Author: mattbernard1

FUN FACT: Since I was born the earth has travelled 18 times around the sun. N.B: The above is probably technically untrue, I'm not sure; but I'm 18, OK? Oh I also have a twitter now, I'd appreciate it if you followed me, but I will understand if you decide against it; I'm probably a very dull person:@MattBernard1 :) I'm probably stalking your Facebook page as you read this.

Matthew Bernard DIGC330 DA

As far as I understand we are meant to post the artefact here, right?

https://storify.com/MattBernard666/monster-hunter-an-autoethnography

Thanks

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Monster Hunter Autoethnography – the Finale

As the blogging season once more draws to an end, it is time to wrap things up and get on with sitting absolutely motionless for five months until someone makes me blog again. To end my study of Monster Hunter, I decided it may perhaps be best if I play a little more.

As pointed out in the paper “Autoethnography: An Overview”, the autoethnographic process is all about retrospectively and selectively writing about epiphanies that stem from, or are made possible by, being part of a culture and/or by possessing a particular cultural identity (Adams et, al., 2011). From a previous post in which I engaged with my experiences of the game, I feel perhaps did not make it far enough through. While I do not necessarily think this is a bad thing, as the tedious and univiting nature of the game which left me feeling very uninspired will be useful in the reflection process of my final work. However, in order to reach enough of a familiarity with the text to retrospectively reflect upon it later, I do not think I have adequately delved deep enough into it yet. Until today.

Five hours. Five quite dull hours I spent running around, forcing myself the read lines of dialogue, live tweeting my experiences. I fetched mushrooms, mined ores, killed mosquitoes, fought some rather placid dinosaurs. It all went as expected mostly, I really did not feel won over. This was until about the four and a half hour mark – now I love it. I’m serious, something clicked in me the exact moment I slayed my first real monster. After spending hours doing the most mundane of tasks, walking aimlessly in circles and learning to swim, the villagers finally gained enough trust in me to grant me the right to fight. And fight I did. For about half an hour I must have been running through the desert tracking down this raptor-like being, it was a long process and at times I was convinced I am living a lie, however in the matter of about 30 seconds the entire game just clicked. I had finally overcome the hurdle and could see Monster Hunter for what it really is: beautifully uninviting.

Mentioned in many of my previous posts, observing this game without any prior knowledge or attachment to the series is not fun. It seems like a bland and vague adventure which has very little pay-off in terms to the story and characterisation – and it is exactly that. However this game isn’t boring. It is an experience (awful cliche I know). You need to trust it enough to stick with it past those first few hours in which nothing at all happens, where the basic controls are barely explained, where you have the sudden urge to play Mario Kart instead. The appeal of it almost feels indescribable (hopefully I can at least describe some of it in my final assignment), however so very obvious: the world which ironically takes place in the most unwelcoming of games, is one of the most welcoming of all time. A bright and expansive landscape filled with peculiar and cute characters that you and your friends can roam and track monsters within for days – if I am not careful I will do exactly that.

While it is still very difficult to assess as to why this game does not sell better in traditional “Western” (for lack of a better word) environments, the reason why it never grasped me was simply because its design philosophy was just so different from what I am used to. While difficult, this did not at all deter me, I enjoy the challenge. What stopped me most was the pacing and difficulty curve. This is a game that really builds up for the pay-off, and if you go in seeking instant gratification (which let’s be honest I always do), it just wont happen. Monster Hunter, while I now realise is brilliant, is not friendly to newer audiences. Whereas in Japan (in which the series could only be described as a phenomenon) they have already been won over and are ready sit through whatever they have to in order to get that indescribably excellent feeling of pride.

References:

Ellis, C, Adams, T E, Bochner, A P 2011, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Historical Social Research, vol.36, no.4, pp273-290.

Monster Hunter: The Artefact: The Storify

Taking a break from purely deconstructing my platform this week, I intend to elaborate on the artefact I will be submitting in week 13, such as why I will be using it and the justification of my choice.

So what is a Storify? Well, the creators themselves refer to it as a medium by which users tell stories by collecting updates from social networks, amplifying the voices that matter, to create a new story format that is interactive, dynamic and social. (Storify, 2014) While generally a Storify is created through collating multiple voices on a singular issue, I instead wish to use it more as a filtration system just for me, allowing me to post and comment on my own thoughts over an extended period of time.

Through the use of a Storify, I wish to convey my progression of thought and experiences through the game Monster Hunter. I feel like Storify is a good site to tell this story due to its simplistic and cross-platform style. As autoethnography is heavily reliant on personal experience, I feel that by collating my reactions ranging from live tweets while playing, to longer form writing on my WordPress (such as a game review), I will be able to establish a more descriptive and wholesome image of my experience which I can reflect on at the end.

