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Replaying Japan 2017

These are my conference notes about Replaying Japan 2017. This year it was held at the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, New York state.

As always, these notes are written live and will be full of gaps and so on. I don't always take notes.

The Twitter feed is

Monday, August 21st, 2017

Jon-Paul Dyson: Introductions

Dyson opened the conference talking about the Strong Museum of Play. The origin of the museum is with Margaret Strong who left money and lots of dolls and other toys. The museum opened in the 1980s. In 2003 they set their mission to be about play across the centuries. They started thinking about video games in the mid-2000s. Video games are the most important media of the 21st century. They have over 60,000 games and hundreds of thousands of archival materials. They have 8000 Japanese video games. In 2015 they organized a show on Nintendo with Ritsumeikan. They also established a World Video Game Hall of Fame.

At the end he talked about their approach to collecting and preserving video games. The collect:

  • Original hardware and software
  • Archival materials
  • Media about games
  • Digital preservation - working with RIT

He talked about the challenges working in this field:

  • Challenge of endangered media
  • Challenge of born digital - what happens when servers shut down
  • Preservation in age of abundance - too much stuff
  • Preservation of new types of games

Preservation develops through scholars.

Tom Kalinske: The Experts are Always Wrong

Kalinske was with Mattel. He was also with Sega America along with other companies like Leapfrog.

Kalinske started by talking about why the experts are always wrong. He talked about some of the projects he worked on:

  • Flinstones Vitamins. Introduced in 1967 and became #1 in 6 months. They didn't listen to the media experts who said it wouldn't work.
  • Barbie. He took over in 1973. He described all the things he tried. One thing he did was put all the packaging in pink. It was around "be what you want to be." They had a hardware/software model. It is still a billion dollar brand.
  • He became President of Mattel toy company. He talked about developing a male action hero (He-Man.) He developed a show for He-Man and gave it away. This became the brand development model.

He then talked about being the President of SEGA America. (See "Console Wars" book.) Nintendo had 92% of the market. He developed a plan to develop SEGA by all sorts of means. They positioned Nintendo as a toy for kids. They released Sonic Two on Sonic Tuesday!

Nintendo was so powerful, developers were afraid to develop for SEGA and retailers were afraid to carry SEGA. They did all sorts of things including having a lot of women in senior management. They started their own game show that became E3. They started a Game Rated System. They passed Nintendo in share of market in 1994. They changed the market from kids to teens/college age kids.

He talked about differences between how SEGA US and SEGA Japan works.

  • In the US they made decisions fast. They celebrated mistakes.
  • Focused on end results not process. In Japan there was a lot of emphasis on consensus and hierarchy.
  • In US they took risks.
  • In US they spent little time in meetings while in Japan lots of time.
  • They were loose in work style.
  • Communication was direct.
  • Personal life/family life was a priority. In Japan work was priority.

Eventually Kalinske left to head a startup called Knowledge Universe that used technology to improve education in 1996. They started 18 companies and bought 18 companies.

When they bought Leapfrog experts said education doesn't sell. Leapfrog was created technologies coming from video game industry. They had their own scope and sequence developed at Stanford. The products mostly taught reading.

The next phase of his life is gazillion, a PC gaming company. They launched a Marvel Heros game that is free-to-play, but they then sell all sorts of assets. The game is never done.

His overall brand building lessons:

  • Don't trust experts
  • Solve a real problem
  • Hire a great team
  • Get rid of nay-sayers
  • Tell a good story

There are more people watching gamers play games than watching NFL.

There was a question about the importance of story and character. He later said, quoting someone from Nintendo, "the name of the game is the game." One needs a good game first.

He mentioned that Steve Jobs didn't trust research. He does use research.

Players/Fan Studies

Fanny Barnabé: Narrative Misappropriations of Pokémon: How Fanarts and Fanfictions Playfully Feed and Reconfigure a Transmedia Universe

Barnabe started by talking about misappropriation and transmedia and gaming. Misappropriation is related to playing in that playing is always appropriation and transformation of content that only exists in potential. Game, misappropriation, and transmedia are unnatural narratives in all sorts of ways. Features of games like saving, loading, changing constumes are not normal for narratives.

