A report on “Tokaigi 2017” -living our life with games-

A gaming festival for game fans has just opened, “Tokaigi 2017”. I will now report on this great successful event.

■When it comes to games, they offer everything!

During this last 11th and 12th of February, “Tokaigi 2017” was held at Makuhari Messe. Each booth was connected to the Internet, so even though there were roughly 68,000 visitors in the actual venue, there were 4,120,000 visitors online.
The catchphrase of this event was “living our life with games”, and taking a look at the venue it does certainly look like a festival for hardcore gamers, or a place where when it comes to games, they offer everything.
There was a wide range of visitors, people of different ages, entire families or groups of young friends.

The venue of “Tokaigi 2017”

At the venue, many people are gathered around the new e-sports battle arena, while next to it there is a queue forming at the Retro Game Corner. The early Famicon and Sega Saturn, all those nostalgic consoles, now make that classic sound which fills the venue. On the other hand, there is a playing area for the latest console, NINTENDO Switch, and next to this there is a tatami unfolded where people play Hanafuda cards.

Retro Game Corner

In the middle of a Hanafuda game!

Besides these, there is also a gameplay area, a game music stage, a cosplay area, sales stalls and booths for each company. There was also a hall called the “game center exam”, where up to 80 people sat down and took a computer-scored test related to games. Once they had finished the test, another round of 80 visitors would sit down and fill the hall. Every time there was a leadership board which was updated with the highest score out of the average mark. They all took this test very seriously.
I would now like to talk about one of the corners which caught my attention.

Gameplay area

The game music stage was really crowded!

The game center exam hall

■Cthulhu Mythos

Among all the many booths, there was a booth which ran out of numbered tickets both days when the venue opened. It was the Cthulhu Mythos table-talk RPG booth, placed next to the analog game area.
A table-talk RPG is a kind of RPG where real communication and conversations are used to solve mysteries and tell a story. Among all the different analog games, which have been gaining popularity these last years, the most popular of them all has been the Cthulhu Mythos games. Many videos of these games being played have been uploaded to the Internet, and this has gained them even more popularity.

The Cthulhu Mythos booth

Solving mysteries in the Cthulhu Mythos!

The Cthulhu Mythos are a fictitious mythology written by H.P. Lovecraft, and they tell the tales of people who get caught up in incidents related to a series of absolutely powerful evil deities. These evil gods cause people to go “insane”, and this element plays a key role in the games.
On this occasion, their booth is held in a square space of 20×20 meters. Inside it is divided into 4 rooms. The games are played by 4 participants and a member of staff which guides them, called the Game Keeper. They have a time limit of 6 minutes to solve the mystery in their room, and move onto the next room.
I asked some of the participants about their experiences: “The game mechanism is so crazy that it’s loads of fun.” (A woman in her 20s) “This was my first time, but it was very fun to focus on the conversation aspect of the game. I’d love to play it again.” (A girl in her teens) “I had beginner’s luck…” (A man in his 20s)

The entrance to the Cthulhu Mythos booth

Inside the rooms

The tranquilizers help reduce the “insanity”

After solving each room, one of the evil gods awaits in the final room. Facing this evil deity the players have to give their own personal answers to solve a mystery. Depending on their answers they will get a good ending or a bad ending, a “safe return” or a “demise”. I spoke to the person who played the evil god character, and what was unique about them is that even if the player’s answers for the riddle were not correct, if their answer was desperate and showed a sense of risk, the god would say “let there be justice” and gave them a good ending. This shows how the game is based on real communication.
However, even if the evil god settles on a good ending, the players need to roll dice at the very end, nonetheless. Depending on that outcome, the “safe return” or “demise” is finally settled. In the end, one’s path is decided in one’s own hands. Actually, when entering the venue in the morning, dice are also rolled. If you don’t get anything higher than a 4, you won’t get a numbered ticket, even if you’ve stood in line from early in the morning.
The irrational nature of this decision sets this game apart from digital games where each path is already decided, and is therefore one of the real charms of analog games.

The evil god waiting in the final room.

“One’s path is decided in one’s own hands”

■ e-sports

During the two days, the 4th e-sports gaming tournament was held and it received a lot of people. Among the games played was “Overwatch”, which we introduced in a past article, and the fervor around this tournament was the same as during a wrestling match, filling the venue with loud shouts.
Finally, the representative of the e-sports promotional organization, Mr. Takahashi Meijin, said: “let’s all aim to make e-sports international!” One can really feel that e-sports have taken root here in Japan.

The “Overwatch” match

he winner of the “Overwatch” match, RNG5

■ Indie games

In movies as well as in music, the level of success of their respective indie markets is an indicator of their popularity as a form of media, in my opinion. These are works which are created out of pure passion, without any ties to the mainstream market. Despite not being famous games, the line of people waiting to play never stopped, the reason simply being because they were so much fun. TECO, the developer of a game on display called PICO PARK, actually works as a company programmer. He wanted to create games without any external control and continued to follow this method, but until the year 2014 he hadn’t been noticed by anyone, even in the indie community. But in 2015 he started getting more invitations to events, and the media also started noticing him, until he felt like he was finally getting a response to his work. He has a lot of games which have become great hits in the USA indie market, thanks to word-of-mouth. We hope that he finally gets noticed here in Japan, too.

The indie games corner

“Gang Beasts” has become very popular, and is a game where you control a character who moves in a winding, zig-zag way, in order to partake in battle royale fights in locations such as construction sites or on top of trucks.

The indie game developer TECO.

TECO’s game, “PICO PARK”, a puzzle game where many players collaborate to solve the puzzles.

■ Epilogue

A chronological table of the history of games

In the venue there was a corner called “The History of Games”, and a chronological table was on display there. Visitors could write their own comments and memories and stick them onto this chronological table, which was covered in them.
It has only been 35 years since the Famicon was released, and this shows how short the history of this media really is. But it is different from other forms of media in that during this time its platforms have never settled into one fixed state. It has experienced simplifications, complexifications, and repeated many of its elements again and again. It is a very unique history. It is thought that this is why it is such a chaotic and diverse field of media. People who play retro games are not just enjoying the nostalgia, but also the specific mechanisms and categories offered by those games.
“Tokaigi 2017” was an event with a clear message: “if it’s fun, then we will offer it.” This was the real essence of the event. Gaming culture will continue to evolve into the future, there is no doubt about it.

[Tokaigi 2017]

(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.


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