Derrick Fields Celebrates Cultural Intersection with Onsen Master

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The video game industry is as prone to systemic oppression as any other. Developers of color, and perhaps particularly Black developers, face an uphill battle for employment, let alone creative expression. With this series of features, DBLTAP hopes to highlight the creations of Black developers working to tell their own stories through games in this monthly series. Check out our previous entries here.

Derrick Fields, founder of WakingOni Games and lead designer on Onsen Master.

Derrick Fields, founder of WakingOni Games and lead designer on Onsen Master. / Photo courtesy of Derrick Fields

Here’s a life hack for any aspiring game developers, courtesy of WakingOni Games founder Derrick Fields: Don’t buy whiteboards. Instead, save some cash by heading to Home Depot and buying the material they use to make the dry erase portion of the boards, then just stick those on the wall.

That’s what Fields and his WakingOni comrade Tim Robinson did when they came up with the idea for Onsen Master, their forthcoming game about running a natural Japanese hot spring, or onsen, frequented by spirits called yokai. In fact, Fields still has a photo of the white board after the first day of brainstorming for the game. (Another tip: Take photos of your dry erase brainstorms; it’s faster than writing everything down.)

Fields had just finished what he describes as his quarterly viewing of “Spirited Away,” the Oscar-winning anime film directed by Japanese animation legend Hayao Miyazaki, when he became lightly obsessed with how the film might work as a game. In particular, he was drawn to a segment in which the film’s protagonist, Chihiro, works in a massive bathhouse catering to spirits. She is tasked with keeping the bathhouse clean, shuttling customers to and from their baths, and selecting the right herbal mixtures to satisfy their particular needs.

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