She then talked about fanfictions and fanarts. She looked at Ashes of the Past by Saphroneth where game features like saving and reloading become narrative elements. One has games within games in this fan story. She calls "avatarization" when a protagonist oscillates between two levels like the writer becoming a character to interact with other characters.

Metalepsis - "any kind of transgression of a level of narrative or dramatic fiction." It is cases where author addresses the reader.

She concluded by talking about ludiegesis - a narrative universe governed by game mechanics. Video game fictions follow different logical systems (real world, game worlds.) The contradictions are what gets played with in misappropriations.

Daniel Johnson: Scripted Laughter in Online Gameplay Videos

Johnson talked about uploaded gameplay videos in Japan. You have them on YouTube and Twitch. In particular he focuses in Nico Nico (douga) lanuged in 2006. It is now property of Dwango, partners with Kadokawa since May 2014. People can comment right on video. Comments appear on video and are called "danmaku" or bullet effect. There is an affinity between TV and online video.

Pseudo-synchronicity is the work given to these layers of text appearing. Gameplay videos remediate games, but open up to other practices like the accumulation of comments. In particular Johnson sees a link to Japanese Variety TV where often the audience is in on the joke. The pseudo-audience watching the joke played on others stands in for us. He then linked it to Manzai commedy. The extensive graphics in TV reproduces the two commedian element in Manzai. The graphics speak back to us the way comments do on game play videos.

The videos often depend on spectacles of failure. The audience is invited to be in on the joke. In game videos the player who failed is also in on the game.

He talked about comment art - the comments are like pixel art. Users can use text to make animations that fit the game.

Frank Mondelli: An Ethnographic Sketch of Remix and Fan Culture in Jikkyou Purei

Mondelli started by explaining what Jikkyou Purei is. Jikkyo is on the spot reporting - live discussion. Purei is "play." They are genre of videos of someone playing a game. They are games tagged with Jikkyou loaded to Niconico. You get celebrities who repeatedly fail at games. An example would be Game Center CX. There are also walkthroughs and restriction type videos where someone sets a restriction.

In 2009 there was a Jikkyou Boom. By 2010 you have arena events.

He then talked about a "ethnography" he did. It wasn't scientific. Jikkyou is a return to discursive play or social play. It can put a layer between you and the playing. Jikkyou players are less about commercialization and more about informing people and sharing entertainment.

Then Mondelli talked about remix culture and these videos. The videos are remixing forms like games into video. There is a recursivity as Jikkyou gets remixed onto itself.

There is also commercialization of Jikkyou.

Juhyung Shin and Mitsuyuki Inaba: Implementing Collaborative Serious Games on Japanese Culture based on Restored Historical Structures and Landscapes in the 3D Metaverse

Inaba described research he has been conducting on cross-cultural learning. We can theorize that children have a cultural acquisition device (CAD.) What they are trying to do is develop serious games that help people learn about other cultures. They are developing a serious collaborative game where people who know a culture can enter into dialogue with someone new to the culture. They both learn through playing together.

They found that experts begin to realize how they don't know as much as think they do. In the dialogue both sides learn.

Inaba talked about how the local government encouraged them to restore cultural sites at the Mt. Otoko-yama. In particular they developed a virtual tea room that had been built up on stilts.

Shin then talked about some experiments with different students playing old and new timer.

Yoshihiro Kishimoto: Game Design Workshops for Children Using an Experimental Learning Software Program

Kishimoto worked as a game developer for 29 years for Namco, Koei and others. He developed over 60 games. R.B.I. Baseball is one example.

Kishimoto talked about game design workshops for children. In Japan becoming a game developer is the 4th most popular job choice for boys. The problem is that boys have strange ideas about what a game developer does. Many parents and teachers don't know. There are games to experience other careers, but not for game developers.

There are some good tools for learning game design like Scratch. Kishimoto advised the creator of Super Mario Maker, but it doesn't give full experience. Adventure Creator gives more space for development. It lets students to control sound, control levels and challenges.

