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Replaying Japan 2015

These are my notes on the Replaying Japan conference at Ritsumeikan University that ran from May 21st to May 23rd. The conference was organized by the folk at the Ritsumeik

Note: These are written on the fly and are therefore full all sorts of misunderstandings and lacunae. What did I miss? What should have been noted?

Twitter #ReplayJapan2015

Day 1: Thursday May 21st, 2015

Kozo Watanabe: Opening Remarks

Dr. Watanabe opened the conference. He talked about how he worked to bring Uemura-sensei to Ritsumeikan and the early work about videogames at Ritsumeikan. Ritsumeikan is bringing tacit knowledge from industry (like Nintendo) into explicit knowledge in the university. This is similar to what was happening in the late 19th century in engineering.

The investment in videogame research setting up the Ritsumeikan Center for Game Studies led to a large grant to develop a videogame database with the government. They now have a partnership with the Strong museum in Rochester to develop exhibits.

The title for conference is Replaying Japan, Watanabe

Costantino Oliva: Reassessing Otocky

Otocky is arguably the first music game for the Famicom disk system. As the disk system was never released outside Japan it isn't known well outside of Japan. The game is a shooter where you make music shooting. Oliva talked about the basic drum rhythm of the game and how the music you play is quantized (your input is forced into the rhythm and selection of notes.)

Oliva talked about how Otoky isn't really procedural music, but possibly dynamic music or as a composition instrument. The designer Toshio Iwai has created composition instrument installations so it shouldn't surprise us that he thought about designing a game. He also created the Tenori-on - a great music toy.

Otocky is also a shoot-em-up. There is a tension between the desire to make music and the desire to play the game. The game is influenced by TwinBee and Parodius - playful shoot-em-ups. The incongruity of shooting and strange colourful world is part of experience. Oliva argued that the game is also incongrous and thus goes beyond humour to satire. (But what is satirized?)

I asked Oliva about humour and satire and he argued that Otocky is not satirical but is mechanically humorous.

Atushi Miyazawa: Study of Number Matching Games from a Mathematical Point of View

Miyazawa talked first about puzzle games that can teach mathematics. He then talked about number matching games like Sudoku. In a lot of games we can't change the difficulty of the games. We can investigate more flexible rules with computers. Lights out was popular in Japan. He then showed his game live on the web site.

Tero Kerttula: Failing in Blue: Mega Man

He started by talking about lets play videos of videogames. There are over 300,000 videos uploaded to YouTube on Mega Man. Mega Man is notoriously difficult which may explain all the videos.

He talked about blind playing videos - videos of people new to the game playing it. The blind player discovers affordances as they play. He talked about why we like blind lets play videos - we like to see failure, we like to see people like us, and they show realistic game.

I looked at the numbers on YouTube and it seems that expert videos get a lot more views, but there are a lot more blind videos (of megaman at least.) Posting blind videos seems more about the player/video uploader than being for an audience. These are part of a selfie or participatory culture.

Keynote: Times of the Famicom

I was on a panel about the Famicom with Uemura, Hosoi, Nakamura and Pelletier-Gagnon. The heart of the panel was Uemura's memories of the decisions made about the design of the Famicom and NES. We discussed a series of related questions:

  1. How can we study the Famicom? What resources are there for studying the platform?
  2. Can a platform studies approach help us think about the Famicom?
  3. What were the conditions behind the design of the Famicom? What constraints and opportunities affected its design and marketing?
  4. What was the history and impact of the Famicom both in Japan and globally?
  5. What was the history and impact of the Famicom on a global scale?
  6. How was the Famicom different as a platform from the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System)?

James Newman: Welcome to the Minus World: You'll never leave!

Newman discussed the Minus World in Super Mario Bros. He talked about the fan discussion about getting into it (performing) and whether there were others. More recently there is a different type of analysis trying to figure out what is actually happening programmatically when you go to -1. It turns out that the minus world is "36-1". It is a bug that doesn't crash, not a unfinished level designed and left in. It is generated by normal play, no special code. Generated by the interaction of source code and player performance - it was discovered by players and documented by them.

