Bishōjo game

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A bishōjo game (美少女ゲーム bishōjo gēmu?, literally "pretty girl game"), or gal game (ギャルゲーム gyaru gēmu?, often shortened to "galge"), is "a type of Japanese video game centered on interactions with attractive anime-style girls".[1] These games are a subgenre of dating sims targeted towards a heterosexual male audience.[2]

Bishōjo games are a uniquely Japanese phenomenon: they have virtually no equivalent in the Western video game industries, but are similar to Choose Your Own Adventure books. They form a sizeable fraction of the Japanese market: the most popular have sold over a million copies, and they make up the majority of offline PC games in Japan. Nevertheless only a few titles of this sort have been translated or commercialized outside of East Asia.

Notable subgenres of bishōjo games are ren'ai games (often called "dating sims" in English, although they can also be visual novels) and eroges (often called "hentai games" in English).

History[edit]

1980s[edit]

Bishōjo games began to appear in Japan in the beginning days of personal computers. The first bishōjo game commercialized in Japan appeared in 1982 as Night Life by Koei. The first bishōjo games were not too popular,[3][4] being limited to graphics of 16 colors or less.[original research?] At the beginning of the genre almost all the games were pornographic.

A notable landmark was Jast's Tenshitachi no gogo (1985), a precursor to the modern dating simulation. Among early bishōjo adventure games it had a degree of polish that previous games lacked. It was also the first to have recognizably modern anime-style artwork: its characters had very large eyes and a tiny nose and mouth but were otherwise basically normally proportioned, characteristics which today are found in virtually all bishōjo games. Prior to 1985, girls were generally drawn either as normally proportioned adults or super deformed children.

Some games involved elements of force and brutality. These came to national attention in Japan in 1986 with the release by dB-soft of 177, a game where the player takes the role of a rapist. (The game's title originates from the number of the Japanese law criminalizing rape.) 177 was not actually the first game designed around this premise, but it was unusually explicit. The game caused debate in the Japanese parliament and was eventually recalled and re-released with the most controversial scenes removed.

1990s[edit]

The industry gradually moved away from proprietary Japanese hardware to the burgeoning DOS platform, and then later in the decade to Windows. Throughout the nineties, bishōjo games underwent an evolution from being one of the most technologically demanding types of games (because their detailed 2D graphics required a large amount of storage space by the standards of early computers) to one of the least (they rarely use 3D graphics). Thus, more than regular games, the main employees required by bishōjo game companies today are not programmers but artists and writers.

In the early nineties the atmosphere in Japan became more and more hostile towards bishōjo games. In 1989 serial killer Tsutomu Miyazaki was arrested and was revealed to be a consumer of lolicon manga, causing widespread opposition to pornographic manga, otaku and anything similar. In November 1991 there was an incident where a middle-schooler shoplifted an adult bishōjo game Saori: the House of Beautiful Girls, resulting in increased police scrutiny for makers and retailers. Several prefectures began classifying games as obscene and pulling them off the shelves.

Faced with the threat of being forcibly censored out of existence by the government, in 1992 the bishōjo game industry formed the Computer Software Rinri Kikō (meaning "Ethics Organization for Computer Software", and often abbreviated EOCS or Sofu-rin), setting industry guidelines for acceptable content and packaging. This organization tamed down the most objectionable content in the "wild west" of the 1980s. Thus free from controversy and fueled by continuing improvement in technology, in the 1990s the bishōjo game industry underwent a decade-long boom.

The first major title of the 1990s wasTokimeki Memorial. Released in 1994 by Konami who was on the verge of bankruptcy, the platonic dating sim becoming the first major Bishojo game since Koei's release of Night Life. In 1999, Kanon was released by Visual Arts/Key. While the title was another eroge title targeted at males for its sexual content, the players began to identify with the protagonist and the idea overcoming "the emotional trials and tribulations of pure love." A late PlayStation 2 port removed the sexual content and sold better than the original leading eventually to two anime adaptations.[5]

A turning point was ELF's Dōkyūsei (1992). Dōkyūsei, whose gameplay focused on meeting girls and seducing them, established the standard conventions of the dating simulation genre. Tokimeki Memorial, the first dating sim, featured good graphics, full voice acting, and a role-playing game-like gameplay system. To be accessible to a more mainstream audience, it contained no erotic elements, seeking instead to create a "romantic" atmosphere. Sega's popular bishōjo game series Sakura Wars also first saw publication in 1996 for the Sega Saturn; like Tokimeki Memorial, it contained no erotic elements. However, it was unique in that it contained not only adventure-game elements but also a combat system borrowed from tactical combat games such as Tactics Ogre.

