This semester, I had the opportunity to take my Global Video Game Cultures seminar to visit the International Center for the History of Electronic Games at the Strong Museum of Play. I had actually planned this trip since last year, but due to unforeseen circumstances I did not get a chance to teach the seminar until this semester. So this time I made sure my class get a chance to visit the Museum as I believe it would provide my students with a hands-on experience to explore the broad and global history of video games and learn about the cultures that emerge from and around their worldwide circulation.
As part of the class trip, we went to see the World Video Game Hall of Fame, experienced the eGame Revolution interactive exhibit, perused some of the rare archives on Atari, and went for a behind the scene tour to see the Center’s collection storage rooms. All in all, I think my students enjoyed the trip and it was also recently covered by the HWS Update.
This post is about contemporary game culture and industry in Indonesia rather than its early history.
Last weekend, I went to Game Prime 2019. It’s the biggest annual game exhibition in Indonesia which gathers both major and indie game studios in the country. The event is mainly sponsored by the Creative Economy Agency (Bekraf), government-funded agency that supports the development of creative economy in the country. This is actually my first time attending Game Prime even though the event itself has been held for three years now.
In general, it was a good experience. I learned how rapidly the game industry in Indonesia has evolved in the last ten years. I still remember when I was first researching Nusantara Online game back in 2011, the industry was still sporadic. Now, not only are there many game studios flourishing all over the country, some of them have actually marketed their game internationally, such as Agate Studio with its premium game, Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story, or Digital Happiness’s DreadOut.
I also observed that a significant number of game studios in Indonesia have developed games in B2B (Business to Business) model, meaning they do not publish their games to the public, only for exhibition or their client’s events/programs. For instance, Agate Studio, perhaps the biggest studio that participates in the event given the number of their booths (they had 4 separate booths), made two games (Smart Bike and City Defender) for AXA Indonesia and one for Telkom (Sky Cage). I believe this strategy is pretty common among Indonesian developers since they need to keep their business sustainable.
On the other hand, I also saw (and played) several games made as side projects or prototypes by a small collective of developers or a single individual. I actually find some of these projects much more interesting than games made with B2B model. Because, instead of operating as gimmicky spectacle with little inventiveness in gameplay or narrative development, some of these alpha or beta versions displayed more creative excitement. For instance, I was interested in the game Kirana, an action RPG game developed by Kawarna Studio as a side project. The game uses the history of Singosari during the Mongol invasion as its background narrative and has a female protagonist. There is also Loveless–developed by only one person under the name of Teamless–which is a study of player agency in the form hybrid and non-linear dating sims/adventure game. The game’s visual actually reminded me of Undertale.
Of course there’s a sobering realization in me that many of these alpha or beta version games perhaps will never see the light of day given the developers’ limited resources and market demand. But, it’s still stimulating to see how these studios exhibited their passion project.
Another thing that I observed from the event is how Indonesian mainstream video game industry has started to think forward about platform and game ecosystem. In this case, Telkom Indonesia—the nation’s largest telecommunication service provider—is perhaps the main support engine for this development. The company has supported Gameqoo, a Stadia-like cloud gaming service, offering subscription-based gaming option for Indonesians. According to one of Gameqoo’s staff that I talked to, the company is also planning to bundle its service with Telkom’s Indihome cable and internet services in the near future. In addition to this, Telkom has also partnered with Agate Studio to create an ecosystem for local games called Oolean, which eventually will also be connected to Gameqoo. It looks like the semi state-owned company is now really serious in supporting domestic game industry, which is a good thing considering its half-hearted backing in the past.
At the indie level, a small game developer, Ginvo Studio, is also hoping to create a sustainable ecosystem for their games, which mainly consist of tabloid newsgames about all things viral in Indonesian internetscape. They actually have quite an ambitious plan to develop and sustain their platform by planning to release one newsgame every week, and I am actually interested in this studio and their games for my research. I will probably contact them in the near future.
