Author: Gabi

My name's Gabi. I'm 21. I'm a communications graduate, and a self-confessed chocoholic, bookworm and pessimist. I use movie quotes in general conversation, and have a very strange sense of humour. This blog is dedicated to my appreciation of movies and books, and occasionally some more personal things.

Revisiting The Katamari Series.

In my first blog post I looked back on my experience of playing ‘Me and My Katamari’ when I first got it in 2007. I mentioned that when I got to the last blog post I’d replay it and reflect on my experience.

Well, this is my last post. I will be looking at my experience replaying ‘Me and My Katamari’, and my experience of playing ‘Katamari Damacy’ for the first time. I want to compare not only the actual games, but also the consoles.

Starting a new game for ‘Me and My Katamari’ felt like I was greeting an old friend. Seriously, I already had three saved and completed games on my PSP. I used to play this game a lot. However, this time around I actually payed attention to the story and the dialogue, rather than just getting the gist of it and diving straight in. My impatience all those years ago can certainly account for some confusion as to what I had to do and why. The entire games’ concept suddenly made so much more sense.

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Screenshot of ‘Me and My Katamari’.

It took me all of five minutes to remember the controls (which are a little complicated) and get back into the groove of playing the game. Somehow I remembered all the levels and the best ways to complete them. I was left feeling satisfied and proud of myself as a result. I remembered each of the animals who ask for an island, but only just realised the genius behind their assignments. For example, a ‘smart’ island for the dolphin, and a ‘loud’ island for the cicadas. I’m not saying I didn’t get the connections previously, but I certainly appreciate them now.

KatamariDamacyboxPlaying ‘Katamari Damacy’, the first game in the Katamari series, on a PS2 emulator on my laptop was sort of weird. This was for a number of reasons; chief of which was the fact that figuring out the controls took a couple levels because there were 24 different keys to remember. It certainly changes the entire experience of playing a PS2 game, when suddenly you have to press keyboard keys instead of controller buttons.

I have to say that while the games themselves are so similar they produced varying reactions and feelings.

Playing the PSP game felt more intimate and I could curl up in bed and play. I took it with me as I moved around the house. I picked it up and put it down as I went about my day. And I didn’t need to check no one wanted to watch the only TV in our house. I became absorbed in it; with my head phones in and the seriously wicked soundtrack blocking everything else out.

Playing the PS2 game I felt like I was committing to playing for a longer time. I settled in. It’s not the sort of game I played to pass a couple minutes, rather to pass a couple hours. I wasn’t as immersed in the game, but I think that is because the sound wasn’t working and it wasn’t on the big TV.

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Playing ‘Katamari Damacy’ on my laptop.

Shaw (2010 p.411) states that video games encourage flow, a “state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost for the shear sake of doing it”.

I think that this quote really sums up my experience with the Katamari series. They’re these strange yet captivating games, which appear completely illegible upon first glance. But you realise that it makes perfect sense, and is funny and cute, if you just look past that initial stereotypic perception of ‘quirky Asianess’. Sure it’s quirky, but we need to make sure we look past that, and realise that such a concept cannot (and should not) be limited to one group or genre.

– Gabi

 

References:

Shaw, A 2010, “What is Video Game Culture? Cultural Studies and Game Studies”, Games and Culture, vol. 5, no. 4, pp. 403-424

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Retro Handheld Video Games.

This week I finally got around to playing some retro Japanese handheld video games. Retro means something from the recent past, and each of the four games I played were from the early 1980s. I managed to find the website ‘Pica Pic’. It has 26 handheld games which can all be played on the site as though you were physically holding them in your hands. Unfortunately it was the closest I could get to any of the games. But to be honest, I think the whole experience was pretty close to the real thing.

After playing each game I asked myself a number of questions framed by autoethnography, and inspired, once again, by Sheridan’s list. They included how I felt, what aspects confused me and why, were there any unexplainable gaps in my knowledge, but also if my reactions were due to a cultural or time difference.

