Here’s my presentation from the Internet Researchers conference. The conference was pretty good. Enjoyed the panels. Got some good questions. next year is in Sweden so I probably won’t be attending but 2011 is in Seattle so I hope to attend that one.
I have been meaning to write a post about my paper, “The Disappearance and Reappearance and Disappearance of the Player in Videogame Advertising that I wrote for the Digra conference last year. It has gotten a bit of a buzz lately (well as much buzz as a conference paper can get…) including almost making it into the “Game Studies Download of the top 10 academic papers. I made it to one of the “The 2008 ‘Shadow List’ – The Top 10 Research Findings that We Couldn’t Fit on our First Top 10 List.”
Before I could get around to tooting my own horn I read an article in the New York Times, “As Gaming Turns Social, Industry Shifts Strategies which talks about the increase of casual and social gaming. The part of the article that relates to my paper is this section:
Traditionally game advertisements, whether in print or on screen, have focused, naturally, on showing the game. But as it introduced the Wii, Nintendo devised a marketing breakthrough: Rather than show the game, show the players. In an entirely counterintuitive, brilliant move, most of Nintendo’s ads are now shot from the perspective of the television back out at the audience, showing families and groups of friends having fun together. Nintendo realized that emphasizing the communal experience of sharing interactive entertainment can be more captivating than the image of some monster, gangster or footballer on the screen.
However, as those who have either read my paper or were around when the home videogame market was starting will know, this simply isn’t true.
The early ads for videogames were all about showing the audience. Here are two pictures, one from a 2600 commercial and one from a Wii commercial that shows just how similar the two campains were:
However, the Atari ads went even further because at least a few of them showed people actually plugging the machines into the electric outlet.
The player has reappeared in videogame advertising time and time again. Every time the games introduce a new way of interacting with the machines then the advertisers will resurrect images of the player as an easy and effective way of demonstrating how to play the system.
Funny how being away for a week means you are buried under a mountain of grading.
So Japan and DiGRA was really fun. After about three days I was ready to come home though.
There were lots of interesting papers at the conference.
Although I’m more of a qualitiative kind of guy it seems as if most of the ones I saw dealing with players were quantitative in nature — not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Fact that they don’t tell you about Japan:
Although they have some really nice packaging, they love to put things in bags. No matter what or how little you buy they will put it in a plastic bag. I went to McDonalds one morning because I was hungry for American style breakfast. They put my order in the McDonalds paper bag and then put that bag into a clear plastic bag.
Although the conference was in Japan the majority of the panelists were still white people. I didn’t see anyone of African decent. So we have a lot of work to do in making games studies more multicultural.
This didn’t surprise me any but it was interesting to see that Scandanavia is still really the hotbed of games studies. Americans were few and far between. As such there were a lot of people who knew each other. I met a few people but overall the language barrier and not knowing anyone led to a kind of lonely trip.
Fact they don’t tell you about Japan:
They drive on the left. Now I knew that, but it didn’t really sink in until the second day when I was trying to cross the street and looked the wrong way and almost got ran over by oncoming traffic.
The corollary of this is that they also tend to walk on the left side of the sidewalk. That’s something I’ve always wondered about with countries that drive on the left. I constantly found myself walking against the flow of pedestrian traffic only to realize what was wrong after a few minutes. This really mattered on escalators. On most of them it is courteous in Japan to stand on the left side so that people in a hurry can run up (or down) the right side. Of course I always found myself stepping on the escalator and standing on the right side out of force of habit.
At the conference it was fun to put faces to names that I’ve read and in some cases communicated with for years. There were a couple cases were I have been trying to connect with some IU people but had to go all the way to Japan to finally meet them or I hadn’t seen them since the Vancouver conference two years ago. My panel also happened to have an IU graduate on it. Funny how you have to travel almost literally half way around the world to meet people that are at the same school as you!
Over all the conference was nice. It was quite good to be around people who had read (most of) the same things and know the subject matter. I didn’t even have to explain what I meant in my paper when I was throwing around the US and Japanese names for the Nintendo or what 2600 meant! Although there are people here at IU that study games, the department has been very supportive of my project and we are hiring someone for a “digital media” position, it can get a bit frustrating not to have anyone around to talk to about such questions as, “Why makes Final Fantasy a “role-playing” game?” I probably know more about film theory and film history than the average guy on the street but my dvd collection looks a lot different from the collection of most of my colleagues and whenever I have to talk about film in one of my classes there is always one student who knows a lot more of the nitty gritty details than I do.
So my trip was a good one. Even if it did leave me broke and in debt (click those ads!). I look forward to the next one. (Of course I have to finish my paper for the conference in Vancouver I’m going to next weekend first…)
I didn’t get around to posting for every day of the confernce so here’s a general overview of my experiences.
On the first full day of DiGRA 2007 I gave my paper and it was givetastic. They say it is better to give than receive… I didn’t do a very good job of fitting it into the time period so what little point I had was probably garbled. Oh well.
On that day I saw someone cite CMCL grad Bob Rehak and I really really wanted to deliver a version of that famous line about knowing Kennedy and you not being him. Unfortunately, the person citing Bob didn’t misuse Bob’s paper or anything and I didn’t have the guts just to randomly say that!
I started Wednesday by heading back to Akihabara. I just couldn’t get enough. Either that or I wanted to go buy this Matrix limited Edition DVD set that I had seen.
I decided to take the train over to Akihabara instead of walking. Unfortunately I got a but turned around when I got off the train and ended up accidentally walking nearly half way back to the hotel before I realized what I had done! But once I had figured that out I was able to go back to the store where I had seen the Matrix box and it was less than 1900 yen! Sweet!
