Author: Jacob

“a nurse… and a part time necromancer!”

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Desktop Screenshot of me playing Pokémon Red

Receiving your first Pokémon at Professor Oak’s lab, stepping into the grass on the first route of your journey, encountering that first new Poké Pal in the wild. Starting out on an adventure is always an exciting experience. However, when this adventure is marked by apprehension and possible sadness, the experience is somewhat different.

Having never engaged with a randomiser Nuzlocke before, my experience with Pokémon Red was something completely different than what I have experienced when playing a regular Pokémon game. The first thing that made it different was that the original Pokémon Red only had 151 obtainable Pokémon, not in this version, for I had the chance to encounter 151 Pokémon selected randomly from a total of 721. This immediately made the game more challenging as I had to choose between Ditto, Mothim, and Piplup for a starter Pokémon, and then deal with Pokémon you wouldn’t typically find on the first route, like Poliwrath and Beartic.

Following the basic rules of a Nuzlocke, I encountered, caught, and nicknamed a single Pokémon on each route. As my team and I traversed routes, trekked through forests, and battled countless trainers and wild Pokémon, we became stronger. However, there were some casualties along the way.

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All images used belong to The Pokémon Company

The above image shows the beloved Pokémon that I caught during my short adventure, including Olivia and Miura who died along the way. Under Nuzlocke rules, if a Pokémon faints at any point during your adventure, it is considered dead and must be released or placed in a PC box permanently. Although not a rule that has to be adhered to, it is often accepted that Pokémon be nicknamed so that their trainers become more attached to them.

Nicknaming Pokémon, in my opinion, does create a bond, as it immediately makes the experience more personal. This nicknaming coupled with your determination to keep your Pokémon alive really gives the game tension, and places a tremendous amount of responsibility on the player to perform to the best of their ability. Ultimately, playing a Pokémon game while adhering to Nuzlocke rules can be a very emotional and tense experience, one that is undeniably different than the experience you would receive from a playing a Pokémon game in the way it was intended.

True to the format, the game forced me to think more strategically about how to conserve my team mates and keep them alive. When I did let team mates die, it was an emotional experience. Each loss made me feel guilty and sad, I questioned whether I could have saved them, and all I could do was move on and learn from my mistakes.

However, while playing the game I realised that Pokémon in the Nuzlocke format that die, are effectively zombies. Sure, if they faint then by the rules you are no longer able to use that Pokémon, but the games mechanics themselves will not let Pokémon actually die. If you took your fainted partner to the Pokémon Centre, Nurse Joy would take your Pokéballs, slap them into her machine and stare at them as technology did the rest. In the ordinary way you would play a Pokémon game, Nurse Joy would just heal your friends, in a Nuzlocke, she is effectively a nurse (because she still heals your Pokémon) and a part time necromancer!

In my autoethnographic analysis of this text, I will be looking at the experience itself, but also what made this experience possible. This means that I will be looking at technology and remix culture, the two elements that largely come together to make this possible. However, I also want to look into whether such experiences have adverse effects, focusing largely on games publishing companies.

Regarding technology, I would like to look into how people access experiences like this. To understand this would involve looking at the technologies and cultures that allow this such as emulators, ROMs, and P2P file sharing. It would also be interesting to discover whether it is possible to play some of the newer games available on the Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS systems via emulators or related technologies.

Another area that makes these styles of games possible is Remix culture. Eduardo Navas looks at Remix theory in terms of music, but says that a remix is a second mix of something pre-existing that is recognisable as coming from this pre-existing product. A remix is only a Remix if it has history, i.e. Pokémon Glazed, a remix of a Pokémon game, is only recognisable as a remix if its origins can be traced back to the game that has been initially remixed. My experience with Pokémon Red can be described as a remix, because although functioning in the way that the original did, new elements had been added into the game to create a new experience, such as: new Pokémon, types, and attacks/moves. A further element that adds to this remix are the self-adhered to Nuzlocke rules.

Moving on, I would like to wrap up this post by talking about the presentation of this project. At this stage, there are still elements of my research area that are unclear which I need to look into further. However, with the current scope of the project, it would serve me well to present it as a multimedia project that incorporates video, images, and text. This would likely be presented on Prezi, however, until I fully nail down my project as a whole this could change.

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RIP me, it’s a Randomiser Nuzlocke

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For my individual research project I have decided to play a Pokémon game, but played in a way I have never attempted before. The popular franchise was created by Satoshi Tajiri, who was inspired by one, the link cable technology that allowed multiplayer action on the old Gameboy handhelds, and two, his love of collecting insects as a child. While it took 6 years, Tajiri’s vision was achieved in the production of Pokémon Red and Green which were released in 1996.

Many Pokémon games followed the initial release of Red and Green, and has progressed into its 7th generation of Pokémon over the past 20 years. Today, we have over 721 obtainable Pokémon, a huge increase over the original 151 that were obtainable when I was a child.

My adventures with Pokémon began in 1998 when I was 5 years old. I had just started school, I had no friends, and I cried a lot. A LOT. After what seemed like forever, I finally made a friend.

