Author: Dacria

My own little soapbox

So all this information that I’ve been working on is great and all but how will I show it off?  See there are a couple of different ways I could do it.  As you might have noticed, a few of the other contributors on this site are working on digital artifacts (something online) that are relevant to their topic.

I thought about doing that but I wasn’t sure what the hell I was going to use.  I could make a blog about my experiences, but that’s what this is, isn’t it?  I don’t really want to have to write everything twice and nobody wants to read it twice (least of all my uni professors who will mark my work).

I could have done a twitter feed about my experiences but that’s not really my style.  And part of my research would have been conducted rudely if I was going to talk to someone and keep tweeting the experience.

Maybe a YouTube video or videos but that involves having a decent camera which I definitely do not.  I don’t even have a microphone to record interviews and my phone was not going to cut it.

In the end there were plenty of options but all involved things that either I didn’t have or wasn’t comfortable doing.  At all.  So what’s left?

I guess there’s nothing to it but to write a decent essay on the topic using actual research and my own research.  But that leaves you guys, who may have been interested in this, a little out of the loop.  Not to worry!  I’m decent at writing, not great as you can clearly see but decent, and I plan to upload it once the all clear has happened.  I probably won’t put it here but over on my personal blog so that it’s less empty and to let those people know I haven’t died yet.

Back to the arcades!

So wouldn’t you know it studying arcades meant I had to go back! This time I went alone… well, without my closer circle of friends.  I decided I was going to make a serious effort to get to understand why the regulars (people who visit at least once per week) go to the arcade.

Obviously I didn’t want to get stuck on one guy because one data point does not a study make so I moved around and tried to talk to as many people as I could.  that way I’d get a variety of answers rather than just, “My friends come here.”

Not really surprising that reason was one of the most popular reasons.  Similar to the reasoning in my last post, people go out to be with their friends; nothing new here.  What I didn’t expect to be a common answer was that this was their way to escape.

What I mean when I say that is that, unlike me who plays games to escape into new worlds and be the hero and slay the dragon and save the world, there version of escape was really just a change of scenery.  They could escape their home life/their apartment/their other social circle.  It was more about physically being somewhere different than being the hero.

Don’t get me wrong, people definitely liked being the saviour and blowing up the terrorists but that was definitely unexpected.  I’ve never really been concerned with my surroundings unless they’re super bland but I guess I’ve just been used to my room for so long I’ve become immune to it.

It’s just interesting to see that while the games are definitely fun and the core of the experience (I mean, why be at the gaming arcade if not to play games) but the games themselves weren’t at the forefront of the reasoning.  I suppose it’s like playing soccer with your friends even if you’d rather play rugby.

I don’t think I could do that but hey, to each their own.

So where did the arcades go?

This was a bit of an odd topic but it’s pretty central to understanding why arcades stopped being the norm, and there’s a couple of reasons. One of them I never even considered, but to understand why they left, you also need to consider why they became popular.

Arcades really became popular in the late 70’s and early 80’s because of technology developments.  It had finally become cheap enough to make an entire device hard-coded for one game and ship it overseas.  When I say cheap enough, the box alone cost $2400 (and that was just for one Pac-man console).

As a result, this new electronic thing was interesting and novel.  They were also pretty fun.  Unlike pinball machines which despite theme-ing and lighting and a few mechanical differences, video games could have different buttons and seriously different play styles.  The games got more popular and the companies got more money and then the technology improved.  It was all looking pretty good. (Kent, 2011)

Since the technology kept getting better it was pretty much affordable by households now rather than just businesses which led to home consoles.  You could play the same game from the comfort of your own couch!  But since people stopped going to the arcades they slowly withered and died.  At least… the ones that weren’t in Japan anyway.

The consoles still got cheaper in Japan but there’s one major difference between here and there: people.  There’s so many more people in Japan.  In Tokyo alone there are 13 million people.  Thats more than half of the entire country of Australia, so it’s understandably more crowded.  Living space is smaller and you basically have no personal space on public transport.  (Crawford, 2012)

Moving not only yourself but your home console to play with your friends over there would be a nightmare.  So you go somewhere that already has the technology and the space set up for you.  The arcade!

There you have it.  The quickest crash course in the rise and fall of video games at arcades. Next week I’m going to talk to someone who lives in Australia about why they go to the arcades here.

 

Refences:

Kent, S. L. (2001). The Ultimate History of Video Games: From Pong to Pokémon. Three Rivers Press.

