Kieji Amano deserves a lot of credit for putting together the largest Replaying Japan programme ever. The folks at the Ritsumeikan Center for Games Studies should also be thanked for organizing the facilities for both conferences. They have established themselves as leaders in Japan in the field.
I gave two papers:
“The End of Pachinko” (given with Amano) looked at the decline of pachinko and traditional forms of gambling in the face of the legalization of casinos. It looked at different types of ends, like the ends of machines.
“Work Culture in Early Japanese Game Development” (with Amano, Okabe, Ly and Whistance-Smith) used text analysis of Szczepaniak’ series of interviews, the Untold History of Japanese Game Developers, as a starting point to look at themes like stress and gender.
The quality of the papers in both conferences was very high. I expect this of DiGRA, but it was great to see that Replaying Japan, which is more inclusive, it getting better and better. I was particularly impressed by some of the papers by our Japanese colleagues like a paper delivered by Kobayashi on the “Early History of Hobbyist Production Filed of Video Games and its Effect on Game Industries in Japan.” This was rich with historical evidence. Another great one was “Researching AI technologies in 80’s Japanese Game Industry” delivered by Miyake who is involved in some very interesting preservation projects.
The Literature Club is full of cute girls! Will you write the way into their heart?
Dr. Ensslin gave a great short survey of digital fiction includ the Doki Doki Literature Club! (DDLC)at the Dyscorpia symposium. DDLC is a visual novel created in Ren’Py by Team Salvato that plays with the genre. As you play the game, which starts as a fairly typical dating game, it first turns into a horror game and then begins to get hacked by one of the characters who wants your attention. The character, it turns out, has both encouraged some of the other girls (in the Literature Club) to commit suicide, but they edits them out of the game itself. At the end of the game she has a lengthy face-to-face with you breaking the fourth wall of the screen.
Like most visual novels, it can be excruciating advancing through lots of text to get to the point where things change, but eventually you will notice glitches which makes things more interesting. I found myself paying attention to the text more as the glitches drew attention to the script. (The script itself is even mentioned in the game.)
DDLC initially mimics the Japanese visual novel genre, down to the graphics, but eventually the script veers off. It was well received in game circles winning a number of prizes.
I was struck how game studies is less and less about games. Of course, games are the subject of research, but game studies is less about the appreciation of games and more and more about what we can learn about other things through games. Games, like literature, have become a lens for looking at other things making the field richer and better aligned with other fields like media studies or literary criticism.
Next year the conference will be held in Japan and linked up with Replaying Japan. I look forward to the encounter between these different game studies cultures.
I’ve been meaning to write for while about Kompu Gacha (or Complete Gacha), a game mechanic that was popular in Japanese mobile games until it was banned in 2012 (see this story too). Kompu gacha is an extreme (or complete) form of the gacha game mechanic which was in turn inspired by the ubiquitous gachapon vending machines you find in Japan where for a couple of coins you get a small loot box (sphere) with a random gift in some theme or series. Children collect items by buying the loot boxes with the hopes of getting new trinkets in series that they collect and trade. Mobile games in Japan borrowed this well known play mode and began to include virtual loot boxes that you could buy in-game. Developers fine tuned the system to the point where millions of yen were being spent on vanishingly rare items. This led to a public controversy after there were cases of youth spending thousands of dollars that then led to banning the loot boxes.
There are a number of reasons why this mechanic and its banning are interesting:
Gacha mechanics in general are economically important to Japanese mobile/social game design.
They are an interesting mechanic in and of themselves and show how an element of randomness that has consequences can be fun. Philosophers and historians of gambling have noted the importance of the element of real risk to the intesity of gambling. It gives everyone a chance to be heroic.
I should mention that it was Mark Johnson and Tom Brock who drew my attention to loot boxes. They have been doing important research on loot boxes and giving papers on the subject.
“Code Notebooks: New Tools for Digital Humanists” was presented by Kynan Ly and made the case for notebook-style programming in the digital humanities.
“Absorbing DiRT: Tool Discovery in the Digital Age” was presented by Kaitlyn Grant. The paper made the case for tool discovery registries and explained the merger of DiRT and TAPoR.
“Splendid Isolation: Big Data, Correspondence Analysis and Visualization in France” was presented by me. The paper talked about FRANTEXT and correspondence analysis in France in the 1970s and 1980s. I made the case that the French were doing big data and text mining long before we were in the Anglophone world.
“TATR: Using Content Analysis to Study Twitter Data” was a poster presented by Kynan Ly, Robert Budac, Jason Bradshaw and Anthony Owino. It showed IPython notebooks for analyzing Twitter data.
“Climate Change and Academia – Joint Panel with ESAC” was a panel I was on that focused on alternatives to flying for academics.
“Archiving an Untold History” was presented by Greg Whistance-Smith. He talked about our project to archive John Szczepaniak’s collection of interviews with Japanese game designers.
“Using Salience to Study Twitter Corpora” was presented by Robert Budac who talked about different algorithms for finding salient words in a Twitter corpus.
“Political Mobilization in the GG Community” was presented by ZP who talked about a study of a Twitter corpus that looked at the politics of the community.
Also, a PhD student I’m supervising, Sonja Sapach, won the CSDH-SCHN (Canadian Society for Digital Humanities) Ian Lancashire Award for Graduate Student Promise at CSDHSCHN18 at Congress. The Award “recognizes an outstanding presentation at our annual conference of original research in DH by a graduate student.” She won the award for a paper on “Tagging my Tears and Fears: Text-Mining the Autoethnography.” She is completing an interdisciplinary PhD in Sociology and Digital Humanities. Bravo Sonja!
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.
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.
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.
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.