One day, this friend came over to my house toting a Gameboy Advance with Pokémon Red and Blue. We took turns playing this fascinating game of collecting and battling exotic and strange monsters, and it was at this moment I was hooked, my life took a new direction, I was either going to be boring or become consumed by gaming culture. We all know what won out.

The first Pokémon game I ever owned was Pokémon Gold, one of the 2nd generation games that emerged during 1999. With the second generation of Pokémon expanding the universe, introducing new concepts and more opportunities for player interaction, I can safely say Pokémon found a place inside many players’ hearts, my own included, where it will be cherished forever.

For my project, I am going to be looking at Pokémon in an entirely new way, for myself anyway. I will be attempting a rom hack of Pokemon Red while adhering to the rules of a Randomiser Nuzlocke challenge. There are three things to unpack here, which are:

  1. Rom hacks: the process of modifying various elements of a video game to breathe new life into older games or to create a ‘new’ game using the old as a foundation.
  2. Randomisers: randomiser Pokémon play throughs can involve many things, but usually involve players travelling around a familiar Pokémon region with the wild encounterable Pokémon being completely randomised, so they have a chance of finding Pokémon they wouldn’t ordinarily find in that area.
  3. Nuzlockes: Nuzlocke challenges present a way of playing Pokémon, which involves the player following self-imposed rules that ultimately make the game more challenging and emotional. The basic rules include: any Pokémon that faints is considered dead and must be released or placed in PC storage permanently; the player may only catch the first Pokémon encountered in each area and none else, if this Pokémon flees or faints there is no second chances; while not definite, it is generally accepted that players also nickname their Pokémon for the sake of stronger emotional bonds.

To clarify, I will be playing a rom hack of the original Pokémon Red version which has had all 721 Pokémon injected into it. I will be playing a randomised version, which means I will randomly encounter Pokémon from a pick of 721. I will also be applying the above basic Nuzlocke rules to completely ramp up the difficulty and emotional impact of the game.

Before talking about how I will conduct my study, I will briefly go into what autoethnography is.

In terms of autoethnography, Ellis et al say that research and writing conducted in an autoethnographic way methodically examines personal experiences to better understand cultural experiences. The process of autoethnography, the doing, features elements of autobiography and ethnography. This essentially means that autoethnographic study involves the recording of a personal experience which is later analysed for cultural elements in order to help insiders and outsiders better understand the culture.

However, for this style of study, analysis is key. Researchers MUST use theoretical and methodological tools along with academia to produce a well-rounded study that is not just a story. The aim of autoethnographic study is to ultimately illustrate the characteristics of a culture to make it familiar for others.

For this study, I will be recording a series of videos that will:

  • Demonstrate how to access and play these games
  • Include footage of myself playing Pokémon Red to record my personal experience with the randomiser Nuzlocke challenge
  • Analyse the various elements of engaging with such a text and the cultural implications

For the next blog post I will include some evidence of my engagement with the text, my experience with the text, and some of the questions or thoughts I have about the text.

Till then.

Trying this Again: State of Play

The last blog post I wrote said that I would attempt to analyse the movie length Japanese animation Akira following in the autoethnographic style of research and study. However, upon talking my previous blog post over with the subject head, I have instead been tasked with analysing the documentary State of Play. Before going any further, I would like to thank Lisa and James Blunsum for their critically thought out comments which could have potentially aided me in writing a completely different version of this blog post.

Moving on, the documentary State of Play examines the state of eSports in Korea during 2011 and 2012, focusing on various Korean members of the eSports community such as Lee Jae Dong, Park Yo Han (amateur player), and Kim Joon Hyuk. Marcel Martončik describes eSports as an area of game playing which involves players regularly training to compete and participate in leagues and tournaments. During State of Play, the various eSports community members gave us a peek into the world of competitive gaming and its challenges.

A recurring theme that stood out for me that I would like to analyse from this documentary is the loss of innocence experienced by its members which began with their entrance into this industry which was only realised by its members when the 2011 Star Craft match fixing scandal occurred. At the time, those involved in the industry believed that this represented a huge loss of innocence for eSports, and suddenly, sponsors were dropping pro-gamers and their teams, forcing some to return home to their parents.

This effectively left pro-gamers out of a job, with some having no future prospects as they did not complete their schooling so they could become full time pro-gamers at young ages. While still a fulltime gamer, Lee Jae Dong revealed he no longer played for fun but for work, and when he was dropped from his pro-gaming team, he had time to think about his past and future. He realised that he had regrets about the kind of school life he should have experienced at that age (like having a girlfriend), and regrets that he did not finish his schooling, as he found himself worried about his future.

When looking into the area of loss of innocence in the realms of eSports, I found an article by Yuri Seo that looks into ‘serious leisure,’ which essentially means the pursuit of a hobbyist activity that participants strive to create a career in for themselves to express its special skillset, knowledge, and experience. I believe that it is this ‘serious leisure’ that could have possibly led to the loss of innocence in some pro-gamers, as they pour all of their time and energy into cultivating their skills to survive in the industry while forgoing experiences only achieved during their youth.

