Anyone who pays attention to the gaming industry has seen a whole lot of Mark Cerny this year. Cerny isn’t only an industry veteran who helped create the likes of Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, Ratchet & Clank, and Jak & Daxter. He’s also the man who helped build PlayStation 4. Indeed, he was the man who, in February of this year, helped introduce Sony’s hardware to the world for the very first time.
Many people I’ve spoken with this year about Cerny immediately note how smart he appears, how articulate he is, how much fun he is to listen to. I’ve heard many people describe him as “the smartest man in the room,” a testament to a person who is, ironically, almost always surrounded by very, very smart people.
So when I got a chance to sit down and speak with Mark Cerny one-on-one at Sony’s Japanese headquarters, I asked him a simple question: what’s it like to be considered, by some, the smartest man in the room? Cerny, not surprisingly, answered with a combination of humility and humor.
“At the end of the day, the things that matter are good judgment and hard work, and it’s very important not to get too tricky with what you do,” Cerny said after a long pause. “And hopefully that sort of philosophy has been clear with PlayStation 4, which is to say we tried to keep it simple, but at the same time tried keep it forward-looking. We tried to succeed on the basis of it not being more exotic, or more elaborate, but more accessible and the like.”
Cerny then discussed the difference between being smart and working hard, and how combining the two is essential. “As a child, I was very advanced academically,” he noted. “I was taking college courses at 13, graduated high school at 15, started college at 16. And then I got out into the work world, and I learned that it’s not enough to be quick at thinking, as you have to work very hard as well. And even that’s not enough. You need years of dedication to become good at anything.”
It was at this point in the conversation that Cerny recounted a story from earlier in his career, when he was working alongside Hirokazu Yasuhara on Sega Genesis’ Sonic the Hedgehog series. “I hit a rough patch at about ten years in the industry, and I noticed that Hirokazu Yasuhara… had a Japanese poem written, and he’d look at it above his desk, he wrote it out, he looked and got pissed off every morning.”
What did the poem say? “The poem was very simple,” Cerny said. “It was ‘Shigeru Miyamoto is a fart.’ And he’d look at that and he’d say ‘why is that guy getting all the credit? I have to show the world that I’m a good guy too.’”
To find similar motivation, Cerny decided to not take aim at someone else, but at himself. So he wrote a similar message that he kept handy. It was an old Japanese proverb that translates to, “when the prodigy child becomes 20, he becomes an ordinary person.” It was a way to remind himself that no matter how smart he is, he needed to work hard and stay grounded in order to succeed. In his own words, he’d “use that as my motivation to try harder.”
Cerny's two most recent projects -- the PlayStation 4 and the launch title Knack -- launch alongside one another this November.
Source : ign[dot]com