They then aran a bunch of workshops with their Adventure Creator with 94 children with a questionnaire. Results showed that 96% of children realized how much sound added to games. They also had 62 parents answer a questionnaire. There was a big difference n how parents answered from before and after the workshop.

He then talked about how he added gamification elements to the workshop including making a character out of himself.

Tuesday, August 22nd

Rachael Hutchinson: Refracted Visions: Transmedia Storytelling in Japanese Games

Hutchinson presented the second keynote. She is working on a manuscript on Japanese culture through videogames. She started by talking about how we tell ourselves stories. Transmedia storytelling is often described as a "media mix" that combines narrative forms and merchandising. It can be seen as multilayered or as splintered and refracted. It can be seen as a reflection of Japan. The stories that Japanese people tell of their history and culture are complex and refracted.

Hutchinson reflected on how popular "transmedia" is. She talked about "trans" and "media". She talked about how some of the franchises like Metal Gear Solid have evolved as the platforms evolved. New platforms can give new ways of telling a story. We can also think of transmedia as moving across art forms. Final Fantasy VII had lovely painted backgrounds with 3D. Mix of 2D and 3D in 1997. Different art forms in the same game. In MGS there was documentary footage intercut with rendered video. Fractured and multi-faceted characters reflect fractured media mix.

Shinmue 1999 and Person 5. Games that remediate real places in Japan. Likewise augmented reality games like Pokemon Go mix real and virtual. There is a lot of work in Japanese literature about space, but little applied to the use of space in games.

Another "trans" is between authoring environments and playing environments where one can author new levels. She talked about games with multiple endings/paths like Catherine. Some like 999 have to played through in different paths to understand. Then there are games that don't seem to have stories like fighting games. Instead with fighting games you win bits of the story by fighting. You have to figure out what happened before game and between games (over a franchise.)

Across games one can find different ways of talking about issues important to Japan:

  • War and war memory
  • Colonialism and colonial legacy
  • Nuclear power
  • Bioethics
  • Social breakdown
  • Defining the Japanese self

For example, bioethics is discussed in games like Final Fantasy VI, VII, MGS, Tekken ... She talked about FF VI and magitech. In FF VII there are genetics experiments. When playing you have to suffer Cloud's suffering around his origins.

In MSG it is hard to keep track of all the biotransformations. All these experiments are paid for by the military industrial complex.

In Tekken there is a "devel gene" inherited by main character that the corporations want. In Resident Evil you have corporate release of viruses. You have the infection of both humans and animals.

There are some commonalities:

  • Corporate bioengineering
  • Creating super-soldiers
  • Using bodies of dead
  • Experiments on live subjects
  • Mad scientists

Many of these games came out around 1996 when Dolly the sheep was cloned. In Japan there is a Buddhist ideology of "whole body". This was reflected in a Japanese ban on human cloning in 2000. Surrogacy is tricky subject in Japan. No GMOs are grown for commercial purposes.

Ryan Scheiding, Marc Lajeunesse and Mia Consalvo: Superstar Indies: Understanding a Japanese Videogame Phenomenon

Scheiding is looking at how Japanese designers like Hideo Kojima are leaving the big companies and starting "indie" companies. Are they really indies? They couldn't get interviews, but they could look at materials. They looked at 8 personalities (superstars) and how they have created companies.

What does indie mean? Is it a matter of self-definition? In Japan "indie" seems to mean "independent" from the company they left. Kojima Productions has lots of funding from Sony.

One of the motivations of these Japanese superstar indies seem to be revenge against the heartless companies that wouldn't support them. Does this speak to a different approach to authorship? To the authors the role of the superstar is one of the things that stand out about these indies. The web sites include pages about the superstar for marketing.

Their early conclusions include:

  • Labeling a company "indie" in Japanese context means something different
  • Company vision from marketing can be difference from actual structure
  • The role of superstars is difference from company to company
  • These findings can help expand our knowledge of the political economy of Japanese games industry

Morgan Kennedy: Narratives of Japanese Independent Videogame Developers: A Case Study at 17-Bit

Kennedy works for Ubisoft doing user research. He works on the Skins workshops that is a native lead initiative to bring game design to native youth. The paper tries to decenter, decolonialize game studies. The participation of marginalized people like native people needs to happen at all levels of the stack.

