100 Yen for your thoughts

Entering this course, I felt as though I may have had something of an advantage over the coursework. I have held an interest in Asian culture for some time now, beginning from the first time I witnessed Pokémon on Cheez TV one early morning before primary school. Ever since then, my interest has proliferated out into other Anime series along with movies (Studio Ghibli), literature (Huraki Murakami), video games (Katamari Damacy) and various other strains. I’ve also had the excellent opportunity of visiting several Asian countries including South Korea and Japan in recent years. How does this impact my interpretation of Asian culture and the way I interact with it?

Being raised primarily in a western based society and being exposed to western media, my flirtations with eastern culture are exactly that, fleeting. Only when one can immerse themselves within the culture do they actively become a part of it I’ve found and nothing demonstrates this better than the documentary we watched in class today, 100 Yen: The Japanese arcade experience. The documentary is concerned with the fascination in Japan of 100 yen arcades and the kind of people that they contain. It involves several talking heads on the subject alongside footage of gaming tournaments, Japanese locations and the arcades themselves.

Having spent time in several of these arcades in my time in Japan, the documentary was not much of a culture shock for me. Having witnessed some of these die hard gamers in the flesh meant that the documentary was nothing new, however, speaking from a western perspective, I still found the behaviour fairly perplexing. A lot of the games many of these people were playing could be played at home on video game consoles for a much smaller price. Also, what was the end goal of taking part in these intense gaming sessions? It would seem that the sheer amount of hours put into these games would turn them into chores over entertainment for myself.

The documentary did well in illuminating the answers to these questions. The element of paying for these games made it more of a challenge as the gamers were wont to make the most of the money. Therefore the element of monetary loss was a means of spurring on the player to do their absolute best. I found this fascinating as (also mentioned in the documentary) arcades have become few and far in between in Australia with my local one disappearing many years back. This also tied in with my second question which was that it was about the community above all.

These people were so invested in these games as it became such an integral part of their personality through the time they spent in these places. As shown in the documentary, it was in these institutions that they found like-minded people to play against and fraternise with. The best way that I could liken it to my own lifestyle would be through my own musical endeavours. In being part of a band and making music, I become involved with like-minded people and frequent the kinds of places where these people congregate. While it may seem obsessive or banal to some outside of it, that doesn’t diminish my own attraction to it and I’m sure this is likely the case with these sorts as well.

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