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Di GRA 2019 And Replaying Japan 2019

These are my conference notes on DiGRA 2019 and Replaying Japan 2019 in Kyoto.

These notes are poor substitutes to being there. They are written live so they reflect only one perspective on the conference. I always get stuff wrong and ask that people write me if they want me to correct something. I frequently leave sentences unfinished or skip things when I fall behind. I am experimenting with omitting first names and using they as a singular first person pronoun so as to not identify gender. It is hard to overcome the habits of writing when moving fast so ... bear with me.

DiGRA 2019 Day 1: August 7th

There were workshops on the 6th, but I skipped them to hike around Kyoto (in the heat.)

Imbierowicz: Perma-dying worlds and other mechanics of limiting the access to digital games

To repeat is to master - Repetition has a long history in literature and other media. They talked about Freud and repetition. In games repetition has a special place. One can repeat and repeat a game without really dying. Games are more than repetitions. Piotr Kubinski talks about games are a palimpsest trial where each repetition is layered over the others. The repeated events co-exist though the player accepts the last one.

Then why do some games deny us the ability to repeat things? They quoted Juul that there is a tension between the escaping of failure through repetition and the permanent deaths. They mentioned games like One Life, Upsilon Circuit, One Chance that have a perma perma death where you can't repeat. This War of Mine and the board game Pandemic Legacy Season 2 and One Hour One Life are likewise examples of games that can't be easily repeated. They also mentioned Doki-Doki Literature Club.

These games make a point about game design. They play with our expectations. Then she summarized the variety of types of permanent loss:

  • Impermanent loss
  • Semi-permanent loss
  • Permanent loss

Why do we want to experience permanent loss? They quotes Juul that the loss is compensated in some way or that we don't always want pleasure (through repetition.) They returned to Freud's repetition compensation at the end. Freud focused on the compulsion to repeat destructive or negative actions. We can develop ingrained habits.

Potter: Failure in Videogames: Similarities and Differences to Textile Craft

They were looking at Unravel games. They wanted to compare the use of hands between playing the games and knitting things. They wanted to compare failure in games and in crafts.

They used autoethnography with video. They also talked about "craft ethnography." In both cases they videoed the work of the hands and kept notes.

She talked about Juul and paths of success in videogames. There are games of skill and games of labour (time invested.) Failure leads to skill. To learn a skill one needs to repeat and practice.

She talked about what failure looks like in these two practices. In both cases one can roll back the practices and try a different route. In knitting one can leave the error and continue if one wants.

Skill in craft is usually thought of as belonging to the hands - embodied knowledge. When playing we train our hands to sequences of moves.

I was struck by how they compared crafting and game playing. It would be interesting to look at Abstracting Craft to develop this. I asked a question about how the material resists one (in knitting vs crafts). In a craft like sculpture the material resists the hand and one aspect of the skill is learning to work through the material. Is there a similar experience in playing games? They seemed to think yes, that games can resist one and one can have haptics. I'm not sure they are

There was an interesting question about labour and productivity. Potter distinguished between gamification and what is possible with gaming as crafting.

Welcome to Ritsumeikan

Hosoi introduced the Ritsumeikan Center for Game Studies. He talked about how Kyoto has long been a cultural center. He mentioned the Toei film industry.

The theme was the ludo media mix which plays with the idea of media mix.

Eiji Ōtsuka: The Origin of the Media-Mix

Otsuka has focused his research on manga, not games. He said he wasn't really interested in games. When he played some when younger he couldn't get past . His slides are here.

He distinguished between media-mix where you have popular work and then roll out in other media. Kadokawa had a different approach where you develop for multiple media at the same time. He also mentioned the pirate content, the fan zines and doujin works. These would also be taken into the media mix. He and Kadokawa developed this approach, but it turned out that it was already used by the WWII propaganda system during the world.

Media-mix was developed during the war time as a way of mobilizing the population. It was a movement like the Nazis. They acted like a platform.

The Japanese history of popular culture avoids the inconvenient truth of the impact of the wartime activities. Kadokawa as a company manages the copyright to leverage fans is similar to the propaganda manipulation of the Taisei Yokusankai (Imperial Rule Assistance Association).

He asked if Tezuka Osamu drew on war propaganda comic Yokusan ikka (Yokusan family)? Tezuka worked on things during the work that have disappeared so the New Treasure Island get treated as the beginning.

He talked about the Yokusan ikka approach that was based on folklore where the audience participates. It is a media mix from 1940, but not manga. It had plans for things like records, picture books, theatre and so on. Tezuka apparently worked on this. They established characters and world and then managed the media workers. Amateurs could use the characters and world to create new content. The political party drove the project. It leveraged the population where people voluntarily contributed their work/ideas to this. It was media mix used by the state for propaganda.

Copyright wasn't that big in the day. What mattered were the characters of the family and the map of the world. He showed how the newspaper articles would show the characters and a couple of streets of the world/map. There were also neighbors who lived in the town with the family.

The intention of the government was to mobilize citizens. They had simple lines to the characters that would be easy for anyone to copy. This was strategic. At the time (in the 1930s on) citizens would draw manga and contribute them to the newspapers who thus got free labour. The government used this idea to quickly get soft mobilization - soft power.

Yokusan Ikka was exported to other countries. He talked about how they developed the idea in Taiwan where the Japanese wanted propaganda to mobilize.

He then talked about amateurs. The Japanese combined colonialism with Marxism into collaboratism. What was important was creating things together with other. He showed a graph that collaboration as a word was used a lot during the war. He talked about the same is true for the Abe government. He is sick of seeing this cool Japan term. The origin is in the collaboration idea of the war.

Creative collaboration was how citizens were co-opted. Propaganda that comes form the government is not trusted, but when it comes from fellow citizens it is treated differently. Theatre and puppeteers was also mobilized. There were scripts that amateur groups could use to put on a play. Some of these ideas can be traced to German propaganda.

The people who worked on this in the government then, after the war, went into advertising and publishing. They used the word "media mix" after the war, but the idea was already there. Tezuka worked on some of this. He did a manga called "Until the day of victory" that reused characters from Yokusan Ikka. He was modernized during the war.

Ōtsuka has a book on all this. He wants to highlight the historical fact - the inconvenient fact - that Japan's pop culture has its roots in fascist mobilization.

What I wasn't sure about was whether he was making a genetic argument or just a historical one. Does he feel that there is something essentially fascist to the media mix platform that is inherited from its genesis in WWII? Or does he feel that this is just a historical fact that at most warns us to keep an eye out for how media mix can be used by fascism.

Ford: Beyond the Wall: The Boundaries of the Neomedieval Town in Single Player Roleplaying Games

They talked about the way that the system defines spaces. What is "in" and "out" or safe and dangerous or city and forest? The UI just signals the structuring. Cities in RPGs are often safe hubs from which you go out to quest. In some games you are excluded from cities and have to quest to get into a city. He talked about how in Dark Souls there isn't really a hard border to the safe areas.

