Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Game treats from Japan

Greetings from Japan. Even though game markets in APAC, Europe and N-America are somewhat coming closer or at least the boundaring are blurring a bit -- thanks to the Internet, erasing of regional codes (PSP etc.) and active (online) game communities, there are still some things that are very Japanese. Pachinko is apparent but also the visibility of media art (influenced by games) and digital games in everywhere life is something I have not seen anywhere else (except South Korea in someway (>> being game tournaments played at the malls, PC pangs, and subway stations but that's about it).

LocoRoco (PSP) was very well exposed where as Gitaroo Man (PSP) was surprisingly slightly promoted. First I though it has not been published yet but it was -- and I can assure you it is a cool rhythm game :) Those travelling to Tokyo: if you did not know the Playstation showroom (previously on 6th floor of the Sony Showroom) has moved. Now there is only the lobby (Playstation square) of Sony Computer Entertainment Headquaters near Aoyama subway (exit A5) where one can play some PSP and PS2 titled as well as wonder 'Playstation signature brand' items. Luckily there are also Playstation Spots in Japan (see: http://www.jp.playstation.com/psp/pss/).

For retro gamers and (hw/sw) game collectors, Super Potato is the place to go. It is located in Akihabara (Tokyo) and there is also another shop in Osaka. This place can be daunting for some -- especially those who have paid lots of money at the Ebay for some 'rare' game consoles or software as the shelfs of SuperPotato were full of 1970s and 1980s game consoles, VirtualBoys and game music (though some must-have cds were super-expensive!!)

There are very interesting and wide selection of Nintendo Game&Watch devices also for tight-fisted :) And for those looking for interesting (relatively) new releases Gameboy Micro has really-really addictive games!

'Girlgames' and girls as gamers is still an interesting topic even though a lot has happened within the last 10 years [also in Finland]. The number of girlgamers is on the rise and according to VTTs survey (January 2006): "Only 2% of boys and 12% of girls state that they do not play digital games at all. Majority of boys (67%) play digital games daily or almost daily where as 20% of girls play games daily or almost daily." Check a summary of the findings from my other blog: http://exergame.blogspot.com/

Horse back riding games were surprisingly popular. But it was no 'girlgame' -- ALL of the gamers in EVERY game room we visited were young men! There were two types of riding games. The one at the photo is closer to betting/trotting-race though it also included 'virtual pet' part where the gamers were caressing and feeding their horses . The other game was similar to the ones at the amusement parks where tiny (material) horses run round the circuit.

Shooting, driving and rhythm games, as well as reflex, luck and 'prinkla' print seal machines were still hugely popular at the Sega, Namco, Taito etc. game rooms but there were also some weird games like Wok game. Eh... yeah. It must have been fun to design a game like this :)

We also visited NTT Communications Art x Communication=Open! exhibition. It was super interesting exhibition with many inspiring pieces. Just to mention some: onebuttongame_Blanco (2004) and loopScape (2003) were really nice ones. onebuttongame_Blanco games were played just by pressing one button. It might sound a bit dull but it was actually quite meditative and addictive. loopScape is like a simplistic Darius (horizontally scrolling shoot'em up). In this game the screen is a sylinder and players have to move around (the cylinder) and pilot their space ships. It's a lot of fun!

Hybrid media (combination of printed and digital media) has been a hot topic in Japan and Finland for some years already. I am sure many of you have seen 1D (bar codes) or 2D ( aka matrix codes, semacodes) used in different ways. Most often 2D code contains an URL address. By reading the code with a mobile phone [camera], one can automatically go to a specified web site, get a game patch or an advertisement. There was quite nice hybrid media solution at the Sony Building lobby in Tokyo. One could get information about the stores by tilting the paper sheet under a camera. As a result of this, one will see a 3D model of the building on a screen (see photo) as well as images and short description of the shops etc.

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