First I played Nintendo’s ‘Donkey Kong’ from the Game & Watch multi screen series. It was released in 1982, and reportedly sold more than 1,000,000 copies worldwide (In the Attic). Then I played Nintendo’s ‘Octopus’, from the Game & Watch wide screen series. It was released in 1981. DK 2 ‘Donkey Kong’ was pretty cool (especially the casing). You still got to flip the console open, and the buttons actually moved you pressed the corresponding keys. It did take me a few goes to understand what I was supposed to do, and why I kept dying (apparently you can’t jump in certain parts!).

I think I had trouble because I was over thinking everything, as I’m used to modern games which are generally more complicated. In doing so I missed the obvious fact that there was something in my way. This probably has a lot more to do with the time gap than any cultural barrier, as the concept was quite easy to understand (influenced by the popularity of DK nowadays). However, there is one thing that confuses me which might be explained by cultural differences: Why is an enormous ape throwing barrels at Mario???

All of my thoughts on ‘Octopus’ can be summed up thusly: DAMN THAT SLIMY OCTOPUS TO THE FIERY DEPTHS OF HELL!!! (or better yet a fish market) Octopus 2 Moving on.

Lastly, I played a Popy Electronics game called ‘Ncha! Bycha’, which is the third game in the Dr. Slump Arale series and was released in 1982. Before I started actually playing I was prepared to be confused and, I suppose, culturally on the outside. This game looked like it was foreign and stereotypically Japanese. The characters on the case are cutesy and it’s all bright colours and weird facial expressions. I wasn’t disappointed (though I was certainly confused). Ncha! Bycha 2 I quickly gathered that the point of the game was to greet the characters when they popped out of their dwellings. This seems fairly straight forward, until I noticed that these characters included an alien, a baby devil and a superhero lying on a skateboard; cue raised eyebrow.

It was certainly a motely crew, and would probably have turned heads (if not raised eyebrows) in Western countries, if not solely for the baby devil. Even these little details bring to my attention the difference not only in the broad sense of culture, but also in values and ideals. I doubt very much that any Western country in the 80s would have had a devil as a character in what is essentially a children’s game.

Getting back to the point of the game, if you missed one of the neighbours, who quickly overwhelmed me by popping out too fast, they promptly punch you in the face. Yep. Right in the noggin. As I’m sure you can guess, I was quite shocked, though humoured, by this occurrence. Whether or not it’s supposed to be funny is once again brought back to cultural differences (I have a feeling it is though).

– Gabi

References:

Sheridan, R , “Autoethnography: Research as Participant”, viewed 24th Sept 2014, found: http://ricksheridan.netmar.com/auto/

“Donkey Kong”, In the Attic, retrieved 24th Sept 2014, found: http://www.intheattic.co.uk/donkey_kong.htm

Liveblogging and ‘Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep’.

This week I introduced myself to the PSP game ‘Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep‘, and live blogged my experience of starting the game. I’ll admit that due to a rather busy schedule I haven’t had as much time playing the game as I would like. However, this post isn’t just about my actual experience playing the game, it’s also about my experience live blogging.

But first a bit of background about the game. Developed and distributed in 2010 by the Japanese company, Square Enix, the game is the sixth instalment of the ‘Kingdom Hearts’ series. It is a prequel game (something I didn’t know until writing this post) and by the end of 2010 sold a total of 1.27 million copies around the world (Gantayat 2010). Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any statistics about the game’s sales in Australia.

Some questions (Sheridan) I am asking myself through my reflection this week include:

  • What was frustrating or boring about this to me?
  • What are my feelings toward the group, and what are the possible reasons for my reactions?
  • Are there unexplainable holes in my general understanding of the people or event?

