Category Archives: field trip 2016

Le chaînon manquant entre Star Wars et Space Invaders

Eh oui, un autre billet à propos de Star Wars sur ce blogue.

Depuis que j’étudie l’histoire des jeux d’arcades au Japon, j’ai toujours eu un doute par rapport aux liens étroits établit entre la notoriété de Star Wars et la folie Space Invaders de 1978, malgré les nombreux témoignages abondant en ce sens. Il reste que le concept d’influence en est un qui est difficile à démontrer de façon formelle, et considérant la flopée de films dérivés du concept “d’aventures intersidérales” produit dans les années 1970 aussi bien aux État-Unis qu’au Japon, il est difficile de pointer Star Wars du doigt de façon spécifique.

Cependant, je suis tombé sur ces quelques pages en feuilletant d’anciens numéros de Game Machine.

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Plus de place au doute maintenant.

Le fait que ces publicités pour des jeux dérivés de Space Invaders utilisent de flagrantes copies de certaines icônes du film de Georges Lucas pour communiquer avec le lecteur suggère que l’univers fictif de Star Wars eu une certaine importance au niveau de la mise en marché du jeu vidéo en 1979 (moment de la parution de ces publicités). Star Wars fut présenté dans les cinéma japonais en Juin 1978 pour la première fois, ce qui coincide avec la sortie de Space Invader… en Juin 1978 également. Leur sortie simultanée est probablement la raison pour laquelle ces deux oeuvres furent étroitement liés de 1978 à 1979, année où le Space Invader boom n’était plus qu’un souvenir. Il est donc plausible que les fabricants de jeux furent tentés de reprendre directement les codes visuels de Star Wars afin de vendre leur version de Space Invader.

Fuji Enterprises’ Kamikaze

While going through old issues of Game Machine, I stumbled on an add that picked my interest. The add in question was published in February of 1976 and dedicates a full page to a game called Kamikaze set up in an upright game cabinet, a standard a time when most video games were still either imported or consisted of blatant copies of Atari’s products.

Here comes Fuji Enterprises, publishing a game that is presumably about crashing your Mitsubishi A60 (also called Rei-shiki) against various naval vessels. The cabinet itself is a recreation of a cockpit, complete with a control stick and some pseudo-flight instruments. Most cabinets of this type during the 1974-1978 period where racing games, which makes this specific game quite unique in its design and (somewhat dark) subject matter.

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There is very little information about this game or its reception at the time; the only thing I was able to find is this advertisement. Game Machine never ended up writing about the game itself. If you know something about that game, please share it with us.

Public Talk at RCGS on March 11

I will be giving a talk about my thesis project during the last week of my stay at Ritsumeikan on March 11. This presentation will be part of the ongoing conference series that RCGS hosts regularly to showcase new research in game studies. I will present a summary of my research objectives as well as some case studies of arcade video games that require an understanding of interactive games as the synergy of software, cabinet and space.

This will be my very first official public talk in Japanese and, needless to say, this is making me very nervous. I will spend the next week brushing my vocabulary up so that won’t have to rely on English too much.

Wish me luck!

Deuxième mois, deuxième appartement

J’ai emménagé dans un appartement plus près du campus de Ritsumeikan cette semaine. C’est franchement mieux que la petite cellule où j’ai passé mon premier mois ici. En plus d’avoir une superbe washitsu et une salle de bain japonaise, c’est bien isolé. Dans l’ancien appartement, l’eau coulait dans les murs les jours de pluie et mes livres se gondolaient…




Le quartier est très calme, et la concierge fournit les vélos.

Le gros luxe.

Will Japan’s Elderly Population Save Game Centers?

Last week, I attended a small student conference at Kansai Daigaku organized by a research group entitled Pluralistic Gaming Research (tagenka suru gêmu bunka kenkyûkai). The highlight of the day was a presentation by Prof. Katô Hiroyasu, a sociologist and communication scholar who wrote extensively about socialization patterns in game centers. Since his work constitutes a big part of the backbone of my thesis, I was looking forward to meet him in person and find out about what is going on in game center research in 2016. I took a few notes about his talk.

Katô covered the emergence and evolution of the media discourse surrounding Japan’s elderly population spending some of their free time in game centers. He started by demonstrating that the connection between elderly and video games has been present in the press since the late 1990s when therapists realized that video game held great potential to be used within rehabilitation programs. In 1997, game centers specifically targeting the elderly demographic started to appear, and while they were financially sustainable for a while, by the year 2000, the majority would close down. However, the topic would appear throughout the years until now and monopolize a lot of media attention.

While it is true game centers are sometimes frequented by elderly people who predominantly like to play coin pusher machines, Katô suggests that, in fact, this proportion is infinitely smaller than what mass media often suggests. Citing a 2012 survey, Katô states that, while there is interest in spending time in game centers, it seems that only about 0.2% bother to go. Other more traditional spaces like supermarket, cafés, malls and social community centers are still much more attractive to this demographic.

