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.
An interesting by-product of the pandemic for me has been an increased amount of time spent learning new software and platforms. I was required to create a video essay version of my talk for the Canadian Game Studies Association and I enjoyed that experience. As a result, I made another video essay based on my International Conference on Games and Narrative 2021 talk. I am lacking in the proper equipment (i.e. microphone, lighting, etc.) so I think that the quality of the video may be slightly lacking, but I still had fun making it. The gameplay clips were captured on a PS4, the audio was recorded and edited using Audacity, and the editing and combing of files was completed using the Microsoft Photos application (which has pleasantly surprised me with its ease of use and number of features).
I was extremely excited and honored to be able to discuss an important aspect of my research and methodology at the Canadian Game Studies annual 2021 conference. This was initially accepted as a paper for the 2020 conference and was a speculative paper intended to engage with how I was going to tackle my positionality within my dissertation. However, the 2020 conference was cancelled and all accepted papers were moved to the 2021 conference. As a result, this paper went from, “This is how I think that I will handle positionality within my dissertation” to, “This is how I handled positionality within my dissertation.” The fact that the 2021 conference was entirely virtual meant that I needed to record a video essay which can be found below.
I look forward to further engaging in this field and type of research in my future scholarship. In particular, I am becoming more and more interested in the idea of “erasure” both on the individual level but also at larger sites of power and within collective/cultural memory.
The entire process of designing the game, playtesting, setting myself up on Itch, creating content for social media, and advertising the game is something that I want to revisit at some point. I plan on writing a full post-mortem about the entire process at a later date.
In the meantime here is the launch trailer for the game:
Teaching, running workshops, and giving guest lectures have become much more complicated given the ongoing pandemic but I was very happy to be invited to speak to the students of Dr. Mimi Okabe’s Japanese translation class at the University of Alberta.
Typically I like to give a more hands-on experience to the students but I think that I was able to put together a compelling and (somewhat) interactive experience for the students. For the lecture portion, I introduced my research and how it connects to game making before shifting to the workshop element where I screen-shared via Zoom and gave a brief tour of RPG Maker MV.
Given that this was a translation class, my primary focus was to show the students how dialogue and text are inserted into a game and the particular issues that they would need to be mindful of when translating a video game. For example, video game translators need to be particularly mindful of their development tools when they engage in translation. In the case of RPG Maker MV, there are strict character limitations for text. If the translator ignores these, then the software will not be able to display the text correctly. This means that translators must make sure that they accurately translate the text while also limiting themselves to the strict character limit imposed by the design software.
My combination guest lecture and workshop concluded with a question/answer period. Dr. Okabe asked her students to prepare questions for me beforehand so that I could incorporate answers into my talk as best as possible. This was a wonderful idea that helped me to structure my talk and led to more in-depth questions from the students during the question/answer time. It is a strategy that I will implement in the future (both as a guest speaker or when I invite guest speakers myself).
Overall, I had a great time talking about video game tools and the intricacies of translation. I am planning some projects around these ideas for the near future. For now, I would like to thank Dr. Okabe for the invitation and the students of her class for their insightful questions.