Controlling perspective through language (BCM240 Digital Story Assignment)

Regardless of how much information we see, hear and consume, there will always be one barrier that prevents us from consuming information, Language. Language is how we understand information and if we don’t understand the language, we can’t consume it. Even if we have the technology to read what’s happening halfway across the world, if it’s not in a language we understand then we cannot consume it. Media itself is always translated and localized for it’s intended audience. Books, movies and games, are all localized/translated so the target audience can consume it. Generally speaking, books and movies generally have a direct translation. For example, not much if anything is lost when translating Harry Potter into French or Spanish. Games however, are quite different.

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Left: Soul Blazer (English) VS Right: SoulBlader (Japanese)

Like any global business trying to gain worldwide appeal, game developers have localization teams. They’re job is to translate and edit the game to appeal to a specific market. Like Mcdonalds, they adapt their product to suit the country the product is in. As seen in the above picture, the two versions of Soul Blazer not only have different names but the woman has a different appearance. On the left, she has more of a European appearance while on the right, her facial structure is more similar to that of Japanese animation. Games can have either major or minor differences across versions. This can lead to having completely different experiences when playing either one.

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The protagonist of the game Nier differs depending on which version you play.

In terms of major differences, a wonderful example is the game Nier. The game was developed in Japan by Cavia games and published by Square Enix for both PS3 and Xbox 360. In Japan, the game received two different versions. One being called Nier Replicant and the other Nier Gestalt. Replicant had the player play as Yonah’s older brother, a young and slim teenager. Gestalt had the player play as Yonah’s father who looks to be quite old and muscular. When question about this change, developers Yoko Taro and Yosuke Saito commented: Full interview transcript here (Japanese)

Taro: 「最初は青年のバージョン(後にレプリカントになるもの)だけを作っていたのですが、途中から齊藤さんから海外市場も考えたいという話がありました。そこで、スクウェア・エニックスさんのロサンゼルススタジオで議論をしたところ、線の細い青年キャラは有り得ないという話になりました。そこで北米向けにマッチョな主人公を用意することにしたんです。」

Taro: “Lately the teenage version (The one that later became Replicant) was the only one that was being made but, there was a story from Saito that made me think about the overseas market. From there, there was a debate in the Square Enix localization studio, saying that there was no way we could have a slim young man. Therefore we made a decision to make a macho-like protagonist for the international version.”

Saito:「ただ、新規IPで売らなくてはいけないという思いも強く、何が何でも青年をやりたいという横尾さんを説得して、日本版は青年をそのまま残すという道を作りながら、2バージョンの開発に進んでいきました。それに、必ずしも海外は全て同じ趣向という事もなくて、例えばフランスで日本の文化に理解を示すような層からは「レプリカント」を発売してくれという声も聞いています。ともかく、開発の途中からグローバルで開発している人たちを交えて話が出来たのは収穫でした。」

Saito: “With a new IP we had strong feelings that it had no choice but to sell, Yoko settled with a young teenage protagonist which he wanted to do, with this in mind we kept the teenage protagonist in the Japanese version while developing the two versions. Of course, not everyone shares the same tastes, for example in France, they understand multiple layers of Japanese culture and we’ve heard lots of people requesting for the Replicant version. Anyway, during development there was a bit of talk regarding the global release.”

As Saito mentions, Yoko Taro really wanted to do the teenage protagonist. However due to the different tastes of foreign audiences, an entirely new protagonist was made for the international version of the game, Gestalt. This brings the question, is the game still the same in terms of gameplay and story? Gameplay-wise, it’s still the exact same game and the end result of quests within the game play out the same way. However, chemistry and interaction between characters has been altered. Since Nier is an action RPG with a huge focus on story and it’s characters, this changes the game quite a bit.

The story was made with teenage Nier in mind. While there is no official statement to prove this, as Yoko Taro said, it was the one he wanted most to be in the game. On top of this, the game has been discussed to be a deconstruction of the RPG genre of games, which young Nier is a spitting image of your typical RPG pretty boy protagonist.