Seo makes some other observations that can apply here such as when he looks into prosumers becoming constrained by the structural elements of social systems, limiting the prosumers agency. The pro-gamers, in this sense, produce an identity for themselves in the eSports community which they present in organised tournaments where their live matches are consumed by avid spectators. However, it is this drive for prosumer pro-gamers to acquire and sustain an identity that may drive them to deprive themselves of experiences because they are devoting more time towards building this identity.

The whole process that this loss of innocence occurs within is something which Seo says is the “hero’s journey.” The “hero’s journey” can be broken down into three stages which include:

  • “The call to adventure:” the process in which a casual gamer becomes exposed to the world of competitive game playing.
  • “The road of trials:” the process in which casual gamers teach themselves skills and knowledge earned through perseverance in becoming more skilful in a computer game via immersion in eSports ethos and practices.
  • “The master of two worlds:” the result in which the casual gamer has now become a pro-gamer with the ability to influence the eSports world and to return to a world before eSports.

The Korean pro-gamers presented in State of Play went through a journey that could be described as the “hero’s journey,” but some were not able to return to a world before eSports that “the master of two worlds” stage allows. They became masters of one through uninterrupted dedication to their craft, unlike the participants of Seo’s study who also worked or studied on top of training for eSports, giving them opportunities should they fail in/or fall out of the eSports world.

A “master of two worlds” would include second-year Australian university and Call of Duty (COD) specialist Denholm Taylor, a member of the team Plantronics and a part time eSports gamer. While he wants to be a full-time pro-gamer, Taylor at least has an education that he can fall back on should his career in eSports fail him, unlike some Korean pro-gamers who never complete their education or further education because they devote themselves to a career in eSports.

While eSports is not always participated in solely for financial gain, pro-gamers must be, in some part, after the money. The eSports industry pays well if you can hold your own against many competitive pro-gamers. This may also be a motivation for pro-gamers in solely focusing on a career in gaming, as they know that if they can perform well in competitions and tournaments than they can live off of their video game skills.

All in all, in this blog post I have attempted to analyse the loss of innocence expressed throughout State of Play. Any judgments made here are not conclusive and require further study to establish academic accuracy.

Just for interest’s sake, here is a list of “15 Of The Highest-Paid Professional Video Gamers In The World,” and this website lists a large number of pro-gamers and various information about them.

An Experience Without Enlightenment

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Image by flamoking1, While I wouldn’t watch gore anyway, this anime is the reason I don’t watch graphically violent or gory anime under any circumstance.

Within the subject Digital Asia, autoethnography – a type of research method – underpins the majority of our study. But what is autoethnography? According to Ellis et al, autoethnography is a synthesis of autobiographic and ethnographic techniques that allow a researcher to write about epiphanies which stem from experiences with and being within culture. These cultural engagements can be experienced within a culture itself, i.e. a researcher participates in cultures previously unexperienced, or through material cultural products, e.g. the analysis of clothing, architecture, texts such as books, movies and photos.

Ellis et al say that autoethnographers take their experiences and detail them in length as a kind of personal story that shows how something in that culture changed them or their idea of that culture. As part of this process, autoethnographers’ go further and analyse their experience with theoretical tools, methodological tools, and research literature. Without applying this academic edge to their experience, their story could be just like any other, when they are really trying to use their experience to illustrate the characteristics of a culture and make it familiar for those on the outside and for existing members of that culture.

As part of an exercise, we were asked to examine a digital text and to detail our experience with it from an autoethnographic standpoint. The text that I examined was the 1988 Japanese anime film Akira, directed by Katsuhiro Otomo who is also the author of its original incarnation as a manga.

I’m sure there is more that could be said of this movie, but I will not be mentioning much more here. My reasoning? Because I am terrified of the internet and what it will show me regarding this movie. I have watched a lot of anime, I could probably give you a list of 80 or more anime’s that I have seen, I love anime. But I absolutely refuse to watch Akira and any kind of content like it because I cannot handle the strong, graphic, and bloody violence its R rating tells me it has.

My experience of this film began with excitement when I heard we would be watching an anime film, then when I heard it contained scenes of graphic violence that could be distressing for some viewers, my excitement evaporated and my heart rate skyrocketed out of anxiety. I opened Google Chrome and went to IMDb’s information page regarding Akira, I scrolled down to their message boards and opened one which was literally titled, “How gory is this?” and proceeded to read on in horror. Suffice to say, I didn’t watch a single frame of the movie, and instead, listened to the evocatively throbbing soundtrack and violence while imaging scenes of hyper-real violence and hyper-real representations of gore. My time was much better spent googling wallpaper images of Orange and Anthem of the Heart.

I guess you could say my experience of Akira was an experience without enlightenment. I have no idea how I am going to analyse this. If anyone has any thoughts please share them, I am honestly stumped.