We think that video game development is North American, but in Japan it is also important and game developers came from different backgrounds - less from computer science, more from manga, anime. What can we learn from indies that try to put native people at the centre of the story.

Kennedy went to Bit Summit (Japanese indie conference) to try to interview developers - mostly 17-bit Games, many of whom are Westerners in Japan. His research uses grounded theory methodology to try to find out how narrative was developed. Kennedy uses Nakamura's idea of a narreme - minimal unit of narration in a game.

I think part of Kennedy's idea is to use Japanese know-how to help with Skins initiative inspiring native led games.

Chinese DiGRA Roundtable: Towards an Asian game studies

I also caught a bit of the Chinese DiGRA roundtable. There are several regional transnationalities competing. Small design companies in China that may have played pirated Japanese games and are embedded in Japanese game culture can then talk to Japanese companies.

China can be said to be a form of hyper post-capitalism. China will create a safe space for an industry to develop through imitation. Consumers can be dissatisfied with local materials only as they can get foreign games. There is resentment for the imitative games. There is also a dynamic in that gamers are careful of playing games that are politically dangerous.

Are there new styles of games in China?

Keiji Amano and Geoffrey Rockwell: On the Infrastructure of Gaming: The Case of Pachinko

Amano presented a paper we co-wrote on the infrastructure of pachinko. We talked about some of the hard and soft infrastructure including:

  • The ball distribution systems
  • The "Hall Computer" systems
  • The flow of transmedia content
  • The integrated space of casinos

We reflected on where pachinko is going with the legalization of destination casinos.

Jérémie Pelletier-Gagnon: Playing in Public: Japanese Game Centers Between Local Culture and National Networks

Gagnon started by talking about the Western view of gaming in Japan. (See Worshipping Anime Girls) He talked about a shock-value article from Kotaku on Japanese arcades letting people worship games. He mentioned "Lost in Translation" and the documentary "100 Yen" which focuses on the views of Western (male) commentators.

By contrast, Gagnon is looking at Game Centers (arcades) in Japan in a way that is sympathetic to their breadth. He gave a short history of the public game centers. He mentioned the Matsuya Sports Land - a pre-war arcade on the roof of a department store. Then after the war there were imported jukeboxes and they created medal game parlours. The medal games were playing at consumerism. Video games first started in space invader cafes. Invader houses had cocktail cabinets. There were networks of these places made popular by Space Invaders. Then the law changed and parlours had to close.

In today's game centers you can see a mix of the history of arcades. You see a mix of local games and networked national games. Gagnon then showed a number of images from his ethnography. He talked about two Kyoto game centers and one in Tokyo.

He returned to the image of worshipping game culture. Gagnon believes it is a space where people can participate in culture - worship as a playful way of consuming. There is an irony here.

Gender Issues

Sarah Stang: Gender and Androgyny in The Legend of Zelda Series

Stang started by talking generally about the Zelda series and then talked about Link, the main character. In the latest Link he/she looks more feminine. The trailer (of Breath of the Wild that showed this character (who could be Zelda) was broken down and debated. Many JRPGs have androgynous characters. Disney's Peter Pan inspired Link. Nintendo, however, is very conservative. At the official unveiling the character was definitively male. If they made Link a female it would unbalance the triforce! Rather than the princess rescuing Link they stuck to the traditional roles. She is always a "damsel in distress."

In Ocarina of Time Zelda disguises herself as Sheik. While in disguise she is clearly male. Fans argue over what her gender was when disguised.

Nintendo's response to why they didn't create a female lead character was disappointing. Breath of the Wild, while regressive, has sold well. It is still safe to present games with damsels in distress.

Jennifer DeWinter: Visual Novels & Female Fantasies: BL Transmedia and Participatory Adaptation Cultural Cross-Pollination

deWinter started with Cool Japan. She then talked about RapeLay and Dramatical Murder.

