Replaying Japan 2016
These are my notes for the Replaying Japan 2016. Note: that these are being written live so there will be lots of inaccuracies and unfinished sentences. Please send corrections or check against the abstracts.
The theme of the game was Pac-Man and the first keynote speaker was Toru Iwatani. Jeremie Pelletier-Gagnon has a nice reflection on the theme of the game.
The Twitter hashtag is #replayjapan2016
Day 1, August 15th, 2016
The Prof. Dr. med. Beate A. Schücking, Rector of Leipzig University, welcomed us. She commented on how the University of Leipzig is one of the oldest universities in Germany. It was founded by professors in Prague. The University is well known for medicine and the humanities. It is known for crossing boundardies and this conference definitely crosses lines.
Prof. Dr. Ulrich Brieler then welcomed us on behalf of the city of Leipzig. He asked what playing meant today in a global 21st century. Schiller said that only throug playing can a man become a man. He talked about the importance to Leipzig to history. Leipzig is the town where the peaceful revolution in 1989 began.
Martin Roth, the organizer, then welcomed us. He thanked the people who helped organize this, including the co-organizers, of which I am one.
Masakazu Tachikawa , Director of The Japan Cultural Institute in Cologne (Japan Foundation) talked about the importance of the Japanese game industry.
Keynote ONE: TORU IWATANI, Tokyo Polytechnic University: The Secrets of Creating Fun for Playing Pac-Man
Hosi Koichi introduced the first keynote, Toru Iwatani, the designer of Pac-Man.
Iwatani talked about how games bring together engineering, math, literature, visual arts, sound, psychology. Games are complex and need efforts of many people.
It is hard to convey Iwatani's sense of humor, but it came through even in translation.
He explained the concept of the development. Many arcade games at the time were dominated by men and the arcades smelled. He wanted to make a game that was fun for women and a playopen to . They decided to not use "attacking" and instead focus on "eating". He looked in the dictionary and looked at verbs that were not violent. Eating led to pizza that, with a piece removed, looked like their character.
Another reason for its success is that it has clear and easy to understand goals. The game is simple enough that lots of people can play.
Like Tom and Jerry he wanted his characters to sympathetic. Pac-Man never kills the ghosts - they return to their home. In that way the relationship
Simple controls are also important. This can be applied to lots of game platforms. The proof is the way Pac-Man has been adapted to so many different environments.
Then he switched to talking about algorithms. Games do just come from ideas, but from programming. The four ghosts have different behaviours. The Inky goes to the symmetrical point. Clyde is random. Blinky chases directly. If all the ghosts behaved the same way you would just get a conga-line and the player would only need to worry about leading. Iwatani in his specifications just wrote that he wanted the ghosts surrounding the Pac-Man and left it to a collaborator to develop the algorithms that made that work.
He then showed images of the specification documents which were hand written. Originally it was "Puck Man". He showed a table showing the speed of sprites. He showed how he was thinking of the player by having waves of attach with rest modes. He wanted a rythym to the game with waves. You need to think about the player's mind and make sure they are enjoying the game.
Omotenashi - the heart of Japan's hospitality. Games are not "cool Japan", but oriental hospitality where you think about others. It is applied not just to game, but to other products. When you make things you have to have a strong vision.
He showed F-1, an electromechanical arcade game. He showed the amazing back-side of the game with a spinning course and arms with cars. He talked about creating a custom light bulb so that the player would feel closer to the tarmac. This lower perspective became a staple to all later racing games because immersion is important. Fun is the principle. He called his project Fun First. We don't need complex or painful games.
He believes that a product:
He talked about serious games and gamification. We can apply all this game design know-how to the interfaces to everyday devices. He showed how they are adapting drumming games to the elderly.
As a professor he is looking at new uses of games and new types of games. He is trying to get rid of the clear distinction between interface, controls and player. He showed a fabulous Gaming-Suit with LED panels on the body with Pac-Man characters moving over the body. He is also trying to imagine an "inner game" like haiku that uses imagination to trigger stories.
He talked about how the Mo MA? now carries Pac-Man as an example of how games are now art. He concluded that to make games is to understand people's minds - their pain and their excitement. His life's belief is to bring games to everybody.
He showed the trailer of the movie Pixels in which an actor played Iwatani (and had his hand bitten by his son).
We then had questions:
On the idea of a "inner game" he talked about how we get showered with too much information. He wants to make something of the simplicity of haiku that draws on our memories and imagination rather than throwing lots of new data at us. His first game was 5K and he made a profit with it. Now designers waste data.
He then talked about how he had to redesign the play-field (maze) repeatedly based on evaluating players. He added the warp zone. When they were evaluating the versions the speed of the game was about half what it is now and it didn't feel right. Speed changes things and our sense of speed changes with time. Older things feel slow. He asked the speed to be doubled for debugging and they realized the game was more fun. You had to think faster and strategically to do well. They doubled the speed for the consumer version.
He was asked about hard-core players who want violence, pain and complexity. He acknowledged that there were such players, but he wants to make games for wider audiences.
James Newman: Kill Screens, Reverse Flicks and Safe Spaces: Mastering and Breaking Pac-Man
James Newman talked about using strategy guides for games, both formal and amateur, for research. "Mastering PAC-MAN" by Uston (1982) was the inspiration of the talk. In the early 1980s there was an explosion of strategy guides on how to beat games.
