Last week I was at the 5th International Conference on Japan Game Studies, Replaying Japan 2017. You can see my conference notes here. The conference was held in the Strong Museum of Play which has a terrific video game collection and exhibit. (I vote for holding all conferences in museums!)
Last week I was at Replaying Japan 2016 which was held in Leipzig and organized by Martin Roth and Martin Picard of the jGames Research Initiative at University of Leipzig. You can see my Replaying Japan 2016 Conference Report here. The conference is the fifth such conference that I have helped organize to look at Japanese and Asian videogame culture. We had terrific keynotes from Namco game and game music designers from the 1980s including Iwatani (Pac-Man) and Junko Ozawa (music for many Namco arcade and videogames). We also had a terrific talk about the history of localization from Minako O’Hagan.
The conference continued a tradition of bringing Western and Japanese game studies researchers together in a friendly environment. The quality of papers was really quite high and the conversation even better. The time has come to develop a community of research.
Cover of Playboy Roasted à la Edo
The Hamburg Museum of Arts and Crafts has a well designed exhibit called Hokusai x Manga that looks at the history of comics from the first kibyōshi to current manga and videogames. The exhibit draws on an extensive collection of woodblock books and prints from the Edo period. They mix a historical approach with themes like the depiction of demons (Yokai) in print and the franchise Yo-kai Watch.
One of the earliest comic picture books that they have is Kyōden’s Playboy, Roasted à la Edo (1785). Harvard has put up a Flash version of this in English and Japanese. (Second book here, third here.) They also have a copies of Hokusai Manga (or Hokusai’s Sketches) published starting in 1814 which was a sort of manual on how to draw with lots of examples. Note that “manga” at the time didn’t mean what it means now.
There is an excellent catalogue with useful essays including one at the end on “Manga in Transition” by Jaqueline Berndt.
Shulze, S., et al. (2016). Hokusai X Manga: Japanese Pop Culture since 1680. Munich, Hirmer.
As I get ready to fly back to Germany I’m finishing my conference notes on Congress 2016 (CSDH and CGSA). Calgary was nice and not to hot for Congress and we were welcomed by a malware attack on Congress that meant that many employees couldn’t use their machines. Nevertheless the conference seemed very well organized and the campus lovely.
My conference notes cover mostly the Canadian Society for Digital Humanities, but also DHSI at Congress, where I presented CWRC for Susan Brown, and the last day of the Canadian Game Studies Association. Here are some general reflections.
- I am impressed by how the CGSA is growing and how vital it is. It has as many attendees as CSDH, but younger and enthusiastic attendees rather than tired. Much of the credit goes to the long term leadership of people like Jen Jensen.
- CSDH has some terrific keynotes this year starting with Ian Milligan, then Tara McPherson, and finally Diane Jakacki.
- It was great to see people coming up from the USA as CSDH/SCHN gets a reputation for being a welcoming conference in North America.
- Stéfan Sinclair and I had a book launch for Hermeneutica: Computer-Assisted Interpretation in the Humanities at which Chad Gaffield said a few words. It was gratifying that so many friends came out for this.
At the CSDH AGM we passed a motion to adopt Guidelines on Digital Scholarship in the Humanities (Google Doc). The Guidelines discuss the value of digital work and provide guidelines for evaluation:
Programs of research, which are by nature exploratory, may require faculty members to take up modes of research that depart from methods they have previously used, therefore the form the resulting scholarship takes should not prejudice its evaluation. Original works in new media forms, whether digital or other, should be evaluated as scholarship following best practices if so presented. Likewise, researchers should be encouraged to experiment with new forms when disseminating knowledge, confident that their experiments will be fairly evaluated.
The Guidelines have a final section on Documented Deposit:
Digital media have not only expanded the forms that research can take, but research practices are also changing in the face of digital distribution and open access publishing. In particular we are being called on to preserve research data and to share new knowledge openly. Universities that have the infrastructure should encourage faculty to deposit not only digital works, but also curated datasets and preprint versions of papers/monographs with documentation in an open access form. These can be deposited with an embargo in digital archives as part of good practice around research dissemination and preservation. The deposit of work, including online published work, even if it is available elsewhere, ensures the long-term preservation by ensuring that there are copies in more than one place. Further, libraries can then ensure that the work is not only preserved, but is discoverable in the long term as publications come and go.
