When I was in elementary school, my parents made me go to bed super early. Like, I was lucky if I got to watch TV past 7pm. There were times where I was lying in bed and I could hear the neighbor kids still playing outside. It sucked.
But I didn’t go to sleep. I was in that bed like the parents commanded, but I’d spend several hours every night reading stuff. Said reading material would either be comic books or science books. One particular science book that I remember reading numerous times was a book on the development of life on Earth. I think it was one of those Time Life books you’d see commercials for on cable television back in the 80s. It was mostly pictures, so the second and third grade me didn’t have to pour through a bunch of heavy scientific text.
What fascinated me the most about this particular book was a depiction of life developing in the sea. On the bottom of the page was pictures of single-celled organisms, and as the picture flowed up the page the life evolved until it got to the first life crawling out of the sea and onto land. I would lie in bed and think about what it’d be like to be one of those single-celled organisms. What would it be like to be one of the first living things on Earth? And my mind would drift off into thinking about what it’d be like to have already lived billions of years ago. Like, would I feel disappointed that I missed out on being more evolved? Would I be jealous that I already lived and died and didn’t get to see stuff that happened after my lifespan?
And that got me thinking about how awesome it’d be to be able to observe this passage of time from some sort of distance. I didn’t want to just be some kid reading a book billions of years after the fact, I wanted that same sort of scholarly distance from my “subject” while being able to see it in real-time. It wasn’t like I wanted to be God or anything, I hadn’t developed that much of an ego in elementary school. I just wanted to be some observant force of nature watching things play out. I wanted to see things change and grow. I honestly felt kinda cheated that I was stuck here as some kid having to read about this shit after the fact. What’s up with that?
And that’s how this plays into Katamari Damacy. More so than anything else I’ve experienced, it captured that feeling. Watching movies like The Tree of Life, Mind Game, or 2001 come close to that feeling, but it’s a bit too divorced from the subject matter. In those movies I’m watching someone recreate their own vision of that ebb and flow of time and life. With Katamari, I’m more in tune with that vibe.
Most levels of Katamari start off on one scale and stay on that same relative scale. The early levels have you start off in a room in a house or on the street. Later levels have you starting out large and getting slightly larger. But the last level always has you starting off on a small scale and growing to gargantuan proportions. And in that 20 minutes or so that it takes you to start from the level of a thumb tack to the point where you can literally roll up The King of All Cosmos, I’m able to capture the very feeling I always wanted to experience as a kid.
It isn’t a literal translation. In Katamari you’re just rolling up objects to create a larger ball, but that metaphor is there. You’re starting out on a near-microscopic level, much like how life started on Earth, and you get to experience the exponential growth that is Life.
In all seriousness, that’s about as close as I’ve come to having a truly positive spiritual experience. In a fucking campy Japanese video game where characters talk in record scratches. It’s beautiful, man. Truly beautiful.