Contemporary and fan-based studies of PAC-MAN is often on the ghosts because understanding the ghosts are critical to the play. Without the ghosts there would be no game. There is a great resource: Pittman, 2009 the PAC-MAN Dossier that draws on hacking the game. By contrast in the 1982 strategy guide the discourse is very different - it is about the maze and space. There are lots of routes and maps with "patterns" for routing around the ghosts. He talked about other techniques like rounding corners and the reverse flick. Rounding corners mean you turn the corner faster than the ghost. Reverse flick seems to confuse the AI.
The game with these patterns means executing them flawlessly. They are recipes to doing well. It takes away from the response to what is happening. It changes the whole style of play from responding to the game to practiced patterns.
"A singular prescribed path though the space." The maze becomes a labyrinth with a route you can process through.
He talked about the idea of an endless game, which was the view at the time. The strategy books talk about it being endlessly cycling with no maximum score. In actual fact there is a kill-screen (level 256) where it can't be played further. PAC-MAN 256 has become gaming culture now. Of course, the kill screen has been overcome now.
In conclusion, the strategy books give us an insight into how the game was conceived in its time. There is a fuller version of the talk published.
Jaakko Suominen: Early reception of Pac-Man in Finland
Suominen talked about how PAC-MAN was received and adapted in Finland. After writing the abstract he found it hard to get sources on the experience in the 1980s. Many of the magazines and newspapers aren't digitized. He described the sources like the magazines from the Finnish Slot Machine Association (Potti for staff and Pajazzo for customers.) Oral histories include very few descriptions of experiences at the time.
There are, however, interesting foreign trade statistics from Finnish Customs. He got information on the tons of imported games. The customs also have evolving names for what they are tracking. The tonnage graph he showed was fascinating, but hard to explain. you do see an increase from Japan in the early 1980s.
RAY (the Finnish Slot Machine Association) got a monopoly on arcade games. They also started to develop their own machines, often based on imported boards. The games were often based on Japanese games (Gorilla was Donkey-Kong.) RAY also had interesting articles on what people played.
Gaming in Finland really started on home computers. There was code for clone games that people could enter for their home computers. PAC-MAN was simple enough it could be rendered ASCII screens.
Jaakko then compared PAC-MAN Fever between the USA and Finland. The Finnish version had a female signer and was not commercially successful. Jaakko thinks there wasn't the community of players. The Finnish version was also situated at home (rather than in an arcade).
Paul Martin: Consumption in the afterlife of Pac-Man
Paul Martin talked about Western shows about Pac-Man. One is Pac-Man: The Animated Adventures. The second was Ghostly Adventures His research looked at how these cartoon adaptations treated the game's central theme of eating? How did they deal with the source and adapt the medium? He is also interested in representations of eating.
He draws on Robert Stam "Beyond Fidelity: The Dialogics of Adaptation" to define adaptation. Stam has an open definition that makes everything an adaptation. The Pac-Man adaptations are not simple adaptations, but franchise adaptions that build on a brand. We can think of this in terms of transmedia and media mix.
Some of the themes:
An adaptation can adapt generic signals form either the original show or from the culture of the target show.
In the later Ghostly Adventures you get problem eating being dealt with. There is a moralizing to these cartoons that isn't in the game. The body isn't dealt with much in the earlier Pac-Man show. In the later Ghostly Adventures there is a lot of bodily processes from vomiting to farting. Paul wondered if the bodily humor wasn't a Japanese thing.
After the presentation Nakamura talked about Pac-Land. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sRiFoJMNTU This is a game based on the cartoon.
Keynote Two: JUNKO OZAWA, Composer and Sound Designer: Game Sound of the 80s – The Marvelous Business of 8bit
Junko Ozawa has been writing music for games for many years for Namco. She started writing in assembly language. She is surprised that games have become a subject for research. 35 years ago the image of games was bad and her parents were opposed. Now it is being researched and she feels she is part of history.
Cosmo Swat (1984) was her first work, but it is not a game. Gaplus (Galaga 3 1984) was her first game. The Tower of Druaga (1984) was the one for which she learned assembly. Rolling Thunder (1986) wasn't that popular in Japan, but was popular in the US. For this she used an fm sound source. For this she had a simple synthesizer.
For Pac-Man Championship Edition (2007) she colloborated again with Iwatani. Pac-Man has all sorts of sound effects itself so she had to make the sound track so it could be combined with effects. People want finished scores, but you need to take into account the combination of sounds.
Because of piracy she was credited under a pseudonym, Zunko. Likewise the design studio was unmarked.
She then focused on the 1980s. In the 1980s the hardware was important to the sound. There would be a sound CPU and sound driver that would constrain. The Namco wave forms were also stored on a chip. There were noise generators. She showed how much real-estate on the board was just for sound. It seemed about half the board.
Originally they used Texas Instruments chips. They later created their own chips to improve the sound and to make sure their sound was protected. The Namco boards had a large number of sound wave forms which gave composers a lot of freedom.
She then discussed what they do as a sound designer. Back then a sound designer was assigned to a project at the beginning. Now the assign them at the end. The designer gets concept sheets and thinks about the setting and game. Some directors give specific instructions and some don't. The sound designers also get given a schedule that almost always doesn't work.
In game design they first design characters, then they try to move characters/sprites, and then based on movement the sound designers adds sound. Unless all the programming is done the sound designers can't work which means the sound designers end up delaying the games. Directors seem to prioritize the programmers. She ended up one time having three games to design sound for at the same time.
Designers are also in charge of sound effects. Their priority is to make sure that the sound together will not sound strange and will . They have to make sure there are sounds for all major actions. She showed a specification document which prioritizes sounds. The higher priority sounds will override the lower end ones. Something like walking needs to be heard, but isn't that important so it gets just one channel. Lots of sounds won't be heard at the same time so they can be put in the same channels.
