei (morning edition, 12 March 2022).
Make it more fun. Aspirations led to “the world’s highest performance”.
Games and Supercomputers – Cycle of Evolution
Director, RIKEN Center for Computational Science (R-CCS)
Satoshi Matsuoka received his Ph. D. from the University of Tokyo in 1993. He developed NES while he was at the university. He had been Full Professor at the Global Scientific Information and Computing Center (GSIC), the Tokyo Institute of Technology since 2001, and Director of the joint AIST-Tokyo Tech. Real World Big Data Computing Open Innovation Laboratory (RWBC-OIL) since 2017, and became Specially Appointed Professor at Tokyo Tech starting 2018 along with his directorship at R-CCS. He introduced GPU (graphics processing unit), which expresses games’ three-dimensional images, to supercomputers. He is responsible for the supercomputer “Fugaku”, a successor of “Kyo”
Representative director & CEO, SNK CORPORATION
He received his MA from Information Engineering, the University of Tokyo in 1986, joined Hitachi, Ltd. and developed CPU of supercomputers. He received his MBA from Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA in 1997 and joined Oracle Corporation Japan. Later he entered the gaming industry. He held positions such as Representative Director and President of Koei Co., Ltd. (presently KOEI TECMO GAMES CO., LTD.), Representative Director, President and CEO of Zynga Japan K.K. and Representative Director and CPO of SEGA Corporation. From 2021, he is CEO of SNK Corporation.
Games are developed by human wisdom and cutting-edge technologies. Satoshi Matsuoka, Representative director & CEO, SNK CORPORATION, who changed his career from a game developer to a director for the world’s best supercomputer “Fugaku”, talked with Kenji Matsubara, Representative director & CEO, SNK CORPORATION, who changed his position from a computer developer to a director of game manufacturers. The driving force for both games and supercomputers is the ambition to pursue “more”, and we find “the cycle of evolution” which utilizes the technologies of both sides for creating unprecedented products.
“Freewheeling conversation (Y-Gaya)” nurtures inspiration”
Ｑ Tell us about how you met computers and games.
I met microcomputers when I was in junior high school and started creating games. After I enrolled at the University of Tokyo, while I studied Information Science, I continued to work as a game programmer and got involved in software development for the latest game consoles. Later I dedicated myself to research, but I came to think that continuously evolving games are like supercomputer development and game technology development drives higher performance of supercomputers.
I got interested in computers at the University of Tokyo and to utilize my skills, I joined Hitachi, Ltd where I was engaged in supercomputer development. Then study in the United States inspired me to move to a foreign-affiliated information provider. There I realized “how it is used” is important for manufacturing and the encounter with the internet brought me to the gaming
industry. I saw new manufacturing practice where information technology (IT) is fused with sensibility.
Ｑ What is interesting about IT?
New ideas successively bring new usages, businesses and means and they are immediately useful. The simulation of Covid-19 droplet infection by “Fugaku” was originally a research method to study fuel injection engines. A chance encounter created innovations. There is a co-evolution cycle by applying game technologies to supercomputers and then apply supercomputer technologies with higher performance back to games. The driving force is scientists’ desire for “more” and insatiable ambitions.
I used to think that “the world’s highest performance” ought to be used for the weather forecast or car crash simulations. But it brought innovative visual expression to the gaming world. Supercomputer technologies are used for home life. In the gaming industry, ideas like “if we can do this, we can make it more fun” come out one after another. Then with Y-Gaya, those ideas lead to new and unprecedented excitement. In our industry, we have plenty of people who think how technologies should be applied to make it more fun.
Borderless initiates revolution.
Ｑ What did the internet bring to computers and games?
Innovations such as playing games against/with many people online and updating via the internet were created. Combing existing technologies with the internet opened new business opportunities.
The modern supercomputers are not standalone calculating machines like in old days. Now they are a part of the Cloud IT infrastructure connecting with devices such as smartphones and sensors at the terminal end. They have almost the same structure as games. Technological innovations which games are excellent at are linked with supercomputers.
The internet brought business diversity. We used to create Japanese editions first and then overseas editions. However, once the world is connected by online gaming, simultaneous worldwide development became possible. The power of computers contributes to creating a simulation space for video and sound expression and by its connecting with the internet, it changed the way of how games are played and the businesses. Games became the comprehensive entertainment and changed skills of creators. In the current game industry, people have their core technologies, understand what others do and build a team.
Ordinally, academia has been borderless. By the internet paper search and teleconferences, it further removed boundaries. We conduct the cutting-edge research by collecting the worldwide wisdom and aggregating computers’ computing power and communication via the internet. Manufacturing depends on how to combine individual abilities. Introducing different ideas lead to innovations rather than continuously doing just one thing. The combination of computing and the internet became a source of innovations. It is important to rearrange a large amount of knowledge by new ideas and apply accumulated experiences to new and different areas.
Applying gaming know-how to DX.
Ｑ It can be also applied to digital transformation (DX).
DX is a concept which is how to make people’s life more convenient and prosperous by utilizing digital technologies. The crucial point for games is how not to get people board, and from the engineering aspect, we always think the operability which is fun and not ambiguous. Our know-how can be more used for DX.
DX is to find best solutions, which were not possible in the past, by the latest IT such as supercomputers. We validate the ideas in the visual world and apply to the real world. It is important to assume various scenarios and how they can be approachable for human.
Ｑ What is your message to young people who bear the future of games and computers?
For the young generation, it would be hard to foresee how the things they see now will lead to the future – so did I. That’s why it is important to try new things while they are young. You need to learn from your experiences. You should be willing to have fun and study in the variety of fields.
People who have specific goals from a young age and succeed are only a limited number of elites. You should have a free mind. Unconventional ideas underpinned by accumulated efforts bring innovations. We call it “Standing on the shoulders of giants.” in the research field. Do things to pursue your interests.
Planning and production = Contents Unit, Nikkei
CEDEC (Computer Entertainment Developers Conference), hosted by Computer Entertainment Supplier’s Association (CESA), is one of the biggest Japanese conferences for global game developers and celebrates its 24th holding in 2022, started in 1999. The event is focusing on lectures by many overseas and domestic game related speakers.
*The editorial advertising published in Nikkei (morning edition, 12 March 2022) was edited and translated into English by SNK Corporation.