Category Archives: japanese studies

CFP – Replaying Japan 2020: University of Liège, Belgium

The Replaying Japan committee is glad to announce that the next conference will be held at the University of Liège, Belgium, in 2020, and hosted by the Liège Game Lab. The conference theme is “Ludolympics 2020”, reflecting the increasing interest in the development of e-sports in the light of the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. I am sharing the CFP, which you can also find at the official conference webpage.

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Replaying Japan 2020: The 8th International Japan Game Studies Conference

Conference theme: “Ludolympics 2020”

Date: August 10-12, 2020

Location: University of Liège (7 Place du 20-Août, 4000 Liège, Belgium)

Proposals in Japanese are most welcome! 日本語での発表要旨も受け付けます。

Call for Papers

Since 2012, the Replaying Japan conference has hosted researchers from various fields conducting research on Japanese game culture. The eighth conference is being organized by the Liège Game Lab (a research group specialized in the study of video games as a cultural objects in French-speaking Belgium) in collaboration with the Ritsumeikan Center for Game Studies, the University of Alberta, the University of Delaware, Bath Spa University, Seijoh University and DiGRA Japan.

This year’s conference theme will be “Ludolympics 2020”. Particular attention will therefore be paid to the relationship between games and sport in Japan, to the Japanese esport scene and its cultural specificities (see Goto-Jones, 2016; Harper, 2014) and to competitive video game practices (Taylor, 2012 ; Hamari & Sjöblom, 2017 ; Witkowski, 2012 ; Besombes, 2016), but also, more generally, to the notion of video game performance and to the mediatization or spectacularization of this performance.

Through the prism of this theme, fundamental aspects of games and play will be questioned: the physicality of the playing practices, the place of competition in Japanese game culture, the role of rules and conventions in games and play (Salen and Zimmerman, 2004), as well as the possibilities of bypassing these rules (through cheating, for instance; Consalvo, 2009) or the spaces of appropriation that they allow (visible in the amateur practices, fan creations or doujin circles, among others).

Furthermore, esports are a common and robust entry point into the study of Japanese video games, their surrounding industry, their history, structuring, cultural variants (through the multiplicity of competitive game scenes, for example), and their surrounding economy. Competitive gaming has been an important vector for players’ professionalization and has led to the emergence of new figures in game culture: pro-players, commentators, streamers, video makers, speedrunners, specialized journalists, etc.

Beyond video game practices in the strict sense, the conference will thus focus on the different forms of mediatization of these practices inside and outside Japan. How are game performances commented, represented, transformed into spectacles? What media formats and discourses are being invented to promote them? What “paraludic” cultural practices are developing around these scenes and communities?

Lastly, the inclusion of (competitive) play in society and the many societal issues it raises must be questioned: the issue of the (in)accessibility of games (especially in the competitive field), the minority representation in this domain or the political tensions it harbors are topics that also deserve further attention.

Proposals that address these different issues are thus welcome, but these should not be understood in a restrictive sense. This conference 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. We therefore also invite papers on other topics relating to games, game culture, video games and education, and the Japanese game industry from the perspectives of humanities, social sciences, business, or education. We encourage poster/demonstration proposals of games or interactive projects related to these themes.

 

Submission Guidelines

Abstracts must be submitted through the platform EasyChair, following this link: <https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=rj2020>

Abstract registration deadline: February 3, 2020

Notification of Acceptance: April, 2020

All papers must be original. The following paper categories are welcome:

  • Full papers, posters/demos and short papers: please send anonymized abstracts (pdf) of no more than 500 words in English or Japanese
  • Panels: panel proposals should have a maximum length of 1500 words, including a description of each presentation and a short biography of each participant; they can be submitted in English or Japanese

Figures, tables and references do not count toward the word limit.

Proposals in Japanese are most welcome! 日本語の発表要旨はrcgs[a]st.ritsumei.ac.jpにご送付ください。詳しくはRCGSのウェブサイトをご覧ください

 

Contact Information

Fanny Barnabé <fanny.barnabe@uliege.be>

@LiegeGameLab

#replayingjapan

 

Works cited

Besombes N. (2016), Sport électronique, agressivité motrice et sociabilités, Doctoral thesis in Sports Sciences, Sorbonne Paris-Cité-University, France

Consalvo M. (2009), Cheating. Gaining Advantage in Videogames, Cambridge, MIT Press

Goto-Jones C. (2016), The Virtual Ninja Manifesto: Fighting Games, Martial Arts, and Gamic Orientalism, Lanham, Rowman & Littlefield

Hamari J. and Sjöblom M. (2017), “What is eSports and why do people watch it?”, Internet research, vol. 27, n° 2, pp. 211-232

Harper T. (2014), The Culture of Digital Fighting Games: Performance and Practice, New York, Routledge

Salen K. and Zimmerman E. (2004), Rules of Play. Game Design Fundamentals, Cambridge, MIT Press

Taylor T.L. (2012), Raising the Stakes: E-Sports and the Professionalization of Computer Gaming. Cambridge, The MIT Press

Witkowski E. (2012), “On the Digital Playing Field How We ‘Do Sport’ with Networked Computer Games”, Games and Culture, vol. 7, n° 5, pp. 349-374

Sakura Taisen in the time of Reiwa

Two historic announcements were made in Japan during the past week. Both are completely unrelated, but I nevertheless decided to force them into a comparative framework. Let’s see how well that works.