She also had a drawing that showed how much of the ROM was taken up for different types of sound.
She played the sound of wielding a sword at different speeds. When played slow it sounds like a music. She also showed how she could add voices to get more sophisticated and richer sound.
In 1984 an album was created using game music. It was called Video Game Music by YMO. This was the beginning of a genre of videogame music that started being carried by music stores. Namco Game Music Vol 1 had music based on Namco. They sold over 30,000 copies of these albums. It was confusing for the music stores to know where to put these albums until the started a genre called "game music."
The success led to being asked to give concerts and so they were some of the first to do so. They gave a 1987 Christmas Concert. She showed a video of a concert of Thunder Ceptor music and one of Toy Pop and one of Youkai Douchuuki. There was a connect to Yellow Magic Orchestra. She talked about how with everyone playing keyboard the concerts weren't as exciting.
Then she talked about the KORG Gadget: KAMATA - a synthesizer that produces Namco sounds. She admitted that she found composing almost easier in the old days than using these fancy apps.
She concluded by playing a tune she composed, "Kurofune-ya", based on a painting from a 1919 called "Woman of the Kurofune-ya". They keep adding new features to what can be done with game sound. Sound designers have new challenges to face every day as the technology evolves. Namco encouraged them to learn and experiment with the technology. She ended up contributing to hardware design so now Namco supports experimenting with new stuff. She also mentioned how it was great to collaborate with other innovative
Then we had questions:
There was a question about how many women there were. In programming it was about 10%. In the technical section only about 2 out of 30. Recently there are a lot more in graphic design (50%). In sound it is up to 30%.
There was a question about the preparation of sound designers. About half come from music schools and the other half are folk that compose for bands.
She is happy to see game music being orchestrated and being played by orchestras.
She also talked about having to throw away music when a game changes characters. She has also deleted music she didn't feel was good.
Composing typically takes only about 3-4 days, but things change and she wants to always change the sound afterwards.
Rachael Hutchinson: Distancing War: Japanese videogames and WWII
Rachel's paper looked at how WWII is represented in Japanese games. Rachael started by talking about how WWII is represented in US games to provide a contrast. There are number of FPS games about WWII like Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, Wolfenstein ... These games sell very well. Call of Duty Black Ops II sold half a billion in the first 24 hours in 2012. There are also many strategy games some of which are based on "what-if" scenarios with alternate futures.
These games retail a popular American narrative of war experience. The player can play a saviour (of Europe), hero, and winner. These games are part of a larger militainment culture.
Turning to the Japanese industry. There are a lot of shooters in Japan but they are more STG or survial horror, not FPS. They are mostly games like Monster Hunter X. There are also a lot of strategy games around the Japanese warring states period like Nobunaga's Ambition. Others are Kessen, Onimusha, and Samurai Warriors. They show historic settings from the distant past. They mythologize the past with a nationalistic ideology. There are few historically accurate games about modern wars.
To put it bluntly, this is because Japan didn't win the war and war is controversial. Japan's winning narratives would involve Japan's wins in Manchuria which wouldn't go down well. The strategy taken by some games is to eroticize war. Kantai Collection erotizes and trivializes war by having women who are sexy and are battleships. The body of the woman matches tonnage. There is also sexualization of the battle - lots of phallic imagery.
Another option for Japanese designers is to take the other side. 1942 is a vertical scroller made by Capcom that shows accurate representations of planes. In the follow up, 1943 you even get ships. The end boss is the Battleship Yamato! Why would Japan create such a game? The problems of distancing war is that it is disrespectful and can be ideologically complicit (Martin Picard).
The one area where you do see Japanese designers reflecting on WWII is reflections on nuclear war. Metal Gear Solid series lets you stop nuclear war. Dr. Hal Emmerich in MGS created a nuclear weapon (Metal Gear). There all sorts of connections to the bombs to hit Japan. The tale is an anti-war story. Japan is a victim.
Saori Amano: Disaster Games from Anthropological Aspects: A Study of User Experience of Zettai Zetsumei Toshi Series
Saori presented a paper on disaster games from an anthropological perspective. She started by talking about how Anthropology doesn't look at videogames. They look at play, but don't often study games. She then talked about how Japan experiences all sorts of disasters (earthquakes, tsunamis ...) and there is a lot of education for Japanese on how to respond. She wanted to see how foreigners think about disasters while playing a Japanese disaster game. The game was Zettai Zetsumei. She (and co-authors) interviewed foreigners playing the game. The respondents found:
When we think about disasters our upbringing is important. Most people don't get any training unlike in Japan. Most foreigners don't think disasters are a real danger to worry about. Interestingly the respondents all said they would follow the Japanese.
One of the things that stands out is that the level of disaster education for foreigners varies tremendously. Disaster games might help educate foreigners. The existing games may help, but they are sufficient realistic.
There was a discussion about the role of games in education. It is important to have a debriefing if using commercial and inaccurate games.
Effects of Video Games Requiring Immediate Response on Emotional Experience
Tomohiro approaches games from a psychological point of view. His study focuses on emotional and stress response. Thayer (1978) proposed two types of arousal: 1) Energetic arousal and 2) Tense or tension. Stress is a response of the body to demands that follows two main pathways that release different hormones. He discussed a way of measuring stress using saliva. He then had 30 students play different games (Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny and the control was Monster Hunter Diary: Poka Poka Airou Village.) Students would play, give a saliva sample, rest, play and so on. The results seemed to show that the stress levels were high for the training and fighting than for the control.