Crawford B. (2012) 100 Yen: The Japanese Arcade Experience, Strata Studios

Another round?

In focusing my efforts on this research task, I decided to get some hands on experience with some arcades. With there being no arcades near my house, that is within twenty minutes travel, I decided to rope some of my friends into a train ride into the centre of Sydney.

Once we got to the arcade it was instantly different to where I normally play games at home. There was less elbow space, there were quite a few people around, it was loud (and I should have expected that one, there’s gaming machines everywhere). That said, I was excited to try out new games. I play lots of games, I like exploring new mechanics so I had a buffet of games to try out. It was going to be fun.

A lot of the games, as we found out, were connected. There were racing machines all connected, there were shooting games that had a shared game space. It let me not only play with my friends, which is nice since all the games look separate, but it let me compete. The different machines kept track of every single action that was done. It’s always fun to compete with your friends, but it’s better when you can lean over and hit them when they’re ahead or they can show you what they’re doing better so that you learn. It was really cool. That’s not something you can do at home.

This closeness, that allowed a higher level of interactivity that wouldn’t happen at home, made it easier to make new friends. I’m not normally that socially adept, but with all these people so close together, it became simple to interact, especially with this common ground together.

Something I did notice about these new friends was, and I mean this in the least racist way possible, they were all Asian. I grew up in pretty much white suburbia. There were two Asian kids in my high school. At this arcade, me and my friends were the minority. It was an unusual feeling, but nobody treated us different avoided us. We all had this common ground in the games we were playing and it was nice.

Now one problem that did arise, and I tried my hardest to not let it be a problem, was that I started to get carried away with the atmosphere of the place. My auto-ethnography really isn’t going to work if I’m not paying attention and trying to record the differences between my life outside the arcade and inside the arcade. More than once in that night I had to remind myself that this was for uni and not just for fun, which is fine because realistically I wouldn’t have gone to an arcade if uni hadn’t motivated me.

Join me next time when I follow the advice on my last post and look into the financial situation that may or may not have caused the rise and fall of arcades.

Social Gaming Perspectives

Alright so after a bunch of real world problems got in the way I’m back with a vengeance and ready to hunker down and focus on my work. My last posts were a little scattered, I wasn’t too sure what to lock in on. I have however finally decided what I’m going to look into.

Social gaming.

Yeah… It’s a pretty broad topic. What I really mean is the spaces that people play their video games in. I was unfortunately too young to truly experience the old arcade days, when people would compete at their local store for the top score on Pac-Man.

I’m not saying that social gaming is dead, all I mean is that in my experience as a twenty-something who lives in Australia, is that social gaming doesn’t seem to happen in arcades. People own consoles or PCs and simply play online.

I suppose what I’m really going to look at is where and how people play games. Obviously my own social circle is not the best research sample so I’m either going to have to make new friends or go to social gaming places. While arcades are not as common as they once were, there are still arcades in the city (Sydney) where I can go to first hand experience what I’m researching. There’s also the gaming community at university I can immerse myself in.

All in all I’m looking forward to seeing why people play games where and the way they do.

To start this off though, I really need a starting point. I’m going to start with how I play video games. In my bedroom I have my computer and my Xbox 360. I have a smart phone that plays some games but I don’t personally consider that a gaming device. I also own a Nintendo 3Ds which is basically my Pokemon machine. Outside of my bedroom I tend not to play too many video games.

The PC and 360 are difficult to relocate and none of my friends play multiplayer mobile or 3Ds games so all my multiplayer gaming happens in my bedroom. I’m OK with this since my mates are all readily accessible online whenever I want to play a game so this isn’t a problem. We all go on Skype and blast each other to pieces and it’s lots of fun. Honestly I can’t see my opinions changing based just on locale.

Gaming Cafés

With the people, if someone wants to play a video games, you buy an expensive computer or a console.  If you want to play with your friends you either hook it up to the internet or you struggle to get the damn thing over to your friends house and hook them all up to the local modem.  It’s not easy.  Only recently did I hear about the notion of gaming cafés.  They’re like internet cafés but come with popular games installed so that everyone in the café can play together.

It’s a nifty idea that no one ever seems to have thought of here.  After looking a couple of them up I realised I had walked past a couple before but never really thought about it, disregarding them as the boring internet versions.  Even still, they always seem to be empty.  The only time I’ve ever seen more than two people in one of these cafés is in my briefs forays into chinatown, but I didn’t really notice what they were playing.  The notion of having to leave home and go somewhere I’m not socially comfortable with is totally foreign to me.

