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Visit with Prof. Aki Nakamura at Ritsumeikan University

On Nov. 11th, 2014, I had the pleasure of visiting Ritsumeikan University (Kinugasa Campus) in Kyoto to meet with Professor Aki Nakamura to discuss potential research collaboration opportunities, and to get a copy of the book which he co-authored with Professor Shuji Watanabe entitled,「なぜ人はゲームにハマるのか:開発現場から得た『ゲーム生』の本質」("Why are people crazy about games? The essence of 'Game-ness' from the frontlines of development").

Since Prof. Nakamura and I are both working on Narrative phenomenon in games, which is an inherently problematic mess of objective sciences and subjective interpretation, we are particularly interested in developing new ways of both understanding how narratives function in games as well as how to use such insights to inform game development in turn.

As it turns out, we do have some promising research overlap in terms of ideas of emergent narrative in games and an intriguing idea of the basic units of game such as ludo and narreme. At the time of this writing, I find that I am oddly reluctant to go into deeper detail because 1) the ways in which our ideas are coalescing are still in the very early stages, and 2) I am not yet sufficiently informed on the concepts of ludo or narreme to be able to create a meaningful discussion on it yet, but suffice it to say that this meeting constitutes a fruitful research collaboration in which I see quite a lot of potential.

Things to know about Narreme right off the bat:

-It can conceptually be considered the basic or atomic unit of narrative structure.

-Oddly enough, while narreme appears to have somewhat fallen along the wayside in literary studies, it seems to have experienced a kind of re-referencing in the computer sciences, and to me this makes sense as the computer sciences tend to look favorably upon measurement units. Essentially, narreme is not a true "scientific" measurement unit, but I think it may constitute a good handle on the situation that is somewhere in the middle between the objective and the subjective systems/effects which make up the modern video game.

More on narreme as I delve further into the materials I was grateful to have received from Prof. Nakamura.

On a personal note, it is always really great to visit another campus and meet all sorts of different people. It's an inherently refreshing activity. It's downright invigorating, in fact. After our meeting, Prof. Nakamura introduced me to some of his students who are undergraduates taking his class on global business, and I gave a short impromptu presentation on my concept of Player-side Emergence (the same concept I presented at the Meaningful Play 2014 conference). Meeting and discussing with undergraduate students again made me really reflect on how my current grad school, NAIST, has no undergraduates. Naturally, this presents both benefits and disadvantages, but to me generally, I think it is very beneficial to have more heterogeneity on university campuses at large. I am admittedly biased since I am from a liberal arts education, but diversity in my opinion, seems to always be more helpful for the generation of ideas and being able to meet lots of different kinds of people has always been overly helpful for me personally in terms of personal growth and insight. I was able to gain a bit more of that being on Ritsumeikan campus again, and to talk with students from a variety of different backgrounds.

After the meeting with the students, Prof. Nakamura and I went to lunch at a nearby Chinese restaurant. To be honest, we nerded out over all manner of game studies. I wanted to use a different term aside from "nerding out" but in truth, that phrase is appropriate, I think. We were truly just flying from topic to topic and sharing a laugh over a variety of things. If that is some sort of crime worthy of the appellation of nerding out, then so be it--we were nerding out over game studies, over a nice meal of chinese food.

After we parted, I decided to walk back to Emmachi station. The weather was sunny but not hot, and it was perfect Kyoto walking.

More to come!

About the Author

PhD Candidate in Japan, researching Narrative in Games. Responds favorably to Thrash Metal, Karaoke, and Dungeons & Dragons.

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