In his second experiment he compared expert players and novice plays of Soul Calibur V. The first pre test showed higher stress - perhaps the first encounter is more stressful. Novice and expert players didn't seem to have significantly different levels of stress.
His conclusions are that:
There was a poster session before the reception with a number of
Teraoka's Electric Bow System was really interesting. He had incorporated a laser project, Arduino and small computer into a bow so you can project and point and shoot the bow at any surface. It projected its game space.
Day 2, August 16th, 2016
MASANOBU ENDOH: The Making of 80’s Japanese Games～ Create World ～- in case of “XEVIOUS” & “the Tower of DRUAGA”
Endoh gave his presentation in English, his first such presentation. He introduced himself. He studied photography in university and entered Namco immediately.
Xevious: He talked about Xevious. He was in charge of programming, pixel design and game design. He then showed about the background of the "container of the created world", the board with the game.
The concept of Xevious was set by marketing. He showed the first plan and later planning documentations. The idea began to change from a jet fighter to a helicopter. He showed pixel art for sprites like the plan 1 fighter - a phantom.
He then talked about the animation techniques applied. He was inspired by Gundam. "Battle of the Planets" inspired things too. He calculated the animation speed needed for the animation and the chips needed. He showed a 4 picture circulation animation. Machines from Star Wars and Dougram inspired the enemy machines. He could make walking bots using a small number of images and flipping things horizontally. Ray tracing couldn't be done in real time, but he was able to create a rotating cuboid using shades of grey. He was using shades of grey to animate and give a metallic impression.
He talked by how various sci-fi movies inspired him. UFO (1970 Brit TV show), Cylonraider in Battleship Galactica, and Millenium Falcon. He then talked about hidden targets.
Then he talked about the creation of the Xevious world and how "civilization is based on language." He needed to express the culture of the enemy. Iwatani wanted the name to be "Xevious" because it sounded like "Mobius." Iwatani liked the mysterious glyphs and so they put them in.
The Namco policy was that games should be balanced so there should be large enemies. The large fortress was difficult to do.
He thought a lot about the backstory:
He developed a narrative where the enemy immigrated from earth, leaving ruins (geoglyphs), and came back. Xevious mean the 4th star in 6, the star the enemy immigrated too. He then showed to how the names of the enemy came from lineage. He developed a simple language and he had graphic symbols to create graphic theme. There was a synchronized blinking red marker on the enemies.
The sound was inspired by Gamelan music. They used the Namco custom sound chip (see above). They used a simple minimal refrain. The hit sound was one of breaking, not killing. The bombing sound was playful. Only the bombing sound was realistic. They tried to "erase the pathetic sense of combat".
"Realization of delusion in the brain" - Xevious was the realization of an idea he had. (I didn't get this part.) He showed the font desiged for the game which was based on an Atari font.
He wrote a story in 1982 about the back story. (It was published 10 years later.)
There were all sorts of derivative content. There were other games, plastic models, and so on.
'Tower of Druaga (1984) For TOD he was in charge of programming and pixel art. The game drew on role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons. He couldn't understand D and D based on E.T. or the rules. He understood by playing Wizardry (Apple II). They translated the game to NES. He also played Advanced D and D on Mattel Intellivision. He was also inspired by music of Triumph of Ishtar. Babylonian stories, Old Testament, and an episode of Tower of Babel were drawn on. The Tower of Babel became the Tower of Druaga. He climbed a 60 storey building in Tokyo (Sunshine 60) for the experience.
Namco had a robot business including a maze solving Micro-Mouse and Micro-Cat. They had a game called Mappy and he used the same board. His idea was a tower of mazes that could be solved by the right method. Enemies interfere. They developed cute Babylonian, Sumerian, and Indian characters. He showed how he developed animations for fire and tentacles. He used palette animation for knights. I think he meant by this that he could change the palette on the same image and get a different character.
Tower of Druaga had a limit to play time as it was an RPG for arcades. A good player could play for 6 hours which wouldn't make money. So he had a happy ending in an hour that end the game. There was a meta-game to increase the motivation. There was an enigma that needed to be solved. Each arcade could submit solutions. Solving the race became a race of different arcades.
Many fans loved this Babylonia world. There were lots of follow on games on which he was game designer and pixel graphics.
He concluded with music composed by Junko Ozawa that he liked and used for Tower of Druaga.
In questions he talked about a colleague that decided to go to Africa by motorcycle and quit the company. There was an interesting question about whether the Tower of Druaga inspired other towers in Final Fantasy.
In the 1980s design was about breaking the limits of the system by using imagination. They would talk about how use creative ideas to overcome barriers of the hardware. Now things have changed, but there is still a focus on concept. Now they pick concept that then try to use technology needed.
One of the special things of the conference was the participation of major Namco designers of the 1980s including Iwatani, Ozawa, Endo, and Kishimoto. They all collaborated at Namco which at the time I'm told had a laboratory atmosphere that inspired creativity and rivalry.
Keiji Amano: Representations of Play
Keiji presented a paper I co-authored on how movies and novels show the play of pachinko. We looked at three periods:
In the 1950s there was an explosion of parlours. It was a new game then and movies like The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice (Ozu 1952) show the game being discussed. The game was seen as novelty or harmless pastime of youth, but there are discussions about whether it is serious.
Keiji then talked about Kurosawa's Ikiru which shows pachinko as a metaphor for the randomless of life. Finally for the first section he talked about Foundry Time.
