As the title implies, The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers is a documentary about Japanese game developers. Originally, John Szczepaniak, a video game journalist, went to Japan in order to write a book about this topic (still in the works). During this trip he also filmed his interviews and encounters, which gave birth to a 4 hours long video documentary now available on DVD:
This documentary follows John Szczepaniak's journey, with video segments featuring different materials such as: interviews with video game creators, visits to collectors and historian, a trip to the Tokyo Game Show and in front of the old offices of Konami and Hudson Soft, alongside with a shopping session at Akihabara and Nakano Broadway. The interviews of Japanese game developers features both famous (Streets of Rage, Alex Kidd, Strider, Pac-Land, Solomon's Key) and unknown titles: many RPGs never released outside of Japan, images from lost DECO Cassette games like Flash Boy, amateur video games created by Yuzo Koshiro, and unreleased games created by students during their internship at Hudson Soft. The journalist have also met with game enthusiasts holding impressive games, books and magazines collections, who showed him rare pieces like a "choose your own adventure" book about Metal Gear Solid or the prototype of a MSX computer. Last but not least, the interviews with games creators highlights many game design related documents, such as preliminary artworks, game design bibles, or even in-house tools, such as a graphic design tool pictured below, created by Toru Hidaka and used by Enix to create their RPGs:
While the production of this documentary is a bit amateurish (many passages are filmed with a shaky camera, sound is sometimes hard to hear, and the DVD is lacking subtitles for non-english speakers), this film remains a passionating and deeply entertaining journey inside the Japanese video game industry of the 80-90's. Featuring catchy music by Yuzo Koshiro (Streets of Rage), this DVD allows us to discover unique information about titles we grew up with, and it also finally let us put a face on the name of the people who created those great games. Despite a high price (40£, so about 67$), this movie is highly recommended to any video game history enthusiast, as its rich contents will undoubtedly trigger a lot of positive emotion inside the heart of any game collector or oktaku. This movie is only available to buy on Internet, directly through his official website.
Almost unknown, BOA is a nice little game for MS-DOS created in 1989 by Dean Ballard for Microsoft. It's an arcade game similar to Snake, besides the fact that you are playing a rat trying to avoid being eaten by the snake!
The oddest thing about this game lies in its distribution model: it was solely available through the driver disk of a mouse created by Microsoft, the "Contour Mouse", also known as "Dove Bar." Due to the technological limitations of the era, Dean Ballard chose to use ASCII characters as graphics for the game, which creates a nice kind of retro feeling today. Moreover, as Microsoft wasn't really in the videogame business at the time, Dean was actually hired as an outside consultant, and got about 500$ for the job. But to be fair, he actually created the game as a request from his friend Steve Shaiman, who was supervising the mouse project, and was looking for a demonstration program. And what better advertising for a mouse that can allow you to move faster than the other models than a quick mouse-based dexterity game?
A few months ago, our own in-house game designer created a remake of this game, called Moreia, that helped us to get in touch with the creator of BOA. We seized this opportunity to interview him about the story of this game, and wrote an article explaining it that was published in the #25 issue of Pix'N Love magazine, a French magazine dedicated to the history of videogames.
Special session about serious gaming during the 6th Global Conference: Video Games Culture Project, from Thursday, 17th July to Saturday, 19th July 2014, Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom.
Key words: serious games, serious gaming, education, projects with students, level design, case studies
SimCity in geography lessons, Civilisation V for non-violence education, Read Dead Redemption as a means of addressing the history of the Far West… These practices are involved in “Serious gaming”: they all subvert the playful nature of an existing game in order to associate it with uses distinct from mere entertainment as originally planned.
Serious Gaming differs from Serious games. Indeed, in order to consider oneself faced with a Serious game, aside from the presence of utilitarian functions (disseminating a message, providing training, allowing for the collection of data), the game produced must also be aimed, from its conception, at a market other than mere entertainment: defence, health, communication, training, environmentalism, etc.) Thus, a Serious game can aim to heighten a diabetic player’s awareness of therapeutic education (Out of Time), teach college students about the laws of physics (Ludwig), present political (September the 12th), ecological (ClimWay) or indeed geopolitical (Darfur is Dying) issues to the general public, etc.
In a time when the economical situation is unfavourable and most educational institutions are suffering from a lack of resources, it would seem appropriate to assess the potential of Serious Gaming in the educational environment.
