Turns out, Keytar Bear is a character in a video game, but probably not in the way you expected. Instead of performing the job of a musician, his main role is a humble cabbie.
The costumed musician — who is regularly seen in Boston playing uplifting keytar tunes on sidewalks, in train stations and at company parties — is in Crazy Taxi Gazillionaire, a mobile game released this year by Cambridge-based Sega subsidiary Demiurge Studios. I learned about Keytar Bear’s appearance in the game when Universal Hub retweeted an image last week, so I reached out to the studio to learn how he made it into the game.
Founded in 2002, Demiurge Studios has previously provided support to a number of AAA video games, including Rock Band, Mass Effect, BioShock. The company, which currently has a little over 40 employees working out of Central Square, also developed its own game, Shoot Many Robots, three years before it was acquired by Sega in 2015.
The following is a short email interview with Will Jennings-Hess, game director of Crazy Taxi Gazillionaire (a game that was inspired by the original Crazy Taxi for Sega Dreamcast). The transcript was lightly edited for clarity.
DYLAN: Did the company talk to Keytar Bear about this and get his permission?
WILL: Yeah. We worked with Keytar Bear to make sure he was happy with our portrayal [editor’s update: Will said in a follow-up email that Keytar Bear was paid for his likeness]. (Though we didn’t talk to his keytar – you might notice that the pattern of white/black keys is a little off.) And we were thrilled to have him play our launch party!
DYLAN: How did you get connected to Keytar Bear?
WILL: We tracked him down through his Facebook page.
DYLAN: Who had the idea to include Keytar Bear as a character in the game?
WILL: Designer Miles Benjamin and artist Jae Tsai sold the team on the collaboration. The premise of Crazy Taxi Gazillionaire is that you’re leading a crew of cab drivers who care about real human connection, in all its diversity and struggle, to triumph over Silicon Valley bluster and alienation (in the form of a self-driving ride-share mega-corporation). Keytar Bear’s a real-life example of the kind of generous spirit we wanted the game’s cabbies to represent. Plus, we were excited to bring some Boston into the Crazy Taxi universe. Demiurge Studios got its start in Pittsburgh, but we’ve been here for 13 years now and the people, the connections, and the Yankee just-get-it-done energy here has been key to our success.