Then Keiji switched to talking about the 70s and 80s and how pachinko became a competition between pachi-pro and nail doctor. This changed as the game shifted from mechanical to electronic. The electronic machines were played statistically rather then
Then Keiji talked about Miri Yu's Gold Rush novel. This great (but nasty) novel presents pachinko as a symbol of bubble Japan. She mirrors the product-less business of pachinko, typically associated with the Korean community, back to the Japanese.
In the late 1990s, after the bubble burst, you see low budget movies and you see pachinko become a symbol of uncertainty. The Kaiji series shows an unemployed youth gambling in different ways. In Kaiji 2 (2011) you see the character gambling to survive. He plays a monster pachinko machine a the climactic scene.
In the question period it was pointed out that even in Ikiru there are hints of Korean involvement in the blackmarket world.
Cacilia Sauer: Playing Opera: The influence of European music traditions on the Japanese videogame "Final Fantasy VI".
Sauer started by commenting on how FFVI is one of the few games to show an entire opera scene. For this reas she looks at how the game incorporates opera traditions. FFVI was known as FFIII in North America. It was published in 1994 for Super Famicom. Unlike other FF stories this one focuses on many heros and their struggle to maintain hope and resolve (quote from Square.) Celes Chere is a blond warrior who is a mysterious nobody with little story. She is a doppelganger of Maria and sings in the opera.
The doppelganger theme is used a lot in European opera. Opera has lots of Arias where feelings are expressed. There is less plot in opera and to enhance feelings the plot can be made deliberately confusing. Doppelgangers, intrigues, and disguises are used to trigger confusion. Celes is more of a warrior princess who can perform opera like a pro.
The "Maria and Draco" love story in the game is not a typical opera. Little singing, mostly dancing scenes and singing duels. There is an "Aria di Mezzo Carattere" which focuses on feelings for a long lost lover. This is the most faithful to European opera traditions.
Nobuo Uematsu is the composer. While opera was usually composed to show off the singer's chops in this case there was no singer. The melody is strong and designed more as a pop tune. Uematsu, the John Williams of videogames, loved Elton John. He uses melody to describe character - a Leitmotiv. The Celes theme is like the Aria.
She concluded by talking about the title of the aria (the "aria of the half character"). Celes singing the song completes her character with the fictional Maria. We, the player, have to complete the song so we too help complete the half character. Someone commented on how in the final credits you see "you" listed as one of the designers.
Melanie Fritsch: Pac Man Fever. The Musical Legacy of 1980s Japanese Video Games
Melanie also talked about games and music, but she looked at how Japanese game music has influenced Western music. Gametunes are heard all over as are 8-bit aesthetics. Marteria "Endboss" 2011 is an example. Diggin' in the Carts is a documentary series on game music.
In the West game music isn't taken seriously musically, but was influential. Yellow Magic Orchestra "Computergame" (1979) the Japanese band was popular in the US. Space Invaders tunes showed up. Pac-Man Fever by Buckner and Garcia was a chart-busting tune.
She showed some great ads with Pac-Man in a 7up commercial. Cartoons of games like Super Mario also had original music that used Mario music like "Do the Mario." There were also movies with games with their music like Koyaanisqatsi, War Games ... The tunes of Super Mario have been wired into our consciousness. Even if we didn't play we will have heard 8-bit tunes.
Game music has influenced new forms of music like chiptune music.
Has this become a trope in itself? Has 8-bit game music become a sort of code for 80s Japaneseness.
Minako O'Hagan: Beyond All Your Base Are Belong To Us: The art of turning 花鳥風月 into Painkiller or Osaka dialect into Welsh accent
Translation used to be considered about finding an equivalence. O'Hagan started by drawing attention to a famously poor translation in the opening cutscene for Zero Wing.
All you base are belong to us.
Interesting thing is that gamers don't really complain about such translations. Gamers don't seem to mind. Games are ludic - gamers like to play with translations.
In the first part of the paper is historical on the history of localisation. Early games involved mostly names, but they are difficult. It involves "transcreation" to find punchy name that is similar. The rest was just text on packaging. Now in games like a JRPG there is lots of text - over a million words. Further, today's games have mini-movies within that have to be translated or subtitled. The next Final Fantasy (XV 2016) will be localized to French, German and for South America, an emerging market.
She gave a brief history of game localization. There is little written about this. One of the best is from Hasegawa 2009 who developed a history going from a period of trial and error to a streamlined approach. Another feature of today is the fan translations where people reverse engineer games and produce translations they like.
Today localization is a matter of dealing with all sorts of assets from art to in game text, to audio & cinematics, to printed and online materials. Songs are important - they are often replaced with new songs in the target language. Voice overs (especially with celebrity voices) are very expensive, but they engage players more. It is a complex project to manage.
She talked about the use of technology like translation memory - the idea is that translators keep their translations as a database to draw on to stay consistent. She also talked about testing of translations.
Some of the issues:
She showed a fun comic that makes fun of how things are changed: http://www.nerfnow.com/comic/289
She talked about how developers have to think about localization right from the start if you want to, for example, change blood to green for Germany.
Crash Bandicoot is an example of subtle changes like changes the eyebrows and number of claws. This paid off in Japan.
She gave an example from Final Fantasy X (2001) where a weapon with a long name in Japanese was transcreated to "pain killer" - a completely different name. Another example is a final leaving where the Japanese is "arigato" and in English it is "I love you." "Thank you" would be a joke in the US and there were lip synch issues.