Censorship and Rating Systems in Japan came out of the adult entertainment industry expansion of the 1980s. CERO and EOCS are the two regulatory systems in Japan. In the constitution, article 21 is quite clear about no censorship being tolerated. Manga, Anime and Videogames are all excluded from laws about restricting laws.

There have been a series of moral panics. The most famous was the otaku who in 1988 murdered some young girls. Cool Japan has mixed support. What is supported in Japan may not be abroad and vice versa. The international otaku subgroup made the national group more palatable to national government.

She then talked about RapeLay and the panic in the West. deWinter talked about the Right to Consume and the issues around international consumption.

Equality Now Campaign has a campaign. Illusion Now, which doesn't sell an overseas version, doesn't know how to respond. Digital distribution has bypassed regulation.

Then she switched to talking about YAOI and games that represent rape for women. Why are there different attitudes to rape in games for men and rape in games for women? Can rape being a legitimate form of feminine desire? Are there issues with who has the choice or is the victim?

Then she talked about fan community products (doujinshi) and attitudes to these. Cool Japan may change the attitudes to copyright as Japanese companies try to protect their copyright internationally.

Shannon Symonds: Women in Games: The Strong’s Initiative to Document the Roles of Women in the Gaming Industry

Symonds is the Strong museum's curator for the international center for the history of electronic games. She talked about her Women in Games initiative. See . There is Elizabeth Magie's The Landlord's Game from 1904.

The Strong recently recieved materials from Carol Shaw who was one of the first widely recognized game designers who did River Raid. Roberta Williams was the co-founder of Sierra On-Line. She was a prolific designer and writer. Megan Gaiser, former President and CEO of Her Interactive. They have materials at Strong about the women of Atari.

Women have been prominent in the edutainment industry, like Brenda Laurel. They worked on early magazines like SoftTalk.

Now they hope to speak with women game designers in Japan. Erikawa Keiko of Koei who pioneered the otome genre. Shimazake Mari, who worked on designers for Bayonetta. Shimomura Yoko is a composer of game music for games like Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy XV.

They want help with networking and introductions, donations of objects.

Wednesday, August 23rd

Game Preservation Roundtable: Jon-Paul Dyson, Aki Nakamura, Martin Roth, Hosoi Koichi, Geoffrey Rockwell,

John-Paul Dyson started the roundtable

Nakamura talked about the Game Archive Project at Ritsumeikan. He talked about studying the Nintendo games they were lent by Nintendo. He also talked about the emulator of the famicom that they commissioned from Nintendo. He showed the Uemura lab approach to recording play on video. Uemura developed a system that recorded not just the screen, but the player and the buttons pushed. He talked about the project to develop a database of games for a national Media Arts Database. Over 44 thousand titles were recorded by March 2017. He ended by talking about their physical collection.

There was a discussion about differences between Japan and the US. In Japan companies can be very protective of their IP and Nintendo has threatened Ritsumeikan. In the US there is more support for archiving. Now in Japan the government is recognizing the art of manga, anime, games and intermedia arts.

Hosoi Koichi There is now hope that preservation will be supported by the government. There is a new law, Fundamental Law for Culture and the Arts, that recognizes that the government has a role to play. As mentioned, the government is behind the database of media arts that Ritsumeikan contributed the game section on.

There was discussion of preserving the MMORGs - how to record server-side games. There is also the Game Preservation Society that is an amateur group. How can scholars work with these very effective amateur groups.

Martin Roth talked about the Games Initiative and Lab at U of Leipzig. They got a fascinating collection of materials from one of the rating agencies in Japan. In Germany the government recently said they will give funds to create one of the largest computer game museums around the museum in Berlin. In Germany all sorts of materials have to be given to the German rating agency so they have a lot of stuff. The Computer Spiele museum in Berlin already has 30,000+ materials.

There was a question about how we collaborate. There was also discussion of how things fall apart. The U of Texas had an archive, a key person left and it fell apart. Many of these archives are personal ones.