They are also interested in how borders are transgressed. Are the cities hard coded with a border which indicates that you are in or out? Or is it like Dark Souls where things can be fluid.

He has three axes about the functionally presented. (What are they?) Cities are experiential. Borders, UI and Inside/Outside structure our experience.

Doyle-Myerscough: The Path That Lies Ahead: Intimacy Through Overwhelmedness in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

They started by talking about the moments in Breath of the Wild that are quiet. They feel the game builds intimacy through overwhelmedness. Intimacy they define as an affect - something that affects you. They redefines intimacy as fragile with some precarity - it is a condition of uncertainty. It is vulnerable. They is retaking intimacy from its sexual connotations.

There is also a way in which the game overwhelms one. She distinguishes overwhelmedness from the sublime. The game is a series of encounters that build an affect. One can get into situations that involve lots of little decisions - one is overwhelmed with the layering of encounters. It is an

They talked about the vistas in the game. It is a game that has a lot of vertical movement so you can reach heights from which to look around and enjoy the view.

Where is intimacy in overwhelmedness. There are two intimacies: being overwhelmed and contending with it. Contending is a way of dealing with the overwhelmedness that regains the self. One is reoriented. There are rhythms that let one deal with the too much. I think this is common in games - the designers create a rhythm to playing where tension builds, there is a boss battle, and then a comic interlude.

Does intimacy and overwhelmedness dissipate as one plays and gets a handle on the game? I tend to find the joy in sci-fi novels to be how one is overwhelmed with the alien characters/world which slowly begins to make sense. This movement from overwhelmed to whelmed is important to some games.

Vella: Dwelling in Digital Game Worlds

They started by talking about vistas at the beginning of a game. They are there at the start of the game. We are meant to quest - to travel into the world and get to know it. What does it mean for us to be in a world? What does it mean to be i space?

For Heidegger the idea of dwelling was important. Building and dwelling are linked for Heidegger. It is not that you build and then dwell, it is that building is dwelling. Dwelling is the basic condition of humanity. The key place is the home. He talked about Casey who talks about two ways of being in the world, the hestial and the hermetic. The hestial (hestia - goddes of the hearth) is about being at home with the habitual activities.

By contrast hermetic dwelling is not about home - the hermetic (hermes) moves out. It is traversing, it is about mobility, it is about being somewhere else. Are these really the two basic models? What about the romantic that goes from place to place with no home and no real movement. What about the field and the labyrinth. One is the space of work and one is of leisure.

The home and journey are always contrasted, but games plays with these. It seems to me that games are all about the leisure, the labyrinth.

He talked about navigation and the relationship with space. Most games seem to play with the hermetic. There are pauses and movement, but the pauses are vistas. Are there games that emphasize the lingering.

He talked about games where building is the point and if building is dwelling then that is home. Think of minecraft and other building games. He talked about safe spaces - the dwelling and the dangerous or hermetics spaces where you journey/play. He talked about familiarity as the character of the home.

I asked about the nostalgia in Heidegger's idea of dwelling and suggested "ozio" and "negozio" as an alternative contrast - spaces of work vs spaces of leisure.

Someone else asked about the colonization of space.

DiGRA 2019 Day 2: August 8th

Roe and Mitchell: "Is This Really Happening?": Game Mechanics as Unreliable Narrator

Calleja started by saying that this paper was by one of his students. He then talked about what the narrator is across media. In print it is the voice that conveys what is happening. In other media it isn't as clear. You can say that the decisions about what is being shown could be the narrator. In games it may be the decisions about the game mechanics.

What would it mean that the game narrator is unreliable. This is common in literature, but how does it play out in games?

  • Dear Esther
  • Stanley Parable

How is presence of unreliability signalled to the player? They looked at Tales from the Borderlands and Doki Doki Literature Club. In Tales from the Borderlands the characters you play are con artists and you can't trust them. You have to make choices as to what happened even when the characters disagree. The reliability of gameplay actions are called into question. This is a game and you die, but how can you playing it if you died?

In the Doki Doki Lit Club it starts as a visual novel dating game, but then there are signals that things are not what they seem. The 4th wall is broken. The interface gets weird.

There are audiovisual markers of unreliability much like other media. There is metalepsis to question narrative framing and reliability. Then the game mechanics and the interface are manipulated. The last are particular to games.

What is the difference between a bad story and unreliable narrator? The markers are signs of a deliberate other story rather than just poor content.

See Larsen "The Narrative Quality of Game Mechanics".

Calleja: Mechanical Narrative: The Relationship Between Rules and Narrative in Boardgame Design

Calleja talked about how board games are getting more and more thematic, especially Eurogames. He defined what theme is - the setting of the game. The mechanic is less important for theme. For Calleja he prefers the word "fiction". The fiction is the generated mental image. It is an act (by the player?) Fiction fuses imagination and reality. Board games will use objects that are prompters for the imaginations. The prompter resembles what you should imagine. Props are abstractions. A fiction is made up of world, characters and rules. Boards will often serve both to provide a prompt for the imagination of the world and and a prop for the rules.

He started talking about how the rules/mechanics contribute to the fiction. The rules give a sense of reality to the game. They make it a game and not just a collection of illustrations. They create the emergent narrative.

He talked about the tensions in narratology itself and how they played out later to game studies. The dominant discourse on narrative is linguistic and doesn't fit across media. The emergent aspects of narrative are important. Emergent narrative is the activation of mental images. He talked about Walsh 2011 on emergence.

He ended with an interesting architecture for emergent narrative. He feels his framework allows designers to think about how the design of the emergent play.

Mariani and Ciancia: Character-Driven Narrative Engine. Storytelling System for Building Interactive Narrative Experiences

They are looking at how narratives can be designed to convey messages (efficiently.) They talked about the process of construction to consumption. We see narratives going through the media - ludo mix. Different media have different levels of interaction with the story. Audiences are crossing boundaries going from consumers to amateur producers.

They focused on character-driven stories because they encourage connection with the audience. Alas often games are not designed from characters. They work with their students starting with characters in the Complex Artefact and System Design Studio - MSc at the Politecnico di Milano. They use various tools to teach game design like "character wheels", "bardic tales", "Storyworld Canvas", "Storymap" ...

She gave examples starting with Tarot cards and the cathedral of Milan's statues. Then they used Calvino's story Invisible Cities. They started with hypotheses and tested them in teaching.

It seems to me that they are playing with their students by developing these cute toys for designing games. Games for game design. What is the ethics of doing such experimentation on students?

Zanescu: Gaming DOTA Players: Iterative Platform Design and Capture

I caught the end of their paper which touched on the definition of gambling and gaming. They talked about the iterative design of the game to retain players and milk them.

Blamey: "Mute, Report, Block.”: Dissonance in Moderating Overwatch

Blamey first talked about Overwatch and how the community has been branded as toxic in 2017 after it was supposed to be non-toxic. They were interested in moderation approaches and used theoretical perspectives on corporate rhetoric.

