Keynote talks

1. Innovation at the Dawn of Japanese Video Games: Speed Race to Space Invaders

    Tomohiro Nishikado
    Adviser to Taito Corporation, and Developer of "Space Invaders"

ABSTRACT: It has been over 40 years since Atari―the company that should be considered the origin point of video games―released Pong. While mechanical games were common place in Japan at the time, the form of the games played on television-operated consoles changed significantly. Speed Race―the first Japanese racing game―was developed in the context where research and development on video games in Japan was conducted independently. This game was also the first to make it as far as being licensed and exported overseas. Space Invaders―the game often said to mark the origin of microcomputer-based Japanese video games―was completed as video game technology and development evolved towards use microcomputers. Taking into account Speed Race and Space Invaders, the theme of this talk will be centred around the exploration of the early dawn of Japanese video games through an investigation of the transition process from the conceptualization of video games to their realization, as well as considering how it was being echoed on the market at large.


Tomohiro Nishikado is a Japanese video game developer. He is best known as the creator of the shooter game Space Invaders, released to the public in 1978 by the Taito Corporation of Japan, often credited as the first shoot 'em up and for beginning the golden age of video arcade games. Prior to Space Invaders, he was also the designer for many of Taito's earlier hits, including the early team sport games Soccer and Basketball in 1973, the early scrolling racing video game Speed Race in 1974, the early dual-stick on-foot multi-directional shooter Western Gun in 1975, and the first-person combat flight simulator Interceptor in 1975.

 2. A Little Nintendo in All of Us?: Exploring the Influence of Japanese Games on Western Game Designers

    Mia Consalvo
    Communication Studies, Concordia University

ABSTRACT: This presentation investigates the design influences of western game designers, with a particular focus on if and how Japanese games form part of that influence. Drawing on more than two dozen in-depth interviews as well as industry documents, I argue that Japanese games have served a variety of functions in relation to western designers' work. For example, early western designers began creating games before the rise of Nintendo, and so the influence of those games has mostly been tied to competition and industry advancements. Younger developers view many Japanese games through a lens of nostalgia, leading to a different use of those games in their work. The presentation also explores the differences between games that influence due to their more formal design elements, versus games that inspire via their particular use of "Japaneseness" as a design component.

Mia Consalvo is Professor and Canada Research Chair in Game Studies and Design at Concordia University in Montreal. She is the co-editor of Sports Videogames and author of Cheating: Gaining Advantage of Videogames. She has most recently completed the book Players and Their Pets with Jason Begy and is now finishing Japan's Videogames, a book about Japan's influence on the videogame industry and game culture.

Mia runs the mLab, a space dedicated to developing innovating methods for studying games and game players, at Concordia. She's presented her work at professional as well as academic conferences including regular presentations at the Game Developers Conference. She is the President of the Digital Games Research Association, and has held positions at MIT, Ohio University, Chubu University in Japan and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

3. 'And the Digital Humanities shall lead them': University to Community Partnerships with Computer Gaming

    Kevin Kee
    History and the Office of Vice-President, Research, Brock University

ABSTRACT: This presentation addresses the potential for university to public- and private-sector technology transfers and partnerships with a special focus on computer games and the humanities. I first review the recent changes in how Canadian universities are perceived by governments and the public, and specifically the rise of a research paradigm focused on enhancing economic productivity, competitiveness and prosperity, in particular in the areas of science and technology. I then explore one incarnation of this shifting paradigm thorough a first-hand account of the inception, development and evolution of the Niagara Interactive Media Generator (nGen, now called the Generator at One), located in Niagara Canada.  Initiated and led by humanities professors at Brock University in Niagara, Canada, the Generator is now a thriving computer gaming business incubator. I conclude with an analysis of the lessons learned by the project leaders, and the implications for researchers who are interested in exploring the ways in which the humanities can lead the university in community and private-sector engagement.


        Kevin Kee is the Associate Vice-President Research (Social Sciences and Humanities) and Canada Research Chair in Digital Humanities at Brock University.         His research lies at the intersection of history, computing, education, and game studies. Many of his research projects develop and support university to                public-and private-sector technology transfers and partnerships. Together with his team he has produced history Web sites, games and simulations. He has            published books and articles on the use of computer simulations for history and history teaching and learning, and on Canadian cultural history, and in 2012            won the highest award for faculty teaching excellence at Brock University.

4. J-games, geemu, and the media mix: Japanese video game studies at crossroads

    Martin Picard
    Université de Montréal

ABSTRACT: This presentation will consider possible avenues of cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary research about Japanese video games. The first important concern is to examine the Western discourse about Japanese video games in interpretive communities, such as the theoretical implications of national categorization on video games produced in Japan (summarized here under the label “J-games”). Consequently, these initial considerations will lead us to discuss the possibilities of theoretical approaches about the specificities of Japanese video games, or “geemu”. We will show that one of the privileged ways to better identify its specificity is to put in perspective their broad integration to an extremely dynamic media environment in Japan, the media mix, in which its different modes of production and distribution affect gamers – not only in the actual play activity, but also in their consumption modes and cultural practices – and games’ content.


Martin Picard is a researcher and lecturer at Université de Montréal and former recipient of a Japan Foundation Research Fellowship on Japanese video game culture at Wako University in Tokyo, following a postdoctoral fellowship on Japanese video game easthetics at McGill University. His teaching and research interests cover video game culture and history, Japanese popular culture, film and digital media. His publications consist of articles in journals such as Game Studies and chapters in anthologies such as the Encyclopedia of Video Games (ABC-Clio, 2012) or Horror Video Games (McFarland, 2009). He is currently preparing a special issue on Japanese video games and the media mix for the Kinephanos journal.

5. Managing Virtual Interactive Experience with Artificial Intelligence

    Vadim Bulitko
    Computing Science, University of Alberta

ABSTRACT: Virtual worlds have been extensively used for training and entertainment. A player's experience in such worlds can be managed by an external agent towards achieving certain pedagogical or recreational objectives. To facilitate a mass-scale deployment and/or to achieve consistent results, the external manager can be coded algorithmically. In this talk we will present development and evaluation of several such Artificial Intelligence experience managers. We will focus on interactive storytelling where the player has the agency to change the narrative he/she is experiencing in a virtual world. Specifically, we will present several computational models for explicitly modeling a player and using the model to manage the virtual world. As case studies, we will consider several implementations using commercial video-game engines.


Vadim Bulitko is an Associate Professor at the University of Alberta (Department of Computing Science). He received his Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1999. Vadim is interested in building the strong artificial intelligence as well as understanding intelligence and cognition in humans and animals. He specializes in real-time heuristic search, AI in computer games including interactive narrative and cognitive processes and models.