Tue 28 Sep 2004
What a tiring week - physically draining and mentally over-stimulating. Sitting in my tiny hotel room in Suidobashi (near Shinjuku) I’ve got a little time to kill before packing up and heading home from Japan. This was a fun and very valuable/worthwhile trip. The IGDA’s chapter in Japan didn’t let me rest for a second…
By all counts, the Tokyo Game Show was a success, with record attendance being announced. The PSP had a strong showing, as did most of the big publishers. Admittedly, it was kinda odd to seem some of the Western companies (eg, EA, Atari, etc) pushing their titles - they felt out of place amongst all the samurai and whacky cute character games… Capcom had very compelling content, and I was most impressed by the glimpse of Okami!
More impressive still, were the volunteers of the Japanese IGDA chapter, several who claim that their full-time job is being an IGDA volunteer ;) Of all the worldwide chapters, they have the most robust structure and widest scope of efforts. Further, they made extra effort to ensure that I didn’t get lost, always had sushi in my belly, and had places to go and people to see. (In fact, I think the IGDA should look into some kind of travel service whereby developers can get in loco support whenever they travel to a city with an IGDA chapter ;)
But, despite the progress of the chapter, the overall Japanese game industry is very closed, secretive and set in its ways. I brought this up in my opening speech for the conference portion of TGS, stating that it was like feudal Japan: closed to outside input and without a unified front. This was further demonstrated by the audience gasp when Greg Coomer spoke about how Valve incorporates input from users into their design/game, and does all the work to make their game user mod’able, etc. (ie, there is a clearly defined barrier between creator and consumer in Japan). That said, it is nice to see that the chapter is making progress in fostering a sense of developer community. Case in point, the IGDA-hosted developer party welcomed not only Japanese developers but also from folks from China, France, Korea, North America, etc, all interacting/connecting. Nice.
Closing out the week, I had a chance to visit the famed Ghibli Museum with Gonzalo Frasca. A truly unique experience that I recommend to anyone who is a fan of Hayao Miyazaki’s work and/or anime in general. Luckily, we escaped the magic of Ghibli in time to head over to the University of Tokyo. We both spoke on recent academic trends in game studies/education along with industry collaborations with the academic world. Giving a lecture with concurrent translation (ie, speak-stop-translate-speak cycles) was a challenge, but it seemed to work out well, if the insightfulness of the audience questions were any indication…
Anyway, I could ramble on forever so let’s just dive into the pics! As is Japanese custom, I snapped a lot of photos (people listed left-to-right)(and, still working on some of the names/captions):
Post pre-TGS dinner: A local who jumped in the shot, me, Kiyoshi Shin (IGDA Japan), Kim Pallister (Intel), Kenji Matsubara (Koei), Aki Nakamura (Ritsumeikan U.), Erin (Greg’s better half), Greg Coomer (Valve) and Kenji Ono (writer)
Kiyoshi Shin and Kazuhisa Ichigaya (DEA) in from of the Digital Entertainment Academy booth. Students from DEA won several of the CESA student awards…
One of the more interesting games at the show, DigiDance from Korean developer Binary Craft.
Many of the IGDA Japan chapter volunteers… They kept me busy!
Video loop for “Wanda” the sequel to ICO. They were not allowing close up pictures, but I was so enthralled that I just had to snap something…
A slimer healthier you: the sexy PStwo on display.
Playing the PSP…
Hordes of people surrounded the SquareEnix booth at all times, checking out the latest Final Fantasy vids.
CESA (the publishers association in Japan) hosted a luncheon reception for VIPs, exhibitors, etc. Here, CESA chair ? opens the festivities.
Romain Poirot-Lellig (APOM) diving into the Japanese cuisine.
I can’t go anywhere with bumping into Mark Rein and Jay Wilbur (EpicGames).
Greg Coomer (Valve) demoing Half-Life 2 during the conference portion of TGS.
Next up, Hiroyuki Kobayashi (Capcom) demos Resident Evil 4.
CMP’s Yukiko Miyajima Grove and Jamil Moledina enjoy all the great demo action.
Nakamura san conducts a biligual discussion between the two developers…
At the IGDA chapter party, Ryoichi Hasegawa (Sony), and ICO/Wanda developers Fumito Ueda and Kenji Kaido enjoy a drink.
Kim Pallister (Intel) and Mark DeLoura (Sony) scope out the IGDA party scene.
Some “cosplay” action. Was really interesting to see the hordes of gaming fans dressing up…
All the cosplay girls lined up for the changing room! Who said there are no female hardcore fans?
NVidia making a stong push on the PC side of things…
This is a picture/scene I’d never expect to see at a game industry event: women gamers (with child) speaking to female publisher rep. Nice.
This is just the space between booths!!
Hiroko Osaka (Northwestern U.) and Jane Pincard (GameGirlAdvance) on their way up to the show.
IGDA Yakuza: Japanese chapter leaders meet to discuss future plans for fostering developer community. Kiyoshi Shin, Rumiko Hoshino, Takayuki Itagaki, Katsuteru Takahashi and Aki Nakamura.
Concept art from Final Fantasy. Nice to see some exposure for the dev side of things…
Typing of the Dead sequel? Wow, who knew that typing words to kill zombies would be so appealling.
How pleasent: Genki booth hosts sit with gamers to guide them through the game.
Ah, Viewtiful Joe fights again!
Alternate input games are all the rage, this drumming game from Namco looked interesting.
Exit survey: many of the booths had some kind of survey that players had to fill out after play a game.
Land of the otaku: The famed Akihabara market has transformed from just being an electronics market to being a haven for manga, anime and game fans.
Cool SEGA arcade soccer manager game that requires gamers to collect cards (ie, players) that are placed on the machine in order to drive the game…
Laputa watches over the Ghibli Museum.
A side shot of a portion of the museum. Was a funky building, but no picture taking allowed inside.
Totoro allows Gonzalo Frasca (IT-U Coppenhagen) to enter.
Professor Akira Baba of the University of Tokyo introduces Gonzalo’s lecture.
Gonzalo discusses the academic study of games and concludes…
…that fun is overrated! Hmm, my thumbs do ache after a grueling session of Burnout 3 :)
Sushi on the tatami with the IGDA Japan crew (from rear): Takayuki Itagaki, Katsuteru Takahashi, Kiyoshi Shin, Tadashi Kushiro, Rumiko Hoshino, Kenji Matsubara, Masatoshi Itoh and me.
Aerial shot of Tokyo from the top of the gov building in Shinjuku. The city never ends…