Some of the moderation techniques included:

  • Report system
  • Avoid as Teammate
  • Endorsements
  • Looking for Group

She looked through developer EULAs, the developer videos and other materials. The Code of Conduct is where the formal rules are expressed. The rules have to be updated to cover emergent behaviour. Competitive players seem to be get favourable treatment.

They talked about the report system (or lack thereof). Some complained that no one feared the report system as disruptive players would just come back soon after being reported. Then they talked about the avoid as teammate system and the other techniques of the Fair Play Alliance. The developers were trying to create an atmosphere of cooperation.

Brock: Counting Clicks: Gameplay Metrics, Power and the Body Politics of Competitive Videogames

Brock talked about how there is a discourse around the quantification of play. The discourse affects the players. Systems of measurement and monitoring of performance reflects back onto how players play. He talked about Dave Beers' idea of Metric Power. We are increasingly subjected to systems that measure everything and use those metrics. Neoliberalism gets us thinking about the market as everything and competition in the market as life. We are all expected to become entrepreneurs who compete.

E-sports environments reflect the neoliberal paradigm. Games like DOTA 2 have all sorts of metrics like click-rates that change how players experience the game. Brock is looking at the rhetorical environment around these metrics. The discourse is all around managing the uncertainty of competitive play. Knowledge of your metrics will let you progress.

There is an emotional dimension to this process of managing metrics. There are anxieties around these obsessive metrics. The metrics have a real affect on players. It all sounds like sports psychology.

He talked then about how these games create a neoliberal masculinity that rationalizes play through the adoption of cost-benefit analyses. He believes there is an uncertainty and anxiety to this masculinity as it embraces competition. What sort of masculinity is it to manage yourself for competition?

The tyranny of metrics individualizes people. There is a toxicity that also reinforces the metrics or the other way around.

They referenced Beer on how metrics are changing our idea of how we think about ourselves. These games invade take productivity metrics and invade our leisure. We begin to measure everything. Is this the way to live? Is this the way to think about ourselves?

T. L. Taylor: Esports in the age of networked broadcast

Taylor talked about how live streaming saved esports. Their focus is on esports in North America. She is intrigued by broadcast competitions and spectatorship. Live game streaming brings together game culture, the televisual, and the internet. It is "net-worked" broadcasting.

This can seem to have come out of left field, but it actually comes out of a history of media. There has been a number of attempts to see esports shift to television. There was a hope that when esports gets onto TV that would indicate its legitimacy.

She mentioned that we have to be careful to believe industry figures, but there is no question it is growing. We are currently in a boom scene, but we should remember that have been different phases like the arcade competition scene in the 1970s to 1980s. The second phase of the 1990s to 2010 leveraged network, and 2010 to the present has seen a shift to media entertainment (from "sports"). There is serious attention going into professionalization and marketing to make money. Now game developers are trying to get into the action.

Esports is tied to technicity, bricollage and co-creativity that transforms play into a new object. There are new forms of division of labour and professionalization.

She highlights a number of critical issues.

Harassment is a problem. It is hard to managing the digital stadium. Harassment has to be dealt with as it is a major issue about civil society. See . The toxicity drives women and people of colour out and for those who witness the harassment it serves as boundary policing. Alas no one seems to want to manage the harassment. The focus is on management of the media event. Chat is not considered organizationally central to the industry. We need to be careful to not valorize the participatory as it is too often leveraging hate. Companies want the value of the community, but won't take responsibility for it when it goes toxic. She talked about the right to participate and the right to play. The boundary policing that harassment does deprives people of their right.

Taylor then talked about how audiences are constructed. The belief that women are not important frames how the events and broadcasts are constructed. The mostly white male market is seen as what esports can reach and as the prime product for advertisers. These constructions then frame what is normal. The demographic mutates into an ideological position. A narrow understanding of the audience becomes normative. The data is bad and reinforces itself. The rhetoric of data-driven decisions hides nonsense.

Survey data and now automatic data have real problems when trying to understand leisure and how people understand what they are doing.

Brown: Authorial Affordance opportunities in App-Assisted Boardgames

Brown started by talking about the board game renaissance. There are a lot of kickstarter projects for board games. He mentioned the structured social element to the game.

The paper is mostly about hybrid games that have both a board and a computer component. He showed examples of hybrid games like ones aimed at children/families like Beasts of Balance. Many of them use apps on a smart phone to add to the board game like Alchemists.

Tech can get silly. There are also remediation from board to videogame and vice versa. Popular board games get turned into apps. There are specialized developers who develop these like Asmodee.

Analogue games bring tangibility to games. It can be called lamination. Ludic concepts laminated onto objects. Dominion was prototyped online in Isotropic which was then taken down. There are tabletop simulators.

They then talked about ways apps get added:

  • App as Assistant - app takes over from a dungeon master
  • App as Mechanic
  • App as Content Engine - Expedition crowdsources content creation
  • App as Interpreter - Chronicles of Crime, Detective

This is similar to other types of toys that use computers or the internet. They ended with some affordances:

  • Atmospherics
  • Hidden information
  • Privileged information
  • Emergence
  • Enhancing

Paavilainen: Hybrid Board Game Design Guidelines

Paavilainen talked about a hybrid social play project which was funded by the government and industry partners. There is a final report. They experimented with augmented reality. They prefer "hybrid" to the word "augment" as it doesn't suggest that there is something missing.

Hybridity comes in different types, conceptual, technological, artefactual, thematic, and functional. He mentioned dMel Allen's Baseball which features a vinyl record. He mentioned other historic games like Code Name: Sector.

To develop the guidelines they used a mix of methods. They played games, they interviewed people, they prototyped games and so on. The Guidelines include a number of points like:

  • Added value - the hybrid extension should improve experience and add something not available without it
  • Accessibility - extension should make game more accessible
  • Shareability - how can hybrid games allow players to share what they are playing
  • Scalability - plan for long term availability through time
  • Automation - use extensions to automate boring parts and to prevent errors, mistakes, and cheating

They talked about what they don't want to digitize. The materiality shouldn't be lost.

The guidelines are not answers but questions. They can also be used for heuristic evaluation.

Carbone: Character construction and transnational branding: Super Mario’s 'Italianness'

Mario is officially supposed to be Italian or Italian-American. Carbone focuses on his Italianness. He then first focused on phases of design.

First was an early phase when he was a Jumper. Why did he then called Mario? The story is that he was named after Mario Segale a businessman who rented a wharehouse to Nintendo of America and berated the

He then looked back at the mutually imagined geographies between Japan and Italy. Before WWII Japan has a form of occidentalism. Italians were seen as lazy, prone to fight, but likeable and exotic. The stereotypes Japanese had

Mario was a cultural hybrid typical of export strategies of companies like Nintendo. American sales was important to Nintendo. In 1989 Mario was officially branded as a Brooklynese Italo-American. Carbone played examples of the Mario voice over time. Charles Martinet is the voice behind Mario who drew on American stereotypes of Italo-American voices. These stereotypes are seen in the Godfather and other movies that portray a tradition of how Italo-American are seen. Carbone also sees the voice as tied to the manga-like portrayal of Mario. A comedic voice for a manga character.