James Newman talked about work he is doing with wider teams in the UK. He talked about the BFI, British Film Institute and what they are doing. When he was writing on the history of video games it was hard to find archival materials. He has been working on a festival, Game City, that showcases that games are made by people. Now they have the National Video Game Arcade in Nottingham. The Arcade is a project to think about how to design tools to interpret games. They have an engineering team that builds exhibits. They have a model, "game inspector", that is designed to look how games are played. They work with maps of levels and capture video that lets them zoom in on what is happening. They can turn these into exhibits. These tools are for interpretation, but can also help with preservation.

The Arcade is also working directly with developers. That solves the IP issues. Then he talked about focusing on projects like "jumping".

I spoke about the born digital archiving that we are doing.

We talked about the different types of actors. The amateurs are not doing long-term preservation, but know the materials. The archives may have the infrastructure, but don't necessarily know the materials. How do we work with each other. We need to convince developers to support preservation.

Cross-Cultural and Socio-Cultural Issues

Mimi Okabe: The Game is afoot: Transmedia Storytelling in Japanese Sherlockian Videogames

Okabe started by talking about how Sherlock Holmes has been reimagined across all sorts of media and culture. Is there a kernel to what stands as Holmes? Holmes is an extraordinary character that stands for intellect. What happens if this character is changes beyond recognition. How far can the myth be rewritten. Eg. the Great Turnaround - recent game for DS.

Holmes emerged at a time of colonization. It isn't surprising that Japanese reinventions (Rampo) also emerge at a time of Japanese colonization. Okabe went through some Sherlockian video games including a pokemon one.

There is also the Ace Ventura media mix that includes Great Turnabout. Great Turnabout takes place at a time in the past when the court system was new. The Meiji historical setting is a time when Japanese adopted all sorts of Western aspects. In the game the view is that Japanese law is naive as the country is still young. But the West is not all-knowing. There is a "colonial gaze" in the game where the Japanese character is called things. There is also an occidentalism where London is romanticized. Naruhodo and Holmes are shown as competitors and allies.

Okabe talks about how in the game Holmes isn't really Sherlockian. He is rather clumsy. Instead the Japanese character, Naruhodo, becomes the Sherlockian character. The game introduces Joint Reasoning where Naruhodo collaborates with Holmes - a different type of thinking through that redefines detection.

The game shows the history of a country (Japan) trying to develop through collaboration with empire, regardless of cultural difference. This is a positive message.

Andrei Zanescu: Yasumi Matsuno’s Balkanism

Zanescu talked about yaumi's Ogre series and how that

Matsuno Yasumi started working at Quest in 1989. He is known for Ogre Battle (1993) and Tactics Ogre (1995) and then worked on Final Fantasy games for Square Enix. He left AAA game design after a falling out of Kawazu in 2005.

Ogre Battle series tactics. It has the formulaic design of tactical rpgs. Yasumi has said that the game series was inspired by what was happening in the Balkans at the time.

Zanescu is working with Todorova's idea of Balkanism which is a form of Orientalism. The Balkans don't conform to what is expected of them. It is seen as a poor area. Orientalism and Balkanism run side by side - similar, but different. Everything good about the Orient is not good about the Balkans.

The games take place on the continent of Zetegania, a pseudo Europe. There are three major factions, Lodis, Zenobia, and Palatinus. Zenobia is a fascist monarchy; heros have a revolution and set up a democracy. The Holy Lodissian Empire is a theocracy headed by Pope Sardian. They want to spread their religion to indentured populations. Palatinus, a client nation of Lodis has areas like Latium, Capitrium, Wentinus, and Alba. Alba is hot and desert-like.

Capitrium is the balkan-like region. It is marked by an Eastern Orthodox Church, slavic names ...

The conflict is between South and East and the center. The moral choices are not tied to the political. There is an alignment can be to lawful or chaotic. All of this makes a difference to tactics and endings.

The game in effect discusses class and class conflict in terms of law and good. This is similar to Balkanism that treats the Balkan conflicts as being more about lack of lawfulness.