Then I went to a 6 story arcade that I had somehow missed on my earlier trip. Because it was fairly early in the morning there weren’t many people there so I nearly had the place to myself. There were lots of games that I had no idea how to play. Then, on the 4th floor, over in the corner, I saw two of the following machines:
It was Half-Life 2: Survivor!! So I had to play a bit. I played through the Ravenholm level and I can see why, aside from being part of a genre that isn’t all that popular in the East, why the game was not all that successful. One reason is the controls. It is weird in that there is a chair and the controls are kind of like a bulldozer or something (and that it is yellow and orange and black also gives it a feeling of heavy machinery). There is a control on each arm rest. One for basically the equivalent of the WASD keys that was basically a big knob you moved forward, back, left, and right and on the right arm is a joystick that you can twist to turn left or right, pull forward or back to look down or up and with a trigger to fire.
Another reason is that the game is basically designed as a quarter eater. The game itself is broken into levels and in the attempt to make it more like House of the Dead or one of those rail shooters they put labels and arrows on the bad guys. Each “level” is broken into 3 areas which are the highlights of the level. At the end of each level you have to put in another coin (a 100 yen coin in this case). As far as I could tell there isn’t a gravity gun and so all the puzzles that require it are either gone or shown in cut scenes. There are a lot of cut scenes. In between is the physics stuff or the switching from a vehicle to on foot. Alex and the other NPCs don’t seem to exist.
After that I went to get some more tasty Indian food and headed off to DiGRA.
That afternoon and Thursday I attended panels and such. Fellow IU person Edward Castronova gave a well-received keynote one day. He asked for volunteers from the audience. Of course I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take the stage. The next day Marc Prensky gave the keynote. Many seemed to think that he talk was better suited for a different audience but I think it was a good idea to bring someone in to try to talk about the useful potentials of games.
Friday morning I checked out of the hotel, drug my luggage over to the conference to get the cd of the proceedings and then hit the airport. Luckilly, I ran into a couple of Canadians and we were able to help one another find the station and our seats on the train so I was able to get to the airport in time. Of course when I got home I found that my cd of the proceedings had been smashed in my luggage! Oh well I have the printed proceedings and I can only assume that pdfs of the papers will be made available on the website since every other year has been put online.
The plane ride was as horrible as you could imagine a 11 hour plane ride for a 6ft 4in 255lb man would be. At Narita I chose the slowest line to get through Japanese customs — the people were literally counting how many people would get through other lines for every one person that got through ours. I think the final count was 3 to 1.
I had a transfer at the Detroit airport and let me tell you, the Detroit airport is horrible. I’ve never had such a pain in my ass at an airport as I did at Detroit. First we had to get our passports checked. Again I got the slowest line. This time people were counting7 people for every one in our line. At one point the guy actually got up and walked out of the booth! Then we had to pick up our bags even though we were getting on another plane and go through customs. Because I made the mistake of traveling alone I got picked to have my bags hand searched. Yay! That only took an hour to get up to the front of that line. The actual customs guys barely even looked at my bags but it was enough to make me have to hurry to make my connecting flight.
I finally got back to Indianapolis, got my vehicle out of long term parking and made my way back to Blomington. Then I went to sleep for 16 hours! Today I’ve just been recovering from the jet lag. It is good to be home.
Tomorrow I will post about my overall thoughts on the conference and post some things that they don’t tell you about Japan (like the fact that they have awesome Indian food!)
Yesterday I made my way to Akihabara. It is twice as big and twice as crazy as you could imagine. The first store I went into was 5 floors of action figures.
On the other hand it is almost impossible to go into dvd stores without accidentally wandering into creepy softcore pron.
I had some awesome Indian food. Yes I had Indian food in Japan. I don’t like Japanese food very much but I love Indian so if there’s a choice, it is Indian every time.
Today I give my paper. luckily it is at 10:30 on the first day so hopefully there won’t be too many people there!
Here’s a link to my flickr set of Akihabara pictures.
So when I got up I decided to try to go out to the Tokyo Game Show. Luckily, I didn’t have any problems navigating the train system (although I think I overpaid on my way out but so what?).
Overall the show was pretty darn cool. Loots of noise and tons of people. Also tons of boothbabes. It was very weird seeing all these people taking pictures of them.
There were also some wild cosplayers but I didn’t take pictures of them because they had a sign up saying you had to have permission and there were people standing in singlefile lines just to take pictures of them.
I got tons of fliers and fans and a few cds of stuff. A couple things that I guess are little cell phone dangly things? I don’t really know.
I didn’t really play too many games because most things interesting like the Metal Gear Solid stuff had lines of an hour or so.
I did play what was one of the few FPS games there and I’m fairly certain it was the only one that hasn’t been made by a North American or European company. It was called PaperMan and its gimmick was that all of the character models looked like something out of PaRappa the Rapper. All of the character models were 2d and so if you looked at someone from the side it was hard to see them. In the trailer they played there was a scene where one person shot through a hole in another person and hit a 3rd guy. I’m not sure if that is actually possible but if so that is pretty neat.
I stood in line for about 20 minutes to play it and there wasn’t really anything all that interesting about it aside from the looks. The weapon models look straight out of Counter-Strike but there were only like 4 weapons in the demo. The characters moved really slow. There are some powerups but they didn’t seem to do much.
Take a look at the flickr set of pictures if you want. I’ll post some videos in the morning.
ok Japan. I’m here. Where were my dancing and singing kids? Is that tomorrow?
I’m at the hotel thanks to some guy who helped me navigate the Tokyo subway (we ain’t got no subway in Indiana!). After that I”m not sure if I can make my way to the Tokyo Game Show tomorrow or not.
I’ve been awake for 24 hours and I think the toilet is possessed. I just hope that it doesn’t catch on fire.
More when I wake up.