So I'm in Japan! ...and Madly Hoping Google is Wrong About Japanese Women Gamers

Hey, how's it going? 

Good, good. I'm doing pretty well myself. Currently lying on a nice comfy futon with a belly full of tempura and sashimi enjoying the air conditioning after spending a fun 35-degree day in my beloved Japan! For anyone I haven't told already, I lived in Japan for two years after my undergrad working as an English teacher in a public junior high. I was living in Yamagata, which is a beautiful, rural, mountainous area in the north of the main island. I can't explain what that experience meant to me, but it's something that'll probably stay with me forever.

Since I started working on She Got Game, a lot of people have asked me whether living in Japan really got me into gaming. In fact, the thought never really occurred to me. Of course Japan is a total gaming mecca, but I never heard a single word about gaming the whole time I was living here. Seriously (Ok--maybe one of my students mentioned Pokemon once or twice cause they were all like 12 years old, but that was about it.) I never once met anyone who identified as a "gamer" or who was really into the fan culture. I was living in an area that still used blackboards and fax needless to say it wasn't rocking out in the technology department.

Anyway, this summer my boyfriend and I decided to come back not only to visit everyone and to explore, but also to do a little research for this project. It's actually been tricky to find any personal content--you know like blogs, vlogs and articles by Japanese women gamers. If I were to only rely on English Google, here's what I'd get when searching "Japanese Girl Gamer":

First we've got Otome Games which I find pretty fascinating. For those of you who aren't familiar, they're like interactive visual novels which are targeted at women by giving the main character some racy, romantic encounters with the hot guys in the story. Something like this scenario:

Now maybe this isn't your cup of tea, but the interesting thing is it's totally consistent with other aspects of the culture which cater specifically to women's romantic fantasies. Hell I once found myself in a Butler Cafe with a friend of mine where everything I said was met with, "Yes, my Princess." Never have I ever been so embarrassed in my life. Moving on.

Anyway, whether or not the women in these games match up with our idea of great female characters, there is something to be said for the fact that there's a distinct market devoted to what we all supposedly, secretly want. 

Next on the Google list is this thread on Where to Find a Gamer Girl, which doesn't say anything about Japanese women, but which says:

"If your looking for places to find girl gamers, your best options (from what ive learned) are A: Japanese produced games. Harvest Moon is almost a chick magnet. Everyone female gamer ive met has played, and enjoyed a Harvest Moon game. I think its because of how much more adorable and fun Japanese games can be. (Im not saying women ARNT into hardcore gaming, im just saying its slightly less likely from my own experience.)"

Harvest Moon, ladies and gents:

One of the only thoughtful articles I read on the subject was written by Jacqueline Cottrell who was working for the Jace Hall Show. She interviewed Ryako Asumi, a close friend and avid gamer, to find out what it's like to be a girl gamer in Japan.

According to Ryako, "In Japan, women who game, or just the average otaku woman in general, can be looked down upon by both men and women." She also mentions that, "being a woman in Japan who games is kind of like waving a red flag in front of a bull: If I were to announce I’m a gamer in a crowded room of men, maybe 90% of them would try and have sex with me."

WOW. Sounds just fabulous, doesn't it? I actually messaged Jacqueline about the article and she said she'd pass on the word to Ryako. With any luck, I'll be able to meet her in person while I'm here and talk about these issues in more detail.REST ASSURED there's got to be way more to Japanese women gamers than the internet lets on. From my experience of living here, personal introductions make all the difference. I'm hoping that my visit here will help to flesh out the paltry image that dominates the web.

Wish me luck on my hunt for interviews!