Jonathan Abel: The Frames of the Game: The Portal as Portable in Stein;Gate.

Abel is working on a book to think about media and media panics as having an effect on reverse mimesis. For example, at what point to consumers of anime feel they want to cosplay where cosplay is reverse mimesis.

He is interested in Steins;Gate - a visual novel - in which life in the VN imitates the technology in the VN. The real goal is to have never used the time machine. Abel talked about the playful interface to the game where you have a flip phone HUD. We got brought into the narrative in interesting ways.

Fans have geolocated the spaces of the game that actually exist in Japan. Fans have mapped out all sorts of materials related to the game, including different endings.

Abel is interested in corpus analysis of the text. Analysis feels both right and very wrong. The corpus is 43K sentences including all the dialogue, emails, and so on. Corpus is interesting because player experience can be limited, but at the same time the corpus is not anything one (normal) player will experience. On the other hand, the text is up on forums by fans because people don't have the time to play the whole game.

Some of the questions he asks of the data includes:

  • How often do characters talk? What does that tell us?
  • What words associate with which characters?
  • Are there correlations between characters? How are they related?
  • Can we compare the ending files?
  • Can topic modelling show us something useful? Can it show us surprising things?

He is getting mostly character-based topics which would suggest it is a character heavy game.

There was an interesting discussion of whether doing corpus analysis is more objective? Isn't it just another way of playing the game?

Is a visual novel a novel? Does using corpus analysis treat the game as a novel?

Platform Studies 2

Eric Freedman: Engine: The Mechanics of Play

Freedman reminded us that games are tied to the engines that control the naturalness of the games developed with them. Game engines shape the consumer's experience. These core technologies, like the engine, shape the experience, but are often overlooked. To study software is to study any interface. He sees a layer model with mathematical models at the core. He is looking at what is hard to see - the game engine may have power, but is relatively immaterial.

Capcom has (Integrated Report 2016) an engine called MT Framework that provides a common work environment that simplifies development across platforms. Engines make cross platform possible, but you lose some freedom. Engine determines the "realness" of our impact - the agency of the user in the game. Engines are data-driven architecture.

The Capcom MT framework as it gets upgraded affects the games developed with it. Development of a replacement engine, Panta Rhei, is now underway. It maximizes what you can do with new console hardware. Resident Evil games use different versions of the engine.

Engine and game development often happen together. The Panta Rhei development was scratched. The RE engine is now the successor. Kitchen (2015) was developed at the same time and seems optimized for VR. The engine makes it faster to test game changes.

There is a tension between programmers who develop engines and the game designers/artists. There is a tension between artists and programmers. What the artists are trying to accomplish is important to the programmers.

Konami showed the FOX engine in 2011. The goal of the FOX engine is photorealism. The value of an engine lies in its reuse.

When studying software we have to be careful to stay away from ignoring engines on the one hand and technological determinism on the other.

He talked about middleware like audio extensions.

There was discussion about the word "engine" itself. How has the word been encoded? It seems like a word to convey power.

James Newman: “Slower, squashed and six months late.” Playing Japanese videogames in Europe 1991-2017

Newman is both at a University and also at an exhibit place (the Nottingham Arcade.) He is using Sonic as a lens to look at how platforms change over time. Its existence today is different from when the first Sonic came out. He talked about how long between Japanese versions came out and when the European localization came out. Hence the "six months late." Often J games come out even more than 6 months later. This creates parallel histories.

The wait gives rise to various practices like getting modding chips so you could play original Japanese games.

Newman pointed out that the European version was PAL and Japanese version was NTSC. PAL is slower and a different aspect ratio than NTSC. This was the heart of his paper. Newman showed the differences between the versions, which then raises questions about which version is THE version.

It raises questions about whether the two versions are the same game. The PAL versions are also disappearing as the NTSC versions dominate retro collections.

Leticia Andlaleir: Transmedia through globalization in otome industry: a reception study of gender representations in France

Andlaleir presented an ethnographic study of fans of otome games. She interviewed players in France about the characters they liked. My batter ran out, so I don't have notes.



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