I was pleased to be invited to give a research talk in my new department’s DM Talks series. I agreed to participate right after I arrived in Atlanta and did not have a solid idea of what I wanted to talk about exactly. Luckily, I have been working on a book chapter that I thought would benefit from some public discussion while I was drafting the first version. I think that the talk went very well and I was able to get some great feedback that helped with the first draft. It was also awesome to get to talk about my research in detail with my new colleagues and our amazing graduate students.
The talk examines the Atelier Ryza trilogy and assesses the games’ attempts at decolonization (both narratively and through game design). While I think that the decolonialization attempts made by the series are not perfect, I argue that the games are significant and interesting from a postcolonial perspective. Please note that this video is rough. The talk was delivered in a hybrid format, so the audio is extracted from the original Microsoft Teams recording. My introduction of my other research and the question period have been cut for the sake of time and avoiding privacy issues. The screen recording has been replaced by still images of the slides from the talk and some limited gameplay from the Atelier Ryza games.
I am very pleased to announce that the final version of Nagasaki Kitty is now available. Nagasaki Kitty: Enhanced Edition can be downloaded for free on Itch.io! The Enhanced Edition adds new gameplay content, new original art, expands the map, and includes a new musical score written and recorded specifically for the game.
I was excited to add more content to the game for this edition and was exceedingly lucky to work with Mimi Okabe (Translation), Marc Lajeunesse (Music), and Robyn Hope (Art). While I was happy with the first two RPG Maker MV versions of the game, I was happy to upgrade the game through some key editions. Marc’s soundtrack replaces the licensed tracks from the original. Having musical pieces written specifically for the game certainly improves upon the atmosphere and the mood of the game. Robyn’s art helps to improve the player’s experience. Her art, based on artifacts from the Nagasaki atomic bomb museum, helps to add more authenticity to the side quests that the player completes in the game. As always, Mimi provided her translation skills. The download includes the English version, the Japanese version, and an updated workbook.
Here is the announcement trailer for the game:
I started the early work on the Nagasaki Kitty project in 2016. This eventually led to multiple iterations, both in Twine and RPG Maker MV. This project has been one of the most rewarding of my career and I am exceedingly proud of all of the completed versions. I hope that you will take the time to play it!
Nagasaki Kitty Enhanced Edition is available for download on PC here.
This year for the Canadian Game Studies Association Annual Conference I was able to work with my good friend and colleague, Scott DeJong. Scott does some really amazing work on disinformation while also designing board games (find his game, Lizards and Lies here: https://www.lizardsandlies.ca/). Naturally, as educational game designers, there are overlaps in our research and development activities. In particular, we have found that many educational games do not take full advantage of the unique affordances of board games and/or video games as a medium. As a result, we made a short video about our design experiences and how we deal with this (and similar) issues.
Discussing these ideas and later making the video with Scott was an amazing experience. At this point we consider the ideas to be in their early stages, but we hope to revisit this project soon and make a more polished version. Hopefully we will put something more together soon because these are ideas that I am interested in pursuing further.
In this video I take a brief look at how Koei Tecmo defines “Japanese-styled” in their horror game series Fatal Frame. This was inspired by a quote from the series producer who referred to the most recent release in the series, Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse, as, “This extremely Japanese-styled title” when the game was being marketed in 2022. I trace Koei Tecmo’s definition of Japanese-ness through an analysis of other yūrei media and the narrative structures of the series. This research is in its early stages but I argue that Koei Tecmo connects to both historical and contemporary yūrei media in the Fatal Frame series and pose some questions about the significance of how Koei Tecmo defines Japanese-ness through Fatal Frame.
I decided to do something a little different for the International Conference on Games and Narrative 2023. While I did give a virtual talk at the conference, I also made a shorter video version of my presentation for my YouTube channel. Ideally, I would like to continue to do this for conference talks that I give that are either in-person or given “live” in a virtual conference format. I will continue to share video versions of my presentations from conferences and public talks that require video versions as well.
On the lighter side, I just wanted to note that I have really been enjoying the Fatal Frame games lately and I was very happy to get the chance to write about them for the first time. I am still mulling how exactly I want to approach my next large project, but I hope that I get to include some more analysis of the Fatal Frame games.
I have been very excited to start a new, large-scale research project after completing my PhD and Post Doctoral Fellowship. While I am not at the point where I want to reveal the full scale of my research plan, I can say that I plan for it to include both traditional research and a new game project. As a first component of my project I have been engaging in research about Japanese Yōkai. I was excited to present the earliest parts of this research at the Replaying Japan 2022 conference (which used a hybrid model and was hosted by Ritsumeikan University).
This video examines Nioh 2 and its value as a cross-cultural learning tool. The video was inspired by my own experiences playing Nioh 2 before engaging in more formal Yōkai research afterwards. I found that many of the depictions of Yōkai were based upon traditional sources in both physical appearance and, in many regards, to how the player interacted with enemies during gameplay. This led me to think more deeply about the game as a cross-cultural teaching tool and, eventually, resulted in this video.