Then she talked about Ni no Kuni and how Drippy was translated. In Japanese he speaks with an Osaka dialect. In English they used a Welsh dialect.
Then there is the story of Fire Emblem Fates and the perceived homophobia. There was a lot of discussion before the localization because of a amateur translation. The problematic elements weren't discussed in Japan - they were perceived that way in the US, Canada, and elsewhere.
She ended by talking about her research. She feels it is important to talk to gamers playing localized games. She has tried eye-tracking, heart rates and so on. She showed eye-tracking heat maps of fixations. We can more and more understand what gamers are thinking about.
She talked about how users are not all the same. We also need to think about accessibility and how to translate for the hard of hearing. She showed a picture of smart glasses that can project just-in-time subtitles.
There was a question about foriegnization and localization. Sometimes you don't want to adapt it all to keep some authenticity.
She talked about how literal translation can sometimes give the wrong idea. Fans think anything changed is a loss and they want authentic translations - which mean something different than what professionals think.
She talked about a police raid on fan translation site: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-23252523
An important question is whether translation quality makes a real difference. What would constitute proof?
Daniel Finck and Christoph Neubauer talked about “Working in the Game Industry”
They are both graduates of U of Leipzig's Japanese program and they have both gone into translating Japanese games into German.
Localization for "free to play" is different because it is a constant process as the game expands. Companies will license a game from China or Japan and localize to German. There are deadlines and tight budgets. Free to play doesn't make money as it used to. The translation can be continuous.
Pricing is an issue. It isn't not just price-per-word. One might want to offer a different price for an indie developer to build a new client. One has to educate clients. Many clients just want the problem solved.
They talked about the technologies they use, but it doesn't sound like there are mature tools.
They talked about issues and solutions. One is to write guides to try to avoid repeating problems.
The wisdom in the game industry is that localization will increase sales by 40%.
They talked about localization of games like Personas that are marketed to otaku so they don't hide the Japaneseness. Yokai Watch, but contrast was switched to the US.
While in English one can use Scottish (or Welsh) accents for difference, but you can't do that in German. In English we are used to strange accents for special characters (or bad guys.)
Yoshihiro Kishimoto: A Study of the "Oral History" Collection and Publication of an Old Arcade Game.
Kishimoto started by asking us about what our first game was. My first sustained memory of playing and liking a game is Missile Command. Kishimoto's was Pong. It was imported. He pointed out how games are becoming cultural history.
The first games in Japan were imported. Then came Space Invaders (1978). Pac-Man followed in 1979. In Japan the movement to preserve games is slow. RCGS dates from 2011. Digra Japan started a oral history in 2009 to collect and publish history of arcades. They want to collect and publish on games that are not famous. Their first study was on Baraduke (1985), a game he was involved in as a programmer. Baraduke was influenced by sci-fi movies of the time and had grotesque graphics (like Alien?) There is a little character who says "I'm your friend" which was voiced by Junko Ozawa.
The process of doing the oral history involved different phases that included:
Namco started in 1955 by developing mechanical horses for department stores. They developed popular games. Baraduke's monsters come from Alien. The cute companion comes from Nausicaa.
I asked about whether the secret discussions could be archived with an embargo. He commented on how different companies are more or less supportive of this sort of work.
It was mentioned that Metroid, which came later, had very similar features. They both have women main characters, a sci-fi world, monsters ...
Others suggested that oral histories should be also done for unreleased games.
Kazafumi Fukuda: Proposal and Validation of the Data Model of Video Game Database
Fukuda started by talking about how games are being studied more and more, but archives are lagging. We lack good database models. Part of the problem is developing a data model for describing the "game (bibliographic) model".
He then talked about FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records) - a standard and popular model. This is a Platonic model that goes from Work (which has a), Expression (which is embodied in a) Manifestation (which is exemplified by) an Item. He talked about BIBFRAME as a data model that is supposed to replace MARC and is simpler than FRBR.
Some issues include should you call "game" the highest and most abstract item
They proposed a model for the media-arts database from the Agency of Cultural Affair. See https://mediaarts-db.jp/gm/ They have a Package DB? is for the package or product of the game. Wrok is an abstract entity. The work is Dragon Quest III. The package is the version for the Android. The item is the one in Leipzig, for example. Where is the language version?
He talked about Platform as a characteristic entity of the game. Platform isn't the same as hardware. You get platform archives. Likewise Source (source of the game world) and
Verification has shown that the model doesn't handle things like MO Ds?. It seems to me that by removing Manifestation they either lose the abstraction of Work or they lose the ability to handle manifestations of a work that are not a "package." For example concept art, or an unfinished game, or strategy book.
Maria B. Garda and Paweł Grabarczyk: The Japanese origins of indie games: Cave Story and La-Mulana
Maria and Paweł started by talking about what indie games. Independent games should be independent Financially or Publishing or Creatively. Creative independence is creating for oneself, not for an audience. These are core properties of indie games, but the definition is historical in the sense that people talk about "indie" at a particular time. There are also other properties like small team, retro style, and digital distribution that are important to the label "indie". These other properties are not, to their mind, individually essential, but important. These contingent properties include:
Many of these properties are connected. Many of these properties are connected to a Western idea of an "auteur". Do the Japanese have the same inherited ideas or are indie a Western phenomenon. Their model shows that doujin games may be different though some say believe doujin development is evolving into an indie phenomenon in Japan.(See Branching Paths documentary.)
Their two example games include Cave Story and La Mulana. They used their list of properties to review these games.