Since the late nineties, there has been a trend towards better storytelling in mainstream bishōjo games. Particularly notable in this respect are Leaf's To Heart (1997), and Key's Kanon (1999). Even though their gameplay involved little more than scrolling through text, they became hits largely due to the quality of their writing and characterization. Both were first released on the PC with erotic scenes, which were subsequently removed in their console ports.

2000s[edit]

The bishojo gaming industry has resisted the transition into 3D graphics because the blocky and distorted nature when viewed zoomed up close. In 2001 Tokimeki Memorial 3 became the first bishojo game to break this trend. However, low sales make it likely that other companies will stick with the traditional 2D graphics.[6]

Today the industry has grown, with most publishers making releases for Windows, including download only files. Some of the least pornographic and most successful also branching off into the console market. The main consoles used for bishōjo games in the nineties were the Sega Saturn and Dreamcast. More recently the PlayStation 2 has been the console of choice with a growing number of games for the PlayStation Portable and Nintendo DS handhelds. Games ported to consoles usually have adult content removed.

Characteristics[edit]

The industry of bishōjo games is closely related to the industry of anime and Japanese manga.[7] While many of the games are pornographic, the majority feature romantic situations with suggestive material.[8]

Some dōjinshi groups produce bishōjo games, many with the objective to later form a real company or to be contracted by one of the great companies in the industry. Due to the short programming time and relatively small amount of content required in a bishōjo game, barriers to enter this industry is somewhat low, and is the reason why every year dozens of new companies emerge. A substantial part of the revenue of the industry comes from merchandising. Fans are often dedicated to particular characters within their favorite games, and are willing to pay premium prices for goods like posters, figurines and accessories representing them. Several conventions also exist where articles oriented to bishōjo fans are sold, like the popular dōjinshi market Comiket in Tokyo, Japan.

Due to the representation of female characters in the majority of bishōjo games, a great majority of the market is males.[9] Nevertheless, from the year 2000 some developers began to expand their market creating games directed to girls and presented attractive young men in their cast (bishōnen). The most well-known and commercial of these titles is Konami's experiment Tokimeki Memorial Girl's Side (2002). There have even appeared a small amount of erotic games that present man-man homosexual relations (yaoi games), which take their bases from the parallel subculture of yaoi anime and manga. Games targeted specifically at female players are not referred to as bishōjo games, but categorized under the broader genre of adventure or simulation by publishers, and commonly referred to as otome games or Boys' Love games by fans and reviewers.

Gameplay[edit]

A depicition of a visual novel type bishōjo game.

Bishōjo game elements can be present in practically any type of video game,[citation needed] and gameplay in bishōjo games varies within the genre. There are still some basic formula that defines the genre. The basic characteristics of bishojo games resemble those of Choose Your Own Adventure books.[10][11] The basic appearance of bishojo games in the West, as of 2005, consisted of an image in the upper portion, a text box in the lower portion and a static background that occasionally changes extending to the edge behind both of the other two areas. The background images are often reused for various scenes and text descriptors are used to help distinguish differences in the surrounding.[12][13] In most of the games the player does not see their avatar and instead see the game from a first person perspective.[14] In addition, some games use various techniques, such as the screen shaking, flashing or going black, to give further immersion by demonstrating various conditions. The games' range of sound effects are also used to represent the avatar's eardrums.[15][16] The characters of these games are less realistic and often limited to only several static facial expression, gestures and occasional eye blinks of which the former two coincide with the text displayed at the bottom of the scene and are constantly reused.[17] [18]

The basic storylines for these games center around a male protagonist whom the player controls who interacts with various characters, notably females.[19] Interaction occurs at several points where choices—seemingly trivial—are given to the player while life-altering choices are generally not. These choices eventually lead to various "good" or "bad endings" with (or without for some bad endings) one or more female characters.[20]

Beating these games does not mean just getting various good endings, but also in some cases bad endings as the goal is to unlock all of the bonus content. This makes the way to lose such games by getting the same ending twice and not unlocking any new content.[21] For example, Gals Panic is a variant of the classic game Qix where the objective is to uncover 75% or more of a picture of a girl. Money Idol Exchanger is a puzzle game comparable to the Magical Drop series (which is also categorized as a bishōjo game). In some cases, images of girls are used as prizes for skilled play, as is the case in strip Mahjong. In other games, the bishōjo aspect can be integrated more tightly into the game: in most dating sims, the objective is to select the correct conversation lines while speaking with a female character to increase their "love meter". This type of game resembles role-playing or adventure games. Many are very linear and are essentially interactive romance novels for men (sometimes called visual novels).

