Yasaka Shrine

京都

オイ!皆、元気?京都へ行きました。いそがしでした!


2014年5月20日(火)

A glimpse of the lush gardens surrounding Ryouan-ji.
A glimpse of the lush gardens surrounding Ryouan-ji.

We boarded the ひかり (Hikari) shinkansen again to head for the historic and cultural heart of Japan: Kyoto. Upon our arrival, we immediately went to 龍安寺 (りょうあんじ/Ryouan-ji), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and saw its famous Japanese Zen garden. This particular garden is considered the finest example of 枯山水 (かれさんすい/”dry landscape” gardening). These type of gardens are designed to imitate the essence of nature and serve as an aid to meditation. I’ve always pictured this particular garden as small islands among a vast sea. The surrounding temple grounds were just as gorgeous.

Zen Garden
The famous Zen garden at Ryouan-ji.

Nearby was also 金閣寺 (きんかくじ), or the Golden Pavilion. This is probably one of the most famous sites in Japan. For me, it is definitely one of the first that comes to mind when I think of Kyoto. The building itself is three stories, with the top two covered in pure gold leaf.

Kinkakuji
The beautiful surroundings of Kinkakuji a.k.a the Golden Pavilion.
Black Sesame Ice Cream
ソフトクリーム!This is black sesame flavor. Found at Kinkakuji!

For the Pokémon fans out there, like myself, it is interesting to known that this is the home of ホウオウ(Ho-Oh). Ecruteak City is representative of Kyoto in the Pokémon world.  The Golden Pavilion also has a Pokémon equivalent. The Bell Tower/Tin Tower, where Ho-Oh can be found and captured.

I guess it would be safe to assume that 銀閣寺(ぎんかくじ), the Silver Pavilion, served as the basis for the Burned Tower in the Pokémon series. However, in reality, it was the Golden Pavilion which burned to the ground in 1950 by a monk. The Golden Pavilion as we known it today is the reconstruction of it from 1955. Very symbolic of a phoenix who is reborn from ashes.

2014年5月21日(水)

The following day was a special one. As part of our printmaking class and service learning project, when went to visit Richard Steiner, a professional woodblock printmaker.  Originally from America, he’s been living in Japan and studying woodblock printing since 1970.

Steiner showing us carving techniques.
Steiner showing us carving techniques.

He studied under woodblock print master, Masahiko Tokumitsu. Originally imitating the representational black-and-white style of his teacher, Steiner has since adopted colorful abstract themes into his work.  After years of study, Richard Steiner was given an artistic license and the artistic name of Tosai. Today, Steiner also teaches at 京都精華大学 (きょうとせかいだいがく/Kyoto Seika University. He also heads the Kyoto International Woodprint Association (KIWA).

His quaint studio is located in central Kyoto in a 町や (まちや/townhouse) with 畳 (tatami) floors and sliding 障子 (しょうじ/shouji) doors. Within this space, he covered a brief history about 木版画 (もくはんが/woodblock prints) and shared with us techniques used in the woodblock printing process. However, since his space was too small to accommodate the entire class, it was necessary for us to break up in groups. Therefore, a good part of the day was spent exploring the surrounding neighborhood of 中京区 (なかぎょうく/Nakagyou-ku).

2014年5月22日(木)

Nijou Castle
二条城 二の丸御殿” by taka under CC BY-SA 2.1 JP.

The following day we went to 二条城 (にじょうじょう/Nijou Castle), another UNESCO World Heritage Site, in the morning. On the way there, I had a “Justin Beiber” moment, when I waved to some passerby school girls and then they all unanimously squealed. That was a little surreal.

The castle itself is similar to Nagoya Castle, although, a little smaller. The architecture lends itself very well to the social hierarchy of the Edo period. Therefore, there was many informative displays showcasing this.

Nijou Castle Grounds
One of the beautiful views from with the grounds of Nijou Castle.
Kyoto Imperial Park
This is one of the roads within Kyoto Imperial Park leading to the palace.

