Our last workshop on „Japan’s Videogames and Digital Cultures Between the Local and the Global“, part of our PaJaKo project, has taken place on June 19th, 2019 at Leipzig University. The event was organized and moderated by Dr. Martin Picard from Leipzig University,   in collaboration with Jun.-Prof. Martin Roth from Leipzig University and Prof. Hiroshi Yoshida from Ritsumeikan University. The event was sponsored by Erasmus+, DAAD, and JSPS.

The workshop consisted in presentations from M.A. and PhD students and postdocs from Ritsumeikan University, Leipzig University, and the University of Liège.

The full program can be seen here: https://home.uni-leipzig.de/jgames/en/blog/5th-international-workshop-japans-videogames-and-digital-cultures-between-the-local-and-the-global/

You can see reports of our previous workshops here: 1st2nd, 3rd, and 4th.

Abstracts of the individual paper contributions

Konstantin Freybe, Leipzig University

Metal Gear Solid and the activated audience. Researching Social Media data

In my PhD research, I investigate the social implications of actively contributing audiences in cultural industries, more precisely: the computergames industry. The Metal Gear Franchise, its popular Creator Hideo Kojima and the — at least among fans — rather infamous publisher Konami are cornerstones of this project. Persuing a bottom-up oriented aprroach I attempt to analyse the social practices of fans of the aforementioned franchise. Their social interactions are heavily technologically mediated through Social Media services, of which YouTube has become the focussed subject area. The tense relations between fans, industry stars and corporations is culturally mediated through Micro-celebrities, or Influencers. The goal is understanding their practices and how technology is a constitutive part of this process in order to get an informed view on contemporary cultural or creative industries.
I set out to illustrate the datadriven side of my research methodology. After a brief summary of the context of my research, I present my dataset. It is comprised of data acquired via YouTube API (application programming interface), including data from currently 49 channels, 70,508 videos and 24,016,086 comments. Focussing on the level of comments, I show how data analysis can lead to hypothesis as well as the means to test them. The main question is in this regard: How to narrow down huge amounts of data? There is a suspicious agglomeration of comments every mid of June and I pursue this by reconstructing only the the temporal distribution and ‚zooming in‘ on different scales. What happens every June on Gaming-YouTube that causes such a high volume of comments in comparison to the other months? The solution is that the Electronic Entertainment Expo is a central event in computergames culture for Western gamers. This is interesting because the newly founded Kojima Productions as well as its partner Sony decided not to participate in this event in 2019.

Luca Bruno, Leipzig University

How to consume character-content? Akihabara content between public and private fruition

This presentation explores how the division between ‘public’ content, content free to be redistributed in the public sphere and ‘private’ content, content whose (re)distribution is subjected to regulation, influences pop culture production within Akihabara and how this interplays with the ironic juxtaposition operations present within Akihabara media and characters. How is Akihabara content consumed in light of the irony embedded in its pop cultural production, especially as companies begin to intersect with more mainstream sectors of Japanese pop-cultural production? As irony descends from specific communities sharing modes of communications, practices of productions, languages etc. (cf. Hutcheon 1995), how does the passage to less tight pop cultural contexts affect the behavior of companies and fans? Can content with a political message readable within Akihabara be still political outside of it?

Armin Becker, Leipzig University

Dark Souls Messages – Forms of Communication in Video Games

In terms of gameplay Dark Souls brought a few novelties to the gaming world. Media coverage of its hard difficulty created a hype, which drew in more and more players.

But difficulty aside, there were other new game mechanics, although not as heavily focused on. One of those has been the communication system, which only allows for leaving short messages at in-game locations.

The focus of this research is firstly to show how the message system is implemented into the actual game world and narration of the game, rather than being implemented into the GUI, which was the more common approach in gaming. This is to show, how leaving messages can be received as one part of the actual game, being part of what is fun in the game, and thus engage players to engage in it.

And secondly, how players engaged with this new kind of indirect communication. By researching the messages they left each other and the positive and negative reviews they gave each other, one can draw conclusions on their collective behaviors and intentions. The main part of the analysis will be done upon a database containing 50.000 samples of said messages, which will be put in context in regards to the game-world, in which they were planted.

Taeko Edaki, Ritsumeikan University

Modernism of Kimono design

The influence of Western culture spread to the public in Japan in the Taisho and early Showa periods. Along with this, the subject of the kimono also became richer in variation.

This presentation focuses on the mountain pattern, and examines their characteristics. Traditionally, mountains, especially Mt. Fuji, represented good luck motif. However, this novel mountain was not the object of faith. These mountains were drawn as the „mountain scape“, which were newly discovered as the sightseeing area in those days, like a typical example of the Japan Alps. These mountain patterns reminded both the European Alps and the Japan Alps to Japanese people. Mountain pattern is a media that shows the aspiration toward the natural mountain landscape of the West, and toward the new cultural activity like mountain climbing, in a unique way.

Masako Hashimoto, Ritsumeikan University

Beyond Character Consumerism: Sakutaro Hagiwara’s Howling at the moon and Manga

The purpose of the presentation is to argue manga’s possibility to influence the understanding of the modern Japanese literature, focusing on character consumption in Japanese sub-culture and beyond. The research uses a poem book by Sakutaro Hagiwara (萩原朔太郎)called Howling at the moon (『月に吠える』)published in 1917, and contemporary manga by Yukiko Seike (清家雪子)called NOT Howling at the moon (『月に吠えらんねえ』). Howling at the moon is an important book of poems in modern Japanese literature, and it achieved great interaction and correspondence between poems and illustrations. NOT Howling at the moon challenges to deal with poems in wartime in a fictional and fantastic manga field. The authoritative field of literature study so far has carefully avoided facing the problems of poems in wartime. By this uniqueness, Not Howling at the moon is separated from other Bungo (文豪)manga of character consumption attracting Otaku and fans. As a result, it can be said that NOT Howling at the moon succeeds to show a new aspect of art and literature in sub-cultural field. Because manga is regarded as works of sub-culture, it can be dynamic, free and critical by to deal with even delicate issues. Also, manga can depict the interaction and correspondence with readers more directly than books and magazines that tried to do so in modern publications. Thus, it is concluded that manga is not only a new media of interaction and correspondence between words and pictures, but it also can  overcome character consumerism of Otaku, and it has potential to change the understanding of modern Japanese literature.