He then asked the question "Is the minus world part of Super Mario Bros?" The minus world raises questions about the "mario-ness" of the minus world. Is it really part of Super Mario Bros or a different game between players and code.

Newman had some really interesting slides - he had the complete landscapes of the minus worlds that he could scroll. He also had a neat Super Mario Bros. theme to his slides.

Jaakko Suominen: Nintendo’s impact in Finnish first console gaming boom in the 1980s and the early 1990s

Jaakko started with a graph of imports of games/consoles to Finland from data from customs (of Finland). The graph starts in 1988 which is when Finnish customs starts to track the importation of consoles. The biggest year is 1991 and then there is a decline. The graph is calculated in weight!

Jaakko's thought is that the economic depression caused the decline.

He then talked about the resources available for studying the history. There was a boom in the late 1980s in the Finland. Finland missed the first console boom. Finns were also suspicious of consoles and preferred PC games. The idea of having both the console and PC came later.

Jaakko's has actually been doing oral histories. One thing that came out was how many people rented consoles. News channels began to run columns on consoles and games.

He talked about the "console hatred" phenomenon - where people argued in papers about whether one should play games on consoles or PCs.

Olli Tapio Leino and Sebastian Moering: Super Mario, The Quest for Authenticity

They are interested in computer games and interpretation. They are doing philosophy and games. They approach the issue through authenticity. They see authenticity as the opportunity to be yourself (in a game)?

Gadamer apparently said that the game is playing the player. Aarseth talks about the "implied player" that the game is designed for.

They then talked about the game play condition (following Satre's human condition.) We are responsible to keep the game playing.

This leads to a paradox where we want to have choices about who we can be, but the game doesn't know who you are.

They think that if one distinguishes between the game and the materiality then one can imagine something like an authentic game. The material is fixed and doesn't know who you are. The game that is actually played is very much based on the material game but takes into account the individual playing. Then gameplay can be authentic.

Then they talked about Heidegger and different modes of being. The undifferentiated mode, the inauthentic mode, and then the authentic mode. The inauthentic mode is wben you play as the implied player. To be authentic you play as yourself.

This model seems influenced by game genres. An open world would seem to be more likely to encourage authentic play.

They gave examples of more authentic games like Tuper Tario Tros (2009) which mixes Tetris and Super Mario. Another is "Asshole Mario". But what is the authentic play here? The play of the hacker who created a

They closed by asking about whether authenticity works across cultures.

Sylvain Payen: The inexorable tendency to entropy: Famicon globalization through hardware and product localization

Payen is a game designer. He talked about how Nintendo developed the NES. For Europe they looked for distributors as they didn't have their own branch. In different countries they worked with different distributors. They also had two versions of the NES.

He talked about how in Europe there was no Atari crash. There were good local consoles and games that looked as good as the NES. Bandai responded by doing interesting things in France like connecting to toys. He talked about how Bandai marketed Dragon Ball in France in a media mix fashion.

It is important not to essentialize the history of videogames, but to see it through the prism of

Domini Gee: Remixing Retro – Preserving the Classic ‘Feeling’

Domini talked about how older games are remixed. This is where new games are presented as a remix of older elements. She asked what was a retro game?

Retro games get associated with simplicity, classics, inexpensive and the basics. They play with a desire to reconnect with an (ideal) past.

The difficulty in remixed games is deciding on what is preserved and what is updated. She sees three approaches

  • Purist approaches preserve retro elements as faithfully as possible
  • Renovative approaches renew what are considered essential elements and gets rid of what are considered limitations. The graphics can be completely updated as in the Final Fantasy II (2006).
  • Derivative remixing is where designers create new games that use selected retro elements to create something new. The new game feels like a classic, but is new.

What is retro is changing as new generations grow up. Retro is not just games of the 80s and early 90s. Memory is negotiated.

We had a great discussion after this paper as there was time for a lot of questions.

