Category Archives: English

Ofuro+ramen+game center=?

The Asahi Journal publicized this week the opening of the first location of a new ramen restaurant chain called Nintama Ramen that aims to merge together three of Japan’s best gifts to the world: public baths, game centres, and ramen noodles. The establishment, demonstrating the constant transformation of the style of game centre operations in the country, is situated at one of the trucker stops of national highway 51 nearby Tokyo. It is primarily targeting a clientele of travellers and weary drivers looking for a short rejuvenating break on a long-distance trip. While arcade games have always been part of the broader leisure strategy employed by hotels and hot spring resorts to attract and retain customers, this seems to be a first example of a venue that combines these three seemingly disconnect services in this fashion.

Publication – Text Mining JRPGs

The article I have been working on for many years now has been published through the Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds. The paper grew out of an experimental project that I conducted for the completion of the field papers requirements as part of my PhD degree that the MLCS department had at the time at the University of Alberta. I essentially text mined hundreds of JRPG reviews in order to find meaningful discourses that would help scholars understand the formation of the JRPG genre as a discursive phenomenon. While not all the results introduced groundbreaking elements to the history of the circulation of JRPGs in the anglophone Western world, I believe that it provide enough new elements that could serve as a base for the emergence of renewed inquiries on the genre, as well as reaffirm previous claims backed with statistical evidence.

Perhaps the element that surprised me the most was that, starting from 2009 onward, JRPGs started to be written on in a much more negative fashion than in previous years. The contrast between these two generated topics covering both positive and negative language offered some paths worth investigating:

Negative connotations attached to the genre clearly outnumber positive ones with JRPGs becoming objects of harsh critique at a time of an important industry-changing technological shift in game production and marketing. Although JRPGs did have a generally positive reputation in the first few years of the twenty-first century, their image was tarnished by the end of the decade as their higher presence in the media exposed them to conflictual reinterpretations through a phenomenon compa-
rable to Appadurai’s ‘tournament of values’.

Overall, I think this is just the beginning between text mining and me. Having gone through all the steps to publish this sort of research (both to conduct and explain the project), I am now in a much stronger position to tackle more ambitious projects on gaming culture and digital humanities methods using my own tools. If you have any game-related text data sets that beg to be explored, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Publication – Internet Memes and Spatiality

I am very proud to announce that a research article resulting from the collaboration between my University of Alberta colleague Axel Perez Trujillo and myself has recently been published by the Space and Culture journal. The paper entitled “Colonizing Pepe: Internet Memes as Cyberplaces” explores the phenomenon of the creation and circulation of internet memes through the notion of spatiality in cyberspace. The concepts developed are explored through the case study of the Pepe the Frog meme controversy around the election 2016 American presidential elections.

One of the takeaways of the paper is the idea of analyzing the spatiality of internet memes through three different layers that each provides different perspectives on the power struggle inherent to meme production and circulation.

We isolate three layers of spatiality in our analysis of Pepe the Frog: (1) the contours of the image-meme, (2) the spatial distribution of the platform it occupies, and (3) the spatial relations the meme-frame sustains in regard to netizens’ commentaries (Figure 1). The following figure is a representation of these differing spatial layers that the meme encompasses:

Figure 1. The three layers of the spatiality of Internet memes. Source: Jérémie Pelletier-Gagnon and Axel Pérez Trujillo Diniz (2018).

In the first layer, we represent three image-memes. For example, they could be three different iterations of Pepe the Frog, all of which incorporate significant alterations to the meme, except a particular contour, such as the face of Pepe the Frog. That defining contour is the cohesive component of the meme—what offers its unity and distinguishes from other memes. This first spatial layer is the basis of the meme. In the second layer, we represent the spatial distribution of those image-memes within a single forum. Our study is focused on how Pepe the Frog image-memes are distributed in Twitter under the #savepepe hashtag. Notice how the disposition of image-memes is vertical on the screen. This spatial aspect is central to understanding how Pepe the Frog is a contested site at all three layers. In the third layer, we represent the spatial frame of netizens’ comments and the image-meme within the platform.

While some of the ideas that make this paper were born as part of my Phd research on the spatiality of Japanese arcades, it is my position as primary instructor of the Cyberliterature class at the University of Alberta that truly brought me to look at internet memes as pieces of electronic texts worthy of scholarly attention. I want to express my sincerest thanks to Axel for his invaluable input during the whole writing process and for the great conversation we had on spatiality when thinking the core concepts of this paper. I also want to thanks the student journal The Gateway for reaching out to me for a conversation on the Pepe the Frog controversy in 2017 which truly kindled my curiosity on the matter.

Creative projects using Twine for C LIT 243: Fairy Tales and Folk Tales

 

 

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I was introducing a special assignment for the summer version of the course C LIT:243 – Fairy Tales and Folk Tales. The term is almost over, and now is the time to share the works of some of my students with the internet at large.

These stories are meant to be contemporary reinterpretations of classic fairy tales themes, characters or storylines. Student integrated both the themes we analyzed in class, as well as some coding techniques allowing them to join story passages together, create branching paths (either arborescent, axial or networked narratives), as well as integrating some amount of macros and variables. We analyzes a few fairy tales-inspired Twine stories as part the in-class time dedicated to this project, and perhaps these stories could be used by other instructors in classes with a similar interest on interactive reinterpretations of classic fairy tales.

