Author: blairruby

Japanese Visual Novels

After experiencing the Japanese visual novel and dating simulator game, Hatoful Boyfriend, I have found myself intrigued by the popularity of these types of video games. Before playing Hatoful Boyfriend, I had never heard of a visual novel. While it is true that most video games do hold an element of ‘visual novel’, this game in particular purposely lacked a lot of gamer control that I’m used to. This surprised me as it technically is categorised as a video game, yet your options to manipulate the game itself is very little. Now and then there would be an option to choose, for example, which High School Club you were going to join, which would essentially shift the story’s direction. This means to uncover every aspect of the novel the game would have to be played at least ten times, revealing each possible play. Personally, unless you were invested in the game’s storyline the whole thing can become a bit tedious at the start. Wondering if it was just me finding the game boring after reading several reviews online I turned to Reddit where users shared their own Hatoful Boyfriend perspective. Each user’s experience actually differed from one another depending on the route they followed. While some ended up with the expected outcome- a boyfriend- others ended up down a darker path. This path involved the protagonist’s murder and player’s having to continue the story through the eyes of one of the pigeons trying to discover the truth. Reading each player’s experience made me reinvest in the game and its surprisingly complex structure and storyline.

After so many Reddit users taking an interest in the game and sharing just how unique the storyline actually is, I found an interview with the Japanese creators, Hato Moa and Damurushi, to uncover the intent behind the pigeon dating simulator. It was actually created as an April Fool’s Joke, a parody of another Japanese dating simulator, which explains the game’s humourous tones. The creators met through an internet community and were both highly interested in creating their own JRPG (Japanese role playing game). There was less thought behind the choice of using pigeons, as it was discovered Hato Moa has quite the fascination with birds.

The overall interest of the game has made me fascinated in the popularity and history of visual novels in Asian culture, specifically Japan. My initial idea for this blog post was to research both visual novels and dating simulators in the Asian market, however, after finding out that majority of dating simulators are in fact rated X, I’ve decided it best to just focus on the visual novel element.

The history of visual novels backtracks to 33 years ago when the Japanese video game publisher, Enix came out with an interactive mystery game called Portopia Renzku Satsujin Jiken. It follows the murder of the highly prominent banker Kouzou Yamakawa. The game relied on text-based inputs and dialogue scenes essentially introducing the visual novel format – onscreen visuals and dynamic character interaction- to the Japanese industry. From this, most visual novels still remain mostly in Japan however the introduction of the platform to the western world has increased. One reason for this introduction is the fan groups that have pushed the transition of certain games into the western world. Fans contacting game creators for an official translation and localisation making it available for western countries.

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Regardless of visual novels in western society, in Japan they are still hugely popular. One reason for this is because the Japanese tend to be huge on reading. In a lot of their games text is already very much integrated. This is another aspect which I’m interested in. For my research project I hope to further examine the key characteristics that make up typical Japanese video games. At the moment my experience with them is still limited so I hope to also branch out into different genres. My starting point could be the mystery game Portopia Renzku Satsujin Jiken. I do not know yet how difficult this 33-year-old game will be to get my hands on but I have already found YouTube How to Play videos on the game. Along with this I still hope to investigate the visual novel trend in Japan further.

Reference:

https://www.gamespot.com/forums/games-discussion-1000000/visual-novels-could-they-work-in-western-market-28997195/

http://www.denofgeek.com/us/games/video-games/255200/the-rise-of-the-western-visual-novel

http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/answerman/2016-03-30/.100434

Hatoful Boyfriend

I’ve never had much experience with digital games, especially ones of Asian descent. Which is why this is an area I wish to explore for my independent research project.

Initially my idea was to analyse the well-known game ‘dance dance revolution’ however, I found it almost impossible to get. The download.jpggame has slowly died out due to the introduction of new technologies, such as X-box Kinect where sensors don’t require the classic dance pad anymore (and without a dance pad what’s the point?). Nowadays the game is almost strictly found at game arcades. Unfortunately, my closest arcade is located an hour away from where I live. Too far to dedicate an hour a day, which was my initial goal.

From this I was stuck and was almost about to turn to Pacman but was instead recommended a game called ‘Hatoful Boyfriend.’ The game is a 2011 Japanese visual novel video game that is known for being vastly different. It’s based on the story of a human who attends an elite high school for talented birds.  As the only human in attendance, the game focuses on the in-depth stories and relationships that they share with classmates and teachers.

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To be honest I didn’t do much research on the game before I played it. One thing I did research was ‘strangest Japanese video games‘ and surprise, surprise ‘Hatoful Boyfriend’ was number one. From this I knew I needed to play this game.

I downloaded the game from the Apple App Store for $14.99. The game was downloaded onto my laptop, however, if I were to get it on my phone it would have cost me $8.99. Thinking it might have been easier to play on a larger device I decided to spend the extra $5.99 (I do not recommend this). Pretty quickly, it was up and running and I was able to begin my new life as a simple human trying to find a pigeon boyfriend.