After Nijou Castle, we headed for the 京都御所 (きょうとごしょ/Kyoto Imperial Palace). It was the former residence of the Emperor and his family in Kyoto until 1868 when they moved to Tokyo. The palace that exists today is the reconstruction of it in 1855 after it had burned down. Situated within 京都御苑 (きょうとぎょえん/Kyoto Imperial Park), the palace grounds are enormous. I can’t stress how huge this place is.

Within the Kyoto Imperial Palace, the class went on a guided tour. We learned a lot about the castle architecture and daily lives of the royal family. For example, the roof is created using a special bark from a Japanese cypress called 檜 (Hinoki) and the color vermilion is used in 神道 (しんとう/Shinto) to ward off bad spirits. Something I found particularly interesting is that a notch is created in the northeast corner of the palace walls to prevent bad spirits from entering the palace grounds. This is because the northeast is believed to be where they originate from. Also, red tatami is used for lower social status, while white tatami is used for higher class.

Kyoto Imperial Palace
Kyoto Imperial Palace” by OZinOH under CC BY-NC 2.0.

That night, the class headed to 祇園 (ぎおん/Gion), a district formed in front of the 八坂神社 (やさかじんじゃ/Yasaka Shrine). Gion is well-known for the 芸者(geisha) and their apprentices, the 舞子 (maiko), who walk its streets at night. I was lucky enough to see three maiko walking down the streets. Seeing them in person is actually a pretty awe-inspiring experience.

Yasaka Shrine
Yasaka Shrine” by Hardo under CC BY-SA 2.0.

I loved being in Gion. Kyoto for the most part has a quiet a night life in comparison to Tokyo and Nagoya. However, Gion is where Kyoto comes to life at night. I would love to return to Gion in the future.

Purikura
In Gion, I’ve experienced プリクラ (purikura), a photo sticker booth. Such flawless skin and big eyes. Probably my most popular photo from the trip.

2014年5月23日(金)

Kyoto Seika University, the school Richard Steiner teaches at, is another college we got to tour during our stay in Japan. I was happy I got the opportunity to visit some colleges since I’m exploring options for the MEXT Scholarship. Something which I may or may not apply for in the near future.

Kyoto Seika University
Kyoto Seika University Campus” by Daniel Goffin under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Kyoto Seika University was particularly interesting since it offered many fields of study within new media: animation, manga, photography, etc. Of course, printmaking as well, which got some of the study abroad students very excited. It really seemed like a school out of ハチミツとクローバー (Honey and Clover). While visiting, there was a group of high school students learning to make 和紙 (washi) paper. As アメリカ人(アメリカじん/Americans), we were quite popular among the high school students.

Later that evening, I was determined to see 任天堂株式会社 (にんてんどうかぶしきがいしゃ/Nintendo Co., Ltd.), headquartered in Kyoto. With a little research, I discovered that Nintendo was located not far from the hotel. Two friends joined me on my quest. It was surprisingly easy to find! There was two buildings. One was obviously an older building, while the other, Nintendo Research and Development, looked much newer.

Nintendo Sign

With the sun setting in the background and through the rose-tinted glasses of a fan, the cubical, white buildings probably looked more amazing than in reality. The locals obviously knew what we were up to, since they were all grinning from ear to ear as they walked past. There was even a little old woman giggling as she was walking her dog.

2014年5月24日(土)

Kitsune
きつね (fox) statues are everywhere at the Fushimi Inari Shrine. This one was cute.

On our last day in Kyoto, once again the familiar band of adventurers assembled and we head for the 伏見稲荷大社 (ふしみいなりたいしゃ/Fushimi Inari Shrine)。This is the head shrine for the fox diety known as Inari, who also apparently loves fried tofu.  いなり寿司 (いなりずし/Inari sushi) is sushi rice in fried tofu. きつねうどん (literally “fox udon” ) is udon noodles with fried tofu. As the god of rice, it is no wonder the Japanese people love him so much.