So last Monday I set up in my room with my PSP and my laptop and got ready to live blog playing KH:BS for the first time. I was excited in the beginning, but this quickly turned to frustration as I had to update my PSP before it would open the game. This took a good half an hour as apparently it didn’t have enough battery.

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My first few posts.

The relief I felt when it finally started was quashed by how irritated I was. I did know my irritation was directed at the PSP, not the game itself, but I think it rubbed off on the experience of playing. My patience was miniscule; not at all helped by the fact that there were so many mini movies, and that I often had no idea what was happening.

Although I did know about ‘Kingdom Hearts’ before I played, I didn’t know the story and so felt like I was missing something. I don’t think this had anything to do with the origin of the game, or the fact that some things may have got lost in translation. But at the same time, because I don’t have that knowledge of the previous games, I don’t really know if that’s true.

After trying live blogging I had a look around on the internet to see how other people have done the same thing. It was difficult finding examples, but there were a number on the Tumblr tag ‘Liveblogging video games’.

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I am sure that there are plenty of other people out there who live blog their gaming experiences; it’s just a matter of finding them. The live blogging aspect of video game culture isn’t very big. I believe this is because a lot of people get so absorbed in the game they’re playing that they aren’t thinking about sharing what they’re doing. I know I had to consciously think about blogging, and had to write quick so I didn’t miss what was still happening in the game. Also from the examples I did find there were only a couple who were playing handheld consoles.

In the end I think that live blogging is a great way to express your thoughts on a game in the exact moment. It’s very honest and generally uncensored. You get people’s raw thoughts and emotions. And I think that’s something we rarely see.

– Gabi

References:

Gantayat, A 2010, “Square Enix’s Biggest Games Were Dragon Quest and Kane & Lynch”, IGN, website, viewed 17th Sept 2014, found: http://au.ign.com/articles/2010/11/04/square-enixs-biggest-games-were-dragon-quest-and-kane-lynch

Sheridan, R , “Autoethnography: Research as Participant”, viewed 17th Sept 2014, found: http://ricksheridan.netmar.com/auto/

Video Games and Autoethnography.

In this week’s post I wanted to detail how my research project about Japanese handheld video games actually corresponds with, and is guided and framed by, the concept of autoethnography. In order to do this I need to outline the methodology which I will be applying to my research.

Ellis et al. (2011) describe autoethnography as a combination of certain characteristics of autobiography and ethnography. From autobiography we take the way of writing about past experiences, and from ethnography the practice of studying a culture to better understand it. So as an autoethnographer I need to “retrospectively and selectively write about epiphanies” (Ellis et al 2011) which come from experiencing Japanese handheld games and the culture surrounding them.

By playing a number of different games I am directly experiencing the culture and so can perform autoethnography quite directly. I can’t just write about playing the games, rather I need to write about what I bring to the experience, particularly the things which have influenced my way of thinking and acting.

Though I will not limit my autoethnographic research to simply playing the games. I need to make sure that I experience the culture behind the games, particularly on social media sites, such as Tumblr. I need to consider how other people may experience the same things, and why they may have such different experiences. (For example, is it to do with something as big as culture, or something more personal?)

The sorts of questions I will be asking myself in the following weeks will come from Rick Sheridan’s list of ‘Autoethnography prompts’; such as “what did I pay attention to most?” and “are there unexplainable holes in my general understanding?”.

For my digital artefact (Tumblr blog) I will attempt to get people to share their own experiences with handheld video games, and do some more research about production and consumption of Japanese handheld games in Australia. In the coming weeks’ blog posts I will be playing a couple more video games (liveblogging as I play), and also looking at retro handheld games and the culture around them.

– Gabi

References:

Ellis, C, Adams, T & Bochner, A 2011, “Autoethnography: An Overview”, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no. 1, accessed 10th Sept 2014, found: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1101108

Sheridan, R , “Autoethnography: Research as Participant”, accessed 10th Sept 2014, found: http://ricksheridan.netmar.com/auto/

Tumblr and Japanese Video Games.

