Today, I am visiting the Takarazuka University of Art and Design, to see an exhibition pertaining to Japanese video games. After four years of studying, a final project from each student is showcased inside the university, so visitors or potential new students can get a look and feel for what the campus has to offer. I head straight to the 8th-floor office area and drag my friend away to give me a guided tour. Our first stop, a look at the Unreal Engine 4.
The game here, actually created by one of the teachers, is a simple platformer, set on what appears to be a distant planet. The controls offer only movement and jumping, and although the game is somewhat simple, its main purpose is to show off the graphics and textures that can be created with this engine. I enjoy jumping around for a while, looking at the water and landscape, before accidentally hitting a button on the controller that causes the game to stop working.
Visual Basic Instinct
Next, we head into a room full of iPads. Here we can try out actual games made by the students. Such delights include ‘Dancing Brain’, ‘Fruits Panic!’, and my favourite title, ‘Fable Sour Face’. Fable Sour Face is apparently based on a novel, and the creator said that it was difficult to make because he had to do it all alone; everything from scratch to the finished product. This tactical espionage operations adventure looks to me like a Doom/Quake clone. “You get a lot of looks and can you tear it off,” says the tagline.
I pick up the iPad to play and press the start button, but I am instantly greeted by an error message. For the second time today, I have broken something.
We continue to explore the various games; some very basic, others quite advanced. For no reason, the video games room also features a collection of beautifully illustrated tarot cards, based on German folktales, including the Pied Piper of Hamelin, and the story of Rapunzel.
It makes me wonder, if anyone can simply make a set of tarot cards by themselves, how can they possibly be guided by a spiritual force during tarot readings. I start to think about things too much and ponder what it might be that apparently gives the cards their mystical power, their divinatory aspect. I realise that I am being overly sceptical, so decide to instead check out the next room for more video games.
Kowloon’s Gate VR
Kowloon’s Gate was a hugely popular adventure game released for the PlayStation in 1997. It had a massive cult following and was created by a company called ‘Zeque’. One of the designers of the game just so happens to be one of the teachers at this university, and he now uses the game to demonstrate the incredible power of the Oculus Rift.
This is a first time for me to try Oculus, and it is an absolutely delightful experience. Strangely, when wearing the headset, it really does feel like I am living in another world; in this case, the world is Kowloon, Hong Kong. The Oculus Rift allows me to see everything through the eyes of the protagonist. Massive headphones block out all of the other sounds, except that of the game, allowing me to become fully immersed. Motion sensors determine where the character is looking. I sit for about five minutes, moving my head around, in awe of the apparent realism that I am seeing. After leaving Kowloon, my head feels a little dizzy, as if I am suffering from serious motion sickness. I say goodbye to my friend as he returns to work and leave the university.
With a head full of pixels and my thoughts lost to video games, I head over to the only place that makes any sense, Akihabara. I make a stop at Planet Sega, taking the lift to the third floor. Here I play some arcade-style video games. After twenty minutes of playing BlazBlue, and not doing so well, I need to use the restroom. Above the urinal, is a very strange computer screen displaying a different kind of video game.
The Northern Wind, the Sun and Me
The game is oddly titled, ‘The Northern Wind, the Sun and Me’, and features a young woman presenting the weather. The urinal is fitted with a target and sensor, and the harder I urinate, the stronger the wind blows. The aim of the game is to make the wind so strong, that the skirt of the young lady gets high enough to reveal her underwear. It makes me wonder what the ladies restrooms offer for entertainment. Unfortunately, the video game arcade is populated entirely by men, so I have nobody to ask. Somewhat confused as to what I have just experienced, I decide that I have had enough video games for one day and need to go home.