Most bishōjo games remain 2D, in contrast to the rest of the gaming industry in which the majority are 3D. The main reason is that bishōjo games are centered mainly on characters instead of landscapes, and for this intention, 2D bitmaps continue to look better than 3D models (which tend to be blocky when seen up close). The main advantage of 3D models in this context is smoother and more realistic animation, although this is usually discarded by the unpolished look of the 3D characters, in addition to the additional cost of production for this type of work. Tokimeki Memorial 3 (2001) was the first bishōjo game to have all its characters modeled in 3D,[citation needed] although the sales were smaller than hoped,[citation needed] perhaps discouraging other developers from the possibility of changing bishōjo games from 2D to 3D.[original research?] Many bishōjo games nowadays are essentially a slideshow of 2D pictures plus voice and text.[original research?]

Pornographic content[edit]

See also: Eroge

While there are a[citation needed] number of bishōjo games entirely focused on hardcore pornography, many of the most popular titles, including all those available for home video consoles, do not contain pornographic material,[citation needed] and many others only contain a small amount in relation to the story as a whole. For example, the 18+ version of the popular game Kanon contains a total of 5 sex scenes and two other images of nudity within a branched story the size of a long novel.

The pornographic content of bishōjo games is regulated by the EOCS (Ethics Organization of Computer Software), the organization in charge of classifying the content of video games in the Japanese industry. Pornography is prohibited in all console titles, and computer games are assigned a special classification alerting the public of its content. Also, as in all legal Japanese pornography, the explicit images are normally censored, showing mosaics or bars on the genital areas in order to satisfy Japanese decency laws.

Pornographic bishōjo games are often catalogued as "hentai games" in the West. In Japan, they are usually called ero-games, or frequently eroge.

Representation of women[edit]

Nayuki Minase from Kanon pictured in her school uniform.

The representation of women in bishōjo games varies, but two generalizations can be made. First, most of the girls are portrayed as bishōjo, meaning beautiful, attractive or cute (according to the definition of beauty as seen by the designers and fans of the video games). Therefore, it is rare to find, for example, an obese or unattractive character in this type of game. Secondly, the majority of the characters are feminine (according to prevalent tendencies in Japan): in the cases where a girl shows a "boyish" appearance, she mostly can be found to be sensitive or feminine under a pseudomasculine façade.

Two particularly common settings exist: Japanese secondary schools and medieval-atmosphered, pseudo-European fantasy lands. In secondary education settings, characters wear idealized Japanese school uniforms; whereas fantasy setting outfits range from witch robes to princess dresses, and Fantastic creatures like fairies and catgirls may be found as well. When the game takes place in some other setting, it tends to explore other fashion possibilities, for example, the game Pia Carrot is located in a restaurant, in which the girls wear elaborate waitress uniforms.

The female character frequently act in an endearingly childlike fashion, which is described by the Japanese slang term moe (萌え), a characteristic that is often looked-for in bishōjo characters. The reasons for this characteristic are not always merely sexual: sometimes it is used to present a pretty and affectionate character who is beloved and supported by the player. In fact, "little sisters" are a recurring fixture of bishōjo games. A very popular game that emphasizes the characteristic of moe is Sister Princess, based on the premise of the player acquiring no less than 12 little sisters.

The majority of bishōjo games involve anime girls and not pictures of real-life girls. Since many characters in bishōjo games are minors (or at least have the behavior and physical proportions of minors), the use of anime allows the studios of bishōjo games with adult content to avoid the penalty of Japanese child pornography laws, which do not prohibit the simulated representation of characters under 18 years of age. Even so, it is common to find the packages of these games affirming that, theoretically, all the characters are over 18 years old. Also anime girls showed better on computer screens in the beginning of the video game industry, when colors were more limited.

Representation of men[edit]

The main male character in bishōjo games is often rendered as someone the player can identify with, thus experiencing the story as he would live an episode of his own life. Often the game is viewed in a first person view of the main character. Since bishōjo games focus on female characters and the player's interaction with them, male characters often receive less time on-screen and the character that represents the player rarely appears; when this happens, his face is usually hidden outside the screen or otherwise, and he might not even be voiced. Sometimes the only male appearance in sex scenes is reduced to a penis entering from the side of the screen, with no other visible parts.[citation needed]

Distribution[edit]

The genre is extremely popular in Japan and cheap to make. As few as three members, an illustrator, a scriptwriter and a programmer, can sell over a 30,000 copies. It was estimated as late as 2005 that bishojo game sales totaled a quarter of all software produced in Japan. It is estimated that an average 50 new titles are released each month or about 500 annually.[22][23]

Bishōjo games for personal computers are usually sold in special stores or sections reserved for clients more than 18 years old. Nevertheless, console bishōjo games, which are generally less explicit, are sold next to other video games. At the present time, dozens of bishōjo games are released every month, and practically all the video game stores in Japan maintain a sizable stock of these. The games are initially relatively expensive compared to the Western market of videogames, fluctuating between 8000 and 10000 yen (approximately $75–$95) each, although soon they can be bought more cheaply second-hand.