The Fushimi Inari Shrine isn’t far from Nintendo headquarters actually. In fact, Shigeru Miyamoto said that the shrine helped with the conception of Star Fox and the series’ main character Fox McCloud.

Running through all these torii will make you think you're being transported to another world!
Running through all these torii will make you think you’re being transported to another world!

Aside from foxes, this shrine has lots and lots of 鳥居 (とりい), traditional Japanese gates. There is apparently over 10,000 of them, each one donated from a company or organization. Walking through a tunnel of vermilion-colored gates is not only beautiful, but also other-worldly. There truly is no other place like it. I’m proud that I was able to make it all the way to the top of the hill and see as much of the shrine as I could. I may return to enjoy it more when I return to Kyoto this July.

Sunshine Sakae and its giant Ferris wheel, Sky-Boat.

名古屋

オイ!皆、元気?名古屋へ行きました。楽しかった!


2014年5月17日(土)

This is Nagoya Castle.
This is Nagoya Castle. The flicker of gold on top of the roof is one of the golden dolphins.

I rode the 新幹線 (しんかんせん/bullet train) for the first time to get to Nagoya, which was a lot of fun. The ride is very smooth and it was a beautiful day so I got to see a lot of the countryside and 富士山 (ふじさん/Mt. Fuji)!

When the class arrived in Nagoya, we headed straight to 名古屋城 (なごやじょう/Nagoya Castle). This is one of the many famous feudal castles in Japan. This one is the first of a few I get see in Japan. However, Nagoya Castle was destroyed during the bombings of World War II, so the castle I saw was not the original but a reconstruction of it. The architecture of Nagoya Castle is quite spectacular and it offered an amazing view of Nagoya from the top.

Nagoya
This is the view from on top of Nagoya Castle.
Shachihoko
名古屋城の金の鯱(雌)” by Gnsin under CC BY-SA 3.0.

The 金鯱 (きんしゃち/golden dolphins) that adorn the roof of the castle are seen all over the city as the city’s mascot! They’re based off of a mythical creature from Japanese folklore with the head of a tiger and the body of a carp. It is believed that these creatures could summon rain, so they are put on the castle roof as protection from fire. Also, while I was at Nagoya Castle, I got to try green tea ソフトクリーム (soft-serve ice cream) for the first time. おいしっかた!In Japan, soft-serve ice cream is a common treat and it comes in a variety of unique flavors. Being the adventurous eater I am, I’m tempted to try them all!

There were many bonsai on display near Nagoya Castle. I love bonsai!
There were many bonsai on display near Nagoya Castle. I love bonsai!

Later that night, the merry band of adventurers assembled and we went exploring around 栄 (さかえ/Sakae) district. We had dinner at a curry shop called 金沢ロイヤルカレー創 (Kanazawa Royal Curry Sou) that had some really great オムカレー. Close to our hotel was サンシャインサカエ (Sunshine Sakae) where I found and bought the PS3 version of テイルズ オブ ヴェスペリア (Tales of Vesperia) released only in Japan. Then we rode its giant 観覧車 (かんらんしゃ/Ferris wheel) called Sky-Boat (スカイボート)which provided a great view of Sakae’s night life.

Sunshine Sakae
Sunshine Sakae” by Théo under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

2014年5月18日(日)

The next day in Nagoya, the class met some students from 中京大学 (ちゅきょうだいがく/Chukyo University) and traveled with them to the トヨタテクノミュージアム産業技術記念館 (Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology). I had a great time talking with and getting to know each of the students: Sonoka, Kyoka, Shodai, and Rinko. At the Toyota Museum I learned that originally the company specialized creating automatic looms and later evolved into the automobile company is known as today.

Toyota Museum
Inside of the Toyota Museum.