So not only does Japan receive two versions of Nier but the only one to make it out of Japan was the Gestalt version. Because of this, you’re given a slightly different experience and possibly even different perspective of the story depending on which version you play. Sadly there is no official release of Nier Replicant outside of Japan, so this prevents anyone who doesn’t know Japanese to experience it for themselves. Which again brings back the point of controlling how someone experiences a product through language. While it is not crucial to play both versions, it does add an extra layer of interest to the Nier games. This isn’t the same as censorship however. The Drakengard series (Which Nier is a part of) has multiple timelines. While Yoko Taro did say he wanted to use the young Nier, Gestalt is considered canon and takes place in an alternate timeline. As said earlier, this adds to the experience if you know about both versions

With that said, what other examples are there? One popular title is Fire Emblem Fates (Also known as Fire Emblem if in Japan).

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Japanese box art of Fire Emblem if (English version shares the same box art)

There are times where localization only edits some content to make it more suitable for a suitable for a foreign audience. There are also times where a localization team decides to take away features and change a lot more than just character names. Fire Emblem Fates is the latter. Safe to say, the reception of the localization changes received quite the backlash.

So what changed with Fire Emblem Fates? The most significant change was the removal of the Skinship feature. Think Pokemon Amie but with people’s faces instead. Here’s a quick clip to show you what Skinship looks like:

Regardless of how people feel about the removal, localization team, Treehouse felt the need to remove the feature. Sadly the only remnants of this feature that are left are when you marry a character. Once the player character’s avatar and another character reach an S rank relationship in the English version, the player is able to wake up their significant other by tapping their face via the touch screen or blowing into the 3DS mic. This is the most significant feature that was removed.

To give a little context, Fire Emblem is a series that puts a huge focus on it’s characters. Fire Emblem always has a large roster of characters to play as and with Fire Emblem Fates there are over 70 characters. Each with their own backstory and interactions with most characters. With such a large cast of characters, majority of the characterization is done through conversations that the characters have with each other. It’s through these conversations that they’ll show their personality and quirks. This places huge importance over translating these conversations properly, so that the character’s personalities aren’t lost in translation. Sad to say but, Treehouse did a number on that part too. Take a look:

Thankfully not all conversations between characters have been altered to this extent. However there have been enough changes made to majority of the conversations for someone to have played both Japanese and English versions for them to notice a huge difference. Here’s another example:

As you can see, the English version and Japanese version give different experiences. Unlike Nier however, playing both the English and Japanese version doesn’t enhance the experience. In fact, if you understand Japanese then it’s clear the Japanese version is superior because it contains the creator’s original message and characters. When playing through the English version, it feels like something is missing. This is essentially censorship. Regardless of what the original creator intended, the localization team behind it changed characters and took away a key feature in the game. The game was changed to how Treehouse wanted you to experience it.

So, what’s a good example of a great localization? Square Enix had developer Cavia games change it’s protagonist for the international version, Fire Emblem Fates took a feature away and altered character interactions, how does one do a good localization? Dragon Quest VIII (Also known as Dragon Quest VIII: The Sky, the Ocean, the Earth, and the Cursed Princess in Japan) is one.

To give a bit of context the Dragon Quest series is often referred to as the godfather of the Japanese RPG genre. It was the first one of it’s kind in Japan. It released in 1986 for Nintendo’s Famicom. The games were released only in Japan and North America for a short while, until Dragon Quest VIII. Dragon Quest VIII is the first completely 3D title in the series and first one to have a complete worldwide release. So, if it’s such a good localization, that must mean there’s no difference between the Japanese and English versions, right? Wrong.

A good localization is able to translate a game and let a foreign audience have the same experience as the original audience that was intended.  No effort was made to censor the game in any way like previous games. However, keep in mind, the game released while the PS2 was fairly new. The Dragon Quest series was never in 3D before and it was the first time a Dragon Quest game was being released in Europe. Obtaining a large following with Dragon Quest VIII was essential for the series success outside of Japan.

A few changes were made to the international version of the game. The most significant changes would be the design of the menu. Here’s a comparison between the Japanese and English version:

As you can see the overall menu has been overhauled for the English versions of the game. The Japanese version’s aesthetic is consistent with the previous games in the series while the English version has more details and color.