I also noticed that some companies also utilize real digital currency reward system to attract gamers to use their platform, such as India-based Mobile Premiere League and Amcore’s game Jump,Bunn. I think this is related to the aggressive strategy of Indonesia’s digital wallet services that I wrote in my previous post and the rapid popularity of competitive gaming/e-sports.
In terms of genre, survival horror game seems to be on the rise besides RPG. I believe this happens because of international achievement of DreadOut. Many studios aspire to achieve the same level of success, if not more, with their games. For instance, Storytale Studios has Pamali and Ozysoft has Pulang: Insanity. Personally, I am interested in the development of 4Happy Studio’s game WhoIsHe: Let Me Out. It has the vibe of What Remains of Edith Finch, which I really like, and a touch of Indonesian culture. It’s also developed by a studio not from the island of Java (4Happy Studio is from Batam island), which is refreshing. I hope the studio will complete the game in the near future.
Game Prime also had a section for old arcade games, which brought back nostalgic memories in me (especially of Galaga and Street Fighter!).
It also has a separate section for tabletop/board games. Unfortunately I did not get a chance to visit each booth and talk with the game developers/creators, but I bought two board games, Circus Politicus and Bluffing Billionaires, that I plan on using in my Global Video Game Cultures seminar this fall.
All in all, I am glad that I went to the event and I hope I will get a chance to go to the next one.
After a long hiatus due to unexpected life events, I have decided to revive this personal website. Hopefully this time it will be updated regularly.
To kick off, I would like to share (with permission) these two student stop motion projects from my Intro to Global Animation course that I just taught last spring.
I have been teaching this course for three years now and have to admit that the last iteration may be the most enjoyable to teach yet. I had a good group of students who were very active and attentive. In general, they also did a good job with their final project. The two projects that I’m featuring here are the ones that stand out for me the most.
The first project is called Media Pressures. It’s a critique of our contemporary social media culture and its attention economy. This one is technically the most polished compared to the other projects in the class although I made comment to the group that their stop motion would be much better with music soundtrack.
The second one is called Old Town Road. Story-wise, it plays with the usual western movie trope. What I like about this stop motion project is because the students who made this tried to apply what they have learned about the concepts of “limited animation” and “cartoon physics,” and I think they quite nailed it. Plus, it’s also sort of a reimagination of Lil Nas X’s song 🙂
PS. I had to upload my students’ videos to Youtube since Vimeo is (still) blocked in my home country, hence the downgraded quality. Once I am back in the States, I will switch them with the version on Vimeo.
Kicking off 2017 by drafting syllabus for my spring course on global video game cultures. Excited to teach this course for the third time.
I did a major overhaul of the material since there are several new works that came out recently, which I think should be included in the syllabus, like Philip Penix-Tadsen’s Cultural Code, Mia Consalvo’s Atari to Zelda, and Henry Lowood and Raiford Guins’s edited volume, Debugging Game History.
You can check the draft here. Do share your feedback with me if you have any!
Last Fall, I designed and taught a new course called Introduction to Global Animation for the Media and Society Program at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. It was a rewarding experience for both my students and I. We explored the history and practices of animation not only in the centers of global animation industry such as US and Japan, but also in places like Russia, China, and Iran. Through various case studies, we considered how local, national, regional, and transnational perspectives contribute to the historical trajectory of animation at a global scale.
In addition, to couple the writing assignments and exams, I asked the students to do a final group project creating a short stop motion animation covering one of the topics that we studied throughout the semester. At the end of the semester, many of them admitted that they gain a deeper knowledge about different aspects of global animation culture and that they really enjoyed the process of creating stop motion animation. I can’t say it enough that I am really proud of the overall students’ engagement in this class. Below is one of the best projects from the class, which discusses the historical role of women in animation industry. The title of the project is “The Dream of Feminine Aesthetic in Animation.” Enjoy!