After the museum, we went to 大須 (おおす/Ōsu), home to the Buddhist temple 大須観音 (おおすかんのん/Ōsu Kannon) and the shopping district which surrounds it. I spent most of my time exploring this area with Shodai and two other students Alex and Jason.

Osu Kannon
Osu Kannon Panorama” by Gyffindor under CC BY-SA 3.0.

The real fun began after the day’s itinerary was over and we had free time. Along with some other students, we traveled back to Sakae and went nearby shopping center called オアシス21(Oasis 21). I remembered seeing this place on a YouTube channel I follow, “Rachel & Jun,” so I was quite happy to see it in person.

Nagoya TV Tower
Nagoya TV Tower as seen from on top of Oasis 21.

While we were there, we checked out a store dedicated to Studio Ghibli goods and we ate at a 回転寿司 (かいてんずし/conveyor-belt sushi) place. After dinner, we visited Oasis 21′s unique “Water Spaceship” roof and had a wonderful view of Nagoya TV Tower. Since the night was young, myself, Alex, Shodai, plus other students: Danielle, Janelle, and José, decided to  go out for some カラオケ(karaoke). I’ve been out for karaoke before, but I this was honestly the best karaoke I’ve ever experienced. I had so MUCH fun! すごく楽しかった!

2014年5月19日(月)

Inside of Chukyo
Inside one of the buildings at Chukyo University.

The following day we went to visit Chukyo University. We attended a class designed to help Japanese students to think logically about situations presented to them in English. I thought the scenarios presented them was a bit challenging, especially since it was a freshman course. One pair of students attempted to tell me the story of Momotaro in English. Luckily, I am familiar with the story, so I was able to help them along pretty well. It was a big challenge not to speak to them in Japanese though!

After a tour of the campus, we were treated to a curry lunch where we were also reunited with Shodai, Sonoka, and Kyoka. It was great seeing them again! Then we all went to Dibble-sensei’s printmaking class, where we work together with Japanese students. Afterwords, we said our sad farewells to Shodai, Sonoka, and Kyoka. I apparently gained the reputation of being ladies man. I’m not sure about that…but it’s an amusing thought.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For our last night in Nagoya, I showed my friends the wonders of ユニクロ(Uniqlo), a Japanese clothing store I’ve come to love when I was in San Francisco for GDC. I bought myself two pairs of jeans and even got them hemmed (complimentary) to my size! They’re made of “powder-soft” denim and they feel great! Plus, I got coupons for a future sale, so I’ll probably buy more Uniqlo clothes in the near future.


I’ve been told before that Nagoya is a boring place, but I found that far from the truth. I loved my time in Nagoya. I’m sure my time with the Chukyo University students made a huge difference. I’m actually a bit sad to leave this city, but Kyoto, our next destination, is bound to be lots of fun too.

Nagoya really proved to me that years of Japanese language study has been paying off. It has been especially useful on this trip. I’ve often been designated the impromptu translator for the other students. While I’m far from perfect, it inspires me to learn more and more. もっと日本語を勉強したい!I can’t wait for the CLS program this summer, where there is an emphasis on Japanese language study!

Tokyo-Japan

東京

オイ!皆、元気?東京へ行きました。


 2014年5月14日(水)

I saw a lot of places in Tokyo. On the first day I went to 原宿 (はらじゅく/Harajuku) and the Ukiyo-e Ōta Memorial Museum of Art. The museum had many of the original woodblock prints from Hokusai and Hiroshige on display. It was very interesting to learn about the techniques the used to create their works of art and to see the detail put into the woodblock printing process. I also learned about how the color of the ink greatly influenced ukiyo-e, particularly a color known as “Berlin blue.”

Harajuku Station
This is Harajuku Station. It is right across the street from Takeshita Street.

Harajuku itself was an interesting locale, full of shops and unique fashions. The class spent all of its time at 竹下通り (たけしたどおり a.k.a. Takeshita Street). There wasn’t many people dressed up in the unique fashions often associated with Harajuku, but they may have been because we didn’t visit on a Sunday. There were, however, lots and lots of middle school and high school students. They were everywhere we went. Harajuku doesn’t really cater to my interests, but I’m glad to have at least seen it.