This past week I’ve been hanging around Tumblr, checking out a number of blogs dedicated to video games in general and to specific games. I also got around to setting up my own Tumblr blog for my digital artifact.

Before I get into the details of my experiences with two Tumblr blogs, I would like to mention that the focus of my autoethnographic study has shifted a little. It’s no longer just about me playing video games (though I’ll still be doing that); it’s now more broadly about Japanese handheld video games. I’ll look at their history and evolution, as well as explore the fandom communities online (mostly through my Tumblr blog).

I found these two blogs easily enough by searching ‘Japanese video games’ and ‘vintage games’ on Tumblr and picking a random suggested blog.

The first blog I checked out was ‘tendercute’, which, while it doesn’t just have Japanese video game posts, has many which are related to handheld games. The blog boasts to have the most recent US and Japanese game articles already translated (“so you don’t have to”). I find this particularly interesting, as the blogger must be thinking that people who speak English (perhaps of ‘Western’ origin) won’t be able to find and read Japanese articles elsewhere. I certainly found it helpful that everything was in English, and I suppose if I found an article in Japanese I would have to trust Google to translate it for me (seriously, why would I bother trying to find someone else to translate?). The layout and minimalist design of the blog makes it really easy to look at and search through. I suppose this made me feel quite calm while looking through the pages, and that in turn made me keep looking.

The second blog was ‘vintage-games’. The blog is dedicated to video games and their characters. It’s a bit overwhelming, particularly compared to ‘tendercute’, as the background is really busy, and with the posts overlaying it sort of hurt my eyes. This actually made me a bit sad as the blogs’ content is great, but I didn’t look through many pages because of the background. I’m not really sure why it made me feel like this. Could it be that I’ve been taught to like things clear or plain? (knowing my mum that wouldn’t surprise me) Or is it a more cultural thing? (or am I seriously over analysing a simple thing?) Anyway, I would be interested to find out what other people think of the blog, and what their audience statistics are.

Also if anyone has any tips or comment for my own blog, I would love to hear!

– Gabi

Handheld Video Games Are Themselves Peripheral.

That’s right people, handheld video games are peripheral to regular console video games. They were created to bridge that little gap between being out and about (and seriously wanting to play a game) and being at home in front of the TV. For this post I found a group which plays handheld video games and documents their experiences and personal stories.

The group I found (with some help) is a YouTube channel called GameGrumps. It’s basically two American guys, Danny and Arin, playing different video games and ‘grumping’ about them. They use YouTube videos to record and catalogue their experiences playing the different games. I watched a couple of different videos about handheld video games, such as Pokemon FireRed which was released by Nintendo on the Game Boy Advance in 2004.

Pokémon_FireRed

While watching the video ‘Pokemon FireRed: I Never – PART 1 – Game Grumps’, I was constantly frowning; seriously could two grown men be more immature? I felt like they were really trying to make their videos entertaining by talking constantly, making fun of the smallest things, and making really bad jokes and sound effects. Most of that stuff was completely unnecessary, and to be honest, put me off watching more of their videos.

I’m also sorry to admit it was a bit boring watching more than one of their videos. I shall put that down to the fact that I would rather play the game myself, than watch someone else play it. Though in saying that I feel like a bit of a hypocrite because when I was younger I would sit and watch my older brother play games such as Final Fantasy. But the thing is I could offer him suggestions on what to do to solve a problem or encourage him when he was fighting a boss; that’s not really something you can do when you’re watching a recording of someone playing a game.

In fact this way of experiencing game play felt kind of odd; like I wasn’t really experiencing the game, rather watching a trailer for something I could play later. It’s not something I’m used to as I rarely watch game reviews online, or any other game related videos. Maybe if I had the GameGrumps’ videos would have been more entertaining to me, or maybe these sorts of videos are aimed at an audience that I simply don’t fit in.