Kazufumi Fukuda: Research on Game Preservation Studies and Reference Network Analysis

Fukuda-sensei talked about the importance of preservation. He reported on a literature survey on game preservation. The literature breaks into three types of works that report on:

  • Characteristics of game as preservation object - a lot of the literature looks at the difficulties of preserving games.
  • Reports of preservation practices - there are great works like Newman's Best Before that are about practices.
  • Research studies are about how to do research or studies of research.

He showed a network graph showing how preservation research reference each other. They have studied who is referencing who and who central to the network. Lowood, winget, and Newman are central. The United Kingdom and the United States are where research is taking place.

They concluded that there is little dialogue between projects proposing standards. They propose a international collaboration to develop standards.

Day 2, May 22nd

Kevin Kee: The History All Around Us: Towards Best Practices for Developing and Testing Augmented Reality Games for History and Cultural Heritage Education

Kevin started by introducing augmented reality games (ARG). He gave examples from Canada and Japan like the Hirui Otsuka Kofun AR. He talked about using AR for paper making skills - capturing tacit knowledge. There is also work about the Himeji Castle.

Kevin is trying to find best practices in history AR applications:

  1. The goal is to encourage critical thinking and active participation.
  2. "Gamification": Engage players through play
  3. Evaluate the effectiveness of the applications
  4. Adopt and change techinology, using it to better communicate history

He then talked about his AR games for learning about the war of 1812 in the Niagara penninsula. They try to contextualize the sites you can walk to. Plaques and interpretative materials are already AR. They took a moment, the bombing of the Brock Monument, and gamified it. You, the player, move around the village and have to figure out who did the bombing.

He is interested in how we measure success and has been asking if the AR app is working? He also asks if they care or if they are engaged with the app. He collaborates with his educational colleagues to develop assessment tools like self-reporting tools built into the app. They also used galvanic skin response to also test engagement. And they use sentence completion tests on the content.

One of the challenges is adapting lab assessment techniques to field conditions. There is an opportunity to define compelling and engaging uses for devices like Google Glass.

Jin Nakamura: Discussion on Reinvigoration of Regional Consumer Behavior by ARG

Nakamura started by discussing ARGs. He discussed how they create play conditions in reality. He is interested in new characteristics of ARGs such as consumption at sites. He is looking at their economics. He talked gave two examples.

Ingress: Colony na Seikatsu:

The Colony game is only in Japan. There are also governments like Iwate prefucture that is using Ingress for regional reinvigoration. See

He talked about how there is sightseeing of animations and game settings that have caught people's attention. These are tourist uses of ARG - to draw folk to a site.

What is new of ARGs is that they require physical movement in real world. This creates use of transportation and possibly purchasing of food at locations. Thus ARGs can be used to draw tourists.

ARGs and other tools are changing sightseeing. People now visit sites like a sport. They can make travel plans online and can find shops online through ARGs. It can increase the consumption and time spent at sites as there is a richer infosphere.

Mimi Okabe: Trapped by Myths of Motherhood(?): The Crisis of Japanese Female Game Developers in the Workplace

Okabe's paper is about women in the game development community. In the US the gamergate controversy is challenging the sexism in the workplace, but at a price to many who are targeted. In Japan things are less controversial, but there are historical patriarchal attitudes about women in the workplace.

She has looked at different sources like DIGRA Japan to understand the absence of women in the game industry. She talked in particular about a panel of women at DiGRA.

Women game developers make up 12% of the industry. The panelists talked about some of the ways the industry discourage women. Women undergo a process of "othering" where they become objects.

Okabe then talked about a case that was in the press of unfair labor processes where a woman was demoted and had her salary cut. She sued and the practices were judged illegal.

Okabe then talked about myth and how we have myths about what women "are". The myths are given the shape of truth and end up shaping women. Customs of all sorts are how society manage people. Japanese working women are labelled as parasites, dog and Christmas cake.

Women game developers have to balance expectations of motherhood and expectations of the job. A good wife is expected to mother husband and children along with housewife expectations. Women do work in Japan. Okabe was very interesting on the emergence Japanese militarism at the time when women were working more (replacing men going to war.)