Takeshita Street
The entrance to Takeshita Street.

Afterwards I briefly stopped by 六本木 (Roppongi) via 地下鉄 (ちかてつ/subway) with friends in a failed attempt to pick up a rental phone from Softbank and then we found our way to 秋葉原 (あきはばら/Akihabara). Although, by the time we arrived, many of the shops were already closed down for the day. Most shops in Japan seem to open at around 10:00am and close at 8:00pm. We still managed to find some places open though: game centers and shops full of anime goods and figures.

 2014年5月15日(木)

Meiji Shrine
Inside of the Meiji Shrine.
Meiji-Selfie
The rare and most successful selfie from the entire trip. In front of the entrance to Meiji Shrine.

The next day, the class went to the 明治神宮 (めいじじんぐう/Meiji Shrine), which I absolutely loved. It’s across from Harajuku, but surround by a forest consisting of trees donated from around the world in remembrance of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shōken. It is very beautiful. The natural setting of the Meiji Shrine makes it seem like a whole different world in comparison to Harajuku. The Meiji Shrine felt almost otherworldly. It’s hard to believe they are so close to each other. While at the Meiji Shrine, the class was fortunate enough to see a traditional Japanese wedding take place while we were there and caused quite the spectacle. I have to say, the Meiji Shrine is probably one of my favorite places in Tokyo yet.

Barrels of sake, known as Nihonshu, donated to the Meiji Shrine.
Barrels of sake, known as Nihonshu, donated to the Meiji Shrine.

That same day, we visited Yanaka, a historic district which survived both the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake and the bombings from World War II. As such, it still retains the atmosphere of old Tokyo. Yanaka was a very beautiful town with many Buddhist cemeteries and small shops selling local goods. 

Yanaka Shrine
A shrine located in the heart of quiet Yanaka.

Then we were whisked away to アメヤ横丁(アメヤよこちょう/Ameyayokochou) or アメ横 (アメよこ/Ameyoko), a large market located near Ueno Station. This place definitely appealed to those who had money to burn. I don’t fall under that category, so I mostly just enjoyed being in and observing the environment. Once the itinerary for the day was over, I joined my small band of adventurers and traveled to 渋谷 (しぶや/Shibuya) where we crossed the famous crossing and stopped by the Starbucks which overlooked it.

Ameyoko
This is Ameyoko!

2014年5月16日(金)

On the third day, everyone was off to 浅草 (あさくさ/Asakusa) to see the 三社祭 (さんじゃまつり/Sanja Matsuri). I saw the 雷門 (かみなりもん/Thunder Gate), 浅草寺 (せんそうじ/Sensou Temple), and 浅草神社 (あさくさじんじゃ/Asakusa Shrine). Sanja Matsuri is a Shinto festival, so it is actually for the Asakusa Shrine and not its neighbor the Sensou Temple (which is Buddhist). While visiting, I decided to get a おみくじ which is a slip of paper telling you your fortune. My fortune was good! やった!

Sanja Matsuri
Part of the Sanja Matsuri with the Sensou Temple to the left.

Here I also tried kakigori (ramune flavor) for the first time and loved it! I also tried some festival food: takoyaki (although I hear Osaka’s takoyaki is particularly good), yakisoba, and some sort of buttered potato. でも、ポテトが好きじゃない。Before we left the festival, the class was able to see a rare Binzasara Dance and a parade which I believe was the 大行列 (だいぎょうれつ).

Sumida River
This is 隅田川 (すみだかわ/Sumida River) located in Asakusa.

Once again, in the evening my merry band of adventurers assembled and we did some more sightseeing in Asakusa thanks to our guide, Mai-san, before we headed off to 池袋 (いけぶくろ/Ikebukuro) for sightseeing and ramen. Before the night ended, we revisited Shibuya to see  ハチ公 (はちこう/Hachiko), a famous statue of a dog who loyally waited for his owner everyday (even after the owner’s death) at the train station.