To finish I would just like to leave this video here. It has absolutely nothing to do with the GameGrumps, but it has a lot to do with handheld video games and the Gameboy (and it’s much more entertaining if you ask me).

– Gabi

Tom Nook and ‘Animal Crossing: Wild World’.

Animal_Crossing_Wild_World_Game_CoverReleased in 2005, ‘Animal Crossing: Wild World’ (known in Japan as ‘Animal Forest: Come on Over’) is a life simulation game for the Nintendo DS, where the player is a person who lives among animals. The game happens in real time, with time progressing even when it’s turned off.

My experience with the game was tinged with excitement as I’ve wanted to play it since it came out. It was quite different to what I was expecting; especially the ‘real time’ aspect. I suppose I was hoping I’d get to be an animal. Alas, my character was a cute little girl with bubblegum pink hair and big googly eyes.

I’m not sure exactly why I didn’t enjoy playing ‘Animal Crossing’ as much as I thought I would. On the surface it’s the sort of game I should love, as I’m a big fan of life sims. But this love of other life sims could easily have influenced my experience as I looked for certain factors which are usually present in the games I play.

Was I perhaps heaping a stereotype of Japanese life sims onto ‘Animal Crossing’ without even realising it? I certainly wasn’t experiencing the game with a clear mind. I was playing it and thinking about all the things I should be paying attention to; like game tropes, areas which could cause miscommunication, any aspects which could be considered typically ‘Asian’ (but seriously, what does that even mean?!).

For the next couple of weeks I will need to try and separate myself from the whole reflective aspect until AFTER I’ve played the game. Otherwise I won’t be able to really get to the core of what I’m experiencing, and I won’t be able to give anything a ‘thick description’.

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One of the most popular characters in the ‘Animal Crossing’ series is the racoon, Tom Nook. He’s a bit of an a-hole, and people really like making memes and fanart about him (check out the Tumblr tag, it’s golden). He continuously torments the player’s character. In fact, you begin the game in debt to him as he loans you money for a house. He then makes you work for him to pay it off, and according to Stephen Totilo (2013), he “seems to be laughing at you all the way”. Seriously, if you look him up on Urbandictionary.com you’ll find that he’s defined as both a “cheap bastard” and a “slumlord” (while I think the first applies, the second is a bit harsh).

‘Tom Nook Will Rule Us All’ by Pickassoreborn on DeviantArt

He’s become the face of ‘Animal Crossing’, and is one of Nintendo’s celebrities; though not quite up there with Mario or Link. He has appeared in both ‘Super Smash Bros. Melee’ as a trophy and its sequel ‘Super Smash Bros. Brawl’. He is also in the Nintendo Collector’s Edition of Monopoly. In other words, he’s a drawing card for the ‘Animal Crossing’ series, and has a fairly large presence within the fan community. Mutual loathing has produced a lot of online content, including a number of dedicated twitter accounts.

Also, I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to present my final findings, and I think I might try to create a video, or YouTube playlist. I suppose we’ll see how I go.

– Gabi

References:

Totilo, S 2013, “Nintendo: Tom Nook is ‘Misunderstood’”, Kotaku, accessed 11th August 2014, here: kotaku.com/nintendo-tom-nook-is-misunderstood-506751609

Oz Comic Con, Just Cos.

For the DIGC330 group assignment our group consists of myself (Gabi Lester), Kristy O’Donnell, and Anthony Rewak. We have decided to create a short autoethnographic documentary about our experience at Oz Comic Con in Sydney on the 13th of September.

Andrew Michael Phillips-Momocon 2012-82

Sailor Moon is an incredibly popular anime, especially for cosplay.

We will be investigating the relationship between conventions and cosplay. We’re hoping that we can focus our research on the cosplay of anime characters. We will interview people who are cosplaying and ask them questions about who they are dressed as, why they chose that character, if they have cosplayed before, how important they think conventions are to fandoms and the fandom experience, and how the convention environment has influenced them and their interests.