Okabe then talked about the emergence of equal employment laws in the 1980s that led to a two-track system where men were hired into managerial positions while women were limited to jobs that would be compatible with expected roles.

Abe has announced that it is important to have more women in the workplace. Mia Consalvo has talked about how it isn't enough to just add people. What is needed is that the industry recognize the deep structures that constrain women's creative opportunities. Companies have started some programs to support women (and even fathers.)

Myths are specific to cultural moments. They are not

Keiji Amano: On the Play of Yakumono: The Evolution of Audiovisual Effects in Pachinko

Amano gave a paper that I collaborated on about the fabulous mechanical gadgets (yakumono) in pachinko machines. We got a candy form one pachinko machine.

Amano explained why we were focusing on Pachinko. Pachinko is about 29% of the leisure industry in Japan - much larger than the videogame industry. Pachinko is found in arcades but you don't find videogames in pachinko parlours.

He then talked about how pachinko has been remediated as games on everything up to smartphones.

Then Amano gave us a historical survey of the mechanical innovations starting with the Masamura Guage (1948). Then in 1957 the first yakumon were introduced. Jin Mitt had a gadget that affected the discharge of balls. Tulips were introduced in 1960. Tulips led to Fever modes.

The audio of the machines were limited to simple balls supplemented by background music (BGM).

In the 1970s electrical gadgets were introduced. Simple slots and then electric throttles changed the experience of pachinko. Machines got their own electrical sounds.

Then in the 1980s we got LCD screens as a background. In 1981 Heiwa introduced the first full colour digital LCD pachinko called Mahjong Story. Now pachinko machines let people consume media elements from other media. The mechanical balls/pins were combined with the digital and statistics became important as one could have different fever modes.

There interesting overlays of mechanical and digital effects. Amano showed winning on Garo that has all sorts of neat effects.

Now, with the fever modes, the statistics become very important to doing well. One needs to understand the statistics to do well. This is driving away casual players who are not interested in the stastics. Pachinko is losing its audio-visual play.

Amano ended by talking about where pachinko is going. We hope that pachinko will return to the mechanical spectacle.

Keynote 2: Panel on The World Met Nintendo/Nintendo Met the World

Michael Craig, Florent Gorges, Christopher Michael Yap, Hiroshi Yoshida, and Akito Inoue had a panel on Nintendo and the world. The speakers presented in Japanese with English slides so my notes are limited.

Florent Georges started by talking about the history of Nintendo in France. Georges has written a number of books available through Pix'n Love Editions. In the early 80s Nintendo was officially distributed by other companies. They got close to having a distributor, but ended with Bandai France in 1988. Eve-Lise Blanc Deleuze was the first Nintendo France marketing director. They also got a "Club Nintendo" magazine. This was a free Nintendo paper for members (of the club) which by 1993 had millions of members. The concept was developed for other European countries.

In 1988 they started SOS Nintendo - a hotline for players. By 1993 they had 40 advisers and were considered France's top hotline.

He talked about who won in France between Nintendo vs. SEGA. Over all the NES sold about twice as much as SEGA Master System.

Michael Craig was next and he talked about NES Baseball and the Echoes of Localization. He had an intriguing slide about "cultural stereoscopy" and yuragi (vibration or shimmering.)

Christopher Yap talked about Nintendo and the New Digital Mythology. Stories are the realities we create for ourselves. The mythology of games reminds us that we can win.

Jeremie Pelletier-Gagnon: Interchangeable Avatars: Investigating Metamorphosis in Video Games

Note: My wifi broke down so I lost my notes about this and the next talk. These and the rest of the notes for the day are from memory.

Nathan Altice: Famicon Remix

Nathan gave a great talk about the Famicom Remix games and how mixed earlier classics. He suggested that Nintendo must have created a software emulator and then lightly altered the original code to the games. His reasoning was that many glitches from the original show in the Remix versions.