Not only the menu was changed but the entire soundtrack as well. Instead of using the same in-studio recordings as the Japanese version did, the international versions of the game received orchestrated versions of the entire soundtrack. Take a listen of the battle theme present in the Japanese version:

And here’s the English version:

As you can hear, the English soundtrack is entirely orchestrated. The entire game is high quality both in English and in Japanese. So what makes this localization special from the rest? Dragon Quest in itself, is a very Japanese game. Despite having roots in western RPGs such as Ultima Online and Wizardry, it has a very Japanese feel to it. The manga-esque aesthetic drawn by Akira Toriyama, the exaggerated and cheesy dialogue, it all adds to a unique experience made in Japan. The localization team behind Dragon Quest VIII was able to retain that feeling AND have it appeal to a foreign audience, without anything lost.

In summary, when it comes to video games, what you received out of the box may not always be the same thing someone else across the ocean got. Games are a unique medium that allows the player to interact with a world, they have an effect within it. Tampering with a few characters here and there while mostly minor changes, can lead to a completely different experience. Which in turn changes your perspective on the game.

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When censorship ruins a creator’s message

Anyone familiar with Australia’s rating should already be aware that censorship exists for any medium whether it be books, movies or even video games. The rating system exists as a recommendation for what the audience should be. However, despite having ratings for each medium censorship can occur. It can go from simple words to being bleeped out to content being removed.

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In February 19th of this year the English version of a game called “Fire Emblem Fates” released on the 3DS. It’s a tactical role-playing game that received a T rating in the ESRB and a C rating in the CERO (Both the US/JP equivalent of M rating in Australia). Despite this however, there were multiple changes made to the game before the English version was released. US, European and Australian versions of the game had it’s content altered. The localization team, “Nintendo Treehouse” was behind the translation and localization. Not only did they alter existing content within the game, but they took out gameplay elements as well.

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The removed gameplay feature

The removed gameplay feature was a petting mini-game, similar to Pokemon X & Y’s Pokemon Amie feature. Instead of petting Pokemon like in X & Y, you pet characters in your team. While quite strange at first, within Japan this kind of feature is very well within the norm. It doesn’t go anything beyond a simple pat on the head. However this feature was linked to other gameplay elements in the game such as the bonding system. Even then, when it came to the confession scenes within the game, they were greatly shortened and butchered compared to their Japanese counterparts. Which brings up another point.

It goes without saying but a great localization is meant to allow a foreign audience to experience something the same way the original audience did. If a Japanese developer intended to make a serious, tear-jerking scene, then the English translation should convey the same thing. It shouldn’t be done like this:

Not only does Treehouse outright remove content from the game, they butcher it to hell and back. Some may argue this is passable if the game was more gameplay-focused. Sad to say, the game heavily focuses on not only it’s story but the interactions between the huge cast of characters as well. In a game where the story is character driven, getting the characters to convey their personality not only through actions but through words, it’s essential to get them perfect.

It’s scary to see this kind of censorship within video games, especially since these kinds of things were prevalent in the 80’s to 90’s. It was understandable back then. The internet wasn’t around, people weren’t aware of certain nuances of foreign games. People may say “It’s so the game reaches a wider audience”. That would be a fair point, had the original Japanese game not have a C rating in Japan. The game was made with a teenage to adult audience in mind so why remove and change content?

With all of this in consideration, these questions come to mind. Who has been thought to be at risk? Why and for what purpose? The fans of the series aren’t going to like these changes. The game was made with a teen/adult audience in mind so at it’s core, the game won’t necessarily appeal to children.

A lot of people tend to associate censorship with gore, violence and sexual content. It’s perfectly understandable why censorship exists. However in a case like Fire Emblem Fates, it’s unacceptable. The absolute core aspects of the game are there in the localized version. However, everything else is different. It’s changed to the point where characters have different personalities, certain nuances and interactions between characters are long gone. People tend to forget that changing a few words here can change everything, let alone taking out gameplay elements.

Reference list:

  1. Apolon, Choy, D., Asarch, S. and Serrano, Z. (2016) The censorship of fire emblem fates Isn’t Nintendo’s fault. Available at: http://www.idigitaltimes.com/fire-emblem-fates-changes-censorship-americas-fault-not-nintendos-508356 (Accessed: 20 September 2016).
  2. Pokémon-Amie – Bulbapedia, the community-driven Pokémon encyclopedia (2016) Available at: http://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Pok%C3%A9mon-Amie (Accessed: 20 September 2016).

