There are only five days left to submit your abstract to the Replaying Japan Conference 2019. This year, the conference travels back to Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, which will be a great opportunity for me to reconnect with two of my former dissertation case studies from winter 2016. I cannot wait to see how Tsujishoten and A-cho have turned out after the last three years. Will I find the same cabinet layout and selection of games? I hope to report on the matter at some point this summer.
Here is the recently unveiled conference theme.
Since 2012, the Replaying Japan conference series hosted researchers from various fields conducting research on “Japanese Game”. However, for the upcoming edition of the conference, we would like to address a foundamental question.
What are “Japanese games”?
For example, when we talk about our first play experience of “Super
Mario Bros.” or “Pokémon” with researchers all over the world, what we mention is a mysterious “shared experience” rather than the “Japaneseness” of these games.
In other words, these games have surpassed domestic circumstances and
cultural differences to deliver common surprises and
excitement to players all over the world. This universal nature
can be said to be the specificity of games as media.
In this conference held in Kyoto this summer, let us again re-think the past and present of “Japanese Game” and examine “Japanese games” and the future of research on the subject.
J’ai pris le temps de me lancer dans un des jeux que j’ai acheté il y a trop longtemps déjà sur Steam: Arcadecraft. Le jeu propose la simulation de l’exploitation d’une salle d’arcade au cours des années 1980s aux États-Unis, objectif plus ou moins réussi, car l’expérience demeure assez minimaliste. On y représente une certaine conception nostalgique de ce qu’étaient les salles d’arcades durant leur âge d’or. On comprend très vite que l’arcade est ici comprise comme un espace qui s’articule uniquement autour de la consommation économiquement viable de l’expérience ludique et non comme espace de vie. Chaque joueur/consommateur apparaît soudainement aux machines pour disparaître aussitôt sa séance de jeu terminé sans circuler dans l’établissement virtuel. Pour paraphraser Samuel Tobin, la figure du “hanger”, le non-joueur préférant se déplacer d’une machine à l’autre en observant d’autres joueurs, est complètement évacuée de cette simulation alors qu’elle est essentiellement à la compréhension des dynamiques qui structuraient ces espaces durant les années 1980s. Le jeu est donc en phase avec le discours dominant de l’histoire de l’arcade qui met l’accent principalement sur l’activité économique qui s’y déroulait.
La façon dont l’espace est traité dans le jeu est aussi symptomatique de cette interprétation. Placer les machines en groupe est important afin de maximiser leurs revenus, mais la circulation des joueurs dans l’espace n’est pas prise en compte, ce qui peut aboutir à des situations assez absurdes, mais économiquement viables. Résultat, l’espace se réduit à une fonction utilitaire: une surface sur laquelle les machines sont posées.
Ces mêmes machines font aussi la démonstration d’un problème d’obsolescence inévitable des jeux dans un contexte de salle d’arcade. Au fil du temps, chaque machine perdra de sa valeur jusqu’à ne plus rien rapporter de considérable si le joueur doit la vendre. Il s’agit donc de cerner le moment parfait où la machine est au zénith de sa popularité avant de la vendre pour en acheter une autre plus récente… Le roulement des machines est donc bien implémenté dans les mécaniques de jeux, mais force est d’admettre que cette dynamique semble faire abstraction du fait que, même à l’époque, il était aussi possible d’interchanger les circuits imprimés des machines afin de diminuer les frais de renouvellement de l’offre ludique. Considérant que l’existence cette fonction demeure un des facteurs importants expliquant le succès de Space Invaders au Japon en 1978, il est curieux qu’elle soit omise entièrement dans Arcadecraft.
I have been conducting research on old Japanese arcade games for the last few years now, and I came to realize some time ago that there is not many accessible resources for footage of old arcade games from the 1970s and early 1980s. The architecture of these games, combined to the difficulties associated to keep the hardware up and running, typically make them difficult observe in person. Besides tiny pictures published in a few obscure Japanese mooks that are now out of print, it remains difficult to obtain footage of old games of the period that mostly fall in the shadow of epoch-making games like Western Gun or Space Invaders. While one can easily find original footage of a game of Space Invaders, footage of a game like Astro Fighter remains much more elusive. Both for satisfy my personal curiosity and to provide some sort of easy-to-access resource for reference purposes when teaching about arcade games from that period, I started a little Youtube channel called “Games inspired by Space Invaders” back in 2017. I just though now about formally introducing it…
The plan for that channel is to make available footage of a corpus of games immediately released after Space Invaders in 1978 and that take design inspiration from Tomohiro Nishikado’s famous title. Historically speaking, the wild success of the game took the industry by storm at the end of the 1970s and inspired many companies to adapt some of the mechanics that made the game so exciting, or to simply copy the game entirely. In all of the games featured on the channel, one can identify specific design tropes such as the advancing invaders, the iconic shooting mechanics, and other fictional elements. Maybe the juxtaposing the games through platform that Youtube provides will help formulate a narrative of the impact that Space Invaders exerted over the arcade industry during its early years. Keeping this possibility in mind, the channel will stay updated as often as possible to reflect my latest discoveries of titles of interest.
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.
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!
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.
Modern Day Snow-White, Owleo
“The Wolfman”, Erin Kelso
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
Written by Lynsey Stewart and Iliana Pappas
Out of the Cind
Written by Anonymous