Shibuya
Shibuya is home to the Hachiko statue and its famous scramble crossing!

I am very impressed with how convenient the Japanese way of life is. Vending machines are everywhere providing access to inexpensive cold and hot drinks. Around every corner is a コンビニ (convenience store) that are much more welcoming (and convenient) than those in America. Plus, the public transit is truly spectacular. In Japan, the morning rush hour is everyone walking to school work and packing themselves into trains. Quite the contrary to Atlanta’s car-congested  streets.

I also found food surprisingly affordable. As someone who was raised on and loves Japanese food, I was absolutely in heaven. I could live off of 丼 (どんぶり), a rice bowl topped with seasoned meat. Pictured below is a particular dish called 牛丼 (ぎゅうどん/beef rice bowl). So delicious and so affordable! I really don’t miss American food at all. Although, I imagine eventually I might crave for some Mexican food.

I could live off of donburi, a rice bowl topped with seasoned meat. So delicious and so affordable!
吉野家の牛丼” by jetalone under CC BY 2.0.

Surprisingly, I find myself adjusting to life here in Japan going very smoothly. I’m not sure if it is because I’m going through a phase of excitement or if it is because I exposed myself to so much of Japan’s culture back in America. However, at least in this moment, I’m truly enjoying myself and it makes me much more comfortable about decisions I’m making for the near future. 日本が大好き!

Japanese Lanterns

KSUは日本に行く

オス!皆、元気?今日は初めて日本に行きます。

To be honest, reality hasn’t hit me yet. I’m here, sitting in the airport, and typing this blog about going to Japan. However, I don’t feel like I’m going to Japan.

Thanks to several opportunities, I’ve done a lot of traveling lately…so sitting here almost feels like I’m doing just another domestic trip. Not that they’re not exciting. That’s far from the truth. I’ve just become used to traveling. Just within the past year, I’ve been to San Francisco twice, Los Angeles, and Seattle! This trip to Japan, however, is my biggest adventure yet. I think the scale of this trip actually won’t hit me until I’m half-way across the Pacific Ocean.

Originally, I was just going to Japan during the month of May with Kennesaw State University (KSU). However, I was selected to participate in the 2014 Japanese Critical Language Scholarship Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. With an acceptance rate of less than 10%, the Critical Language Scholarship is one of the most competitive scholarships in the U.S. and one of the most prestigious language program for U.S. citizens. This means that I will now be in Japan from May until August! Oh, and let me add, everything on this blog is my opinion and does not represent the views of the CLS program. You know, legal stuff.

Anyways, for the meantime, this blog will focus on the first trip with KSU. Today I will be arriving in Tokyo and staying until the 17th which is when I leave for Nagoya. I’ll also be visiting Kyoto and Osaka. Instead of doing a daily blog, I’m going to divide it up by city and each blog will sum up the experiences of that city.

Here are some things I’m hoping to take away from the KSU trip:

  • A better grasp of Japanese life through first-hand experience.
  • Japanese language practice!
  • Meeting family and friends who live in Japan.

Oh, and if I’m not studying Japanese on the plane… You can bet I’ll be enjoying Bravely Default!

じゃ、また!

NNK_Full

Erich’s Top JRPGs of 2013

If you haven’t observed already, I have a soft spot for JRPGs. To my joy, they were making a small comeback in 2012 and the trend continued well into the following year. In addition, thanks to a newly acquired PlayStation 3 at the beginning of 2013, I was able to enjoy a good number of JRPGs.

Which allows me to share the top 3 JRPGs of 2013 that I enjoyed most:


3. Tales of Xillia

Xillia

Not all Tales games are created equally, but they definitely tend to still be a cut above most JRPGs. In fact, the Tales series is arguably the third most popular JRPG series, just behind Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. It has a clear footing in Japan and a growing presence worldwide.