How long can you last?

Paying attention to anything can be one of the most difficult tasks for a person to do. While it sounds simple and a given to pay attention, it can be quite a challenge. This week I was tasked with making a short, informal test to test a few people’s attention span. I did it with 4 of my friends. The test was for them to watch a video  and see how long it would take for them to switch to their phone or get distracted by something else in general.

The video in question was this:

Now, I split my 4 friends into groups of 2, group A and B. I told group A about the context as to why I was showing them this video. I told them I was doing a quick and informal test about attention span. I wanted to see how long they could last before getting distracted. Meanwhile I told group B nothing, I just ended up showing them the video when the opportunity came up.

The results were interesting to say the least. Group A went through the entire video with their focus on just the video itself. I questioned them on what made the video so engaging for them. One of them just said “I only watched the whole thing because I took it as a challenge”. I took this response into consideration which is why I split my friends into two groups. Group B had interesting results too. One person took out their phone and glanced at it twice before the video ended while the other looked only at their phone past the 30 second mark.

According to a multi-screen study done by google, “We are a nation of multi-screeners. Most consumers’ media time is spent in front a computer, smartphone, tablet and TV” (Google, 2012) The video itself was just shown on a single laptop screen. This adds as to why it failed to retain group B’s attention. Group B avidly uses computers and most likely switches browser tabs when there is even a second of down time in a video. I’m happy with the results because it’s roughly what I expected. Personally I wasn’t hoping group A wouldn’t take the test as a challenge and act as if I wasn’t testing them but it couldn’t be helped.

With all of this said and done, what comes after? I did a bit of thinking about the topic. Having such small attention spans really is quite an issue. Not just in work related activities but in leisurely activities too.

“According to the 2013 Nielsen report, three-quarters of viewers multi-task with two sets of content while watching television. The 2013 Social TV Report, backed by Yahoo and 7, found that 33% of their respondents discussed television on social media as they watched it, with 46% also reported that it increased their level of enjoyment.” Richards, M (2014)

Imagine spending time with your partner and you’re watching a romantic movie together. A climatic scene is happening, you’re getting engrossed in the film but your partner is just tweeting about it on twitter. Talk about a mood killer. It really is a problem that needs fixing. It’s become so much of a problem, it’s essentially opened up a new consumer market. Products or servers to get things done for people. They’ve always existed but now they’re coming in full force which is most definitely not a good thing.

Reference list:

  1. Google (2012) The New Multi-Screen World: Understanding Cross-platform Consumer Behavior. Available at: https://ssl.gstatic.com/think/docs/the-new-multi-screen-world-study_research-studies.pdf (Accessed: 16 September 2016).
  2. Richards, M. (2014) Second screening: The rise of social TV. Available at: http://blog.marginmedia.com.au/Our-Blog/bid/100804/Second-Screening-The-Rise-of-Social-TV (Accessed: 16 September 2016).

Street Photography yay or nay?

People love to take photographs of anything. Whether it be rare sights they’ve never seen before to a good looking piece of steak they’re having for lunch. People want to take a photograph to freeze that moment in time and look back on it another time. With the increased accessibility to cameras in this day and age, people take photos more than ever. Whether it be for recreational or work purposes, photos are taken every day.

This brings us to street photography. Photos are often posted online and shown to a wide variety of people and sometimes may include someone’s face. Of course, not everyone is okay with their face being so easily seen in a public space. In this day and age, having your face widely available to the public can be detrimental to your identity. That’s where the Street Photographer’s Rights come in.

As the name suggests, it covers what a Street Photographer is entitled to and what rules to follow when it comes to street photography. Interestingly enough as stated within the Street Photographer’s Rights:

“There are no publicity or personality rights in Australia, and there is no right to privacy that protects a person’s image. However a person’s image can constitute ‘personal information’ under the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) with the consequence that there are circumstances in which businesses and agencies subject to that Act may breach the law by publishing a person’s image.” – Arts Law Center of Australia 2016

This leads to an interesting situation. Generally from personal experience, if the reason you provide is adequate then the person will gladly accept their photo being taken. However it is also possible for them to decline due to a person’s photograph being linked to personal information.

