Atari to Zelda
Japan's Videogames in Global Contexts
272 pp., 6 x 9 in, 34 b&w illus.
- Published: June 7, 2022
- Published: April 8, 2016
- Published: April 8, 2016
The cross-cultural interactions of Japanese videogames and the West, from DIY localization by fans to corporate strategies of “Japaneseness.”
In the early days of arcades and Nintendo, many players didn't recognize Japanese games as coming from Japan; they were simply new and interesting games to play. But since then, fans, media, and the games industry have thought further about the “Japaneseness” of particular games. Game developers try to decide whether a game's Japaneseness is a selling point or stumbling block; critics try to determine what elements in a game express its Japaneseness—cultural motifs or technical markers. Games were “localized,” subjected to sociocultural and technical tinkering. In this book, Mia Consalvo looks at what happens when Japanese games travel outside Japan, and how they are played, thought about, and transformed by individuals, companies, and groups in the West.
Consalvo begins with players, first exploring North American players' interest in Japanese games (and Japanese culture in general) and then investigating players' DIY localization of games, in the form of ROM hacking and fan translating. She analyzes several Japanese games released in North America and looks in detail at the Japanese game company Square Enix. She examines indie and corporate localization work, and the rise of the professional culture broker. Finally, she compares different approaches to Japaneseness in games sold in the West and considers how Japanese games have influenced Western games developers. Her account reveals surprising cross-cultural interactions between Japanese games and Western game developers and players, between Japaneseness and the market.
With this authoritative study of how Japanese game companies helped shape the worldwide video game market, Mia Consalvo has powerfully contributed to scholarship showing how globalization does not just move from 'the West' to 'the Rest.' Even more, her brilliant intervention into theories of globalization reveals how unplanned transformations rework the very meaning of the 'global' itself.
Tom Boellstorff, Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine; author of Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human
Mia Consalvo provides a wonderfully insightful analysis into some of the ways Japan's videogames have been framed within global contexts. From the micro, DIY processes of players and indie scenes to corporate global localization strategies, Atari to Zelda offers a rich and multifaceted analysis of the complex and dynamic practices and ideologies at play. Weaving the empirical with the theoretical, Consalvo provides a compelling hypothesis that not only seeks to question many Western audiences' default setting of 'Japaneseness' but also to recalibrate the cross-cultural entanglements of global game studies.
Larissa Hjorth, Professor, School of Media and Communication, RMIT University, Melbourne; coauthor of Screen Ecologies: Art, Media, and the Environment in the Asia-Pacific Region