On this last 11th of December, the analog games festival “Fall 2016 Game Market” took place at the Tokyo Big Sight. We will now report on the popular analog games scene, whose charms are gradually gaining it more enthusiasts.
“Fall 2016 Game Market”
■An analog games event which was packed with visitors
The Game Market started in April 2000 as an exchange event held in a building in Kanda, Tokyo, for analog games which don’t require electricity. This event, which started with 400 people, has been getting bigger every year. In 2013 the location was moved to the Tokyo Big Sight, and in this year’s “Spring 2016” edition held in May the number of visitors was more than 10,000 people for the first time, reaching up to 12,000 people. There were about 530 booths on display. More than 600 games were sold. 90% of them were self-produced games, the other 10% of the booths were company-produced games.
The change in the number of visitors and booths
The booth for the main offices of “Game Market”
There are a lot of different types of games here. It is mainly centered around card games, also including werewolf-type games (*1), table talk RPG (*2), puzzle games, games where blocks are stacked, etc. Prices mainly range from 1,000 yen to 2,000 yen, with some of the more expensive games rising up to 5,000 or 6,000 yen.
We asked the attendants what they liked about these puzzle games, and they told us that “they create a fun form of communication”, “you can play them with complete strangers”, “after solving a problem between a group of people, all cooperating together, it really gives you a strong sense of achievement.” According to Mr. Seto, a scenario writer who worked at one of the booths, “this is different from those digital games where the paths have already been written, since here the story is created between all the players.” According to him, this is one of the biggest charms of this type of game.
We also spoke to Mr. Kariya, who works at the executive offices of Game Market, which help bring this event together.
“Clearly, the most important aspect is just how full of mutual sympathy this kind of communication is, and how fun this makes it to play them,” he said. He also said that “there are just so many games which are full of fresh ideas. The reasons why analog and digital games are simple or complicated respectively are completely opposite reasons in each case.
Analog games can be completed in one session by individual players, so it’s much easier to try out experimental ideas, and this is why there are many complex and weird ideas which come out of this process. In digital games, many more companies and individuals are related to the process, so mistakes are not so easily allowed, and in fact they usually try to copy other games which have already been successful in the market. Actually, most of the people who have booths in the Game Market have day jobs working as staff members in digital game companies.”
■The stand-out games from the whole selection
Mr. Kariya shared with us a list of his favorite analog games from the event.
“CARU UTA” (Booth: Xaquinel)
A unique product which combines the traditional “Karuta” card game with “uta” (which means songs in Japanese). Cards with words which could appear in a song, like “dream”, “you” or “surely”, are written on the cards in front of the players. You let songs play at random on your smartphone or another device, and whenever any of those words comes up in the lyrics you take that card. While playing those songs, no one knows when the words will appear so the sense of tension is palpable.
“Mask of Anubis”, “Mask of Moai” (Booth: Gift Industry)
A game which uses the VR function of smartphones to combine aspects of digital and analog games. One of the participants becomes the game master (they take up the role of leading the game), and this person wears the VR goggles. While exploring the dungeon which appears in front of this person’s eyes, they convey information to the players around them just by speaking. The others use this information to build a map of the dungeon, and using it they try to find the map, and design a plan to escape the dungeon.
“Mask of Anubis” was released on April of 2016 and its sequel, “Mask of Moai” is planned to be released in Spring of 2017.
“Mask of Anubis”
A player wearing the VR goggles
A VR screenshot from “Mask of Moai” (showing a section above ground)
A VR screenshot from “Mask of Moai” (showing an underwater section)
The map is also 3D
People playing “Mask of Moai”
■It will surely spread wider
The reason analog games have become this popular is, according to Mr. Kariya, because “it is very easy to share photos and videos on social networks of yourself playing these games. It is hard to talk of these games just in text comments, but with photos people think to themselves, ‘this looks like fun’, and the number of players increases.” Also, thanks to social networks, players can easily find other members to meet up for a game. So it is thanks to digital services that analog games are spreading wider.
We also spoke to Mr. Mahon, who was reporting on the convention’s games, too.
“When it comes to digital games, only fans of those games come to report on the conventions. But with digital games, many people from different areas come to investigate these games, so lately there is a lot of reporting on the topic of analog games.”
■Inside the haunted mansion…
Among all these analog games there are also some which take on a much bigger scale.
One of these was the real table talk game “DARKGAME”, which opened on the 6th of December in Asagaya Anime Street. It was a table talk RPG based on Norse mythology, and it took place inside a haunted mansion. A group of players who have never met before compete to see who will escape from this place. On the day of the event it became so popular that it was impossible to make a reservation to play.
Real Table Talk Cafe “DARKGAME”
■This age of “lonesome” players…
Let’s return to the topic of the Game Market.
It is often said that many people these days prefer to avoid complicated social interactions, that they like being alone, and therefore they build their whole social life on the Internet. However, visiting the Game Market makes it clear that this doesn’t apply to everyone. One of the booth owners told us that “geeky people are usually bad at communicating with others, but they still desire to have those kinds of relationships with people. In this sense, analog games are like Halloween for them.”
Despite what one expects, these people live completely alone but in their hearts they still crave for smooth human interactions.
Could it be that nowadays there are more people like these, and that therefore there is now less support for analog games?
One of the attendants we interviewed found it hard to speak to us, and didn’t answer many of our questions. However, he was a game master who talkatively took the lead in a game. There was no doubt that on that day he was widening his own community.
Analog games affect us in mysterious ways.
(*1) Players get divided into a townsfolk team and a werewolf team, and try to guess which team each player is in just by talking. In this game, players compete to see who is the last one standing. That is the foundation under this style of playing.
(*2) Using pen and pencil, dice and other such tools, players have a conversation while consulting the rule book and take part in an interactive role playing game.
(Article by: Kenichi Nakamura)
Fields Research Institute (FRI) conducts research in entertainment.
This article was written by a member of FRI, through the original coverage of his/her interests observed in their daily lives.