Nathan then talked about the history of remixing old Nintendo games. He compared the Nintendo "official" remixes with other artistic ones. The audiences are different. Nintendo is not remixing for nostalgic play by older players or for reviewers. Nintendo is remixing for a new generation of youth. Perhaps to try to help them into the world of Nintendo games. In effect they could be trying to build the tacit knowledge that makes for loyal fans who return for new Mario games. A sort of retroactive nostalgia education.

Juan Manuel Montoro: How Asian is an Italian-born Brooklyn plumber? In search of Japanese narrative features in Super Mario's universe.

  • Has Nintendo removed Japanese patterns to appeal to West? Mukokuseki is the removing of culturally specific materials to sell abroad. Juan discussed how Mario seems to have been kept underdefined to be adaptable.
  • How accurate is western media representation of Mario compared to Japanese representations? Juan talked about how the Mario world spun out differently in the West than in Japan.

Joseph Fordham: Framing Europe in Europa

Joseph talked about the Europa game and how it was an interesting example of dealing with issues around war by avoiding accuracy. If you show war accurately no one wants to play. Europa isn't accurate, but that allows it to deal with issues like the holocaust and racism more effectively.

Poster Session

The poster session had a number of interesting

  • Martin Roth presented on "jGames - Japanese Games in Research and Teaching @ Leipzig University". They are getting a collection of games donated and developing an archive.
  • Shuji Watanabe showed his Game Design Game that teaches people to think about the balance of difficulty/challenge in game design.
  • Shinya Saito showed a really neat visualization of games that allows one to compare them. The viz combined a circular display and a spider graph. There was a cool radar feature where you could choose a game and then ask for a scan of similar ones.

Day 3, May 23rd

Hanna Wirman: Zelda and Peach - Sisters in Distress

Wirman started by commenting on how few empowered women there are in games, especially early Famicom games. The women that do appear are in distress like Princess Peach. That got her asking who is Princess Peach, about which we have very little. (She haps published on this in a collection called Game Love.) She identified five different Peach character tropes developed in literature and by fans.

  • Mario loves Peach
  • Princess as a "tease"
  • Beauty and the beast
  • Slutty/Sexually empowered princess
  • Housewife princess

All of these have a basis in the games, except the last.

Then she talked about another female character influenced by Peach, and that is Zelda. The stories are similar, but when you look at fan works there are differences. She compared the character tropes of Zelda.

  • Link loves Zelda - like Peach the stories assume Link loves Zelda
  • Princess as a "tease" - similar
  • No beauty and the beast - this is different
  • Slutty/Sexually empowered princess - Zelda is kept pristine, it is only as the Sheik persona of Zelda that is "slutty". Strangely Link seems to go after Peach
  • Housewife princess - It is Peach who is the housewife for even Link.

One of the big differences is that Zelda is often presented as an active heroine - often with the sword. Peach is the seductress and Zelda the active rescuer. She goes on quests by herself in the fan literature.

Often the two are represented as best friends, sometimes in cat fights, and increasingly replaceable (in the fan worlds.) The fans have created a relationship between the two.

In the games the characters are going from hopeless NPCs into empowered playable characters. In the fan literature they have become more than in the games and stand in for women in games.

Drew Richardson: Playing Ethnography: Minzokugaku Narratives in Pokémon and Yokai Watch

Drew started by talking about haunted gaming. Minzokugaku is Japanese ethnography or folklore studies. Japanese were concerned by the loss of native culture in modernization. Ethnographers went into the mountains to find an earlier and more authentic Japan folk culture. One thing they did was collect Yokai (or monsters). The ethnographic collection may have converted them into lifeless historical relics. They get preserved, fixed and made lifeless.

Drew believes that Pokemon and Yokai Watch are a representation of Minzokugaku's encyclopedic formation. It is a game version of the ethnographic collecting. He drew attention to how the name of a yokai is the sound it makes, like Pikamon.

Drew then asked what happened to the horror element to yokai. In the game it has been relegated to the Pokedex - the encyclopedia. He talked about the role of capitalism - the collection fever leads to buying more stuff from the company. It is interesting to compare the fever to own Pokemon to the academic fever to have ethnographically documented more folk stories and monsters. Both are about the gathering of capital.