These spaces are much more accommodating for many reasons (easier access, drink service, etc.), but with medal games’ continuous drop in popularity in recent years and the increase of market share that networked games (a general term that points at all arcade machines connected to the internet) continue to acquire every year, it is easy to see why game centers are not such a popular option for elderly. Their presence in this space is one that needs to be negotiated. They need to co-exist with plethora other machines that appeal to different demographics, and at different times. The audio-visual frenzy that rythm games and UFO catchers provide clashes with the monotonous and laid back atmosphere of medal game sections in most game centers. Without the proper spacial structure, the fantasy of arcades’s economic revival through customers over 60 years old is an illusion.


Kyoto’s Plaza Capcom, late at night

While parts of this discourse also reach us through thought news outlets such as The Japan Times, it is important to bear in mind that this whole situation is more of a project than a reality.

Virtua Fighter: A Tale of Two Cabinets

Released on December 6 1993, Virtua Fighter was the most popular fighting game of 1994; it was far ahead of its competition (Super Street Fighter II) on the technical front, and made a big impression amongst gamers and journalists. However, the game was what we can call a “late bloomer” in the game center industry. While typical successful titles hit the top position in popularity charts almost at the moment of their release, Virtua Fighter staying under the radar for about a month after its release. A lot of factors may explain this, but according to some research in RCGS’s archives, the design of the cabinet into which the game was installed played a significant role.

It has become clear to me that Virtua Fighter is a good example to put emphasis on the relation between social affordances and cabinet design; the game ran onto two different cabinet designs implemented at different times, but that were still present in games centers in parallel to each other. One can make the case that each had its own role to attract different audiences, and that these cabinets generated different affordances that resonated well with certain crowds. In other words, the play experience and the social affordances that these two models generated were completely different.

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Super Megalo 50 (picture from Virtua Fighter Maniacs)

Virtua Fighter was first released on a modified version of the Super Megalo 50, a very large cabinet made of two distinct parts: a 50-inch screen and a separate installation that combined both the commands and the seats. The two parts could be placed at various distances from each other. Essentially, two players would sit side-by-side and battle each other within a relatively close space. When the game was first released in this fashion, advertisement campaigns publicized the cabinet’s impressive screen size as much as the game’s technical innovations (the first polygon-based fighting game).

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Astrocity 2 (picture from Virtua Fighter Maniacs)

A month later, Sega released Virtua Fighter for a modified version of the Astrocity 2 cabinet, a standard competition cabinet (taisendai). The screen was much smaller and a separate bench was required to play, and while two sets of controls were installed on the machine, it was more commonly in tandem with another similar unit installed directly behind the cabinet. Both machines were connected via network, and players could play together on two different units. It is at this point that Virtua Fighter took game centers by storm, and dominated the fighting game scene until November of 1994.

According to Game Machine (which ranks games according to the number of machine sold and the general “impression” expressed by the operators surveyed), the evolution of the bimonthly raking of Virtua Fighter is very different according to the cabinet it was shipped in. The Super Megalo 50 version started in first position in the first week, but dropped to second place two weeks after, never to recover again. Game Machine ranks games according to cabinet type and provides a better idea than Coin Journal‘s monthly ranking, which does not make any distinction between them (its ranking system is also very subjective, but that’s a story for another day). However, the latter conducts more precise interviews with operators, and in a specific interview, the reporter states that the introduction of the Astrocity 2 version of the game, along with a slightly better presence in game centers, turned the title from a moderately interesting game to a great crowd pleaser, and that, a month after the release of the second cabinet. A look at Game Machine‘s 1994 ranking confirms that the Astrocity 2 version remains in top position during the year, while the Super Megalo 50 gradually drops lower in the top 15 in its category (it would come back in first position only for two weeks in June of that year).

This story is confirmed in many players and journalist’s accounts of the era where one can read that sitting on a single bench at a machine was a little embarrassing with strangers, especially when matches were one sided. While no sources directly confirms it, it is reasonable to assume that a very different type of crowds made use of the Super Megal0 50 version of Virtua Fighter, people whose purpose in going to the arcade (their “trajectories” as Doreen Massey) was much more compatible with the social affordances of the machine (users’ responses to close-proximity play and its high potential for performing to a crowd is more adapted to players familiar with their opponent). These would have been very different than the socialization patterns that normally characterize game cabinets when the identity of the opponent is often unknown. This is most likely why “power gamers” and beginners felt uneasy using the bigger cabinet; while the game was similar, the social affordances of the cabinet designs were very different.


Intermède: Setsubun Matsuri

C’était le festival du Setsubun cette semaine. Le Setsubun, c’est une grande fête religieuse soulignant la nouvelle année au Japon. J’ai pris quelques photos histoire de mettre un peu de diversité dans ce blogue.


Yasaka Jinja à Gion


On y vend des choses à manger


Nous sommes arrivé juste à temps pour voir les Maikos partir…


Des fèves et un billet de loterie pour la chance  


On peut gagner des vélos et des télévisions!? J’embarque!


Christina gagne du saké et moi des mouchoirs humides… l’appartement va être propre.

La trame sonore pour les dernières images.

“C’est stressant!” (Témoignage d’une participante comblée)





On lance des fèves!




La foule en redemande!

Finalement, nous n’avons rien attrapé, mais une gentille dame nous a donné un paquet de fèves qu’elle avait en surplus. Pas de chance, mais de la générosité en 2016!