Influence in the West[edit]

The English localization of Princess Maker 2, which was never officially released.

While bishojo games are produced in Japan for console market, that is largely not the case in the West where enthusiasm for the subgenre is lukewarm. What success these games have had has historically been dependent on the related industries of anime and manga.[24] The common visual novel format that make up the majority of translations has been criticized as boring and not actually games.[11]

In addition the genre has been associated exclusively with poorly written eroge.[11] The popular discussion of bishōjo games is widely plagued by disagreement and disapproval of pornography. The debate tends to be remarkably divided: on one hand, critics condemn the genre as totally pornographic, while on the other hand, enthusiasts deny this generalization. This question does not cause as much controversy in Japan.

The attempts to massively trade bishōjo games in the West have caused a certain degree of public controversy. An example of this is the attempt to release the PC game Princess Maker 2 in the United States. Though it was never officially released, a few newspapers critically accused the game of sexism. Adding to the uproar was a pre-release screen-capture containing nudity. However, the game is not pornographic; there was some nudity which was already censored by American localizer SoftEgg, and the only way to see any real nudity is through an Easter egg cheat code. Princess Maker attracted negative attention due to the fact it was widely promoted as a mainstream video game, unlike other translated games which had been kept in adult-only channels as pornography.

The dōjinshi webcomic Megatokyo, popular among Western followers of anime, especially in the United States, was inspired in a large extent by dating sims. Megatokyo idealizes bishōjo games while simultaneously expresses another criticism commonly used in the West against them: that players resort to them as a form of escapism because they are socially inept (This type of criticism is also found in Japan, though in a quite different form: see otaku).

While translations of bishōjo games in English remain a relatively niche market confined mostly to the adult genre, elements of the gameplay do exist in a lot of games. Harvest Moon, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 and other games like them focus on the social interaction and the romancing of attractive anime girls. However, such games also much more social ties, even if the gameplay may favor social interaction with females.

Cultural transmission[edit]

Western players can use bishōjo games to help orient themselves to the Japanese culture through aspects of telepresence.[25] However, because bishōjo games rely heavily on iconic nature, their level of perceptual immersion is diminished in comparison to mediums like virtual reality. Instead, they rely on psychological immersion.[26] These games are constructed around popular culture and other social phenomena of Japan which then combined with immersion and telepresence allows a Western player get better idea of what it is like living in Japan. According to Mathew T. Jones of Temple University, Peter Payne, founder of Jast USA, says, " You’re reaching out and touching a little piece of Japan in the game – you really feel like you're experiencing love and life vicariously through the game characters".[27] By using a first person avatar with Japanese identity, bishojo games offer an unprecedented means of cultural immersion that, according to Jones, travel and live interpersonal communication cannot. This is done by taking on the Japanese identity that allows for an intimate perspective of the Japanese culture while maintaining the ability to make choices throughout the game.[28] In addition, some English translations offer liner notes or in-game text to explain certain Japanese idiosyncrasies.[29]

The knowledge can be broken into five main categories: language; cultural events; stories; media; and sexual culture. In the former, language, common Japanese words become a part of the player's vocabulary. In addition, games with Japanese voicing adds an additional level of understanding to the player about the language's structure. In addition, major culture events, such as Japanese holidays are portrayed. The player also comes to understand what stories and legends are known in Japan, both traditional ones and Western ones and how the latter are seen from a Japanese perspective. Manga titles popular in Japan are frequently referenced in these games and those likely playing the games read many of those manga referenced. Finally, Japanese sexual culture is referenced through the usage of various institutes like love hotels, lingerie pubs and erotic public baths.[30]

Related terms[edit]

There are a number of terms roughly equivalent to "bishōjo game" in use, both in Japanese and English, and there is considerable disagreement and confusion about their proper use. There is no clear consensus on the precise meaning of many of the terms below. The naming difficulties reflect the fluid boundaries of the genre, as well as embarrassment caused by the pornographic nature of some of these games.