Me and a few of my colleagues were tasked with asking people to take a photo of them and seeing what their response was. All of them were fine with it. But my colleagues were asking a group of 3 or 4 people. I took it upon myself to take this photo:

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The photo has quite a few people within the shot. Generally it’s common courtesy to ask someone before having their photo taken but here, there’s too many to ask. Considering the nature of the photo is not focusing on people’s faces, I figured I’d take the photo anyway. The few reasons why I took the photo without asking are:

  1. Main focus of the photo is not on people’s faces
  2. The people pictured are simply walking and no specific message can be seen from their actions
  3. I am a student within the university therefore I am allowed to take photos

In this case it was easy to determine whether or not a photo was allowed. Generally the Street Photographer’s Rights is common sense. No one wants their photo taken without their permission if they’re the sole person within the photo and they’re the focus. However in this situation with the focus not being on the people and various people being in the shot, it’s easy to determine that a photo was allowed. Just think about it for a second and it’ll be fine.

Going to the movies!

Movie theaters have been around for over a century now, dating all the way back to 1890s. The whole concept of going out and paying money to see an event wasn’t necessarily new with the creation of cinema, however it did create a new medium. Last time I went out with friends to watch a movie was a few weeks ago when Sausage Party was released in theaters. Regardless of the quality of the movie, I had no interest in going to see the movie by myself. It was most definitely fun, but I only saw it because I was invited.

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Sausage Party

Despite my personal feelings on cinema, I often overhear conversations of people going out and seeing movies. However, in recent years cinema has started to decline (Within Australia at least). Within the past 10 years, there is a 14 percent decline in people attending cinema (Di Rosso 2015). Why is this?

Torsten Hagerstrand, a swedish geographer came up with three constraints that restrict people’s daily activities:

  • Capability constraints. These are limits on human movement due to physical or biological factors such as the need to sleep or to eat, access to mobility tools and the availability of temporal and financial resources for conducing activities and making trips (Hagerstrand 1970, cited in Schonfelder & Azhausen 2010, p.38).
  • Coupling constraints. These are restrictions on the autonomous allocation of time due to the need to coordinate with institutional logistics (schedules or given locations) or interactions with other individuals (appointments or meetings) (Hagerstrand 1970, cited in Schonfelder & Azhausen 2010, p.38).
  • Authority constraints. These are limits on when activities can or cannot take place, or where they must or must not be located, imposed by external parties. For example, mandatory closing hours is a potential constraint on individual behaviour (Hagerstrand 1970, cited in Schonfelder & Azhausen 2010, p.39).

In theory, people can choose whatever they want to do because of free will. However these three constraints limit people on what they can and can’t do. This can also apply to the act of going to the cinema and watching a movie. Personally, I myself do not go out and see movies. The only time I do this is when invited by friends or family. Generally I have no interest in seeing movies that are released in the cinema. Even when I do have interest, it’s possible to view the movie online in my own time when it suits me.

This is where Netflix comes into play. With cinema, you have to go out, buy a ticket, go into the theater when the movie starts and then make your way home. It’s possible for this to clash with all three constraints. Biological factors can prevent you from going out, schedule can clash with movie showing time and the theater might be closed when you feel like seeing a movie. Netflix can negate most if not all of these constraints. Netflix is easy to access anywhere, view any time when it suits you and Netflix has no specific schedule. For a person who has no interest in going out to see movies on my own, Netflix is the perfect solution. It goes without saying, Netflix is insanely popular among the general public. Netflix already has over 44 million subscribers with 33 million in the US alone.

Some may argue that going out to a cinema with friends is something Netflix can’t replicate. I can see that point of view.  People who are passionate about movies or film making will most likely prefer cinema over Netflix. However, for me personally, I’d be just fine inviting my friends over to hang out and watch a movie if cinema were to completely disappear.

It’s safe to say that while the experience of going out to a movie theater is unique and interesting in it’s own right, it’s counterpart Netflix is more favored by the public. Netflix is overall more convenient and can be cheaper overall.

Looking back on Television

Television has been an important part within most if not all Australian households. It has different uses for different families. Some families may use it simply for entertainment while others use it for news on recent events. Having parents who were born in the 1940’s and who grew up in the Philippines, a 3rd world country, I was curious to get their opinions on television.