Dorothea Mladenova, Leipzig University

The Airbnb-zation of the funeral industry in Japan

The Japanese funerary system has seen many changes in the past 150 years, but especially since the 1980s and 1990s, its commercialization is underway. Suzuki (2000; 2014) describes the commercialization of the funeral industry in the 1990s as McDonaldization (cf. Ritzer 2008). With the ongoing developments in digital marketing and the continuously changing nature of the funeral industry in Japan, I want to suggest expanding the commercialization argument by some new features, which I would like to refer to as „Airbnb-zation“.

Fanny Barnabé

Building a Database of Video Game Tutorials

This presentation is part of a postdoctoral project dedicated to the study of video game tutorials from a narratological and rhetorical perspective. In order to define precisely what the notion of “tutorial” car cover in the field of video games and to map the different ways in which these passages can be integrated into a game’s narration and discourse, I started to construct a database of existing video game tutorials. In this seminar, I explained the methodology that led to the constitution of the database and to the constitution of the nine analytical criteria (namely: the “scope”, “support”, “temporality”, “narrativization”, “variability”, “interactivity”, “avoidability”, “contents” and “rhetorical strategy”). I also exploited the database following the method of correspondence analysis and showed the first results.

Hamza Bashandy

Playing Maps, Making Space: Can video games pave the way for a democratic map?

The interest of this project is to look at the game space potential in creating maps. Specifically, creating a democratic map that juxtaposes player imagination of the material world. To do so, I critically analyse the participatory model adopted by NGOs, city counselling and governments that uses the open-world video game Minecraft as a participatory mapping tool in urban design with a focus on projects that took place in marginalised communities. The objective is to analyse to which degree these participatory practices help communities to appropriate the spaces they live in to serve their own needs? The analysis looks through three critical lenses: Player immersion lens, Historiographic and spatial lens. The analysed cases show that gamespace does not automatically offer a democratic map, as gamespaces are vulnerable to forms of neutralisation and depoliticisation that negatively affect players/participants choices. To challenge them, these gamespaces should be free of vertical forms of powers. A democratic map should produce space through grassroots, offering a common space that serves people/players’ interest, instead of those of the institution.

Bruno Dupont

From Literature to Obsolescence and Beyond: Three Stages of a Research Project

This presentation aims to retrace the development of my current research project, going back to my doctoral thesis in 2012-2018, which constitutes its first stage. The topic of my doctoral research was the depiction of digital media in contemporary German literature from 1990 to 2018. One of the key findings of this study is that the topical integration of this kind of media in printed literary texts almost always goes hand in hand with a political statement about digital culture, its effect on the world we inhabit and its relationship to the so-called book culture. The second stage began where the first one ended: Indeed, the idea of obsolescence is central to the literary works that stage this kind of media, particularly to the type of texts I call „gamer novels“. On the one hand, they deal with the issue of printed literature possibly becoming obsolescent in a context of perceived concurrence with digital products such as video games. On the other hand, they largely describe digital culture as being itself essentially obsolescent because of the rapid superseding of always new hardware and software. Thus, the study of the cultural concept of obsolescence in both printed as well as electronic literature seems to be a gateway to understanding the production context of cultural artifacts in the 21th century. As I started investigating that concept within the framework of my postdoctoral project, I was struck by the existence of a particular kind of contemporary literary works, namely gamer poetry, i.e. poems taking the act of gaming as their main topic. Their analysis constitutes the third and current stage of my research, led by numerous and still unanswered questions. For instance, given the fact that these works almost exclusively consist of a recollection of past time experiences to which gaming and the remembrance of gaming moments seem to be the only access, is this genre only an exacerbation of the tenets of the gamer novel or something conceptually new? The future is always presented as non-existent in these works, or only in the form of future-in-the-past, but does it mean that they merely constitute a dead end of gamer literature as a whole, or rather a new movement towards the fulfilling of a literature of obsolescence? This talk leaves this questioning open for further research, which should thus try to locate gamer poetry within, outside of beyond the concept of cultural obsolescence.

Boris Krywicki

Investigative Techniques in Video Game Journalism

Can video game press be seen as a journalistic field? More and more reporters‘ investigative techniques would lead to answer affirmatively. This communication summarizes how that specialized press and the industry it covers have always been close and how some journalists struggle to mitigate these links.

Pierre-Yves Houlmont

Video Game Localization

While the specificities of more traditional types of translations have indeed been determined, the translation of video games is still subject to debate. Indeed, in the absence of analytical tools specifically developed for this type of translation, its particularities have not yet been formally identified. As a consequence, I developed a theoretical tool of analysis specifically dedicated to video game translation. This new theoretical tool was used in the context of narrative text analysis and translation of a video game to highlight its distinctive features. In this paper, we highlight specific textual components and strategies of videogame texts that must be transferred from one language-culture to another in order to avoid unnecessary modifications of the videogame, such as clarifications of originally intentionally implicit content, but above all to ensure the proper use of the translated videogame by the player.