Yokai Watch parodies Pokemon to some extent. Pokemon supresses the horror in Minzokugaku. It has a greater level of commodification and profit while returning to traditional ideas. In Yokai watch there are monsters that are regional and can only be obtained if you travel to the region.

Drew talked about the shifts of upbeat to melancholic (haunted?) in Yokai Watch videos. Yokai Watch has more opportunities for player ethnography.

Offline horror has returned to playing ethnography.

Paul Martin: Visual, Ludic, and Narrative Excess in Phantasmagoria of Flower View

In the early 1990s the 2D shooter that was central to gaming was replaced by 3D games. The bullet hell / danmaku (bullet curtain) emerged to continue the 2D shooter. Martin presented a very dense paper that focused on a Touhou Project game to talk about danmaku and how they deal with nostalgia. The Touhou Project is a doujin phenomenon. He focused specifically on the game Phantasmagoria of Flower View.

He talked about the backstory to the games and how you play a character dealing with threats to the boundary of a temple.

He then talked about content vs form, story vs sensuousness (an idea of Andrew Darley (2000)). Digital games are supposed to be about form, style, surface, artifice, spectacle and sensation - they dilute meaning and encourage intellectual quiescence.

In danmaku the content is build by fans - the games are the surface spectacle.

Paul questions the idea that form doesn't have meaning. He talked about how what he is doing is a reading of symptomatic meaning - a reading of the values revealed through the form - the social ideology presented. This gets to a larger issue of how things in their materiality (rather than their semiotic layer) can present meaning.

He feels that gameplay is a meaningful performance - it is a performance of meaning. He then shifted to reading the meaning in the form and activity.

The Touhou Project is, for Martin, nostalgia for pre-modern Japan and for pre-recession Japan. Danmaku are a baroque late genre form. They take the 2D shooter beyond to something baroque. The economic bubble of late 80s is looked back with suspicion and regret. Danmaku are a post-bubble phenomenon. The post-bubble generation has experienced a loss of opportunity. The Touhou Project games often refer to loss of employment (a post-bubble generation experience.) Touhou games also have nostalgia for pre-modern Japan. Reimu (the shrine maiden) displays traditional characteristics while Marisa shows the characteristics of the bored post-bubble generation.

He talked about the Gensokyo (illusion realm) that is a parallel realm of monsters (yokai) with a gateway to the Hakurei Shrine. The Gensokyo is an archive storing the pre-modern. It holds the past, tradition, magic, dreams, spirituality, and nature. There is a spatial boundary that the temple divides.

The formal excess of the shooter is representative of the excess of the bubble. The excess is celebrated and critiqued. There is a "fantasy of abundance"

Danmaku is an excessive experience. Players have to get used to "seeing" the hitbox which is smaller than the sprite. One needs to see what is important (hitbox) in the face of the excess.

Michael Craig: The Bullet and the Mandala: Ludic-Visual Tension in Danmaku Shooting Games

Craig is interested in the relation of action and aesthetics, especially in shooters like danmaku. He showed how similar the visuals from bullet hell games are to mandala. The similarities were striking.

In danmaku the bullets stop to be projectiles and become circular curtains that expand and ripple. They aren't really bullets but patterns. The danmaku space is a Cartesian space where everything has an x and y position. Mandala structures derive from religious principles of repetition and circular time. He mentioned Giuseppe Tucci, "The Theory and Practice of the Mandala." Mandala are symbolic maps of a cosmos that have alternating tension between consciousness and maya. Conscious being is pure light, maya is dark or chaos. The mandala is an interaction of these two.

