Monthly Archives: December 2015

Field Research At Ritsumeikan University


The research for my PhD project on Japanese game centers has officially started.

Two weeks ago I received word from SSHRC informing me that my request for the Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplements available only to Joseph-Armand Bombardier Doctoral Fellowship recipients was finally granted. This means that I will be in Japan from January to April 2016 to conduct the final steps of my field research before I can start working on the project properly.

From January to March, I will stay in Kyoto in order to work with my research trip supervisor Prof. Koichi Hosoi on his arcade game preservation project. There, I will follow the most recent trends on arcade game preservation in Japan and I will have access to all sorts of material (cabinets, magazines, photographs, …) that will help develop some of the arguments in my own thesis. I also hope to be able to talk to both academics and industry people in the project.

I plan to write weekly reports of this three-month adventure on this blog to share discoveries and thoughts. Stay tuned, and don’t forget to let me know if you are in either Kyoto or Tokyo next year!

December 18: The Thesis Awakens

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Yesterday marked the release of the new Star Wars movie, as well as the oral examination of my PhD research project. In both cases, it was the start of two massive long-term projects. On one hand,  unending stream of a new generation of Star Wars products that Disney will convince the planet to purchase over the next decade and, on the other hand, the official start of my research on game centers, the biggest academic endeavour of my career. My thesis truly awoke amidst the fruitful conversations with the seven professors in the room that day.

A few things to remember during the writing process.

  • Let’s be careful with the theories of space. My understanding of space was entangled with other elements such as social affordances and architecture. This will need to be addressed before reading the game centers of different eras.
  • Is Space Invaders representative of its era or an exceptional case? I might reconsider how I choose my case studies.
  • Should I interview people or not? No clear answer was suggested.
  • Finally, to what extend game centers are supported by the cool Japan campaign? This should be easy to figure out if I ask the right people.

I thoroughly appreciated the experience and I am grateful that my extended committee granted by a unanimous pass three minutes after the two hour-long debate. I am looking forward to start working on this project right after the holiday break and a well-deserved trip back to Quebec.

But for now, I’m off to watch Star Wars.



(Re)Blog – Les arcades japonaises à l’heure de l’invasion des jeux mobiles

Ceci est une réédition d’un billet de blog du même nom publié à l’origine sur la section blogue du journal Kinephanos le 28 juin 2013. Le contenu (toujours d’actualité en cette fin de 2015) est le même, outre certaines petites erreurs qui s’y étaient glissées à l’origine.


Le très recommandable documentaire 100 Yen : The Arcade Experience de Brad Crawford dresse un fidèle portrait des éléments marquants du monde de l’arcade au Japon. Il faut cependant souligner que la situation financière de cette industrie reste en général assez précaire ; le pouvoir d’attraction des nouveaux jeux n’est pas éternel, et les développeurs de jeux doivent constamment fournir de nouvelles raisons à leurs clients de choisir les arcades plutôt qu’un autre type de divertissement urbain. L’intégration des dernières tendances dans leur offre de divertissement afin d’être sur la même ligne que leurs clients potentiels est une question de vie ou de mort pour les fabricants de bornes et les exploitants. Tout au long des années 2000 ce sont les jeux de rythmes et surtout des jeux d’arcade fusionnant jeu numérique et jeux de cartes à collectionner qui étaient au cœur du pouvoir d’attraction des arcades japonaises. Cet été, toutefois, les arcades prennent le virage du jeu mobile.

Code of Joker et Puyo Puyo Quest Arcade sont deux exemples de cette nouvelle tendance. En location test depuis le mois de mai, le premier s’inspire directement de l’interface tactile des téléphones intelligents, alors que le second, une adaptation de la version mobile de Puyo Puyo Quest, sera le premier jeu d’arcade dont la session de jeu de base sera gratuite pour tous. Au-delà de l’intégration totale de l’interface tactile dans la borne elle-même, l’adoption du modèle de jeu « sur le pouce » disponible sur téléphone intelligent semble passer par la réinvention de la dynamique traditionnelle de micro-paiement des arcades vers une multiplication des façons de « nourrir la machine ». Code of Joker intègre les deux méthodes : le joueur doit payer à la fois pour débuter chaque combat, mais également pour acheter des packs virtuels grâce auxquels il peut améliorer sa collection de cartes (payer pour jouer, payer pour gagner). Puyo Puyo embrasse ce modèle d’affaires en entier : le jeu sera absolument gratuit et le joueur devra dépenser un certain nombre de points genki pour lancer une quête, mais ces points se régénèreront à raison d’un point aux trois minutes. Le joueur aura aussi l’alternative de payer 100 yen pour régénérer tous ses points instantanément (y comprit ses points de vie) et participer à d’autres quêtes sans s’arrêter (payer pour gagner).