The panel will be structured around the two following points:
1. Commercial games used for the purpose of Serious gaming
As educational research is increasingly highlighting a new “attentional economy” (De Castell, Jenson 2006) and a redistribution of roles within learning, an examination of existing practices in Serious gaming would appear necessary, in order to identify their gameplay, the ways in which existing games can be appropriated and their educational potential.
A call for papers is published, in order to bring together both developers and users of games adapted to Serious gaming, as well as researchers from various backgrounds interested in the topic (computer science, “ludology”, cognitive sciences, education, semiotics, sociology, etc.).
2. Experiments in level design for Serious gaming purposes
Level design consists of offering the user himself the opportunity to build a level of the game using software tools, with the intention of using the game to associate him with its utilitarian functions (disseminating a message, providing training, etc.).
For example, in the first half of 2013 we carried out an experiment with the Non-Violence XXI association as well as second year Game Design students from the school for the creation of video games - Supinfogame Rubika games. As a point of departure, we asked how we could make videogame users aware of a message of non violence. The main idea was to adapt commercial videogames, using violence to speak out against it more effectively. The students adapted three commercial videogame titles in this way.
This experiment illustrated the idea that commercial videogames can indeed convey utilitarian functions, as claimed by Olivier Mauco (Mauco, quoted in Alvarez & Djaouti, 2010) in particular.
INFORMATION TO BE INCLUDED IN YOUR PROPOSAL:
• A 250 to 500-word abstract of your paper.
• Your name, job title and institution as well as your contact information, including e-mail address.
ABSTRACT DEADLINE: May 15, 2014.
A selection of the received papers will be reviewed and subsequently published.
For more information on the main conference visit http://www.inter-disciplinary.net/critical-issues/cyber/videogame-cultures-the-future-of-interactive-entertainment/details/
Ph. D. Julian Alvarez
Université Lille 1 - Trigone CIREL / CCI Grand Hainaut - Play Research Lab / Ludoscience (France)
Ph. D. Catherine Bouko
Université Libre de Bruxelles - Free University of Brussels / Department of Information and Communication Sciences (Belgium)
Eric Chahi, a famous video games designer (Out of this World, anyone?), recently took part in the Retro Game Jam, a 32h video game creation competition held during november 2013 in Montpellier (France). In the video below, he discusses his feelings about this experience and presents the various prototypes of his game in order to explain his personal game creation process. A rare and very interesting testimony from a living videogame legend about the recent "Game Jam" phenomena (video in french language):
This video was recorded during a meeting of the Montpellier Unity User Group (MUUG), a videogame designers club gathering once or twice a month in the city of Montpellier (France) to share their experiences. This event is hosted by Guillaume Martin from the SwingSwingSubmarine studio, and offers a place to share and discuss with others indies. If you happen to travel to France in the sunny city of Montpellier, please feel free to join one of our meetings! (dates and location detailed on the MUUG facebook page).
Service Games: The Rise and Fall of SEGA (Enhanced Edition) is a book on the history of SEGA as a console manufacturer. After a brief introduction telling the birth of the company, this thick 480 pages book details the story of all its home consoles: SG-1000, Master System, Mega Drive / Genesis with its Sega CD and Sega 32X addons, Saturn and the Dreamcast.
While the beginnings of SEGA and its first two consoles are explained rather quickly over 30 pages, the main part of the book details with high precision the story of its most famous consoles. About 150 pages are dedicated to the rise of the Mega Drive / Genesis, and its fall due to the Sega CD and the catastrophic Mars, Neptune and Jupiter projects leading to the Sega 32X. The costly errors SEGA made over the 32x will unfortunately not be solved by the Saturn, a dramatic failure compared to the roaring Playstation. When the company will finally be able to reflect upon its mistakes and start afresh with the Dreamcast, it will sadly be too late. When SEGA retires itself from the console market in 2001, it's an indeed tragic move but it's also the only way to avoid bankruptcy and be able to continue publishing games on the consoles of its former competitors. While the book is focused on the American side of SEGA history, a final chapter explains its complex story in the European Market. Despite being a bit dense and sometimes redundant between chapters, this book, full of content, is a real goldmine to anyone wondering about the story of SEGA, a popular company whose history is unfortunately less often studied than the one of its eternal competitor Nintendo.