First off, I spoke with my father about it asking him about his experiences with it. Due to his financial situation, he didn’t watch TV in his own home often or at all. Generally he would always be out with his friends or be watching it at someone else’s house. Although whenever he watched television, he watched cartoons rather than watching the local news or sports.

Television never really became a part of his life until he moved out of the Philippines to Australia at the age of 30. It was around this time he had a family of his own to raise and television became more relevant to him because of his children. His eldest son and daughter would use to the television for cartoons and other entertainment while he would use it for news on current events. Although there would be rare occasions where he watched game shows for entertainment.

Like my father, television wasn’t a big part in her life as well. She grew up in the Philippines as well under similar conditions to my father. Televisions were quite expensive and she spent most of her time outside the house with friends. It wasn’t until she was married to my father that she started using the television. Although with that said my father and mother didn’t use television for the same reasons. My father mainly used it for news and occasionally game shows for entertainment. My mother used television completely just for entertainment, mainly movies and drama shows.

Considering that both of them were born in the 1940’s and experienced television in two different countries, I asked about the difference between the two. My father and mother pointed out the difference between commercial breaks. Generally there are multiple commercial breaks in Australian TV show. When it comes to television in the Philippines, there is only one commercial break for Filipino TV. The length varies depending on the length of the show as well. Another difference he pointed out is that in terms of humor, Filipino television is more akin to Asian/Eastern television. Game shows in Filipino television are more colorful and the games used in said shows are more “out there” as he put it.

I used to watch quite a bit of television as a child but as soon as I entered high school, I rarely use the television to watch shows or movies. All the media coverage I get is straight from my phone or laptop. It was very interesting to hear their view on television especially since they’ve experienced more with it than I have. With the addition of netflix to the household though, they use the TV more than ever, watching their favorite movies and what they want, whenever they want.

Being immersed in the digital world

Being a person who was born in the late 90’s, I grew up with technology. At the time computers, phones and other technological devices were still developing but not non-existent in average households. My generation’s experience with technology is quite different from others. People who were born before the 90’s for example, where having any sort of computer in the household was not the social norm. Or people who were born in the early 2000’s even. Their experience of technology is completely different.

Recently, I was given the chance to travel to Japan and meet up with a friend who was living there for 6 months. He was born and raised in Australia but this year decided to go on exchange. Within that time he adapted to the Japanese environment and adopt their way of living. With places like Akihabara, it’s easy to see that Japan is more open, accepting and overall has a completely different attitude to their technology compared to other countries.

If you’re a person who isn’t that social, doesn’t like to go clubbing or is tired of just seeing malls, Japan is a wonderful place. This is due to the huge amount of things to do outside of home. There is a huge focus on going out and always being on the move in Japan. You have gigantic arcades that span over 5 floors, internet cafes are constantly updated and well maintained (In contrast to Australian or American internet cafes) even to the point where people have the option to stay in an internet cafe. On top of this, the normal shop hours range from 9am to 11pm, every day. Now if that wasn’t enough there is a large abundance of 24 hour shops and convenience stores. All of this while keeping everything within walking or biking distance.

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A picture of Akihabara, also known as Electric City

As an outsider being immersed in a foreign culture, it was interesting to see that even with the power of current technology, there were still people constantly out of their homes. Yes people do go out in their spare time in Australia, but it’s generally with company. You will rarely get people going out of their homes for leisure by themselves. Even then, most of the time it’s either going out clubbing on a Friday night, having lunch/dinner with friends or going out for the movies. Which is interesting since it’s not like we don’t have the technological power to have the same things Japan has. This difference in culture is interesting due to the different uses such technology has.

In Japan, you’re constantly immersed in digital technology, it’s a part of the culture. This difference was made completely clear when I stayed up to 5am playing Pokemon GO with my friend in Japan. Yes, there are several cases where staying up late and wandering by yourself or even with a friend is dangerous. However, this was not the case in Japan. Me and my friend were wandering the streets of Kyoto by ourselves but it was completely safe. There was no sense of danger at all. Even then, we came across multiple players with the same goal as us. It was amazing being able to play this game with no sense of danger and coming across different players. You do that in Australia, chances are you’re going to run into a bad crowd. Being immersed in this digital world with no repercussions gave me an experience that I was not able to get back home in Australia.

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Pokemon GO