 

The Big Bad Wolf

Written by Ashley Bray, Breana Walsh and Steeven Jobin

 

Miss-education of Snow White

Written by Aaron Brown, Todd Pelan and Janina Graham

 

Hannan Takes New York

Written by Anonymous

 

Grandpa’s Fireplace

Written by Lynsey Stewart and Iliana Pappas

 

Out of the Cind

Written by Anonymous

 

Level Up! Recent Research Interview

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I was interviewed by the German fanzine Level UP! editor in chief  a few months ago, and the interview itself was made available just a few weeks ago. While the interview was conducted in English (and is till available in English on the website), the whole thing was translated in German for publication, which amazes me. Having done a few translations in the past, I know that this is extremely time-consuming.

As for the interview itself, I talk a lot about my current dissertation project, as well as my side projets on JRPGs. I would like to thanks Mathias again for this opportunity, this was very useful for me to once again situate my thoughts on the matter of transcultural video game circulation, and explain the place that text mining might come to play in order to explore some of these issues. Don’t hesitate to take a look if you are interested in any of these things!

Symposium: Digital Narratives Around the World

The symposium that I have been preparing alongside Prof. Astrid Ensslin is being held today. I am glad that we could set time aside to host this event; many professors and students from around campus are converging to share the status of their research on the topics of storytelling and digital technology. These ranged from reading surveillance systems (Rockwell) to creative use of digital mapping for personal storytelling (Mackey).

You may follow the conversation online on the symposium twitter hashtag:

#YEGdigitalnarratives

Thanks to all participants!

 

Course: Cyberliterature

Poster_CLIT210_PowerPoint (1).jpg

I am about to close the books on my very first teaching experience as a principal instructor at the University of Alberta. This Cyberliterature class was a fantastic challenge, a great opportunity to expand my horizons on various forms of electronic literatures, as well as a chance to unpack some of the internet culture that we usually take for granted (memes, rage comics, fan fiction and so on). One of the objectives that I had for this particular incarnation of the class was to create a more culturally diverse corpus that previous years, and I think that the week dedicated to cell phone novels and visual novels worked great in this regard. I also experimented with integrating VR material as a text to be discussed in class, which was difficult a first to get going due to the technical requirements of this technology, but turned out to be well worth it.

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Thanks again to the staff in MLCS for their trust and this opportunity.

 

CFP – Digital Narratives Around the World

Just a quick word to share the CFP of an upcoming symposium held at the University of Alberta on digital narratives. I have helped Prof. Astrid Ensslin putting this project together over the past few weeks, and I am looking forward to meet with the greater Albertan digital fiction community in May. Check it out if you are in the area, especially if you are doing research on digital fiction or game studies.

Here is an excerpt from the CFP.

“The University of Alberta, in association with the Kule Institute for Advanced Studies (KIAS), would like to acknowledge and help further develop this interest by creating the possibility of researchers and students across campus and beyond to join forces and create a scholarly network dedicated to the support and the dissemination of cross-disciplinary research on digital narratives around the world. A first step towards the implementation of this project is a one-day symposium that will bring together researchers from the University of Alberta along with external collaborators, where participants will share their research and ideas through individual or team presentations. The objectives of this event are to identify the University of Alberta’s strengths in the field and possible synergies between research groups, to establish a roadmap for the planning of future events and projects, as well as to investigate the needs and provisions for current and future graduate students in this area.”

(Re)Blog – Dynamics of Mobile Gaming

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!

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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.

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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.

Works Cited

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.

 

 

CFP – Replaying Japan 2017: The Strong Museum of Play, USA

The CFP for the next Replaying Japan conference is out. This time, the event will be held at the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester (USA), and will be themed around the concept of “Transmedia and Story in Japanese Games”. Here is the call for paper, which you can also find at the official conference webpage.

If you are interested in Japanese video game studies and you are based in North America, please consider sending an abstract (in either English or Japanese).

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Replaying Japan 2017: 5th International Japan Game Studies Conference

“Transmedia and Story in Japanese Games”

The 5th International Conference on Japan Game Studies will be held at The Strong National Museum of Play, Rochester, USA, from August 21 to 23 2017.

Proposals in Japanese are most welcome! <日本語での発表要旨も受け付けます。>
This conference, co-hosted by The Strong and Rochester Institute of Technology’s School of Interactive Games and Media and MAGIC Center, is organized in collaboration with the Institute of East Asian Studies at Leipzig University, the Ritsumeikan Center for Game Studies, the University of Alberta and DiGRA Japan. This conference, the fifth collaboratively organized event, focuses broadly on Japanese game culture, education, and industry. It aims to bring together a wide range of researchers and creators from many different countries to present and exchange their work.

The main theme of the conference this year will be Transmedia and Story in Japanese Games.

We invite researchers and students to submit paper proposals related to this theme. We also invite papers on other topics relating to games, game culture, education, and the Japanese game industry from the perspectives of humanities, social sciences, business, or education. We also encourage poster/demonstration proposals of games or interactive projects related to these themes. For previous approaches related to these topics, see the 2016 program:http://home.uni-leipzig.de/jgames/replayingjapan2016/program/.

Please send anonymized abstracts of no more than 500 words in English or Japanese via email to <replayingjapan@gmail.com> before January 15, 2017. Figures, tables and references, which do not count towards the 500 words, may be included on a second page. The following information should be in the accompanying email message:

Type of submission (poster/demonstration or paper):
Title of submission:
Name of author(s):
Affiliation(s):
Address(es):
Email address(es):

Notification of acceptance will be sent out by March 3, 2017.
While the language of this conference will be English, limited communication assistance will be available for those who cannot present in English.

For more information about Replaying Japan 2017, visit the conference home page (replaying.jp) or write to replayingjapan@gmail.com.