I have not posted anything original in a while, which I blame on a busy schedule. I recently came across an old blog that I used to maintain as part of Prof. Rockwell’s seminar on Japanese video game culture a few years back. Some of these posts still seem relevant today, so I though it could be worthwhile to share updated versions of them again on this platform. Enjoy!
The practice of mobile gaming is a difficult subject to frame and situate since its platforms are meant to be very flexible. However, it is possible to make sense of this particular form of gaming through the framework presented by Ito in Mobilizing the Imagination in Everyday Play, specifically, through the concept of hyper-socialization, a form of socialization mediated by the formation of a knowledge economy based on media content and shared amongst its participants.
Cohen’s text was very informative as it brought forward case studies of mobile game design experiments that gives us a clearer idea of what elements to consider while designing a mobile game for the Japanese market. He identifies the terms Personal (space of intimacy), Portable (mobility of the device) and Pedestrian (nagara gaming) as the main concepts that frames the experience of mobile phone entertainment in Japan, and there is no reason why we shouldn’t look at portable console use in the same light. Indeed, from the dual-screen DS to the portable media device that was the PSP, mobile consoles in Japan have always been a save haven for gaming experiences that focus on the intimacy of the ludic experience, the imaginary creation of a restricted relationship with the screen. Those comprise of visual novels, brain training games and role-playing games. Interestingly, those seem to also be the experiences that define the PC as a gaming space. Visual novels are often released on PC first, and then ported on mobile consoles. The PC in Japan also hosts a number of long-running franchises of real-time strategy games that are mostly unknown in the West. However, the mobile consoles have also given momentum to completely different genre, one of those―the kyoutou games (coop games), sometimes called hunting games―requires repurposing the console as a vehicle for socialization in the same vein Ito talks about card games as tools for hyper-socialization.
|Summer 2013, Kyoutou Sensei promotes the joys of collaborative battle games in the first of many commercials.
On mobile devices, we have games like Monster Hunter, Soul Sacrifice, Valhalla Nights and others that inspire strong community of players who meet in cafés with groups or random strangers. Even games with very low level of communal engagement like Puzzles and Dragons (by far the most popular mobile game) integrate a lot of social elements: players must be connected with other users in order to lean their strength to overcome challenging bosses. Such games are very customizable themselves and mobile game communities like the one associated with Valkyria Chronicle D is very intricate where players have developed hierarchical relationship with rights and duties in relation to what the game requires users to do in order to achieve a communal goal. There is plenty of space for remix and mediated but meaningful social encounters through mobile gaming from its most intricate form (Monster Hunter) to its most nagara (Puzzles and Dragons). However, I must differ from Ito’s perspective when she identifies hyper-socialization with contestation, there just doesn’t seem to be actual rebellion against a given text in the media mix, only reinterpretation and adaptation.
Ito, Mizuko. ¨Mobilizing the Imagination of Everyday Play: The Case of Japanese Media Mixes¨ in International Handbook of Children, Media and Culture. Edited by Sonia Livingstone and Kirsten Drotner. SAGE Publishing, 2008.
Cohen, Einat. ¨Portable Gaming in Japan: Redefining Urban Play Space and Changing Gameplay¨. University of Haifa, 2010.