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Image CNN

Japan is right on schedule with the plan of turning the page on the 30 years of the Heisei era by announcing the new gengo, or era name, much to the delight of twitter users and idea-starved food conglomerates. Commemorative potato chips anyone? The new era name, starting May 1, 2019, is set to be Reiwa, or “auspicious peace” if we refer to Abe’s press conference. Other, probably more concrete meanings based on the characters’ common understanding, would point at a translation closer to “commanding peace” or “commanding harmony”. In both cases, the new era name seems to translate the current administration’s tendency towards a stronger right-wing national affirmation in the face of contemporary challenges and conflicting international relationships in the East Asia region. Considering that Heisei could be, in retrospect, defined by the two major natural disasters that bookend the era, major epoch-defining terrorist attacks, both foreign and domestic, as well as the more tangible aging crisis and the spectre of unruly North Korea, the choice is probably meant to inspire optimism in Japanese society. A new emperor will not solve any of these problems, but might breathe some much-needed vitality to Japanese public life.

shin.sakura.taisen.full_.2531087

Image Zerochan

The second announcement does not quite have as much gravity as the first. Indeed, SEGA is set on breathing new life to Sakura Taisen, a franchise that, for all instances and purposes, had been lying dormant since 2005.  Shin Sakura Taisen, the announced project’s name, is still very short of specifics since the only available information released about the game is but a single two minute-long promotional video, but already certain elements are worth a closer look for fans of the series. No gameplay elements have been revealed, but it is already clear that recent developments in the Japanese VR design principles are bleeding into more mainstream products. Looking at the first images of the game, it seems obvious that SEGA is taking account of Summer Lessons’ camera work and the sense of scale that characterize VR products so as to renew bishōjo games’ old formula. More than anything, it is the first-person perspective and the focus on eye contact that reminds me the most of Summer Lessons.

However, one should not forget that, primarily, this game as always banked on feelings generated by its unabashed nostalgic national affirmation through the reinterpretation of Japan’s pre-war prosperity that eschews issues of colonialism, war of expansion and fascism. Themes of the series have focused on the domestic struggle between tradition/modernity and mysticism/science in an era of transition. In Sakura Taisen, Japan is at the centre of the Asian world, and “commands” a form of harmony between colonial territories under the auspices of the Empire that the fighting maidens of the game protect against domestic demons. The visual identify of Sakura Taisen is rife with flags, military uniforms, and other symbols that echoes the national and military mobilization of social life that emerged in the Taisho era.

Shin Sakura Taisen is announced at a time when Abe’s government is taking steps to direct the country’s symbolic direction, as opposed to a constitutional one, towards a stronger affirmation of nationalism that could be characterized as more authoritarian. It is because of the insistence of fans’ desire to re-actualize the series’ cleaned-up depiction of the Taisho period, perhaps in need of some empowering representation of Japan, that SEGA has finally decided to approve the project after a hiatus of fifteen years. Taking into consideration that Sakura Taisen originally came out in 1996 in the middle of the ¨lost decade¨ where optimism was at a very low point after the financial crash, its runaway success as a social phenomenon could be read in conjunction with the catharsis that its worldview provided to gamers, a demographic that has often expressed sympathy for nationalist right-wing politics. It offered an imagined window on the Taisho era, a time when Japan could confidently compete with Western nations for global influence, without considering its darker moments.  The series lost its purpose when its characters started to travel to France and the United States in the fourth and fifth opuses, but a return to Japan, set chronologically in 1940 just before the start of the Pacific War when the Empire of Japan was arguably at its most authoritative, signals that SEGA finally understands the appeal of this series of games and its broader media mix: its function as a device for positive national representation relying on a rewriting of history. It presents a fantasy of what a Greater East Asian Co-prosperity Sphere could have been.

It is still unclear if this new game represents the desire to recapture this untamed national affirmation and positivity for Japan’s future made possible by an authoritarian leadership, but it raises enough few time-sensitive questions that justifies keeping an eye open on it in the coming year. Indeed, newsworthy events sometimes echo one another in revealing ways. Will Shin Sakura Taisen be the first significant gaming product of the Reiwa era? In any case, it is time to dust off my Sega Saturn and Dreamcast to do justice to the series’ previous entries that I have yet to play and, at the same time, see how much of the ideas presented here hold up.