This was my most elaborate video project yet and took the most time to put together. This was mainly caused by my decision to synchronize the gameplay footage with the audio recording. I think that it makes for a better video but I may not have the luxury of editing a video like this again. Quite simply, it took a lot of time to capture the video, create transitions, take still photos of the art discussed, record the audio, and edit everything together. That said, I’m proud of how it turned out!
Recently, I was contacted by my old high school classmate and current faculty member at the University of King’s College, Adam Richter. It was great to see that he is doing well and I was very happy to be invited to give a guest lecture for his History of Science and Technology class. It has been quite a while since I have given a history lecture (as opposed to a communication or game studies lecture with some history incorporated into it), so I was a little nervous. Luckily, it went very well. I was happy to put together the lecture and I hope that I get the opportunity to continue to use my skills in history, historiography, and historical methods.
The guest lecture is broken into three main parts: History, Collective Memory, and Video Games. The History section gives a very brief history of the Pacific War leading up to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is followed by the Collective Memory section, which examines how the atomic bombings have been remembered in both North America and Japan. Finally, the Video Games section gives an example of how the history and collective memory of the atomic bombs is remediated into video games. For this lecture I used case studies of Valkyria Chronicles 4 (Sega, 2018) and Resident Evil 3 (Capcom, 2020).
As with most opportunities for presentations, lectures, and public talks since the beginning of the pandemic the lecture was delivered remotely (and in this case asynchronously). I still have some mixed feelings about this because I love to travel and present my research in person but I also realize that there are some benefits to the remote models as well. Not only was this an opportunity that I would have needed to turn down if it was in-person due to travel costs but it also would not have been recorded and, as a result, much harder to share widely. The lecture is now available on my YouTube channel. You can watch it here:
As a final note, I have upgraded my recording equipment and become slightly more comfortable recording since my last batch of videos. I like being able to more easily and widely share my research so I hope that I can keep recording and editing videos even as we transition back to more normal circumstances.
Remote development of a game was a new and (mostly) exciting experience for me, however, I am hoping that my next game project can be developed under more normal circumstances. Regardless, I was extremely grateful to be working with Mimi who was meticulous in her work, respectful of the content of the game, and added many excellent ideas to the project (especially the workbook that comes with the game). I am very proud of the work that we did and believe that we have created a unique and meaningful game.
Here is the original announcement trailer for the game:
Nagasaki Kitty Japanese Language Edition is available for PC and MAC here.
I was honored to win a Hexagram Internationalization Grant for the period of February to May 2020. My original idea for the grant was to create a small game demo in RPG Maker MV and use it as the basis for a game-making and historical narrative workshop at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto. Unfortunately, the entire project was scrapped due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Luckily, Hexagram allowed me to keep the funds which I used to cover non-refundable travel expenses.
Despite this, Hexagram invited me to speak about my grant during their 20th Anniversary Gala. Although I was unable to travel to Montreal to attend the gala, they were very accommodating and allowed me to submit a video in lieu of an in-person talk. Rather than simply reiterate how the project was cancelled, I took the opportunity to talk about the RPG Maker MV versions of Nagasaki Kitty. Though these projects are not directly connected to the grant, I thought that I should provide some kind of content other than saying, “Thank you for covering my non-refundable travel expenses after I had to cancel my project.”
Here is the video:
I would love to pursue my original proposed project (i.e., an international game-making workshop focused on historical narratives) again at a later date but I am also happy with the way that everything worked out. If the workshop had not been cancelled I would have been working on that rather than making a full version of a game (that would later spawn other, bilingual versions).
I have been making progress on the translation version of Nagasaki Kitty with my writing partner Dr. Mimi Okabe. We recently released the pre-order for the game in time for our conference presentation at RePlaying Japan 2021 (hosted online by the University of Alberta). In our short video submission we discuss our motivations for making the game, American historiography, and our adventures in translation (in particular the dynamics of translating “meow”). We are continuing to make progress on the game and plan to start playtesting soon.
On another, semi-related note, I have been getting more practice making videos and I think that they are becoming higher quality. Post-pandemic, when we will presumably move away from remote conferences, I think that I will continue to make video versions of my talks so that they can be more easily disseminated (especially post-conference).
I recently had my first opportunity to be interviewed about my work. I felt excited and honored that Epoch Xperience reached out to me to discuss my RPG Maker MV game Nagasaki Kitty. Epoch is a company that focuses on historical research (not only in games but also in more traditional mediums) and was interested in talking to me about the design and historical work that went into Nagasaki Kitty. Below is the full hour-plus interview where we cover everything from my academic research to how people who are interested in making their own historical games can get started.
I want to thank Mark LoProto for both organizing/recording the interview and providing me with the completed footage to present here. I should note that the lighting and video issues in the completed interview originated on my end and were the unfortunate consequence of completing the interview remotely during a lockdown. Overall I was quite happy with how the interview went and hope that I get the opportunity participate in more of these types of activities in the future.