The optical art or visual excess is in tension with the playing where you are trying to not get killed. You can't just stop and admire the visual beauty. You have to duck and run through the curtain of bullets. It isn't clear if appreciating the beauty is part of the playing or not. You have to stay alive to see the overload, but ironically

Some see dankaku as "meditative" which is what mandalas were for. He talked about the view that there is a "zone" one enters where you do without doing. Certain playing practices become like meditation. This reminds me of the comparison of pachinko and slots to being in a zone that is like Zen. The zone of playing is like the trancelike zone of gambling on slots that Natasha Schull talks about in Addiction by Design. This allows one to cope with everyday anxieties and disappointment. Zizec talks about selling of false alternatives to real spirituality as stress reduction. We sell people the advantages of meditation. Buying spirituality. It is a coping mechanism to escape from life as hell.

Craig feels danmaku encourages player to escape to aesthetic experiences. I'm reminded of Diderot's colour organ. You play visual patterns.

Craig questioned how close game flow is like meditation. Are we tempted to justify gaming action by comparing them to meditation. Is "playing without playing" ever really more than playing?

I was also struck by how the early pachinko spaces are also like mandalas.

Keynote 3: Hironobu Sakaguchi and Hirokazu Hamamura: From the Famicon to the World: The Lineage of JRPGs’ Globalization from the Perspective of the Genesis of Final Fantasy

The final session was a keynote with Hironobu Sakaguchi, father of Final Fantasy series being interviewed by Hirokazu Hamamura who was involved in the launch of the video game magazine Weekly Famitsu.

Sakaguchi first started playing when he went to work for Square. He started playing on personal computers. He was fascinated by the personal computers as opposed to mainframes. He was analyzing the Apple II and the games, hacking the programs to figure out how they worked.

Sakaguchi didn't think he would get a job in the larger arcade companies so he joined Square. He initially developed PC games like "destruct".

Many thought the Famicom was for kids, arcade games were for adults. You could play all night long at the arcades, but the Famicom you could play in your own.

He talked about Xevious and how the PC couldn't support such fast scrolling graphics. The Famicom could and that shocked Sakaguchi.

As a business it was hard to develop for Famicom. PC development was like doujin development. You didn't need a lot of staff. Famicom was an established business. Sakaguchi was initially skeptical that Square could enter Famicom business.

A lot of the Famicom games were adapted from arcades. There weren't a lot of RPGs. To do an RPG you needed to be able to save settings and you needed lot of memory for the game. Dragon Quest had solved some of these problems. Dragon Quest sold a lot and awakened their ambitions - they developed Final Fantasy 1.

At the beginning they couldn't do as much as today with the graphics. In the beginning they had only 4 or so people on the team. He had a good programmer with Apple II experience, Nasir Gebelli.

The name originally was Fighting Fantasy. They wanted people to call the game FF. They finally settled on Final Fantasy. It was not called that because it was their last chance.

FF became a big hit on the NES in the US. He talked about how the support call center did the testing so they could advise players. In the US marketing and distribution was different.

The localization - translation was an issue. "Samona" (?) was an issue. There were memory problems because English uses more characters. The translation was therefore poor. Feedback from the US was interesting as there was no JRPGs. With NES Japanese culture was introduced in the US.

Final Fantasy 2 (1988) was quite different. They decided not to make a sequel, but to make a new story. Dragon Quest had sequels, so they decided to change each story and take different pasts. The image of FF after FF 2 is generating something new.

1990 FF 3 was launched. FF 3 sold even more - more than a million (1.4 million.) They sold it at a discount which increased details. The game was difficult at the end and he thought players might not make it through. They introduced the jump-change system. The evolution of the ROM cassette helped them to improve FF 3. Sound effects could be more sophisticated.

FF 2 and 3 in Japan were not released in the US. It was a management decision. They didn't have time to localize as they were developing new versions. They also thought the JRPG wouldn't be that successful in the US.

Final Fantasy 4 for the SuperFamicom had significantly better graphics. FF 4 on SuperFamicom had new functions to use like zoom in and up. The quality of graphics are what people remember. FF 4 was released for the NES in the US. The active battle system was more suitable for desire for reality in the US. FF 4 was easier to play in NES version. They don't have the magazines or books for how to play in the US so they made the game easier. Not having FF 2 and 3 also meant US players didn't have the experience.