Now as more Japanese visit Italy and they begin to think of Italy as cool and fun.

Mario's Italianess was not planned, but a mix of chance and choices over time. The character has also stayed neutral in some ways to allow for future games. There is no mention of the mafia.

Houlmont: Video game’s intermediality and localization practices

They focused on with press translation strategies. They talked about fictional media (like newspapers) in games. Fictional press articles are made to give information, to enrich the game. Some feedback articles will adapt to the what the player does. They then talked about examples and how things were translated. He talked about how poor translations and break the game.

Panel on Gaming, Gambling & the New Monetization of Digital Play

Brock talked what developers think. They tend to think of fashion as one of the fastest ways of generating money. Brock talked about status ambivalence. Players see skins as a way to express their identity while also participating in a social milieu. We need to be critical with how fashion is being controlled. Game publishers use social identity for social political control. Gambling for fashion seems to entangle us even more in the capitalist system.

Reynolds looks at social casino games. They talked about how gambling is the dirty little secret of game studies. Is it a problem, epidemic or entertainment. They have been studying how young people get engaged into social gambling games. The games encourage them to spam their friends to get chips. Accumulating chips seemed to be the goal for kids.

They then talked about chasing which is when players try to win back money that they lost. They talked about different types of currencies including time. They quoted a developer about selling time. They compared social casino games to candy cigarettes. We need to be more critical of what our interpretation of gambling is.

Blomquist talked about Putting the "Pay" in Payload: Lootboxes and Ludic Morality In Overwatch. They mentioned the player backlash against loot boxes in Battlefront II. The game has not recovered. Overwatch has cosmetic lootboxes that don't offer any advantage. Players seem happy with that type of lootbox. They talked about assumptions that all players should begin at the same level and ludic loot boxes distort the play field - the magic circle.

Thorhauge talked about skin betting. It is a form of gambling that is enabled by Steam's API. Why does Steam enable it? They are comparing the skin economies between Steam and Epic that is challenging Steam. They focus on programme structures rather than player actions. They talked about how they are drawing on economic ideas. They talked about the ontology of money - the status of money in a wider system.

Both Counterstrike and Fortnite are monopolies. There are publisher markets and community markets. Steam's Skin betting is almost creating their own currency as if in competition with bitcoin or national banks.

Lee talked about the taxonomy they are developing for understanding game economies and microtransactions. They want a videogame metadata schema, VGMS. What sorts of information would people want to know about a game? In-app purchases would be one example of something people want to know about a game. They want to improve user awareness and to provide a standard vocabulary for talking about the domain.

Chiapello talked about how Players are not lab rats. She comes from game design and is critical of some of the assumptions in the literature. So much of the research is based on stimulus-response research that is old and based on studying rats. Everybody accepts the stimulus-response model. Are we really just rats. John Dewey critiques Skinner's stimulus-response view. They are critical of how we interpret players as lab rats rather than asking them. Loot boxes should be studied as part of a larger system. We shouldn't assume addiction. They also talked about how industry believes the Skinner model.

Gardner talked about premium diversity. How do different people view and buy skins? Do purchasable skins allow for greater representation? The skins available and their prices control how you can represent yourself. It can be difficult for non-white people to express their identity. They also talked about "identity tourism" where players can purchase performances of identity. What a player thinks they are getting varies depending on their positionality.

They talked about a survey they ran and the results. They talked about what it might mean for someone to think a skin is cool. Microtransactions can be a way for players to customize their experience and appearance but it can become a form of tourism and it can be expensive for some minorities to represent themselves more fully.

There was a question/comment about the gacha history in Japan. I think one of the weaknesses of the panel was that they didn't have someone to talk about the Japanese examples which probably influenced western designers.

Speakers emphasized the importance of looking at the role of gambling in game studies. Too often game studies focuses on the positive.

One speaker argued that we need to challenge the definition of gambling as consideration, chance and prize. We need to recognize how the industry is moving faster than legislation.

August 9th, Day 3: Replaying Japan

Welcome to Replaying Japan

Amano, who organized the conference this year, opened the event. He gave a short introduction to Replaying Japan which started at the University of Alberta in 2012. This year we have 69 papers in 22 sessions, the largest Replaying Japan ever.

He mentioned the Replaying Japan journal. There is a Call for Papers here.

She: Paradox Vortex - NieR: Automata as a Postcolonialist Intervention

She's method is based on cultural studies and post colonial studies. Japan is complicated when it comes to colonialism. Japan was both a colonizer and was indirectly colonized. NieR: Automata is a game that deals with machines and androids. There is a melancholy among the androids and machines that have a double consciousness comparable to the Japanese condition. The characters are named after philosophers like Kierkegaard, Plascal, and Immanuel. All this seems paradoxical. She talked about incorporation and mukokuseki (the mixing of multiple cultural elements from different countries.) Mukokuseki removes Japaneseness.

She talked about the endings which seem to challenge the 4th wall and enourage you to delete your save files to help others. The game seems designed to get players to reflect on their existence. This hybrid nature of the game, despite the mukokuseki nature, raises the question on what is a Japanese game. Is there something Japanese to the philosophical turn at the end.

Andlauer: Young girls playing french “otome” game: construction of “japanese” for producers and audiences in France

Andlauer is interested in how teenage girls play games and how female audiences are built by cultural industries. Japanese pop culture in France is strong. In the 1980s and 90s there was a TV show that promoted a number of Japanese products. Many youth grew up watching anime all week through the show. France is a big consumer of otaku products. Otome games (games for girls) date back to 2008 in France. Two studies are translating into French their games. Many French players would play the English translations. In France the games got called "otome". Otome became a key word.

One of the biggest successes was Amour Sucré in 2012 which was developed by a French amateur and released by a French studio. The developer goes by ChinoMiko and was inspired by dating games. She used a manga style or visual novel style. Beemov, the French studio, makes games for girls. They published Amour Sucré. The studio didn't mean to specialize in games for girls. Their first game was supposed to be a joke, but the graphic designer added a female aesthetic that set them on their path.

Andlauer did an ethnographic study of the Beemoov studio. She interviewed employees and observed them at conventions. Everyone they talked to called AS an otome game, but few could define what that was. The men in the studio didn't really play so they tended to make a stereotype of what they thought they were trying to make. They had some strange ideas about Asia and Japan. The studio folk felt that in Japan the woman-as-object is OK. They felt that the business would be easier in Japan.

For Beemoov what they see themselves doing is attracting audiences who are already into Japanese culture. They were doing Japanese-like ("japonisant") not real Japanese. They were doing something for French audience.

