After the first successful workshop in June 2017 at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan, the 2nd International Workshop “Japanese Videogames Between the Local and the Global”, part of the PaJaKo project, has taking place on November 16th and November 17th, 2017 at Leipzig University, organized and moderated by Dr. Martin Picard from Leipzig University, in collaboration with Jun.-Prof. Dr. Martin Roth from Leipzig University and Prof. Dr. Hiroshi Yoshida from Ritsumeikan University. The event was sponsored by Erasmus+, DAAD, and JSPS.

As with the first event, the workshop exceeded our expectations. In scope far beyond the core project group, it attracted 10 PhD students and postdoctoral scholars from many different countries, in Asia (Japan, China, South Korea) and Europe (Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Austria). It was open to the public (no fee). We were excited to see that the attendance grew to 21 attendees over the course of the two days. The second of its kind, this workshop strengthened the bonds between all those involved.

For the program, please see:

Due to the high quality of the presentations and the audience, the discussions were very fruitful. Please see below for abstracts of the talks. We have also collected some

Impressions and overall reflections on the event from the participants

The workshop was a great opportunity to network with and learn from researchers whose work deals with gaming in Japan – without leaving Europe. It also provided a friendly environment to discuss my own work, without the pressure associated with submitting to a major conference, using the feedback received from my peers to improve my project at an early stage. The fact that both European and East Asian participants were involved meant that the discussion was not limited to Western perspectives; in fact, the involvement of presenters from not only Japan, but also China and South Korea provided many opportunities for cross-cultural reflection and widened my understanding of various dimensions of gaming in East Asia. During my stay in Leipzig, I was also able to use the university’s archive of Japanese games and attend the lectures by Prof. Yoshida (Ritsumeikan University), both of which benefited my research. It was great to see that Leipzig is becoming a hub for scholars interested in Japanese games, and I am looking forward to seeing this trend continue (Mikhail Fiadotau).

The workshop offered a high level of academic discussion both throughout the presentations and during the accompanying programs. The rich feedback I received for my own topic was only rivaled by the inspiration that hearing the other talks offered. The way workshop participants highlighted the concerns of both general game studies and Japanese game studies in particular was also very conducive to further understanding the significance of games research in relation to related fields such as manga, anime and otaku studies and the broader field of research on Japanese popular culture as well (Zoltán Kacsuk). 

The workshop was extremely helpful for me, as I had just started to dig deeper into this field recently, but do not speak Japanese. Therefore, in order to get a picture of 1980s music and game market in Japan I had to rely on secondary literature at many points. Furthermore, there is generally not much research literature on this matter anyways, so discussing my approach and perspective with colleagues who could verify my findings or give me further input from the perspective of Japanology was tremendously valuable (Melanie Fritsch).

The general impression of the workshop was very favourable, as it helps bridging the sometimes large gap existing between Japanese studies and game studies by providing a focus for scholars to gather and exchange ideas and methodologies. Given the challenges presented by Japanese area studies in approaching new media, I say that such a workshop was a very much needed venue (Luca Bruno).

The symposium seemed to succeed, and left such meaningful fruits. Each participant gave listening-worthy presentations, and their useful comments and questions based on their specialties activated the discussions. The only thing I would like to ask the organizer is the proceedings, then we can refer to the fruits each other (Shunsuke Mukae).

Very fruitful discussion and comments, good to see very different dimensions on games related topics and it was a very stimulating workshop (Juhyung Shin).


Abstracts of the individual paper contributions

Zoltán Kacsuk (Kyoto Seika University): From imagination to simulation? Probing the underlying principles of geek and otaku culture with the help of game studies and visual novels

Over the past twenty years game studies has built on a range of different theoretical frameworks from more established disciplines. In this presentation I tried to demonstrate how game studies theories have become elaborate enough to be useful for probing phenomena outside their scope proper. Furthermore, I also argued that by doing so, it is possible to learn more about the game studies theories themselves, thereby replacing the unilateral movement of theory with a more productive back and forth approach. For this I introduced the framework of subcultural clusters in relation to geek and otaku culture and demonstrated how the underlying logic according to which different cultures are aligned within these clusters can be approached from a number of perspectives. One of these perspectives being the connection between ludic and narrative elements as discussed within game studies. To demonstrate the centrality of the notion of simulation I offered Japanese visual novel games as a key example that can help move the approach beyond a simple duality of games versus stories.