Localization for FF 4 was easier as one could fit more text on cassette and on screen.

They showed short video clips between talking about games and the clips all ended with the character(s) going to bed.

Final Fantasy 5 was launched in 1992. It had four characters. Job ability system was adopted. It sold more than 2 million. In FF 5 they took ideas about strong characters from manga. To have have lots of strong characters they needed to have lots of jobs for the characters. 2 female developers had to work a year late nights.

Final Fantasy 6 has a completely different atmosphere from the opening. There were lots of characters and they needed a lot of memory. Picture quality was improved the hardware was better exploited. FF 6 was FF 3 on SuperNES. They skipped localizing FF 5. They thought the job changing system might not be accepted in US as there is lots of menu work.

Sakaguchi talked about easy/casual games and then complicated games like FF that appeal to different communities. The core gamer community in US played on PCs. So FF 6 didn't sell as well.

Final Fantasy 7 was a big success. FF 7 sold 4 million domestic and 6 or 10 million in US. FF 7 had 3D graphics. There was already 3D games like Virtua Fighter, but no RPGs that were 3D. They spent half a year on a Silicon Graphics machine to develop a demo. They had to spend a lot of time on research. The graphics needed new people with 3D experience. It wasn't real time 3D - I think it was 2D rendered from the 3D. For the Japanese this pseudo 3D was new to Japanese.

FF 7 did a commercial to show the development. It sold 4.8 million in foreign markets despite the difficulty. They did a lot of promotion to explain the 3D. They could distribute demo or promotional CDs.

In the days of the SuperFamicom the core players played all the games. With FF 7 the audience changed.

After 7 Sakaguchi moved to Hawaii. The technology moved to CG so they wanted to learn from CG and opened an office in Los Angeles.

Creatives are different between Japan and US. In the US there are labour laws that protect workers and one needs to be careful gender issues. He found working in America difficult. In Hawaii he made movies and games and mixed Americans and Japanese. Hawaii was closer to Japan. There are lots of people of Japanese descent so it is more colourful. Everyone is foreign to Hawaii so everyone is more tolerant. There was lots of late nights and a sports club atmosphere. There is lots of barbecuing.

He found in Hawaii many genius programmers, including programmers from France. There were more than in Japan. He found the French have high respect for Japanese.

He has received a number of award recently and joked about how getting awards (like GDC lifetime achievement award) is like retirement.

They then talked about Terra Battle from his new company Mistwalker. It has sold over 2 million for smart phone. It goes back to a more cartoon interface of the Famicom games because of the smartphone. It also has a more adult aspect. The smartphone market is very fast. The more downloads the more artists they add. It is a new era with new market that is faster, more adult.

He talked about selling in India given digital distribution. In the future there will be more epoch making games.

They ended by talking about NES. Sakaguchi said he is here because of the hardware. With the NES his product (the games) can spread all over the world. The NES gave Sakaguchi a global market. And thanks to that he and other creators could travel the world. Content is the best thing to export from Japan.

They ended with a video of game sequences.

Closing Remarks

I and Uemura gave closing remarks. Uemura talked about the Atari shock in the US and the LSI shock in Japan. The double shock. The president of Nintendo felt they had to develop a new game machine - the Famicom. The president ordered them - he had no choice but to develop the Famicom. Then it became successful. Then he was ordered to launch the NES. Again he thought it would be difficult, but he was surprised by how succesful it was. 30 years after the launch of the NES people are still studying Japanese games and discovering Japanese culture through the Famicom and NES. People were destined to come to the world of games and Uermura was only helping things emerge. He had no choice in a different sense of letting things emerge. He changed his self to act not by will of the self but by sensing the will of others. Sakaguchi is sensitive to trends in this way.

He has been asked about the 50th NES anniversary. He is not sure he will be alive by then, but many in the audience will be here. The passion will continue and someone will celebrate the 50th anniversary. He is no longer directly involved, but wishes

He thanked those of us from abroad. He has been gratified by how we are interested in Japan and Japanese game culture. Games can help overcome our differences.



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