Bochner et, al. state in their article on writing autoethnographies: “When researchers write autoethnographies, they seek to produce aesthetic and evocative thick descriptions of personal and interpersonal experience. They accomplish this by first discerning patterns of cultural experience evidenced by field notes, interviews, and/or artifacts, and then describing these patterns using facets of storytelling (e.g., character and plot development), showing and telling, and alterations of authorial voice.” (Bochner, et, al. 2011) If looking at it like this, I would view my live tweets while playing as field notes or raw data, which I can then extrapolate upon. By being able to include this data alongside my findings in the artefact, readers would have a greater sense of how I reached the conclusions I did, and also how much my opinions have changed overtime since originally playing.

My artefact can currently be found here. While it is currently very empty, I hope it will not be that way for much longer.

References:

Ellis, C, Adams, T E, Bochner, A P 2011, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Historical Social Research, vol.36, no.4, pp273-290.

2014, ‘What is Storify?’ Storify, https://storify.com/about

Housemate Plays Monster Hunter

Continuing on from last week’s post in which I played Monster Hunter by myself, I thought it would be now useful if I had my housemate play too. While he is not from Japan (damn it!), he does tend to associate more with the over-the-top and eccentric styles of Japanese culture more than I do. While I wouldn’t say his experience was totally positive, he definitely seemed to enjoy the game much more than I did.

As this was not his first ever time playing, he was much more aware of what was going on than I was. He began where he last left off months ago and was immediately able to fight a monster – luckily (for my sake) he also died straight away, so I didn’t feel too stupid.

Unfortunately the experience was entirely single player, as he has no friends who also play the game that he could link up with online and play with. This is a shame because that seems to many to be the strong selling factor of the game: the ability to lose days with people you knew from high school, exploring worlds, fighting dinosaurs, watching them die horrible deaths – it’s the thing of dreams. I guess this all comes down to the fact that the game is just not big over here, a kind of like Catch-22 situation in which the main selling point of the game relies on the popularity of it.

Regardless of this, my housemate still looked to be having a good time, he didn’t seem deterred by the more eccentric aspects of it like I was. What I found interesting however is that his main criticism of the game was its controls, “they’re just unintuitive and a bit repetitive, the fighting just isn’t as fun as it should be.” I find this an intriguing response because something so core to the gameplay such as the controls would surely be a universally noticed thing.

It would be ridiculous if I were to conclude “well, I guess over in Japan they like bad controls in their video games. That’s just their culture it seems.” No, that would be the stupidest thing I could ever say, but then why does this seem to never be a criticism? My only logical conclusion would be that I don’t know. Perhaps it comes down to the fact that it is such a cultural phenomenon filled with content and themes that strongly resonate with them – they become so swept up in the product that the controls are easily dismissed when critiquing it. I’m sure they notice them, but it doesn’t matter all that much.

I Hunted Some Monsters

I’ve given in. It’s happened. I’ve finally played Monster Hunter.

Now that I have firmly decided on a topic, I can see no other reasonable excuse as to why I have not played this game already. As expected, I found it very average. While I am still working a few things out in my mind, I feel that I am slowly reaching closer to a conclusion as to why this game may be as huge as it is in Japan.

Monster Hunter starts out by throwing you into the deep end. I’m a member of a small village run by people with annoyingly large heads, I must speak to them, and then I must fight monsters. There is of course other elements to it, such as an inventory system that I do not at all understand, but that’s just the gist of it. Getting straight into my “research” I decided I wanted to try and fight a monster as quickly as I possibly could – seeing as that’s the aim of the game, right? Well I couldn’t, turns out I should have read the tediously large amount of dialogue because I did not know at all what was going on. It took me at least an hour to find a dinosaur to fight and I died instantly. I stopped playing shortly after.

While shown, the depth of my research was very shallow from a gameplay point-of-view, but this is only because I found out all I need to know: I do not find this world engaging. My initial idea of Monster Hunter was a challenging and unforgiving world where you and only you can fight your way to victory, this is probably because I try and make every game become Dark Souls. Rather, Monster Hunter is an eccentric but still challenging quest game to play with your friends. I understand I sound like a total killjoy saying this, but I just don’t engage with much over-the-top and whacky style, however in Japan this style of media excels (for instance every anime I have ever seen). While it would be very presumptuous of me to say that only the Japanese like this style of game, I rather think it is another strong contributing factor to its success, much like the marketing approach explored a few weeks back.

Marketing of Monster Hunter

It is settled: I will be exploring the Monster Hunter franchise for my autoethnographic study. While it has been a couple months of indecision, there is no going back now. I feel Monster Hunter is an interesting area to study as there is such a huge disparity in terms of popularity between Japanese audiences and audiences in my current environment; I want to find out why. Well, at the very least I want to find out if I can find out why.