Luca Bruno (Leipzig University): Nationalisms in the Database: Discussing Japanese Visual Novel Games

This short presentation sought to discuss Japanese visual novel games and the relative database aesthetics and meaning-making through a combination of Hiroki Azuma’s ‘Database Consumption’ framework and Ian Bogost’s concept of Unit Operations. The presentation started by focusing on characters within visual novel games as sequences of ‘database elements’, which were made to coincide with Ian Bogost’s concept of unit operations as discrete units of meaning and in turn, how meaning is developed through characters. Subsequently, I approached the presence of nationalist elements, and how these concepts, which are located outside of the cultural database can be conflated with database elements and which meaning is generated through them.


Shunsuke Mukae (Ritsumeikan University): Self Enjoyment: How can we find our own way to enjoy games?

This presentation aimed to find alternative way to have fun in/with video games without violating any rules of games themselves. Here I indicate two perspectives: psychological and meta-narrative. The first one is focusing on psychological aspect such as masochism. Aardse (2014) introduced Deleuzian masochism into games. I extend it to normal game play and regard it as the other layer of gaming. The second is practiced outside of games. Not only gamers but also audiences create another contexts that do nothing to gaming itself, in Japan, its typical form is known as gêmu jikkyô, such as biim dôga. Both attempts require conscious and active concerning of gamers and audiences. Thus those examples show the alternative enjoyment of gaming.


Hugo Gelis (Leipzig University): Eroguro’s Multiple Faces

This presentation took an overall look at the concept of eroguro and how it has been introduced in Japan from the avant-garde of the 1920s to the experimental and radical cinema of the 1960s, and then how it has been re-appropriated by the otaku culture, in manga, anime, and video games, as well as in the doujin community.


Juhyung Shin (Ritsumeikan University): Want to be serious: Board games in Korea

I presented board games and board game culture currently in Korea with a brief summary of Korean board game history. I also addressed three issues, especially, focusing on the influence of German board games: the re-boom of board games in Korea, particular characteristics of Korean Board games, and how board games are positioned inside gaming culture in Korea.


Piotr Sterczewski (Jagiellonian University): Mnemonic Hegemony in Polish Historical Board Games

This presentation was an overview of the whole new wave of Polish historical games, with some focus on case studies showing the continuous negotiation of Polish collective memory since World War II.


Konstantin Freybe (Leipzig University): Videogame Culture as Cultural Negotiation. What does it mean to inhabit a digitized world?

This presentation was based on my Ph.D. work. Accordingly, I presented on theoretical framework, methods and methodologies and their application to an object of research. I am interested in researching how (symbolic/cultural) expression, social practice and identity is taking place, when public discourses on digitization identified it as a process that has penetrated virtually every aspect of everyday life and therefore is challenging how social life is conducted. It lead up to research done on the Metal Gear Solid Series, in which authorship and the relation between creator/authorship, work and publisher could be reconstructed, and ended to the research I intend to do in 2018.


Melanie Fritsch„Project draft: Japanese game music culture in the 1980s and its connections to local and global popular music

In a first step, I gave an overview of my findings about the history and development of game music-culture in Japan including its connections to the Japanese music market and game fandom during the 1980s from a ludomusicological perspective. Whereas for example in the US game music was widespread via the games and several forms of reuse such as in TV shows, movies, advertisement, pop songs etc., but had no life of its own, the „geemu ongaku“ culture in Japan was already flourishing as a distinct music cultural segment. Renowned artists such as Haroumi Hosono or Koichi Sugiyama were involved, and labels such as G.M.O. Records profited from publishing game music LPs. In a second step, I discussed possible reasons for these diverse developments, and gave an overview on the situation of game music in the US at the same time. Though game music wasn’t a cultural phenomenon in it’s own right, it had nevertheless an impact on the development on several musicians and other musical genres. As a conclusion, I formulated open questions and possible paths for future research building on my considerations.


Mikhail Fiadotau (Tallinn University): Let’s Talk about Let’s Plays: A Cross-cultural Study of Playthrough Video Production in Japan and the West

My presentation was based on the early findings of an interview-based project focusing on the production of Let’s Play videos, or narrated videogame playthrough videos which have become a popular genre on video sharing platforms such as YouTube. Through qualitative interviews with Let’s Play producers active (and monetizing their content) on YouTube, I aimed to provide an account of their personal experiences: their motivation behind investing time and effort into video production, the ways their personal lives and schedules have been affected by it, the social dimensions of Let’s Playing community, their personal ambitions and relationships with YouTube as a “platform capitalist” hosting, promoting, and controlling their work. As my research involved English- as well as Japanese-speaking respondents, I also aimed to use Let’s Plays as a prism providing an insight into the manifestations of cultural differences in media production.


Zhou Peng (Ritsumeikan University): Why so Toxic?

This presentation was about the anti-social behaviors of some esports players, discussing what made them angry at everything and why the environment is so toxic. It also analyzed the relationship between anti-social behavior and gameplay issues in League of Legends player communities.