Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

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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.

Feels Bad Man – Pepe the Frog on The Gateway

I was recently interviewed for The Gateway in related to a piece about the recent transformation of the meme Pepe the Frog into a white supremacist symbol. It garnered some level of interest on their websites, take a look if you are interested in the vast world of memes.

L’objet Pokémon à l’âge de la réalité augmentée

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J’ai eu l’opportunité de traduire et de publier le premier texte de Nakazawa Shin’ichi sur le jeu vidéo au courant de l’an passé; un des premiers textes savants portant sur le sujet. Durant ce long processus de traduction, j’ai pu me familiariser avec la pensée de Nakazawa, plus précisément en ce qui concerne son interprétation du “boom” du jeu vidéo au Japon. À l’origine spécialiste du Bouddhisme tibétain, Nakazawa consacrât une partie de sa carrière à étudier d’abord les jeux d’arcade dans lesquels il voyait une nouvelle forme de textes mythopoétiques, et par la suite le jeu vidéo en général tout en restant à l’affut des derniers développements en la matière à une époque où tout ce qui s’apparentait aux jeux électroniques était largement diabolisé. Son angle d’approche est singulier; dans Game Freaks Play with Bugs, Nakazawa compare Xevious à un texte religieux.

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Avec la récente sortie de Pokémon Go, il est de mise de jeter un coup d’oeil aux écrits de Nakazawa concernant la série Pokémon. J’ai récemment pris le temps de me familiariser avec La naturalité dans la poche (Poketto no naka no yasei) lors de ces dernières semaines, un ouvrage traitant principalement des premiers jeux de la série à travers le prisme de la psychanalyse. Pour l’auteur, Pokémon, une adaptation électronique de l’activité enfantine populaire au Japon de la chasse aux insectes, est une fenêtre vers le monde de la pensée sauvage à travers de ce qu’il appelle les “sciences de l’enfance”. Ces “sciences”, d’après Nakazawa, permettent aux enfants d’approcher le monde qui les entourent à leur manière au-delà des contraintes sociales, et, surtout, du système du language et de l’inévitable chute du sens. De quelle façon? Pour Nakazawa, le Pokémon représente l’objet a dans psychanalyse Lacanienne, cet objet insaisissable et en constante mutation qui représente le désir symbolique (le manque), mais dont l’acquisition réelle ne peut jamais vraiment s’accomplir. Ne pas réaliser que cette quête de l’objet a est impossible serait à la base de plusieurs trouble psychanalytique et du développement du “moi”.

Pour Nakazawa, les Pokémon (dans leurs formes diverses) représentent l’objet a, mais leurs conceptions leur permettent de transcender les problèmes normalement associés à la quête de l’objet a. Les Pokémon ne sont jamais directement possédés, ils sont stockés dans un espace virtuel (la pokéball) où ils sont à la fois présents, mais distants. Lors de la capture, ils sont transformés en information pure dans le pokédex. Nakazawa explique que cette situation permet aux enfants d’apprivoiser la distance entre l’objet a et eux-mêmes, et que cette situation est en fait le but du jeu (attrapez-les tous, complétez l’encyclopédie). Ce dernier élément est associé au principe de pensée sauvage de Lévis-Strauss, principe voulant que les sociétés primitives (ou les enfants dans ce cas-ci) approchent la compréhension de leur environment par l’observation directe, et non en applicant des théories aux manifestations de la nature. La science des Pokémon comme une économie du savoir est ici associée à la pensée sauvage en raison des stratégies dont les enfants doivent se doter afin de bien naviguer le jeu (habitats des différents types de Pokémon, affinités et faiblesses, etc.) mais aussi lors d’échanges avec d’autres enfants (négociations et communication).

L’autre noyau important du jeu, et celui qui permet de transcender le régime du language imposé par la société, c’est l’échange de Pokémon. Chaque Pokémon est unique. Élever et nommer un Pokémon permet à l’enfant de laisser une trace de lui-même sur chaque monstre, et, lors d’échanges, ces informations se déplacent de console à console. Puisque ces créatures n’ont pas de valeurs pré-établies, ces échanges se fondent davantage sur le contact direct avec autrui. L’échange de Pokémon, selon Nakazawa, est un processus de communication sophistiqué et de grande profondeur invitant l’enfant à véritablement interagir avec l’autre sans autre interférence socio-économique externe. Échanger c’est un peu accepter l’autre. Nakazawa y voit une forme d’affranchissement de la société de consommation contemporaine contribuant au sain développement d’une psyché personnelle durant l’enfance.

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Considérant l’enthousiasme avec laquelle la sortie de Pokémon Go fut accueillie au État-Unis, il est évident que le public de la série ne se limite plus aux enfants, et que la chasse à l’objet Pokémon captive bon nombre de gens dans la vingtaine avancée, et ce malgré l’incompréhension de certains. Mais cette fois, la pensée sauvage devra s’exercer à travers une technologie qui est à son meilleur en milieu urbain, et commercialisé. Le jeu n’est pas encore disponible au Canada, mais déjà la lecture du texte de Nakazawa permet de questionner le phénomène sous l’angle de la psychanalyse: jusqu’à quel point il est possible “d’augmenter” le monde réel tout en respectant la capacité du jeu à soutenir le développement émergent d’une science de l’enfance et, du même coup, générer l’intérêt à développer une plus grande conscience de l’environnement direct chez les joueurs? Les Zubat éliront-ils domicile dans une véritable grotte, dans une ruelle de Parc-Extension ou devant une franchise de Poulet Frit Kentucky? Ou alors dans tout ces endroits à la fois?