We will be presenting our findings through a Prezi with parts of our documentary dispersed throughout our research.

Let us know what you think of our idea, and if you have any questions you’d like us to ask the cosplayers at Oz Comic Con! (also if any of you are going too let us know!)

Thanks,

Gabi and co.

Remembering ‘Me and My Katamari’.

The focus I will be taking with my autoethnographic study will be Japanese video games which can be played on a portable gaming platform. I’m choosing games which can be played on a portable platform purely to help narrow down the options. I will play a new game each week and talk about my experiences with them. However, today I want to recall an experience I had playing a game which, until recently, I didn’t know was Japanese.

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Back in early 2007, when I was 13, I had a game on the PSP called ‘Me and My Katamari’. I had no idea exactly a ‘katamari’ was (apparently it just refers to the sticky ball you roll around in the game), or where the game came from, but I quickly found that I loved it. It was a really new experience for me as I had never really played a game like it; though I don’t mean I’d never played a Japanese video game before, because I had (and I watched my brother play ‘Final Fantasy‘ more often than you’d think).

Me&my-katamari-screenshot

The Katamari Series was produced by the Japanese company Namco, and consists of 6 main games over a variety of gaming platforms. The general idea of ‘Me and My Katamari’ was to roll up items on Earth to rebuild islands for some homeless animals. Sounds a bit strange, and to be honest it was. The colours were bright and everything was a bit in your face. The celestial Royals (pictured below) were the oddest beings I’d ever encountered in a video game. They created magical winds and spewed rainbows.


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There were times when I didn’t really understand what I was supposed to do in the game, but I kept playing because I wanted to beat the clock or make an even better island made of snacks and trees. I would get really frustrated when I couldn’t complete a level, but I would work at it. I would figure out a way to get my Katamari as big as possible as quickly as possible. I suppose that was really the aim of the entire game. And while it does sound a little pointless if you say it like that, I really enjoyed ‘Me and My Katamari’, and played it constantly.

After I play all of the other games I have lined up for this autoethnographic study I am going to go back and replay ‘Me and My Katamari’ to see what it’s like 7 years on. I’ll compare my experience replaying the game to my experiences with playing all the other games for the first time.

I have a feeling I will notice a lot more replaying the game, but I am wondering how it will make me feel the second time round. Also it will be interesting to look at what I bring to the experience.

– Gabi

Introducing Me.

Talking about myself has never been the easiest thing to do. Of course being able to write about myself is better because I can sit at my laptop for twenty minutes thinking about what to say and not get weird looks (hopefully).

My name is Gabrielle Lester; but all of you wonderful people can call me Gabi. I am a 20 year old fangirl with an overactive imagination and a serious chocolate dependency, whose main goal in life is to publish a bestselling novel (or series; but I suppose I’m cool with just the one too).

I love reading (and writing, obviously) and will read just about anything if I think it looks interesting. I am currently wading through ‘The Two Towers’ and am dreading having to read about Sam and Frodo walking for nearly 200 pages. I’m also re-watching the History channel’s ‘Vikings’ with my mum and beginning the anime inspired cartoon ‘Thundercats’ (2011). And I’m not at all embarrassed to admit that I spent a rather large amount of my winter break stealing things and killing dragons in Skyrim.

But honestly, I’m not that into anything that is distinctively ‘Asian’ (whatever that means). When trying to think of a topic to research I have come up pretty blank. I can only think of Asian inspired TV shows such as the American creation ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’, and the 2011 American remake of the 1980 Japanese series ‘Thundercats’. And also the couple of Studio Ghibli movies I’ve seen (and loved), such as ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ and ‘Spirited Away’. But other than those few things I fear I am horrendously uneducated and have no idea how to kick start my research project.

I think that is enough babbling from me, but if anyone has any ideas that would help me out, I would love to hear from you!

– Gabi