The developer of Cave Story said that he felt very alone when working on it - ie. there was no indie scene.
Sarah Christina Ganzon: Free Love: Japanese Women’s Games, Fan Translations, Gendered Otaku and Game Cultures and the Politics of Game Localization
Ganzon changed her title (but I didn't catch the new one.) Her talk is about otome games (maiden games), fan labour, and piracy.
Hyeshin Kim "Women's Games in Japan" (2009) defines otome games. Easy controls, ties to shoujo manga, plot-driven with romance. Angelique is first known otome game by Ruby Party and all female team under Koei. Otomi games are part of the anime media mix. Anime is adapted to games and vice versa. The otome market has its own magazines, their own stores, and so on. The games contain varying discourses of femininity. In some cases the women are damsels. Hatoful Boyfriend is a game that subverts the stereotypes.
It is interesting how these games are a light resistance to patriarchy. They can include rape and this can lead to fan discussion of the issue.
Then she switched to otome games in the West. They are increasingly popular in the West because of the rise of mobile and casual games. Western otome developers are cropping up.
Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom (Aksys 2012) was one of the first successful otome games in English. Aksys marketing of the game hinged on the idea that it was one of the first. The media in the West emphasized the romantic aspects. Fans reacted to Hakuoki by encouraging each other to buy it to support the localizers. Fans discouraged piracy. Risk has been internalized by the fans. See Gina Neff, Venture Labor (2012) on internalization of risk in Silicone valley. Fan labour includes reviews on fan blogs, fan translations. Aspirational labor helps us understand the issues of fan labor. She talked about how fans defend each other's labor.
Fan translators reverse engineer games. Reverse engineering becomes play as does piracy. See Consalvo 2016. Some pirates then get hired. Piracy promotes a market and negotiates with company. It is also a way for a community help each other learn Japanese.
Fan translators now get cease and desist letters, especially from Western companies. There are interesting issues around copyright.
Seiki Okude: “Character AI” program practice example in the beginner-friendly game production education
Seiki was a game designer and now works for Ritsumeikan. He talked about learning materials for the controller syntax. Programming has become more and more important, but difficult. Examples are often used a method to lower the difficulty of learning. In practice course students are taught to program the enemies behaviour to corner the player.
He walked us through an example starting with a doing nothing. Then they learn to incrementally add complexity to the enemy AI. They can copy code and adapt it until they get a bullet hell.
He wants to expand on this to teach people to make a complete game. He is teaching in C # in Unity.
Shosaku Takeda: Awakening of the game elements that lurk in the story
Takeda talked about teaching methods for developing a game. How can one make a story a game? He sees these ways of doing game design:
Most games are designed in the third way by starting with addictive components.
He tried to get students to work on a story starting with a map and drawing scenes. (See http://www.asobi-lab.com/~IC_2016/ ) It is like a story board with text explanations. Then students have to think about decomposing the story, discover the game elements, set various flags, figure out commands and thus learn how to turn a story into a game. Selection commands are essential to the player's experience. What can a player do (what commands select.) These games look like visual novels with command. I think he has a form of adventure game system.
Day 3, August 17, 2016
Tomás Grau de Pablos: The Aesthetics of Bad Translation: The Codification of a “Japanese Gamic Experience” by way of the language barrier
Tomás talked about how aspects of Japanese games distinguishes them. His example is the first Resident Evil. The mid to late 1990s saw a change with new 3D engines that made FPS games possible. Existing ideas had to be ported to a 3D space and first person game-style. Resident Evil's contribution was showing how 2D movement could be used in a 3D space. The game also had bizarre or truly bad translations/text. The bad translations have become popular with fans. Fans have created MO Ds that bring back old tacky voices.
The reasons for the poor localization of the first RE were limited resources at the time. None the less the handling of a 3D setting that was spooky was influential. This was also one of the first Japanese games that had a "realistic" world rather than fantasy settings.
Games that use 3D tend to depict Western locations or spaces inspired by American and European architecture. This isn't a problem for non-English players, but American's have learned to talk about these as Japanese. Americans seem to be able to tell what games are made by Japanese developers even though everything looks Western. What are they picking up on?
He concluded with:
This paper raises interesting questions about how we read the "Japaneseness" of a game. How much of it is projected by people prepared to like/dislike Japanese games? How much is really there?
Questions were also raised about realism. Is Japanese realism different?
Akito Inoue: Distinctive difference game titles between Japanese context and English context
Akito started with a discussion about what is a Japanese videogame. He commented on how some Made in Japan games like Jet Grind Radio, are unknown in Japan. Conversely games like Moon (ASCII 1997) are unknown in the West.
He talked about the Media Art Database with a games database that is a basic resource for local game history research. The games part of the database was developed at Ritsumeikan.
Their method for this paper was to go through videogame titles like books, awards, magazines and so on and give points if the games were mentioned in Japanese context and/or English context. He then studies the scores. Last year he found that "innovative games" get low meta scores. This showed him that user scores are unstable so he tried to find other forms of information like sales. He had to weight many of these. One of the major issues he had is whether the English and Japanese games are the same.
He showed his real data. He has an Excel sheet that lets him do what if modelling. His results divided games popular in Japan and not in West and vice versa. Games like Flower, Tempest are not popular in Japan. He categorized the games in different ways. This allowed him to see what publishers are more local and which are global. Chunsoft is influential in Japan, but don't export. Some of the data seemed to have historical explanations - Atari was an English only publisher, but it dates to the early years. He showed an interesting timeline.
He wants to then compare to other countries and refine his database.
