Thursday, October 14, 2010
It’s common knowledge that Japan is at the forefront of the gaming world. Brands such as Nintendo and Sega are known all over the world. Ever since Nintendo released its first game Donkey Kong in 1981, video games and their associated characters and sub-cultures have been an integral part of Japan’s economy and modern identity.
The video game industry is so deeply-rooted in Japan’s post-war image that certain locations in Japan are even defined by it. Take Akihabara for instance. Of course you can buy all manner of electrical goods in Akihabara, but the town is considered a Mecca for gamers worldwide. On the release day of a new game or game console, huge lines forming on the streets of Akihabara is a common scene. However, it’s not just new games and hardware that Akihabara is famous for. Fans of retro games from the 1970’s and 80’s often scour Akihabara for popular games and game consoles of that era. The town has dozens of such stores dotted along its back-alleys. Then there’s the entire back-catalog of action figures, collectible cards and so on based on popular game characters themselves; a thriving industry in itself.
About a thirty minute train ride from Akihabara is Odaiba. Here the gaming giant Sega has created the theme-park “Joypolis.” Joypolis is filled with new and classic Sega games and characters. The company’s flagship character, “Sonic the hedgehog”, and his supporting cast are plastered on every wall.
True game freaks make a trip to the annual Tokyo Games Show though. Each September the giants of the Japanese gaming industry assemble on Makuhari-Messe just outside Tokyo to showcase their latest developments. It’s considered one of the most important gaming events in the world. Execs and fans from around the world come to the Tokyo Games Show to see what Japanese gaming companies will unleash in the year to come. This year 3-D gaming devices are the buzz of the industry. The industry’s major players, Nintendo and Sony, are all releasing 3-D consoles next year.
One thing’s for sure. Japan is a gamers’ paradise. Whether you’re a casual player, or a hard-core gamer, exploring the history and locales of the gaming industry in Japan is great fun.