Video games guru to design play area
A TOP video games creator from Japan has been brought in to redesign a Nottingham playground.
Keita Takahashi, director of the cult Katamari games, is spending a month in the city working on designs for the play area at Woodthorpe Grange.
His ideas will replace the existing slides and swings as well as covering the sloping southern edge of the park.
The project is funded by the city council and will take on the views of children from nearby schools.
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Mr Takahashi's most famous game, Katamari Damacy, where an adhesive ball rolls round a stylised landscape picking up ever larger objects, was hailed for its innovation by critics on its release in 2004.
His spell in Nottingham coincides with the five-day GameCity festival celebrating video games culture, which started yesterday.
He discussed the idea of designing a Nottingham park when he gave a speech at the first year of the event in 2006.
Since then festival director Iain Simons had made regular requests for him to come to England.
Mr Simons said Mr Takahashi – who has never worked on a park before but had a background in sculpture and fine art – was a "brilliant games designer".
He said: "I have been very clear with him that we are not going to settle for anything less than the best park in the world.
"It has taken a long time to get to this stage and it really feels like this is the point of doing GameCity. The festival is great but it has always been my intention to create something more permanent."
Mr Takahashi – who is being paid by games developer Namco for his month in Nottingham – aims to have his designs completed by the end of November.
Mr Takahashi, 34, from the city of Fukuoka, said: "With video games you need a console to start with, but with a park people can come along on the day they want and do what they want.
"What will happen will depend on the budget but I plan to make lots of changes.
"I want to make the park for children and adults and for dogs as well. It will be a first time for me. I will have to see how it goes."
A landscaping expert will help him with the designs before the council works out how much the project will cost and how long it will take to finish.
Woodthorpe Grange, sited between Mansfield Road and Woodborough Road north of Mapperley Park, has been owned by the council for 80 years.
It has an 18-hole pitch and putt golf course, formal gardens and a train sculpture at the site of a former railway line.
Council officials who helped Mr Takahashi choose the park for a re-design were already planning to replace the existing play facilities.
It is hoped the park's rolling hills will allow the designers to create "interesting and playful landscapes".
Councillor Dave Trimble, Portfolio Holder for Leisure at the city council, said: "We're delighted to have Keita Takahashi on board and are very much looking forward to working with him on this unique collaboration."