McArthur: 漢字物語: An Interactive Augmented Reality Narrative for Learning Kanji

McArthur began with a review of multimedia applications for learning Japanese starting with KanjiCard (by Nakamura.) She mentioned mobile games and augmented reality games. They then talked about augmented reality and gave examples using QR codes or other types of fiducial markers. Now you can use any defined image. Now we can use RfID or GPS.

Their motivation is to help non-native learners of Kanji. They liked the idea of combining tangible cards and AR. They developed two versions, one was marker-based built in Unity. The second version used RFID tags and a RFID card reader. The problem with marker-based is that kanji often don't score high enough in recognition. The advantage of the marker version is that they can share it to anyone who can print the cards.

They were inspired by the stories about kanji. They tried to include historical folklore to provide animations to help people remember the kanji. To get the recognition high they experimented with different designs.

They did a pilot study on a mix of Japanese studies and non-Japanese students. The heuristics showed that the design worked well to get students interested.

Next they are going to do a longitudinal study.

Øygardslia, Weitze, and Shin: The educational potential of visual novels: Principles for design

They talked about the opportunities for visual novels in teaching. What is the educational potential and how to use them best? They then discussed what a visual novel is.

Visual novels can be easily used by teachers. The Visual Novel Maker, for example, is relatively easy to use.

Their study had two parts, 1) exploring visual novel game narratives to extract design principles. Then 2) they wanted to utilize the principles to design a prototype. They then discussed the principles:

  • Background - novels often give players information about people, places and objects in an easy and playful way. One can add diary entries, encyclopedias, character bios.
  • They can use narrative to make the familiar strange. Historical topics can be made strange. The topics can be defamiliarize.
  • Creating well-developed characters can promote identification. That promotes reflection.
  • Branching narratives allow players to pursue their interests.
  • Being structured and creative when designing for learning inside narrative games
  • Creating clear goals and strategies for assessment in narrative games

Then they showed a prototype called The Job Game. Their goal was to teach work-related vocabulary to young immigrants to Denmark. They changed the appearance of characters to help users identify. They included notebook with cultural information. Their game has mini-goals for each chapter.

Then ended with some questions:

  • How can resources be shared by teachers?
  • Can students create their own games?

Hidaka: A Study of Card Game to Increase the Vocabulary of Japanese Traditional Color

Hidaka's project uses colour theory/science to produce an educational card game that adults and children can play together. The idea is to teach Japanese, especially traditional Japanese colour names. These traditional names have been driven out by colour names. They are trying to gamify cultural knowledge.

They showed examples of different colour card games. They also talked about the traditional Japanese game that uses clamshells called Kaiawase. It is a matching game from the Heian period. They also described a traditional game and mentioned that Nintendo was originally a card game company.

They talked about using traditional materials in making the game.

Cassone: Beyond and within Play. An overview of Japanese gamified environment and the contemporary boundaries of Play

Cassone started by talking about gamification and opened the concept to include trolling, and all sorts of game related activities. They talked about ludification. They pointed out how most western scholars ignore the Japanese experience. He is therefore looking at underestimated phenomena and integrate them into the global scale. He is not trying to argue that ludofication is Japanese or has Japanese elements. He identifies

  • Play Boundaries: the boundaries between play and non-play seems to be getting more complicated. Pervasive and interstitial play, city games, AR games, social games... They talked about entertainment districts and the business of entertainment. From matsuri to Disneyland. Traditional festivals take place in specific times. Disneyland is open all the time. Likewise arcades get internalized or brought home with the Famicom. They talked about the automatization of play. Play becomes more and more autonomous of other things (time, festivals, places and so on.)
  • Praxis of Play: in the Heian period play was tied to self discipline or cultivation. Then it becomes more and more entertainment for leisure. Simultaneously an information consumption society changes plays so there is more and more information around play - magazines, etc. Could there be a connection between information society and collecting games (gacha, Pokemon). They make order of the world by gathering the world and putting it together. They talked about grinding and gamification. Could grinding be connecting to gamification?
  • Gamifying narrative progress: certain game structures or narrative patterns seem to connected to gaming. Puzzles in media add gamified elements to other media. Puzzles in manga or films. The origin of this phenomena can be traced back to the Kadogawa media mix strategy in the 1980s. He is interested in the balance between media. How do they influence each other.

They concluded by talking about how games proved to fit the ideal model of the media mix. Japanese game culture may have unique and possibly influential

May: 100-yen Apocalypse: Sensorial Experiences of Zombie Play in Japanese Videogame Arcades

May talked about zombie games. Horror games need idea settings, but arcades can't be controlled to get the ideal space according to Perron. For May this isn't true. Left 4 Dead is the case study. The goal is to reach each level alive. Left 4 Dead 2 was for personal computers. Version 4 was redesigned for arcade.

May is interested in the experience of playing the game in the arcade as a whole body experience. It is an embodied experience. There are the smells of the arcade. Porteous in Smellscape proposes the ideas of smellscapes as an emotive environment. Smells have a half life like zombies. The game center may reinforce the zombie apocalypse smell.

The sensorial overload of an arcade would match the horror game. The cabinets overload one with information. There is light and colour and motion. Sonically there is a mix of human and machine noise. Between sound, sight and scent a player is under assault. Bodily vulnerability of the audience allows "experiences of 'feeling like' the suffering body" - just like the zombies.

The comportment expected in an arcade brings ones body to your attention. You can collide with others or be seen as intruding. May talked about perception becoming infected and transformed.

Terano: Examples and issues of video game display at the city museum -The Case of Joyo's Historical and Folklore Reference Center, Kyoto

Terano started by taling about the Joyo City Museum of History and Folklore which is south of Kyoto. The exhibition he talked about came from a toy story in Joyo closed in 2008. A lot of toys were donated. They had an initial exhibition about the toys and later an exhibition on the videogames. They want children and older people to talk about their different types of toys. Terano showed a number of different game machines.

In the design they wanted to give the feeling of a toy store rather than of a museum. The display cases were jammed with produce like a retrogame store. They showed the Adventure Vision and some arcade machines. It looked like a a really dense exhibit.

Then they talked about the collaborators. They had to get machines from different collections like Ritsumeikan, Osaka University of Commerce Amusement Industry Research Institute. This Institute is one of the few studying toys and analogue games.

They talked about where the audience came from. In this case a lot game from outside Joyo. They got positive comments from visitors and many memories. Many remembered playing with nostalgia.

They realize that there needs to be a permanent museum with trained curators. There needs to be technicians who are trained to fix old machines.


I visited the exhibits that has been organized. There were some very creative including one where two people lie down on a futon as if sleeping and by rolling to one side or another they navigate together to catch a ghost in a game projected onto the ceiling. The most compelllng was a competitive game where two people control an elevator and try to move people up and down in a department store without them getting frustrated. You win if you move the most people. The game had a screen between two miniature, but physical elevators that one would move up and down with a cord.

There was an interesting exhibit on the history of TV and games. There was, for example, a display of a Japanese living room with examples of what might have been in the room. They showed versions of the MSX and had a Pioneer version of the MSX that played a game off a laserdisk that was interesting.