“Autoethnography, as method, attempts to disrupt the binary of science and art. Autoethnographers believe research can be rigorous, theoretical, and analytical and emotional, therapeutic, and inclusive of personal and social phenomena.” (Adams et, al 2011) I have taken this idea from Tony Adams’ article about the benefit of autoethnographic studies and am using it for direction in conducting research to the cultural disparity between Monster Hunter’s sales, as I believe the reason cannot be pin-pointed to a singular cause, and must be identified through both theoretical research and interpersonal reflection.

An article last year on Kill Screen Daily by Jon Irwin attributes much of the reason to marketing strategies, rather than gameplay itself: “cute character merchandise to attract female players… Branded T shirts in Uniqlo… Capcom partnered with Karaoke chain Shidax, organising events where players could rent karaoke themed booths to play in and purchase branded dinner sets…” (Irwin, 2013) Irwin then goes on to state that these strategies are proven to work in Japan, however in “Western” culture, this whimsical approach will not fly (Irwin, 2013).

While I can see validity in this theory, I do not think it is without its issues, as Irwin binarizes his conclusion far too much. I must admit, when I first read this article a few weeks back it made perfect sense, however that was with the personal bias of separating eastern and western culture. That being said, I still believe this reasoning to a certain extent, however in the on-coming weeks I ill seek to identify and reflect on more than just this one reason, as the above article failed to do.

References:

Ellis, C, Adams, T E, Bochner, A P 2011, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Historical Social Research, vol.36, no.4, pp273-290.

Irwin, J, 2013 ‘Why Isn’t Monster Hunter More Popular in the West? Our Fear of Singing Out of Tune”, Kill Screen Daily, http://killscreendaily.com/articles/how-did-monster-hunter-become-most-popular-game-japan-karaoke-and-hot-tubs/

Fear of a Brown Planet (I’ll Think of a Cooler Title Later, I Promise)

fearof

Fear of a Brown Planet are a (recently defunct) comedic duo comprised of Aamer Rahman and Nazeem Hussain. The long-running act formed a name for themselves in the Australian comic scene through telling their stories of being brown in Australia and the everyday racism they both face for it, whether it be subtle or explicit. The diasporic origins of this act have attracted a large following of brown Australians who face similar experiences as they do, cementing each of them with a dedicated cult following.

Rahman and Hussain use several modes of digital media to give voice to their stories, including YouTube, Facebook and Television – each with much success.

In 2013, Rahman gained large amounts of attention online for his viral clip which was shared across YouTube and Facebook dismissing the idea of “reverse racism”. The video was picked up by various celebrities and news websites, eventually attracting over 1.3 million YouTube views.

Hussain, while also frequently occupying social media, has taken a more traditional approach to telling his stories, by creating and appearing on several television shows on SBS – where he also frequently discusses issues of race. Most recently Hussain can be seen on his show Legally Brown, which through skits and live recorded stand-up, tells of how it feels being Muslim in Australia.

I find viewing these stories from my position of privilege very interesting. Having been to watch a show of theirs in Sydney before the pair called it quits, I was fascinated by how the experience differed to when I watch their shows through digital platforms. To me, viewing their performance online felt much more (with lack of a better word) “foregin”, as they discuss these race-sensitive issues which are then shared in spaces where the viewers are not always receptive to what is being seen. However at the live show, due to their large following in the Muslim Australian scene, it is rather a place for all those who experience these same problems that are being talked about every day. While obviously being white myself it is important not to assume such opinions from the Muslim audience, perhaps not everyone there was in total favour to the topics being discussed.

As someone who has not been (and never will be) faced with situations of racism before, Fear of a Brown Planet do a great job at telling their stories in a way that allows access to people like me to learn from their struggles.

Fear of a Brown Planet (I’ll Think of a Cooler Title Later, I Promise)

fearof

Fear of a Brown Planet are a (recently defunct) comedic duo comprised of Aamer Rahman and Nazeem Hussain. The long-running act formed a name for themselves in the Australian comic scene through telling their stories of being brown in Australia and the everyday racism they both face for it, whether it be subtle or explicit. The diasporic origins of this act have attracted a large following of brown Australians who face similar experiences as they do, cementing each of them with a dedicated cult following.

Rahman and Hussain use several modes of digital media to give voice to their stories, including YouTube, Facebook and Television – each with much success.

In 2013, Rahman gained large amounts of attention online for his viral clip which was shared across YouTube and Facebook dismissing the idea of “reverse racism”. The video was picked up by various celebrities and news websites, eventually attracting over 1.3 million YouTube views.

 

Hussain, while also frequently occupying social media, has taken a more traditional approach to telling his stories, by creating and appearing on several television shows – where he also frequently discusses issues of race. Most recently Hussain can be seen on his show Legally Brown, which through skits and live recorded stand-up, tells of how it feels being Muslim in Australia.

