Figured I’d kill/save some time by writing up my trip summary during the flight home from Japan. Let’s see… Six hours down, only five more to go (plus the short hop from Toronto to Montreal). Admittedly, I’m mostly just thinking of getting home to my wife and kids, whom I’ve not seen for ten days now… Sigh.

This trip to Japan was longer than usual, though certainly all worthwhile. Normally, I’d just head over for Tokyo Game Show. But, as noted previously, this year saw the amalgamation of various game/media related events under the “CoFesta” umbrella. So, in addition to TGS, I attended and spoke at both the developer oriented CEDEC and the academic/research oriented DiGRA – as well as some CoFesta specific activities.

Overall, TGS felt a bit flat in terms of any big news. Sure, the hoards of otaku were there along with the cosplayers to liven things up. Just seemed like all the previous shows around the world cumulatively stole the thunder heading into TGS.

Sadly, CEDEC was mostly in Japanese, so I didn’t get to take in many of the sessions. Though there were some English CoFesta sessions within CEDEC that were quite interesting. In fact, Raph Koster, Mark DeLoura and Robin Hunicke all gave great presentations (largely all related to empowering players, democratizing development, Web 2.0 approaches, etc). Now, this is largely still provocative stuff back in the Western world. By Japanese standards, I could image that much of what they were saying was considered heresy given the “closed” nature of Japanese development.

DiGRA, on the other hand, was both wildly inspiring and numbingly boring. For example, one paper session on the mapping of time was well done and engaging, while another paper on player subversion felt dated and flat (but presented as if the researcher had just discovered fire). Still, the good stuff outweighed the lame stuff, and the networking and interstitial conversations made it all the more valuable.

Not surprisingly, many of the academics – being in Japan for the first time – jumped out of the conference, taking a day off here and there to experience Tokyo. While I got to do a little sightseeing (temple in Asakusa) and shopping (Hello Kitty store in Ginza), I was large “stuck” with at least one formal commitment on each day to make it just inconvenient enough to not wander off. Oh well, next time…

And now, on to the many photos!

Square Enix president and CESA chairman, ?, kicks off the opening reception of TGS.

Yuki Miyajima, Thomas Grove (Stormfront Studios) and Warren Currell (Sherpa Games) hanging out at the reception.

Shin-san intros the Microsoft session for CoFesta within TGS.

Jay Weinland and Jonty Barnes came all the way over from Bungie to show off Halo 3.

Robin Hunicke (EA) fascinated by her convention center food; Doug Church (EA) satisfied to gulp down the grapefruit juice.

Jane Pinckard checks messages as Kim Palister (Microsoft) discusses casual game economics.

The fairly sizable section of schools showing off student projects at TGS.

Can’t escape the booth babes… Ever…

Metal Gear 4 drew a consistently large crowd for its video loop.

Sega’s Nights was another pleaser.

Swedes Going Down: Patrick Palm (Hansoft) and Per Strombak (Speilplan) on their way to the international party at TGS.

The long queue snaking around the convention center on the first public day of TGS (view from my hotel room).

Was funny/sad to see this Dreamcast box appropriated by the venue crew…

Eye of Judgment looks like a must have!

Kawaii! Fun to see dads bringing their kids to the show (made me miss my little girl even more).

A dad steps in the help his kids with a DS game.

Photographers politely line up to take pics of the cosplayers.

Wow, an entire troup.

…some costumes are quite elaborate.

Oooh, Grasshopper’s No More Heroes. So hip. So punk.

While note massively popular with the local crowd, the sign did warn that you had to be 18 to enter to see GTA: Vice City Stories. And, I witnessed them diligently carding everyone.

Sakaguchi’s latest epic, Lost Odyssey drew a massive crowd, despite being an Xbox game. Meanwhile Halo 3 was barely touched at the neighboring pods…

Hmm. Odd form of post-modern recursion…

So. Many. People.

Shin-san treats me to some delicious conveyor belt sushi.

The Kaminarimon gate in Asakusa.

The Asakusa market.

Sensoji temple in Asakusa during the equinox festival.

Got to cleanse my soul.

And, wash my hands.

Monk leading prayer in the temple.

The Sanrio store in Ginza was a Hello Kitty paradise.I was sent there on a mission for my daughter…

The famed Sony Building in Ginza.

A sculpture outside of University of Tokyo seem to suit the conference’s “situated play” theme.

Was unable to score tickets for the sumo championships, so ended up watching it on TV in my hotel room.

Mark DeLoura on democratizing game development.

Raph Koster (Areae) talks about the changing landscape for games.

Kellee Santiago (That Game Company), Raph Koster and Noah Keating (Lightspace) at the post CoFesta reception.

Robin Hunicke (EA), Susan Gold (GarageGames) and Michael Mateas (GeorgiaTech) chatting at the reception.

Raph made friends with Final Fantasy designer Nobuaki Komoto (Square Enix) despite dissing large-scale games.

Nick Peck (Activision), Peck Sr., Marianne Selsjord (Oslo National Academy of the Arts), Tom Edwards (Englobe), Mary Beth Haggerty (Perpetual Entertainment), enjoy conveyor belt sushi.

Import Panel: Kees Gajentaan (Grasshopper Manufacture), Colin Williamson (Square Enix), Bart Sekura (tri-Ace), John Abrehamson (From Sofware) and Robert Ota Dieterich (iNiS Corporation).

Kellee Santiago (That Game Company), Noah Keating (Lightspace) and Andy previewing the cafeteria options.

Industrial scale soup production in Tokyo University’s cafeteria.

Keynoter Ed Castranova (Indiana U.) gets audience members to play for coins.

Castranova groks on some heavy duty economic graphs.

The expo for CEDEC was not impressive…

Dave Thomas and crew at Firehouse Burger - voted the best burger in Tokyo!

Akira Baba (Tokyo U.) leads the keynote discussion between Toru Iwatani (creator of Pac-Man) and Masayuki Uemura (Nintendo hardware alum).

Masanobu Endoh discusses the female market in Japan.

Heading to the closing reception, was stunned to see student practicing American football.

Speechification by Kenji Matsubara (Koei) during the DiGRA banquet.

Kaoru Ogata (Digital Hollywood) and Shin-san out for drinks on the final night.

Erik Champion (U. New South Wales) and Haruki Akiba (Sega) tempted by the karaoke machine.

Kenji Ono (independent writer/editor), Babsi Lippe (Avaloop) and Katsumi Osada (Broadband Association) goofing around.