In general, "anime game" can be considered the most general term, and other names designate subgenres. Here are the most common terms currently in use:

Bishōjo game (or Girl game, Gal game)
This term designates any game involving pretty anime girls. The Japanese word "bishōjo" literally means "pretty young girl". "Girl game" and "gal game" are also used to describe these games.
Boy's Love game, BL game
Girls' "bishōnen" game where teenage boys and young adult males engage in homosexual relationships. Most such games are visual novels (see below). See also Yaoi game.
Otome game
A genre which literally means "maiden game", they are games which are aimed at female players and feature mainly heterosexual relationships. They are sometimes called "reverse harem" or GxB games because the genders of the protagonist and the romanceable characters are the opposite of bishōjo games. Otome games will occasionally contain lesbian romance as well.
Eroge (エロゲー or エロゲ), H game, Hentai (変態) game
These terms are used in English to designate anime games with explicit erotic or pornographic elements. "H" is a letter used in Japanese to refer to sexual content, and "erogē" is an abbreviation of "erotic game". "Hentai", meaning "pervert" in Japanese, is not used to describe these games in Japanese, but it is common in English. In Japan, eroges are almost always sold for the PC, because console manufacturers such as Sony and Nintendo generally refuse to license pornographic games for their systems.
Raising sim
This is a subgenre where the goal is to "raise" a character, training and educating him/her to improve his/her (usually numerically quantified) attributes. This resembles role-playing games except that the goal is to improve another character rather than yourself, not unlike a digital pet. The classic example is Princess Maker, where the player's task is to raise a girl into a queen. Another is the N64 game Wonder Project J2 with an orphaned robot girl. Many hardcore eroge also start from this premise, in which case the character to be "raised" is usually some kind of sexual slave. (This subgenre is called "chōkyō" (調教 "training" (animals) / "breaking" (animals).)
A variation of the raising sim genre involves the recruitment and training of pop idols in the guise of a music rhythm game. One game of this genre is the XBox 360 game The Idolmaster.
Romance game (恋愛ゲーム ren’ai gēmu?)
This term describes games focusing on romantic interactions with anime girls. This term is generally used to describe games which have little or no pornography, or for which erotic content is not the main focus of the game. To describe hardcore pornographic games, eroge is preferred. The games are often "love adventure games" (恋愛アドベンチャーゲーム ren’ai adobenchā gēmu?, in short: 恋愛ADV/AVG), or "love simulation games" (恋愛シミュレーションゲーム ren’ai shimyurēshon gēmu?, in short: 恋愛SLG).
Dating sim
Strictly speaking, this term designates simulation games focused on dating, the most famous being Tokimeki Memorial. However, this term is frequently used by English speakers to describe any romance-driven game, regardless of game mechanics used.
Visual novel
This is used to designate a type of game which is particularly story-focused, or containing novel-like narration in its writing. Examples of visual novels include To Heart (only available in Japanese), Kana Imōto (translated to English as Kana: Little Sister), and Clannad. In Japan such games are generally referred to as "love adventure games" (恋愛ADV/AVG), whereas only such type of games with little to no interaction are called visual novel (ビジュアルノベル bijuaru noberu?) (predominantly for adult games) or novel game (ノベルゲーム noberu gēmu?, in short: NVL).