August 10th, Day 4: Replaying Japan


Uemura said a few words introducing Japan's video game history. He started with 1975 Atari and Pong. The same year in Japan there was Electro Tennis by Epoch - or TV Tennis. They called it a TV game back then. That was how it was positioned. The penetration of colour TV was around 90%. Japanese families all had a TV in the living room. Kids were entertained by anime and associated toys. In 1978 Space Invaders was released as an arcade game. It was a new and clever use of microprocessor. It was a big book and became a social problem. In 1983 the Family Computer (Famicom) was released by Nintendo. It sold very well and now household games took off. The quality of console games like Donkey Kong was as good as the animation on the TV. Now you could play the animation. There was also the Game & Watch and in 1985 the NES was launched in the US.

Japan is a small country at the edge. Japanese play is a mixture of different cultures. He mentioned various traditional games. The people who grew up playing these games grew up and developed video games. They grew up with physical and traditional games and experimented without the limitations of the physical world. He showed how some traditional games like juggling showed up in video games. He thinks we should continue to try to remediate older games into video games.

This brief history matched the historical exhibit about TV games.

Yosuke Hayashi: A historical viewpoint shaped by games: Nioh - a game that guided the history of Koei and Tecmo

Hayashi is from KOEI-TECHMO GAMES. When we think of history we learn it from different places. Some of what we learn about history comes from fictions like movies or novels. They are making historical games. Hayashi worked on a historical game, Nioh which follows an Irish sailor at the end of the Sengoku period when Japan is being united.

Nioh started for the PS3 and was released in 2017 after 11 years. The game is an action role-playing game that has sold well outside Japan. The game can nicely illustrate the topic of the conference, media mix.

Then they talked about the history of Koei which started in 1978. Nobunaga's Ambition was released in 1983. They came up with other popular historical titles. Then Tecmo history. Tecmo was developed in 1964 and they didn't initially develop games but software for arcades. Ninja Gaiden is one of their popular games and also a game that is very difficult. Dead or Alive is another popular title.

He then went back to Nioh. Initially it was slowed down as they didn't have a clear concept. The PS4 was released in 2013 and the Koei Tecmo company had titles rooted in Japanese culture. They merged the two company traditions. Some principles they have include:

  • Never vilify historical figures
  • Nobunaga is portrayed as special
  • Never deviate from history

They also made assertive use of Kanji, even in localized versions. They paid attention to the names of objects and got voice acting that was authentic. They showed some cut scenes. They included Yasuke, a black samurai, about whom a movie is being made.

They closed by joking about "Hayashi's Ambition" and talked about Nioh 2 coming.

They talked about how their understanding of their history is a competitive advantage compared to western companies. They were asked about the tension between the historical and the fantastic. From my perspective there seemed to be a lyrical character to the animation. He was asked about women samurai and whether they would have them in future games.

Altice: Four Decades in the Haunted House

Altice gave a great paper (with great animated slides) that discussed Bandai haunted house board games.

Rockwell and Amano: The End of Pachinko

Amano and I gave a paper on endings for pachinko. We talked about the decline of the gambling game and other traditional forms of gambling in the face of legalized casinos. We also traced other types of endings like the endings of machines.

Goering: Who Will Become an Addict?: A Meta-Analysis on Gaming Addiction

Goering and colleagues is looking at addition to video games. Who gets addicted and what is the variation? They had us all score where we are according to a set of questions from the DSM.

We tend to think of addicts as hikkikomori (recluses) - young men who don't leave the house. But, are they really who are the addicts?

Why is it important to know who is an addict? One reason is that there may be massive economic losses. Some estimate that 50% of young men are addicts. Some countries are taking action to stop addiction. APA classifies it as a mental health condition. For the video game industry, this (addiction or pursuit of addiction) could be an existential threat.

Goering does meta-analysis. They synthesize an entire literature. They described the process of doing meta-analysis.

The highlights include:

  • Age doesn't correlate with addiction
  • Males make up 90% of addicts and females about 5%. Females are just as likely to become addicted to internet related things
  • The less conscientious one is the more likely to be addicted
  • Extraversion
  • Low emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor
  • Narcissism and psychopathy seem to predict addiction
  • Addiction has a correlation with depression and lowers life satisfaction
  • It has no effect on school performance

The question is which precedes the other? Does gaming lead to depression or depression lead to gaming. We need to be careful about banning gaming in the hopes of affecting depression. Gaming could be a way of dealing with depression.

Johnson: Super Mario Poker: Bluffs, Tells and Reading in Super Mario Maker Level Design

Johnson is looking at Super Mario Maker. There are over 7 million levels created to date. They are looking at innovation, especially "troll levels". Players have created new genres of levels like "Automatic Mario" where you don't have to do anything. There are music levels, story levels, and "Kaizo" levels. Troll levels are as cruel as possible. Some players do enjoy playing these stages. Johnson has been watching YouTube and Twitch players play troll levels.

To make sense of this they looked at Wilson and Sicart (2010) "Now its personal: on abusive game design." Wilson and Sicart list 5 types of troll games.

What then is the appeal of these troll levels. Johnson feels it is the dialogue about design. They showed examples of people second guessing the trolls. It is like poker where the player and the troll try to second guess each other.

What can we learn from troll design? Johnson feels that it is possible to come up with a topology of troll tactics that have to do with geography, norms, and mockery.

Despite everything some players love these troll levels as they enjoy the dialogue between what they expect and how the troll designer subverts the expectation.

Gmeinbauer: “Minna to issho ni suru na”: Constructing alternative Gender Roles in Horizon: Zero Dawn

Gmeinbauer looks at western games that are played in Japan. She specifically looked at Horizon: Zero Dawn. They talked about gender construction in Japan and the differences between west and in Japan. The same character can be very different in Japanese localizations.

HZD is interesting as the strong woman protagonist was not changed for the Japanese audience the way female characters have been in the past. Could attitudes be changing?

Deslauriers: Design and Marketing in the AAA Video Game Industry: The Nintendo Switch as an Icon of Hypermodern Society

Deslauriers is looking at the marketing discourse around the Nintendo Switch. They talked about hypermodernity as a discourse about contemporary societies where we live always faster. Hypermodernity is acceleration. It is a consumer society where the meaning and prestige of objects is fluid and marketed. It is a liquid modernity and a neoliberal society.

Harrisson: Collecting Japan: The place of Tengen’s Tetris in Discourses on Japanese Games

They talked about the vibrant collection community in Montreal. They talked about collection tours (where collectors take us through their collection.) They focused on the place of Tengen's Tetric. Tengen was a subsidiary of Atari who hacked the Nintendo lockout chip. Their games got banned after litigation creating the value for collectors.

They talked how collectors organize their games. Anomalous locations can indicate that a game is especially important. Tengen Tetris stands out. The various stories about Tengen make it a prized object. Some collectors like rare items. Tetris is not what is interesting, it is the legal battles and the issues with Nintendo.