Juhyung Shin, Yan Jiao, Yehang Jiang, Mitsuyuki Inaba: Research on Serious-Game Design for Inter Cultural Understanding mediated by 3D Metaverse
Inaba's team has been developing virtual spaces to teach about culture. The developed a virtual space in Second Life to teach about Japanese, Korean, and Chinese restaurants with a pop-up quiz. They showed a video from SL that showed someone going through the space with different restaurants.
Their method is video ethnography. The experiment takes 1.5 hours for teams of different numbers to go through. They teams would include people from different cultures.
They talked about what questions came up the most in the discussion. In some cases the participants drew things to exchange ideas.
They are developing a model of collaborative learning.
Paul Martin, Andrew White, and Bjarke Liboriussen: Developing new business models for content creation in the Chinese game industry
Paul Martin presented more on the history (a particular moment) of China's gaming industry. Their project is part of a larger study of the Chinese content industry in transition.
He started with Nakamura's 3 phases of Chinese game industry. They are looking specifically at the transition to freemium games and asking how this transition happened in 2005. They see this as a case study of the relationship of business models and formal genres. The need for financial return influences genres. More generally there is a tension between game-as-commodity that is traded and game-as-aesthetic or pure object. This is connected to ideas about play. Huizinga sees play as pure, but they actually seem commodified. The intellectual history of play in China is not associated with purity (as it is in the West.)
Their method is to interview industry professionals, check industry documents, and do textual analysis. They are also looking at influences from Korea and Japan.
According to Mac Innes? and Hu (2007) they are saying that 60% of players have used bots. Cheating and other illicit behaviour is seen as a Chinese problem. It affects the reputation of a game and people leave.
For the programmers the switch may not have had much effect, but for game designers and artists it was major. You need to cater to player who pay and those who are not playing. This is about engineering aspiration in players to eventually play. One game had countries playing each other which created aspiration to be a national hero. Designer's also fold transactions into gameplay.
Server culture is an issue. They need to socialize players to paying. See Lin and Sun (2011) "Cash trade in free-to-play online games." Games and Culture. Lin and Sun document concerns of players for F 2 P include fairness, fun, order and quality, maintaining magic circle.
Government regulation is important since it is very volatile. A problem is constantly dealing with changing rules. There is government hostility from 2001 as they worry games are amoral. There is concerns with addiction that leads to suspension of new internet cafe license, 2007. Minors are prohibited from the cafes. Government wants to reduce time and money spent by players. A F 2 P challenges such government regulations.
Mimi Okabe: Harnessing the Power of Persuasion: Strategies towards Increasing Women’s Participation in Japan’s Game Industry
Mimi presented a paper about women in Japan's game industry that I collaborated on. She started by talking about public events that highlighted how the game industry is difficult for women. This
She talked about her method of interviewing women working in the industry and described the participants. She then summarized research on women in Japan that places Japan at the bottom of developed countries. There isn't a lot of attention paid to these issues in Japan.
She talked also about the representation of women in games.
The game developers she talked to all talked about their passion for the games. Mia Consalvo talks about the problems of the idea of passion in labor. The interviewees may have passion, but they challenge the ideas.
She talked about how women are asked to go home in ways that men aren't. This is a wider issue as men would like to not have to stay all night too. Women struggle to fit in.
An interesting issue is how a focus on gender can get distorted. The interviewees felt that the desire to create games have no gender. Some companies want women to help create "womanly" games.
She also talked about changes in ideas of womanhood how they affect what they can do. Some companies have changed the workplace in a way that can support women. Women shouldn't have to feel they have to quit a company out of a collectivist committment. The fear of letting the group down shouldn't be a deciding factor.
She then concluded with some recommendations:
John Szczepaniak: Dark Side of the Sun: A controversial examination of the underworld of the Japanese video game industry
John talked about the yakuza side of the Japanese game industry. Games come from hard work, John looked at some of the unsavory practices.
Japanese games may have dominated because of labour practices and possibly unsavory business practices. John heard talk of worrying practices including:
Tokihuro Naito talked about the Hamachi room or crunch room which would be locked. Workplace hierarchy was important. Bosses were so strict. Most developers would sleep at work or work overnight. Some recall the late nights fondly.
Yasuo Yoshikawa and other talked about stress induced sicknesses like going blind from overwork. Some were suicidal as they were pursued by debts. Creatives were pursued by
There are also isolation rooms used to encourage staff to resign. Problems came to head in 2000 when former SEGA employees sued and won. This caused trouble in that people didn't want to buy from such a company.
Black corporations are evil sweatshops. Takahashi talked about being punched and kicked. Zainsoft was rumoured
Very few books talk about the involvement by the yakuza. In Japan there is a perception that play is bad which means that amusement industries are regulated and get connected to underworld. Yakuza was essential to maintain order and protect copyright. Police don't help protect copyright so you need the underworld. In the early days the involvement of the yakuza may have actually helped get the business off the ground. The arcade and pachinko industry had a lot of connections with Korean mafia and yakuza. What companies are run by yakuza? One of his informants suggests that it is an open secret that almost companies are connected to the yakuza. John concluded that the industry is deeply connected and it is an open secret that could seriously tarnish the industry.
A Japanese respondent felt this isn't true any longer. He felt that many companies would work hard to avoid being tarnished today. I wondered if there isn't a level to which everyone is connected ultimately. I also wondered if there wasn't a romanticization of yakuza and a trading in legends. John responded by saying there does seem to be different levels of involvement and yes, there are stories traded.
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