People often note that there are three or four types of foreigner who reside in Japan. Firstly – Language teachers like myself, maybe in conversation schools or at universities or perhaps through the JET scheme, there aren’t as many of us here as there used to be but we are still a common ish breed. Then there are students, students everywhere! Students from everywhere. Next I’d say would be the programmers, the developers, the computer….people. I’d say the third group are a mix of artists, musicians, freelance writers, and bar workers – in my experience they often teach or develop games at the same time. Actually, most people I’ve met do a number of these things at once in some kind of magical life juggling trickery. Lucky for me, because, I get to experience all of the crazy imaginative fun things these folk seem to summon up, for example…
The biggest event in my calendar recently was Bitsummit. Kyoto’s Indie game festival which features both Japanese and global developers. It only cost a couple of quid to get in, and once inside there were almost too many games to try out, on all kinds of medium from ipad to Xbox to PC.
I’ll admit that one of my main objectives of the day was to finally have a go on the Oculus Rift. I can confirm that it would be my sisters worst nightmare and she’d have vomited pretty early on in the game. The Oculus Rift is pretty immersive and so perhaps not the best thing for those prone to motion sickness in games. The guys in the Vitei back room have conjured up a hilarious and addictive game which involves taxiing zombies around town guided by a GPS system almost as irritating as a real life. I have actually passed my driving test but thankfully that had little value as I reversed into bridges and smashed through lamp posts (which gives you more points, woohoo!). At some point I remembered that if I physically turned round I could actually drive backwards and still see where I was going. Fab.
You can see more of the game and read all about it here. This game won the Vermillion Gate award and we couldn’t be prouder of Chris, Peter, and the rest of the team at Vitei. Vitei itself was founded by this guy called Giles who was practically kidnapped from the uk when he was still in his teens to work on games such as Starfox, Mario 64, and 1080. I shan’t go on and on about Vitei but there’s an awful lot of visually and technically exciting stuff happening that I only wish I had the know-how to write about.. So if you want to know more in terms of the programming side look no further.
Incidentally I started to learn how to code around Christmas, now and then I keep it up, but it’s more of a personal gripe about keeping up with the kids than something I want to use so it’s pretty low on my priorities right now.
Shockingly, Vitei weren’t the only indie game development company at Bitsummit. There were many, but one of the most engaging and bright teams (I mean, yellow t-shirts kind of bright) there was Funktronic labs. I played this….http://youtu.be/gjIOvPn5XYc… Nova 111, which starts off turn-based but evolves into real time as you encounter new foes. At the beginning I hadn’t quite cottoned onto the fact that turn based meant I didn’t have to go in and attack everything immediately, but after some very patient help from the team I worked out the patterns and it started to really click.
Actually by the end of the event, and certainly by the end of the night, most of Kyoto seemed to be wearing Funktronic labs t-shirts – including Chris, Peter, and Giles. Nova 111 was nominated for the game design award at Bitsummit and you can see some of their other games here. These guys seem to really live by their ideology…’Technology, Love, and Magic.’. Make sure you check out Lotus which uses Leap Motion to make music.
So that was Bitsummit. Tonight I’m trying out a vegetarian/vegan restaurant in town in a bid to discover a new healthy lifestyle. I figure that future Rachel will appreciate me taking care of myself. I’m glad to tell you it’s possible to be even a vegan in Japan! More about that coming up soon…
Smell you later.
Love Rach xoxox