The game introduces you to a number of different characters, both students and teachers. As an added feature the game gives you the option to see these characters in bird form and in human form – is this meant to make it less creepy? Who knows? You follow the storyline until you find out which bird you end up with. Throughout the game you are given options that lead you to alternative paths ultimately deciding which bird boyfriend you end up with. All up there are eight potential boyfriends. To name a few there is the mysterious French transfer student, the childhood friend, the popular upper-class guy and the quiet introvert.

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I’m not going to lie, the game gets boring quickly. Unless you’re invested in the storyline it’s not very entertaining. All up it took me over an hour to finish. You have the option of skipping through text which is a helpful hack if you are playing the game for a second time. Despite the entertainment level, the concept of a visual novel is very cool. The graphics are also extremely beautiful. Each persona is done with traditional Japanese anime characteristics as you can see below:

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While the game itself is not ground-breaking, or something I would even play again, it definitely has me intrigued in the concept of visual novels. Before this game I hadn’t heard of them nor experienced one. This had me asking the questions: How popular are visual novels? Which countries are they popular in? How successful are they? Is it a thing of the future? These questions I hope to explore further in my independent research project.

Through this experience my whole topic for my digital artefact has shifted. Now instead of just exploring Asian game culture I have decided to focus on the impact of visual novels on different societies/ cultures. At the moment my plan is to present my found data in the form of a research essay. I look forward to applying this experience to the background research I will be conducting in my next blog post.

Stay tuned!

Autoethnography

Autoethnography is undeniably a big word. Which is why initially I was pretty intimidated by it. However, breaking it down with the help of the 2011 text ‘Autoethnography: an overview’ by Carolyn Ellis, Tony Adams & Arthur Bochner and class discussions essentially helped me achieve a good understanding of the term. Simply put, autoethnography is where an individual uses their own personal experiences in order to comprehend cultural understandings.

After establishing this understanding I then applied the term to my own life and realised something pretty extraordinary. Without even knowing it I have been an active autoethnographer for the three years I have download-1.jpgbeen at University. By starting my personal WordPress blog I have been using my own experiences to understand other cultures. However, the biggest struggle I have found with autoethnography is achieving an equal balance between self-perspective and research or in other words the equal balance between artful and scientific. This balance comes from within the word itself. Autoethonography derives from two separate words- autobiography and ethnography. Autobiography can make a text artful by using various authorial points of view. Ethnography brings scientific descriptions into a text and can rely on other people’s research and experiences.
Personally, I have always preferred relying on research to back my argument. But what I have recently come to understand is that you need your own experiences in order to generate epiphanies. From these we can then apply research and methodology to analyse these experiences.

According to Ellis’ text “Autoethnographers must not only use their methodological tools and research literature to analyze experience, but also must consider ways others may experience similar epiphanies; they must use personal experience to illustrate facets of cultural experience, and, in so doing, make characteristics of a culture familiar for insiders and outsiders. To accomplish this might require comparing and contrasting personal experience against existing research.” (Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. 2011, p.g. 2)

I hope to try and apply this understanding in my future research and attempt to achieve this balance.

Reference:

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

Akira (1988)

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Watching the 1988 Japanese film, Akira, was actually my very first time watching a full-length anime movie. It was also the first time I had heard about the film. Prior to this screening my only experience with anime has been watching the television shows Pokémon and One Piece, as a child. This limited experience with Asian culture has a lot to do with my Australian up-bringing where my perspective is majority western.
However, my views have been expanded in the past through my 2010 trip to Japan where I was given a sense of Japanese food, fashion, street life and traditions. In saying this, my trip was a while back and only brief, so my experience with Asia is still very lacking.

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Akira was a perfect introduction to a popular side of Asian culture I have never before experienced. Instantly I found details that differed to the movies I’ve grown up with. One of the biggest things that stuck out was the use of multiple themes and genres. It included romance, violence, comedy, war, politics, fantasy, supernatural, death, nudity, education, street racing. Akira had something for everyone and I believe that’s something rarely found in one film. It brought up so many topics within such a short amount of time and I think that comes down to the genius creativity and imagination involved in the making of the movie. It’s why I believe the film, and anime itself, is so successful across so many different cultures. There is a quote I found online from a long-term anime lover taken from her response regarding the popularity of anime:

“Anime has something for just about everyone. It’s full of cute things, scary things, and pretty things. It pulls you into the story and sometimes makes you sleep with the light on, or will put you in a bad mood for the rest of the day. But it is also full of humor and fun. That extreme change in thought can happen all in a single series.”
– Celia Mitchell

Her reaction as a long term watcher is similar to the one I received just from my first taste of anime films. Akira was a great introduction to a side of Asian culture that I have never experienced before.