Étant donné que l’essentiel de mes réflexions sur le monde de l’arcade au Japon porte présentement sur les affordances sociales des machines et de leurs logiciels, j’aurais tendance à voir cette initiative comme un dispositif visant, à la base, à former le comportement d’une certaine clientèle. L’objectif ici est de favoriser la fréquentation régulière des salles d’arcade, pas nécessairement pour une longue durée ou une forte capitalisation. Puyo Puyo Quest Arcade serait donc différent de sa version iOS en ce sens qu’elle serait une sorte de loss leader, un « cheval de Troie » conçu pour attirer le consommateur. Le jeu n’a de sens que lorsqu’il est inscrit dans un contexte plus large, que Michel Nitsche (2008) appelle l’ « espace de jeu » ou play space de l’arcade.

A Text Mining Week at Texas A&M (2)

I am now back from my Texan adventures in humanities computing at Texas A&M, but I still wish to mention some of the later projects to which I was introduced during my stay.

One of the major difference between DH at Texas A&M and the UoA is that researchers at the former institution focus on an older corpus of texts that is both difficult to access and challenging to digitize on a large scale. While we work with tweets and other born-digital documents, they work with books from the 18th century. The difficulty resides in the fact that, even when digitized, they remain difficult to transform into machine-readable format due to various problems such as the absence of standards for typeset and various noise that ink can produce when read by a machine. The EBBO and ECCO corpora are fraught with these problems.

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Considering these problems, the Initiative for Digital Humanities, Media & Culture worked on making these texts more reachable for the broader academic community with the 18th Connect portal. This search engine is linked to different other online collections and repositories and allows to look through libraries and collections for specific texts published in the 18th century.

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Feeling like contributing? The 18th Connect portal also hosts TypeWright, an online tool that allows the public to improve the OCR results of certain digitized texts by typing lines of texts directly from the scanned document, thus improving the quality of the digitized text. Just create an account and start typing!


Last but not least, I wish to spread the knowledge about the online class Programming for Humanists at TAMU that is being offered since 2014. The program allows for different registration options (including an official certificate or not) and covers a lot of important topics for DH students. This is a neat online program for students interested in the fundamentals of digital humanities, but do not have access to a DH introduction class at their home institutions. Take a look if that is your case!

Kinephanos’ Issue on Japanese Video Game Theory is Out

I am proud to announce that the latest Kinephanos issue on Japanese video game theory and the media mix has been released this week. This concludes an almost three year-long editorial process that lasted as long as my career as a Phd student. Many thanks to me colleague Martin Picard for the chance to collaborate on this project.

All papers published in issue tackle a specific aspect of the broader discussion that animates the field of Japanese game studies. These range from a discussion on localization, on kawaii culture in video games and the history of music in Japanese game culture. Tsugumi Okabe and me provide a translation of one of the first articles written about a video game in Japan. The other notable part of this issue is the introduction itself which provide a brief overview of the state of research on video games in Japan, we hope that some of the texts mentioned will inspire scholars to look at this rich literature in future projects.

A Text Mining Week at Texas A&M (1)

Blogging live from the extremely sunny campus of Texas A&M, College Station, Texas. Quite a contrast from snowy Edmonton.

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I have been fortunate enough to be invited to spend a week at Texas A&M (TAMU) to visit some of the scholars with whom I collaborate on the Novel TM project. Project co-investigator Doctor Laura Mandell and PhD student Nigel Lepianka were nice enough to show me around the campus (unable to drive, I find myself relying on Nigel most of the time).

So far, I presented some of my work on text mining JRPG video game reviews and was introduced to other text mining techniques using R (specifically, Nigel’s method to do some directed topic modelling). I was also introduced to some of the projects that the team here is working on as part of their Initiative for Digital Humanities, Medias and Culture.

The first one is, an extensive web portal that brings ressources for the study of the Syriac language to the wide web. While some of its contents remain to be published, the Gazetteer showcases how the platform can contribute as a geographical reference index.

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I also was introduced to the BigDIVA viewer today. This is a promising interface that could revolutionize library search results display for universities. I am particularly interested in its potential to help rethinking queries with space in mind, a way to present queries in a less hierarchical manner which would allow the uncovering of marginal files and documents. This is radically different that the regular Google search algorithms which relies more on result popularity amongst millions of users (a form of crowdsourcing) who may be looking for the same specific website. An interesting tool, and one that triggers reflections about what it means to read (and play) space.