The collector community values trivia knowledge and a game like Tengen Tetris provides an opportunity for telling the trivia.

Rockwell: Work Culture in Early Japanese Game Development

I gave a paper on behalf of a team looking at how work experience was discussed by Japanese developers. We used a text analysis of the interviews in The Untold Histories to look at game development culture. We talked about the stress of work and gender.

Watanabe: Development of Blacksmith Experience -based Role Playing Game for Class Learning in Object Oriented

Watanabe started by talking about object oriented programming. He talked about how to adapt object oriented patterns to RPGs.

August 11, Day 5, Replaying Japan

Jarl: A fantasy without a dream: Japanese roleplaying games and the absence of the expressive ideal

Jarl started with disclaimers. They said that JRPGs are innovative, expressive and vibrant. They raised the question of the difference between RPGs JRPGs. They said the genre matters - genre sets expectations. There may not be a consensus in the academy, but we still like use genre labels and people seem to be able to tell them apart. Could the distinction be helpful? Does it marginalize JRPGs? Some of the external ways that genre is set comes from:

  • Perceived Japaneseness
  • Marketing
  • Tradition

Then there are internal factors. The structure of games and how they appeal. Some criteria might be:

  • Thematic - traditional motifs
  • Systematic - levelling systems and gameplay
  • Expressive - how players are allowed to express themselves

Their thesis is that there is a different trajectory through history. They feel these two genres take different approaches to the expressive capabilities. In western RPGs the expressive has increased, while it has been constrained in JRPGs. (Is this true?)

Thematic: Both genres have been influenced by Western fantasy - Tolkien. Now there is an expansion into sci-fiction. JRPGs have close ties with media mix in Japan. They draw on anime and manga.

Systematic: Some differences are between turn-based (Japan) and open-world (West). Western RPGs are often seen as being more open worlds.

Expressive: Is the ability to express oneself essential to the genre. Is the name of the genre with "role" determining. In JRPGs the protagonist is silent to be a vessel for player. In RPGs there is more room for expressing oneself in the character. They revisited the myth of the Aleph and the Holodeck. Marie-Laure Ryan in the first issue of Game Studies. Is the goal the aleph - the endlessness? Perhaps Japanese designers have different goals. They quoted a Japanese developer who thinks of their games as "character exploration" not "role playing" games. The goal is to explore different characters.

Western games may be pursuing an impossible ideal of endless play and open world while Japanese games may be more realistic, focusing on character development.

There is a difference between the designer's expressiveness and the player's expressiveness. The goal for Western designers seems to be to maximize the player's expressiveness while Japanese developers seems more focused on the expressiveness of the game.

Kobayashi: Early History of Hobbyist Production Filed of Video Games and its Effect on Game Industries in Japan

Kobayashi studies indie games and mobile games, but in this paper they focused on hobbyists. Hobbyists produce games for fun and these have an effect on the industry. They look at two questions:

  • What roles did media distribution have on the industry? What role magazines and other distribution channels?

They then talked about the history:

  • In 1976 NEC released a 8080 board computer kit, TK-80 (Training Kit). This became popular. Lots of magazines started for hobbyists.
  • PC-8801 FA from NEC was a popular personal computer (not IBM compatible)

There was a boom of PCs, but little software and few games. Magazines began to publish code for games. Magazines like Mycom Basic (1982-2003) were important. LOGiN (1983-2008) printed a game construction tool. This published code

A second platform was the doujin events where amateurs would sell their independent games. In 1983 the first games were distributed at Comic Market Comiket and provided a massive distribution channel. Pasoket (1988-) was an event all over Japan for Doujin games.

The third platform was vending machines and through personal computer communication. In 1986 the Takeru vending machine began to have PC software, especially games. In 1990 they carried indie games. After 1985 there were games distributed through communication channels leading to Niko-Niko Douga.

What did hobbyists get out of this? They got social capital and some got jobs or became game journalists. Hobbyist field became one of the sites for the development of game designers.

Bottos: Age of Fiction, Age of “Self”, Age of False Stories: Reading Game Centers through Japan’s Post-1970s Sociocultural Discourse

Bottos started with some background on the 1990s in Japan. It is the period of the end of the Japanese bubble. It is the lost generation, hikkikomori, parasite single, NEET. Bottos summarized different perspectives on Japanese society over time.

Munesuke Mita has a reference model for analyzing Japanese society with 3 post-war periods:

  • 1945-1960: The ideal period
  • 1960-1973: The dream period
  • 1973-? (1995): The fiction period

Other models include Hiroki Azuma saw the 1990s as a database consumption period - Japanese animalization. There is a shift from modernity to postmodernity.

Shinji Miyadai reads Japan through subcultures like the "Island Universe".

  • 1960s had countercultural type of communication
  • 1970s and 1980s: the "Shin-jinrui" cultural type of communication and otaku cultural communication
  • 1990s-: the "Island Universe" model - fragmented and small-scale differentiation - no need to understand others

Then Bottos shifted to arcades. Miyadai sees the arcades as an escape from society of greed with no sparkle, no prospect. In the 1960s there was a shiny future, but that disappears in the 1990s.

They talked about the purikura or print club photo booths. There is a school girl boom and girls find congenial places to relax on installed sofas in arcades. There is also the "enjo-kosai" relationships with middle-aged men paying girls for attention. (Was this really that big a phenomena? Or was it a moral panic?) Purikura is important to Japanese analysis of arcades. For Miyadai purikura and tamagotchi shows how everyone can live their own reality - fictionalizing the real. Bottos suggested that the arcades were being taken over by girls, from otaku fighting games to school girls with purikura.

I asked about UFO catchers and Bottos talked about how the different types of games (and thus spaces) are gendered: UFO catchers are mixed but mostly female, rhythm games are mixed, purikura is for girls, fighting games for boys.

They also talked about

Pelletier-Gagnon: Delinquent Players, Dangerous Spaces and Suspicious Games: An Examination of the Episteme of Game Centers from the 1980s to the early 2000s

Gagnon is interested in how game centers are painted as dens of iniquity. Game centers were then controlled to protect kids. Later when girls began to come for purikura machines the issue of compensated dating led to more controls. Was this just a moral panic? Gagnon is interested in the way game center spaces were constructed in response to the panic.

Gagnon talked about how Japanese scientific studies examined whether games were harmful. This literature is called "akueikyouron." There was a collection called the Famicom Syndrome. Games were compared to being outside making friends. Binary construction set up video games as bad compared to outdoor play. There was a counter discourse looking at problems with the discourse.

On the subject of game centers, there was lots of scrutiny of them in mainstream news. The media presented the centers as associated with criminal elements. This panic led to research into "snapping behaviour" which was correlated with gaming (and convenience stores). In 1995 regulations were introduced that restricted centers and changed the disreputable stuff happening.

They concluded by asking about how games and space may change in the future.