Also, note that many Japanese games which are not strictly bishōjo games contain elements of the genre. Many mainstream Japanese role-playing or fighting games feature attractive anime girls (such as Final Fantasy VII's Tifa Lockhart or many of the girls in the Dead or Alive Video Game Series), but they are usually not considered bishōjo games unless this is a central aspect of the game.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ (Jones 2005) "the Japanese word bishoujo (or bishojo) translates to 'pretty girl' and bishoujo games have been defined as 'a type of Japanese video game centered around interactions with attractive anime-style girls' (TheFreeDictionary.com, n.d.)."
  2. ^ (Taylor 2007) One can define a dating-sim game, in short, as a video or computer game that focuses on dating or romance and may contain erotic content. Several subgenres can be identified: bishōjo 美少女 games, in which a playable male character interacts with attractive anime-style girls;
  3. ^ (Jones 2005) "The advent of bishoujo games came about in 1982 with the Japanese release of Night Life, a PC adventure game. NEC’s PC 88, PC98 and early DOS PCs were the platforms of choice for early bishoujo designers (Bishoujo Gaming News, n.d.). However, bishoujo gaming did not come to fruition until the late nineties when Widows 95 and CD-ROM technology were able to support vastly improved sound, imagery and storage capacity (Yukino, 2000)."
  4. ^ (Pesimo 2007) "In 1982, Koei Company released Danchi Tsuma no Yuwaku [Seduction of the Condominium Wife] for the PC8001 home computer. This game, a mixture of text-based erotic adventure and crude graphics owing to the computer’s eight-color palette, was an instant hit. Koei became a major software company, and the bold new era of Bishojo games, or Galge [Gal games] had begun."
  5. ^ (Pesimo 2007) "In 1994, Konami Company was about to close down when fans set up a fund to produce a platonic romantic simulation for the PC engine called Tokimeki Memorial. With no sex at all, it became the next best-selling Bishojo game and put Konami on the map. In 1999, an independent software development house Visual Art’s/Key published an adult game called Kanon for the Windows PC. In the game, the player meets five girls in a snowy small town and experiences tragic love affairs with them. Naturally, Kanon was a sex game, which initially attracted male consumers. But like the readers of girls’ comics, these men found themselves identifying with the protagonists over the emotional trials and tribulations of pure love. Kanon was then released for the PlayStation minus the explicit sex. It sold even better than the dirty PC version did.
  6. ^ (Taylor 2007) "Dating-sim games remain two dimensional, despite the vast majority of other video games presently being rendered in rich three-dimensional graphics. One reason is the focus in dating-sim games on characters. Video games such as Rockstar Games’ 'Grand Theft Auto' can be animated in three dimensions because most visuals are landscapes. Three-dimensional characters, however, tend to look blocky and distorted when seen up close. Konami’s Tokimeki Memorial 3 ときめきメモリアル3 (2001) was the first bishōjo game to be animated in three dimensions, but its low sales likely discouraged other companies from following this lead. Thus bishōjo games remain a slideshow of two-dimensional images plus voice and text.11
  7. ^ (Jones 2005) "Bishoujo games bear a clear resemblance to comic art in this regard and have an especially strong relationship to manga (Japanese comics) due to closely related sets of stylistic conventions. It might even be said that some bishoujo games serve as an interactive extension of manga, permitting the player to assume the identity of a character similar to those he/she is already familiar with."
  8. ^ "Video: Bishoujo Games for the Summer". GameLife. Wired (magazine). May 30, 2008. Retrieved June 5, 2010. 
  9. ^ Ty, Kanara. "The Bishoujo Game Market: Not for Girl Gamers". UCLA Asia Institute. Retrieved May 26, 2010. 
  10. ^ (Jones 2005) "Japanese bishoujo videogames take on the characteristics of highly detailed 'choose your own adventure' novels."
  11. ^ a b c Lidor, Danit (June 7, 2004). "Sim Sex Not So Stimulating". Wired (magazine). Retrieved May 29, 2010. 
  12. ^ (Jones 2005) "In terms of appearance, these games are unique in that many of them have three distinguishing features in common: (1) a large square box in the center of the screen for images, (2) a horizontally oriented rectangular box (located just below) for text, and (3) a background that encompasses both the image box and text box and extends to the edges of the screen (see Figure 1)."
  13. ^ {Tylor 2007) "Dating-sim games usually have no animation; the background remains static and changes only when the character moves to another location.9 Often, the same backgrounds are reused in different situations. For example, if the character is in a classroom when other students are around, the room appears empty so it can be reused for scenes in which the character is alone. In cases such as these, text-based descriptions of the surroundings, rather than the images on the screen, establish whether others are present. Clearly, dating-sim games require the player to use his (or her)10 imagination much more than do typical video games."
  14. ^ (Jones 2005) "For the games included in this case study, it is relatively rare (although not unheard of) for the player to actually see his/her virtual representation. Instead, players are embodied in such a way that, although they inhabit a different identity, they see the game-world directly through the avatar’s eyes, and, in this sense, the avatar’s body is experienced first-hand as their own."