The idea could be kind of cool though.  Personally I like to play Magic: The Gathering.  For the uninitiated it’s like playing the grown up version of Pokemon cards.  For the initiated I’m sorry but that’s the fastest way to make people unfamiliar understand what’s going on without a lengthy explanation.  You can’t play a paper card game online so I have gone to events to play with people I don’t know and made new friends.  I guess it’s the same with the gaming cafés, going somewhere to both enjoy your hobby and play with like-minded people.

The more I think about this the more I wish that I was old enough to remember the game arcades of yesteryear, here people were almost forced together to play together, to compete together, to share a hobby.  Which was something I never had.  For me, games were never that social an aspect of my life until recently, which I think is a product of me living in Australia where physical sports are much more popular and sports personalities can become celebrities.

Professional Gamers? They exist?

I’m not sure you’re 100% aware of this but yes, there are people who play video games as a professional sport.  I’m going to ignore the debate about whether or not Starcraft counts as a sport and focus more on on of the pro players Kim “herO” Joon Ho.

Pictured: Sport

Pictured: Sport

Kim is from South Korea, where they treat pro gamers the same way America treats pro football players.  I know it sounds a little strange doesn’t it, something we’re not used to here in Australia.  It’s difficult to get a handle on just how popular pros like Kim are.  

Part of the lifestyle is living in a team house.  The whole team lives, eats, sleeps in the same building so that they can focus on their craft.  Kim is no exception, being part of team CJ Entus,  so public appearances seem to only happen during tournaments or events organised by CJ Entus for the sake of publicity.  Most of the interviews he partakes in are after the series of games he has played.

Kim in his most recent interview. Notice the amount of sponsors (source)

In my opinion it wouldn’t hurt to have professional games become popular in the west either.  When I was growing up everyone was into their sport of choice, my family was into soccer more than might be considered healthy, and I was almost alone being interested in video games.  I know most people never grow up to become professional football players but it would have been nice to have some sort of aspirations of professionalism rather than just be playing what everyone called “silly games.”

In fact if it weren’t for tournaments with their own celebrities, like the Global Starcraft League (GSL), games might not have taken off today in the same manner.  Games like Starcraft and DotA are much more popular in South Korea than they ever were in the west, resulting in the 11 year wait between the initial release of Starcraft and the sequel.   It’s interesting to me though that these games are all manufactured by companies from America, instead of local companies making similar games in a more familiar language for people like Kim to excel at.

All in all, I can’t wait for pro gaming to become mainstream enough that I can say what I watched instead of the Superbowl at family gatherings.

An Exploration in Anime

Anime was a word I was only introduced to in the last couple of months. It was introduced to me to mean Japanese cartoons, which is great because I love cartoons. They’re silly, funny, easy to understand, just a bit of light entertainment.

My introduction to anime was a show that has gathered quite a bit of popularity (to a the best of my knowledge) called Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Set in an alternate world Edward and Alphonse Elric are two kids who want to learn alchemy so that they can see their mother again. It only gets more intense from there. Anime are not necessarily silly and light entertainment.

image

Pictured: not for kids

This is not a kids show. Don’t get me wrong, kids can certainly watch but a lot of the tension about right and wrong might be lost on them. And that’s where this is super different from what I was expecting. Japanese culture is something that gets made fun of because of the chibis and the extensive cosplay and the tentacles so naturally anime should be just as, well, Japanese. Something weird and incomprehensible from the outside.

But I loved it. The show was amazing. It made me giggle, it made me angry, it made me cry. For anyone into fantasy drama, seriously, check it out. It’s not just some silly cartoon for kids. It’s so much better. It had a better story than the shows I’ve been forced to watch at school with just as much artistic vision if not more.

What surprised me though was that Fullmetal wasn’t written to be a show first, it is based on a manga (if anime are Japanese cartoons then manga are Japanese comics). I did a little research and it turns out that this is incredibly common. Even the shows from when I was young, like Sailor Moon (which turns out to be another anime), were based on a manga. That doesn’t happen much in the western culture. If a show is made it’s usually just a show that might have some toys for the kids. Fullmetal has a show, a manga, a line of toys and collectors edition DVDs. There’s almost a world to immerse yourself in and its what’s starting to happen on the west here with the comic universes (you know how they’re working to comics into movies and games and toys Avengers style).

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Gotta catch'em all! Wait... Different show...

All in all I quite enjoyed my first foray into the world of anime. I wonder what I should watch next.