From a story in The Asahi Shimbun on Toyota goes manga for ‘Prius! Impossible Girls’ campaign I learned today that Toyota has developed a set of IMPOSSIBLE GIRLS for the different components of the Prius. Check out the site. They have something like 40 manga girl characters for the components of the latest Prius. I must say I find this anthropomorphicization rather tacky. The characters are all young girls that have nothing really to do with cars. What does it say about the Prius that they are pitching it though infantilized manga babes?
Jeremie alerted me to a strange debate raging about Dead or Alive Xtreme 3, a sexist beach volleyball game that Koei Tecmo decided not to release in the West, apparently because of concerns about a feminist backlash according to an employee’s comments on Facebook:
Do you know many issues happening in video game industry with regard to how to treat female in video game industry? We do not want to talk those things here. But certainly we have gone through in last year or two to come to our decision. Thank you.
The Guardian has a nice article about the issue with background on adult genres common in Japan, Dead or Alive and otaku culture: why sensitivity is not the same as censorship. Ars Technical has an article too with an update, Dead or Alive publisher denies game is too sexist for Western audiences, that mentions how the publisher Koei Techmo has released an official statement that sort of backtracks on the comments that triggered the issue. Gamespot also has an updated story Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 Won’t Ship Worldwide Due to Sexism Backlash Fears.
Needless to say, this has animated the SJW (Social Justice Warrior) discussion around the representation of women in games and censorship of games. (I should note that it isn’t censorship if a publisher decides to not publish something.) Interestingly, this is not the first time we have had this debate about Japanese adult games across cultures. Brian Ashcraft has an article in Kotaku on Why Is CNN Talking About Rapelay? which documented how the Japanese publishers of adult games were adapting to attention from the West by changing titles and not localizing titles. What has changed is how the West is arguing with itself through Japan. The Japanese seem to be trying desperately not to be part of our culture war.
A paper I wrote with Keiji Amano just came out in the online journal Kinephanos, Pachinko: A game studies perspective. The paper looks at pachinko as a game rather than as a form of gambling (as the title suggests.) It is part of a nice collection on Geemu and media mix: Theoretical approaches to Japanese video games.
Over the last weeks, with lots of help from others, I wrote a position on what is happening in Japan, On Starving the Humanities and Social Sciences of Students and Funding in Japan: 4Humanities’ View. The blog entry presents a 4Humanities view on what appears to be a troubling pattern of de-funding the humanities, arts and social sciences under the mistaken view that they do not contribute to economic growth. The evidence, at least is Canada, is that humanities students do get jobs and do do better than those without university education. They may not do better than those getting a degree in petroleum engineering, but we surely don’t need only engineers. (See my entry on Ignoring the Liberal Arts.)
More worrisome than what is happening in Japan is the politicization of higher-education in North Carolina both at the board level and now with the appointment of a new President of the UNC system, Margaret Spelling. Johann Neem has a disturbing essay in Inside Higher Ed on Margaret Spelling’s Vision for Higher Education. Even more interesting is Neem’s essay on what academics could do if universities become vocational schools, Taking It to the Streets: Preparing for an Academy in Exile.
Announcing the first issue of the Journal of the Japanese Association for Digital Humanities. I am on the Editorial board of the Journal, but the real credit goes to Charles Muller, Christian Wittern and Kiyonori Nagasaki who are the working editors. This journal represents the maturing of the Japanese digital humanities scene. They have a Japanese Association (JADH) which was founded in 2011, and became constituent organization of ADHO in 2013. Now they have a journal. As Charles Muller, Editor-in-Chief, puts it in his “Dear Readers”,
While Digital Humanities has been practiced in Japan for more than two decades, up to now, little is known outside of Japan regarding the content of Japan advancements in this field. We therefore aim to rectify this situation by initiating a first-tier peer reviewed international journal published in English. Although we hope to be able to shed light on projects in developments in Japan, we will be accepting article submissions from DH practitioners around the world on a broad range of topics.
Wandering around the KYORAKU company web site I came across a recruitment section including two manga that tell (dramatised) stories of the development of machines. The image above is from one of the manga that tells the story of the development of a pachinko Winter Sonata, a popular Korean soap. Pachinko machines like this are developed to attract more women into pachinko parlours as audience numbers are declining. I was struck that the team, at least as shown in the comic, has no women designers, which raises the question of whether there are any women designers?