Jones: Hong Kong as Perceived and Constructed by Japanese Game Developers

Jones has looked at how Japanese games represent Hong Kong. Street Fighter franchise often uses Honk Kong. Hong Kong is often represented by neon and the double decker trams. The King of Fighters series is another series that uses them. These both use Hong Kong aesthetically.

Games like Metal Slug 2 the game uses the public transportation. Grand Tourism 4 has a very faithful map of a track in HK.

Hong Kong 97 is an indie game that was meant to be cheap and vulgar to make fun of the Nintendo dominated industry in Japan. Kowloon's Gate and others take place in the city and the city (especially Kowloon Walled City) is almost a character.

There is a constant back and forth between how Japanese developer have shown HK and how people from HK then integrate elements from the games back into HK culture. HK, for example, has a mobile game of King of Fighters, only in HK.

Hutchinson: Rolling up ‘Japan’: material culture and Japanese spatial theory in Katamari Damacy

Hutchinson started by showing a bit of Katamari Damarcy. Katamari means a piling up and Damacy means your soul. It is one of the most Japanese games ever as it shows all sorts of everyday Japanese objects. It acts in a doubled way. For Japanese it acts as a affirmation of their culture. For foreigners it is seen as bizarre and fascinating. It makes Japan into a strange other. Steven Jones in The Meaning of Video Games sees the game as juxtaposing decontextualized games. For Jones it is like a monster movie. For Hutchinson it is not a juxtaposition of objects - these objects are what one would find in a Japanese room on a Kotatsu. For many this shows the Japanese ideal of "mai homu" - my home - of a small house with a collection of middle class objects.

It is a very Japanese game with all sorts of nostalgia items. It is not a "mukokuseki" or culturally oderless game.

They talked about how the game draws on Japanese space. Inoue Mitsuo draws on minimalist Buddhist aesthetic. Rooms must be moved through to be seen, like the game. In Barthes, Empire of the Signs, minimalism is Japanese. For him architecture is pure and directionless.

What does this mean for the game? In the game the space can't be all seen without moving. You have to move through the room to get to other spaces. You don't get the meaning of the game without moving. You can't see it as a panorama. The game also makes fun of things at times.

Is the game about tidying up the Japanese home? Hutchinson feels that the game makes sense of space in a particularly Japanese way.

Paquet: Depths of the Metaverse: Stealing the Collective Heart

Paquet talked about utopias and how they are negative in that they highlight something that is not there (but is in reality.)

Then they talked about Persona 5 that represents Tokyo. It is not an accurate representation and there is a parallel metaverse that you explore. The game has palaces that are supposed to be distortions in someone's heart. The palaces are utopian enclaves. These are representations of desires.

Nolan: Arcade Game Design Adaptations: 1980s and 1990s Japanese Coin-Op Conversions and Pseudo Sequels for Western Computer Platforms

Nolan showed some examples of arcade games that were converted for home systems. The conversions of games like Chase H. Q. would lose a lot of the media richness. They talked about the home systems at the time in the UK to which arcade games were converted from the Commodore Amiga to the Commodore 64. They talked about where they got information. They looked through magazines and now some of the developers are writing memoirs. They talked about programmers in the UK did screen capture to get graphics off the arcade machines. They used TV cameras. All the ports would be developed in parallel with homebrew tools.

The games had to be changed as the resolution of home TVs was lower and had to be compensated for. In some cases they had cooperation of the arcade developers who would provide graphics on IFF files or sheet music. When it came to movement and mechanics they had to just watch the original games.

They closed with how arcades conversions are still happening. He showed a conversion of Mr Do (2019). His findings are that UK developers were usually not supplied with all the assets - they had to re-implent the games by playing them. They had to develop custom tools for this.

They also talked about the deliberate distortions that went into some conversions.

Miyake: Researching AI technologies in 80's Japanese Game Industry

Miyake works at Square Enix. They are researching the use of AIs in game history. He talked about oral histories. You can find the oral histories on the DiGRA Japan web site. This is led by Toru Iwatani.

They gave an example of Takahashi who organized game events at department stores. Another is about the early analogue arcade games and electromechanical machines. They also interviewed indie and doujin developers and wrote a paper about this. They are also developing a Game Business Archive.

There are two types of game preservation. There is preservation of the game package itself. There is also the archiving of development materials like the concept art and other materials. They are also interested in preservation of associated materials like magazine articles, collections of art, development resources.

Miyake is trying to reconstruct the history of game AIs. So much industry information is lost as it is not preserved. His guess of a history includes:

  • AI in Pac-Man - All the design documents are being preserved by Namco
  • Meta-AI in Xevious - An AI that adapts difficulty
  • 80s Namco Game Engine "Job-con" "Obj-con" - may be one of the first game engines and was used by Namco
  • AI in Mahjong game in 1987. They have preserved the game design document.
  • SEAMAN is from 1999 tries to recognize speech and leads conversation

They talked then about neural nets and genetic algorithms. They think that the game industry actually lead in AI techniques, but many don't share the technology as it is proprietary. This happened in the 80s and 90s. When people don't share you also don't have innovation.

Newman: MAGAZINES, MODCHIPS AND BLU-TACK The UK Grey Import market for Japanese videogames 1990-2006

Newman talked about how magazines could build up excitement for imported games like Tekken and then the reviews might be disappointing. Reviews talked about the arcade being the canonical version and the PAL version being a copy of a copy. There were issues around timing as the PAL system had a slower refresh rate. The "real" Tekken players would/should play the original Japanese version.

The answer was not going through the retailers in the UK, but in the magazines that had adverts for specialist importers who sold consoles and games at premium prices. You needed a lot of equipment to be able to play these. If you stick the Japanese disc into the European player you get all sorts of glitches and strange sounds. Or you can have your UK Saturn modified to be able to play at either 50 or 60 HZ.

Or there is the blue tack approach. The idea is to get the machine to think the door is down and then one can start the region check and then swap in the Japanese disc after the machine thought it was a PAL disc. These sorts of tricks were passed around orally.

These sorts of interesting practices get forgotten. In 2006 these tricks fell off. It came to a head when Sony sued the Chinese company Lik Sang that was selling and importing Japanese electronics into countries like the UK.

Manning: Super Mario Makers, too: The cultural economy of Kaizo Mario ROM hacks

Manning talked about the reaction to the Super Mario Maker 2 trailer. The idea of slopes got one reaction video author all excited. Manning used this to think about the dialogue between players and developers. He quotes Mactavish about how game companies try to empower and control the modding and so on.

Super Mario Maker was released on the 30th anniversary and does interesting things. It erases some of the history in the sense that they flatten the differences of Mario over the years. Maker changes the aesthetics of retro games as you don't have some of the video properties of early consoles/TVs. Manning talked about Nintendo's attempts to control their identity and brand. They tried to control YouTube with their Creators Programme, but eventually shut it down.

Manning talked about how the creating and sharing of Mario Maker levels is about sociality - about friendships. People create levels and hacks for each other. They talked about ROM hacks as alternative way of making things for others.

There was discussion around the whole push for maker culture which can be very male.



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