  15. ^ (Jones 2005) ""Demonstrating thorough understanding of this concept, some bishoujo game developers have used various techniques to impact the player’s external retina so that a sense of actually being transported into the avatar is experienced. To illustrate, the screen will flash (Season of the Sakura, Three Sisters’ Story) or shake (Nocturnal Illusion) if the avatar experiences an impact in the game. Similarly, a black screen is used to indicate covered eyes (Runaway City), sleep (Season of the Sakura), and unconsciousness (Little My Maid, Nocturnal Illusion) In terms of sound perception, perhaps speakers can be considered external eardrums. Pitch, timbre, range and directionality play an important role, not only in transporting the player to the world of the game, but immersing him/her in the world of the game.")
  16. ^ {Taylor 2007} "The main character, with whom the gamer is meant to identify, rarely appears on the screen."
  17. ^ (Jones 2005) "There are several ways that the perceptual information provided by these bishoujo games is supplemented by psychological factors. For one thing, the bishoujo characters with whom the player interacts are less realistic representations than they are iconic signs. Furthermore, character movement is limited to the occasional eye blink, changing facial expression or gesture. These qualities indicate that the realism of bishoujo characters rely heavily on the player’s ability to imagine them. Exaggerated postures and expressions speed recognition of character feelings and dispositions while the action described at the bottom of the page shapes the player’s fluid conception of the character icon. In other words, the iconic image presented onscreen requires the player to mentally reconfigure the depiction in the service of imagining events as they occur and are described in the text at the bottom of the screen."
  18. ^ {Taylor 2007} "Additionally, when the main character is interacting with another person, that person appears in front of the background and remains still, merely alternating between poses (which, like the backgrounds, are static and frequently reused) to match what the conversation partner is saying."
  19. ^ {Taylor 2007) "Bishōjo games share a basic structure and feel. The gamer plays a male character who interacts with various female characters as well as secondary characters such as family members, neighbors, and teachers."
  20. ^ "The interactive portions of the game arise through options presented to the gamer, which are typically binary, although options with three choices occasionally arise. These options occur sporadically and often involve seemingly trivial choices, such as whether to go to a movie or art museum. Interestingly, any life-changing decisions in the game, such as whether the main character will donate a kidney, are often not decided by the game player. The game player takes advantage of options to manipulate the main character’s actions to bring about his desired result. "These results come in the form of endings, of which dating-sim games have typically ten to twenty. Some are 'good endings,' in which the main character ends up with one (or more) of the female characters and lives happily with her, usually entailing marriage; others are 'bad endings,' which vary widely but may involve the death of a female character, one of the characters moving away, or the male and female characters living together unhappily. Usually, each female character has the potential to bring about both a good ending and a bad ending; the player must select the options carefully to get the one he wants."
  21. ^ (Taylor 2007) "Intuitively, one would think that players would aim for good endings, but such is not always the case. The only way to “beat” the game is to play it numerous times, experiencing all the endings. After playing through the game, players can go to the main menu and check their 'status,' which shows how much of the game is finished. To reach a status of 100 percent, signaling completion of the game, all endings must be reached. Essentially, the only way to 'lose' when playing a dating-sim game is not to get a bad ending but to get the same ending twice, since doing so prevents players from making any progress toward game completion. Thus, unlike most video games, dating-sim games are not particularly competitive; they have no final 'bosses' whom the players try to defeat. After getting through all the endings, extra scenes or characters may be unlocked, including, occasionally, 'harem endings,' which allow the main character to end up living with all the female characters."
  22. ^ (Jones 2005) "As a product, Bishoujo games are extremely popular in Japan. Bishoujo Gaming News (n.d.) reports that, “Over 25 percent of software in Japan are interactive adult games of some kind” (Japanese Dating-Sim Game Report). It has also been estimated that approximately fifty new bishoujo titles are released every month in Japan (Peach Princess, 2004). Many of these can be classified under more specific subgenre headings such as “dating simulation” games, “ren’ai” (romantic) games, “hentai” (pornographic) games, and more."
  23. ^ (Pesimo 2007) "�e visuals of Bishojo games strengthened the links between Anime, Manga and the electronics culture of Akihabara ward. A new Otaku industry was created where a small crew consisting of an illustrator, a scriptwriter, and a programmer could churn out a product that could sell as many as 30,000 copies. With some 500 new Bishojo titles debuting annually, this genre is estimated to account for 25% of all software sales in Japan."
  24. ^ (Jones 2005) "Eventually, bishoujo games were manufactured (in Japan) for game consoles such as Sega Saturn, Sega Dreamcast and Sony Playstation (TheFreeDictionary.com, n.d.; Yukino, 2000). Such popular enthusiasm has not been the case in the United States where bishoujo games are unavailable to consoles and the influx of games has been lukewarm even for the PC market. Despite this, however, companies such as JAST USA, Peach Princess, G-Collections and Himeya Soft have persevered in distributing these games to the West and, as a result, 2003 and 2004 were relatively prosperous years for bishoujo game translators and distributors in the United States. This success is in part do to the popularity and acceptance of other Japanese entertainment products such as anime and manga (TheFreeDictionary.com, n.d.)."