 

I find viewing these stories from my position of privilege very interesting. Having been to watch a show of theirs in Sydney before the pair called it quits, I was fascinated by how the experience differed to when I watched their shows through digital platforms. To me, viewing their performance online felt much more (with lack of a better word) “foregin”, as they discuss these race-sensitive issues which are then shared in spaces where the viewers are not always receptive to what is being seen. However at the live show, due to their large following in the Muslim Australian scene, it is rather a place for all those who experience these same problems that are being talked about every day. While obviously being white myself it is important not to assume such opinions from the Muslim audience, perhaps not everyone there was in total favour to the topics being discussed.

As someone who has not been (and never will be) faced with situations of racism before, Fear of a Brown Planet do a great job at telling their stories in a way that allows access to people like me to learn from their struggles.

I Hope Hideki Kamiya Reads This One Day

Finding a celebrity in my current auto ethnographic focus of either Monster Hunter and social gaming was proving to be very difficult for me, largely because I speak no Asian languages (as far as I know). Seeing as I purposefully know very little about these areas (at the moment at least), I was totally unable to find a single person widely recognized in them whom I could discover anything about. In order to compensate for my inability to stick to definite topics, I have chosen to follow the light-hearted social media presence of my favourite man of gaming, Hideki Kamiya – because that’s close enough, right?

hidekipic

Hideki Kamiya is the resident cheeky man and games director at Platinum Games, renowned for titles such as Bayonetta, the Wonderful 101, Vanquish and Mad World. I find Hideki a great person to analyse for in my opinion, he has the best online presence of any game developer alive today. Upon searching I was unable to find official pages of his on Facebook and Instagram, rather his Twitter is the only means in which he promotes himself; and boy is it enough. Here I have compiled an archive of my favourite tweets from this beautiful man, which also further demonstrate my next point…

Having tweeted a whopping 119 thousand times, it is clear that Hideki uses Twitter for the purpose of interacting with and answering questions from his fans and customers, other than solely as a means of personal gain. This idea I feel is strengthened through the absence of these alternative social media, for they are not as accessible in terms of audience engagement as Twitter is.Through continual use of this site, Hideki has constructed the image of himself as light-hearted, playful and slightly bossy.

As much as I love this Twitter account, I can’t help but feel like at least a small portion of it is shaped by personal biases and assumptions – for instance that Hideki speaks fluent English (or rather he does not). While I have no doubt that I love this man, I often find myself wondering how much of this opinion is flavoured by his inability to articulate our language flawlessly – let alone while being forced to shrink his words to suit Twitter’s needs.

My Social Village

What is the word for when you are sixteen years old and your friend goes missing from school for a week unexplained and you don’t want to call his home phone because said friend’s Mum terrifies you, plus you are slightly afraid he is dead and don’t want to make things awkward? I tried looking in the dictionary for that extremely common scenario and I found nothing – stupid piece of trash. The closest I can come up with is Monster Hunter 3.

Monster Hunter is a fantasy/RPG series developed by Capcom that is hugely popular in Japan. Until about 2 hours ago that was about all I knew of it other than its ability to make me assume my closest friend dead. Taking inspiration from the idea of the week’s lecture on monster culture, I decided to delve further into this slightly less than high definition world to see what all the fuss is about. I have chosen to watch a Let’s Play series by acclaimed YouTuber GamingBliss; I don’t like him.

My immediate perception of this game was: “Cool, a worse version of Dark Souls”, followed by “hey, that dinosaur is pretty cute” followed by “I wish he didn’t kill that dinosaur”. What I can gather from this video is Monster Hunter is a game largely focused on self-driven goals. The protagonist, some sort of emotionless village protector, seeks errands from the village people who always have slightly too much to say. These errands usually (perhaps always?) involve slaughtering a monster in a nearby area and gathering its remains, I guess as proof of the kill. Monster Hunter’s strong focus on enemy design, as well as the enormous scope and scale of the game are what I would immediately attribute its success to. Surely there must be more reasons, right?

“Due to the nature of the game’s multi-player system, particularly with the PSP and 3DS, when playing with others, you will almost invariably be playing with someone you know—more often than not, a friend.” – Toshi Nakamura, Kotaku

Nakamura attributes the culture of Japan and its imperial origins creating a “need to fit into a community” to the huge success of Monster Hunter (Nakamura, 2013). What I find interesting in this hypothesis is that it is not a direct feature of the game which draws the appeal of an audience, rather the sociability of it in which its features cater towards. As I know very little about sociability in gaming in an eastern context, I think it would be interesting to explore this further in contrast to western gaming audiences and our need for community (if any). I am still unsure if I will continue this in relation to Monster Hunter.

Nakamura, T, 2013, ‘Why Monster Hunter is So Popular in Japan (and Struggles Everywhere Else)’, Kotaku, http://kotaku.com/5980436/why-monster-hunter-is-so-popular-in-japan-and-struggles-everywhere-else