Decker – A HyperCard for the Web

I’m at the CSDH-SCHN conference which is in Montreal. We have relocated to U de Montreal from McGill where Congress is taking place. Jason Boyd gave a paper about the Centre for Digital Humanities at TMU that he directs. He mentioned an authoring environment called Decker that recreates a deck/card based environment similar to what HyperCard was like.

Decker can be used to create visual novels, interactive texts, hypertexts, educational apps, and small games. It has a programming language related to Lua. It has simple graphics tools.

Decker looks really neat and seems to work within a browser as a HTML page. This mean that you can Save As a page and get the development environment locally. All the code and data in a page that can be forked or passed around.

As a lover of HyperCard I am thrilled to see something that replicates its spirit!

Who wants to farm potatoes in the metaverse? Exploring Roblox’s corporate hell-worlds

Everyone from Samsung to Victoria’s Secret is getting in on Roblox. We hunted down the very worst branded experiences in the all-ages game platform (and an unofficial Ryanair world)

Rich Pelley of the Guardian has a nice article about the worst corporate games in Roblox, Who wants to farm potatoes in the metaverse? Exploring Roblox’s corporate hell-worldsCanada’s McCain’s Farms of the Future, for example, explains regenerative farming of potatoes. You can see McCain’s Regen Fries site here.

This use of a virtual gaming platform for advertising reminds me of the way Second Life was used by companies to build virtual advertising real estate. Once a space becomes popoular the advertisers follow.

Call for papers 2024 – Replaying Japan

Replaying Japan 2024  – The 12th International Japan Game Studies Conference – [Conference Theme] Preservation, Innovation and New Directions in Japanese Game Studies [Dates] Monday, August 19 (University at Buffalo, SUNY) Tuesday, August 20 (University at Buffalo, SUNY) Wednesday, August 21 (The Strong National Museum of Play) [Locations] University at Buffalo, SUNY (North Campus) and … Continue reading “Call for papers 2024”

The Call for Papers for Replaying Japan 2024 has just gone out. The theme is Preservation, Innovation and New Directions in Japanese Game Studies.

The conference which is being organized by Tsugumi (Mimi) Okabe at the University of Buffalo is also going to have one day at the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester which has a fabulous collection of Japanese video game artefacts.

The conference could be considered an example of regional game studies, but Japan is hardly at the periphery of the games industry even if it is under represented in game studies as a field. It might be more accurate to describe the conference and community that has gathered around it as a inter-regional conference where people bring very different perspectives on game studies to international discussion of Japanese game culture.

Replaying Japan 2023

Replaying Japan 2023  – The 11th International Japan Game Studies Conference – Conference Theme – Local Communities, Digital Communities and Video Games in Japan

I’m back in Canada after Replaying Japan 2023 in Nagoya Japan. I kept conference notes here for those interested. The book of abstracts is here and the programme is here. Next year will be in August at the University of Buffalo and the Strong Museum in Rochester. Some points of interest:

  • Nökkvi Jarl Bjarnason gave a talk on the emergence of national and regional game studies. What does it mean to study game culture in a country or region? How is locality appealed to in game media or games or other aspects of game culture?
  • Felania Liu presented on game preservation in China and the challenges her team faces including issues around the legitimacy of game studies.
  • Hirokazu Hamamura gave the final keynote on the evolution of game media starting with magazines and then shifting to the web.
  • I presented a paper co-written with Miki Okabe and Keiji Amano. We started with the demographic challenges faced by Japan as its population shrinks. We then looked at what Japanese Game Companies are doing to attract and support women and families. There is a work ethics that puts men and women in a bind where they are expected to work such long hours that there really isn’t any time left for “work-life balance.”

The conference was held in person at Nagoya Zokei University and brilliantly organized by Keiji Amano and Jean-Marc Pelletier. We limited online interventions to short lightning talks so there was good attendance.

He Created the Katamari Games, but They’re Rolling On Without Him – The New York Times

The New York Times has a nice story about Keita Takahashi. He Created the Katamari Games, but They’re Rolling On Without Him. Like many Japanese game designers he gets no royalties and has little say in the future of the game associated with him, Katamari Damacy.