  25. ^ (Jones 2005) "The current case study seeks to present a series of “classic” bishoujo video games and explain how they function to orient the Western player to the culture of modern Japan through the phenomenon of telepresence. Aspects of telepresence that include transportation and immersion are considered toward the end of offering the player a degree of access to some aspects of modern Japanese culture. It is suggested that, by experiencing a sense of telepresence through inhabiting a Japanese avatar, the non-Japanese player has the potential to obtain a heightened level of competence in negotiating Japanese culture."
  26. ^ (Jones 2005) "The difficulty with applying a purely perceptual (as opposed to psychological) theory of immersion to bishoujo games is that their content tends to be highly iconic (see Figure 2) and the player is unlikely to have the sensation of being immersed in the game, at least as compared to other technology such as virtual reality. An alternative approach to understanding how these games immerse the user is psychological immersion."
  27. ^ "(Jones 2005) Because the construction of memory and experience can be construed as a profoundly social phenomenon, popular culture plays an important role in mediating perception. Especially relevant to this discussion is the experience of international and intercultural encounters. Fontaine (1993) reports participant experiences of telepresence (including 'realness' and “vividness”) in this context, demonstrating the potential to experience a sense of 'being there' across the gap of cultural difference. Further, Mantovani and Riva (1999) make special note of the impact culture has on presence experiences, explaining that '[s]peaking of mediation means speaking of culture, i.e., a network of instruments making up the everyday reality in which we live' (p. 541). This understanding of the relationship between culture and telepresence is exhibited in Peter Payne’s description of bishoujo gaming: 'You’re reaching out and touching a little piece of Japan in the game – you really feel like you’re experiencing love and life vicariously through the game characters' (Bishoujo Gaming News, n.d.)."
  28. ^ (Jones 2005 "By providing a protagonist/avatar with a Japanese identity through which the player is able to interact with a distinctly Japanese world, these bishoujo games offer access to a level of cultural knowledge that is unsurpassed by other media forms. This is attributable to bishoujo games’ ability to transport and psychologically immerse the player, providing the potential for creating a sense of telepresence. "In a certain respect, these bishoujo games attempt to offer a level of cultural access and understanding that even travel and live interpersonal communication cannot: an intimate perspective on another culture. Stepping into a Japanese identity, but retaining the ability to make decisions permits a sense of belonging and identification that would be impossible in the flesh.")
  29. ^ (Jones 2005) "the small companies responsible for the majority of bishoujo translations in the United States and other Western countries actively pursue intercultural leaning as an objective. For example, JAST USA occasionally provides parenthetical notes that explain certain cultural differences to players. In one instance (in Season of the Sakura) the class stands up to greet the teacher. Beneath it is noted: “(Japanese students do this every day when the teacher enters the classroom.) ”Other examples of intentional efforts to educate the Western player in Japanese culture are evidenced by the inclusion of “linear notes” in the readme files of some games and optional membership to the J-List listserv. Linear notes explain in detail the cultural references and nuances found in the game, and the J-List listserv sends out periodic emails that offer interesting facts and news events related to Japan."
  30. ^ (Jones 2005) "Beginning with language, common Japanese terms necessarily become part of the player’s vocabulary. Words such as “Oniichan” (big brother) are defined through the context of gameplay. An even more advanced understanding of language can be gained from games that make use of character voices. In such games, the Japanese speech presented in conjunction with translated subtitles in the dialog box serves as a tutorial for both vocabulary and pronunciation. Beyond language, elements of traditional and popular culture intermingle; giving the player what Peter Payne of JAST USA refers to as “a snapshot” of Japan (Bishoujo Gaming News, n.d.). In one game in particular (Season of the Sakura), the player experiences one full year of Japanese secondary school where various holidays (such as Golden Week) and events (such as the Sakura Dance, White Day and the Christmas party) are played out.[...] "Another domain in which Japanese and Western traditions coexist within bishoujo games is in the realm of stories and legends. Often, to situate action within the game, common narratives are referenced to provide context. These narratives, however, are drawn from both Japanese and Western culture.[...] "Along these same lines, popular manga that have become increasingly available and in demand worldwide are frequently referenced in bishoujo games. This phenomenon provides non-Japanese players with a sense of expanded cultural understanding and commonality because those who play bishoujo are also particularly likely to read manga.[...] "A final category of cultural transmission and learning that should be mentioned with respect to these bishoujo games includes sexual culture. This should come as no surprise given the erotic content of many bishoujo games. Japanese establishments such as the “soapland” (erotic public bath), the “ran-pabu” (lingerie pub) and the “love hotel” (specialized hotel facilities where people go to have sex) are just a few of the many examples of sexual culture that populate bishoujo games."

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Insert Credit—A video game news site which often covers bishōjo games
  • Freetype—Bishōjo game reviews and opening movie downloads
  • JAST USA—Major licensor and distributor of English bishōjo games
  • Peach Princess—Licensor and translator of bishōjo games