The game itself is collection game where you roll a ever growing ball of things that you might see in a typical Japanese house. The balls will allow a prince to rebuild the stars accidentally destroyed by his father, King of All Cosmos. (The image above is of Takahashi as the King.) Rachael Hutchinson has a chapter in her book Japanese Culture Through Videogames about the game and Japan.

Takahashi has a new game coming out soon, to a T.


40 years of the Nintendo Famicom – the console that changed the games industry

Entering a crowded field, the Nintendo Famicom came to dominate the market in the 1980s, leaving a family orientated legacy that continues to be felt today

The Guardian has a good story on the 40th anniversary of the Nintendo Famicom, 40 years of the Nintendo Famicom – the console that changed the games industry The story quotes James Newman and also mentions Masayuki Uemura who Newman and I knew through the Replaying Japan conferences. Alas, Uemura, who was at Ritsumeikan after he retired from Nintendo, passed in 2021.

The story points out how Nintendo deliberately promoted the Famicom as a family machine that could be hooked up to the family TV (hence “Fami – com.) In various ways they wanted to legitimize gaming as a family experience. By contrast, when Nintendo brought the machine to North America it was remodelled to look like a VCR and called the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Female Experience Simulator

I recently played the Female Experience Simulator after reading about it in the thesis of a student. It is a “text adventure” where you choose your wardrobe and then go somewhere. Inevitably you get harassed. The lesson of the game is,

Did you think that maybe if you changed your clothes or avoided certain places that you could avoid being harassed?

Yeah, it doesn’t work like that.

Welcome to life as a woman.


U of A computing scientists work with Japanese researchers on virtual reality game to get people out of their seats

U of A computing scientists work with Japanese researchers to refine a virtual and mixed reality video game that can improve motor skills for older adults and sedentary people.

The Folio of the University of Alberta published a story about a trip to Japan that I and others embarked on, U of A computing scientists work with Japanese researchers on virtual reality game to get people out of their seats. Ritsumeikan invited us to develop research collaborations around gaming, language and artificial intelligence. Our visit was a chance to further the collaborations, like the one my colleagues Eleni Stroulia and Victor Fernandez Cervantes are developing with Thawmas Ruck around games for older adults. This inter-university set of collaborations build on projects I was involved in going back to 2011, including a conference (Replaying Japan) and a journal, the Journal of Replaying Japan.

The highlight was the signing of a Memorandum Of Understanding by the two presidents (of U of A and Ritsumeikan). I was also involved as was Professor Nakamura. May the collaboration thrive.

The Story of Class Struggle, America’s Most Popular Marxist Board Game

Released in 1978, a socialist alternative to Monopoly sold over 200,000 copies and was translated into multiple languages.

Mental Floss has a nice piece of floss with The Story of Class Struggle, America’s Most Popular Marxist Board Game. Class Struggle, the board game, was developed by a political science professor, Bertell Ollman, who wanted an alternative to Monopoly, which ironically was based on the Landlord Game which had been originally designed to show the evils of property. Class Struggle was sold to Avalon Hill who eventually discontinued it. It looks like you can find copies on eBay.

Destroy All Monsters

There has recently been some fuss around the change in the Open Gaming License of Dungeons & Dragons. So here is a nice story about D&D and its history, Destroy All Monsters.

D&D is a game for people who like rules: in order to play even the basic game, you had to make sense of roughly twenty pages of instructions, which cover everything from “Adjusting Ability Scores” (“Magic-users and clerics can reduce their strength scores by 3 points and add 1 to their prime requisite”) to “Who Gets the First Blow?” (“The character with the highest dexterity strikes first”). In fact, as I wandered farther into the cave, and acquired the rulebooks for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, I found that there were rules for everything: … It would be a mistake to think of these rules as an impediment to enjoying the game. Rather, the rules are a necessary condition for enjoying the game, and this is true whether you play by them or not. The rules induct you into the world of D&D; they are the long, difficult scramble from the mouth of the cave to the first point where you can stand up and look around.