Unlike some games, JRPGs are largely reliant on plot. Xillia takes an interesting turn by allowing the player to play the game from one of two perspectives, Milla or Jude. I actually really enjoy having this option and the changes are different enough to keep things interesting. However, overall, the story inevitably suffers from a bit of pacing issues. I really didn’t find it engaging until I reached the city of Sharilton, which is a good 8 to 10 hours into the game. Even then, there are brief moments of lag. Things get much more interesting once the plot twists kick into action, and there are plenty of them in this game.

Also, I’m not usually a stickler for voice acting, but the English voice acting leaves a bit to be desired. Milla’s voice felt particularly off at first, but it eventually grew on me. To also be noted, Teepo’s voice was at times a bit harsh on the ears. However, the voice acting is not a deal-breaker, if you’re worried about that.

If there is one element from Tales games that shines above the rest, it would have to be its battle system. It’s something that manages to always improve with each Tales iteration. Stemming from Tales of Phantasia’s Linear Motion Battle System, Tales of Xillia now boasts the Dual-Raid Linear Motion Battle System and the new Link Mode (which allows you to team up with characters to utilize special combos). In a nutshell, this system basically combines RPG elements with those commonly found within fighting games. This makes battles fluid, fun, and engaging without relying on the commonly seen turn-base battle mechanic.

In the long haul, Tales of Xillia ended up ranking among my favorite Tales games. It doesn’t quite beat out Tales of Symphonia or Tales of the Abyss, but it has a good footing in third place.


2. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Kuni

Ni no Kuni had the honor of being the first new game I would play for 2013, and what a great start that was! For those unaware, Ni no Kuni is a special collaboration between LEVEL-5 and the famous Studio Ghibli. This is basically a match made in heaven, as this game managed to capture the endearing charm found in most Ghibli films and combine it with good ol’ classic JRPG gameplay.

As expected, the game’s artistic direction is absolutely gorgeous. There is so much detailed poured into each environment, whether it be the bustling streets of the homey, mid-20th century American town, Motorville, or the various settings of the whimsical and colorful fantasy world being overtaken by the Dark Djinn. It looks and feels as if you’re in a Ghibli film. Along with a plot focused on mending people’s broken hearts, it also comes with all the charm to boot.

Joe Hisaishi, the composer behind many of Studio Ghibli’s films, also lent his talents to this game. This resulted in a beautifully orchestrated soundtrack (all performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra) that certainly makes most games green with envy.

The battle system is like a mix of both Pokémon and Tales. Monsters called Familiars can be recruited and fight for the player. They all have their own stats, moves, and can evolve into other forms, just like Pokémon! However, unlike Pokémon, the human players can fight too and you can actively control the Familiars in battle just like in Tales games.

Ni no Kuni is definitely a gem. A big, shiny one. An excellent JRPG and a fantastic PS3 game. I certainly hope this isn’t the last that we’ll see Studio Ghibli involved in game development, because I would love to see (and play) more.


1. Fire Emblem Awakening

Fire Emblem Awakening

Surprise, surprise! Yes, Fire Emblem Awakening is not only claiming the top spot on my list for top 3DS games of 2013, but for JRPGs of 2013 as well. Which was a tough decision, because Ni no Kuni is pretty great. However, as a frequent player of traditional JRPGs and not so much tactical-style games, Fire Emblem had a much bigger hurdle to overcome. Which it did.

Needless to say, I did have a low standard set for Fire Emblem, as it was a game series which has struggled to keep my attention in the past. However, Awakening does an excellent job of removing hurdles which has prevented (new) players from enjoying the franchise in the past, while still maintaining elements previous fans enjoyed.

I also feel as the newly added “dating sim” mechanics ended up greatly benefiting the series by getting players more engaged in the story and growth of the characters. Seriously, I don’t often delay beating the game in favor of grinding just to unlock dialogue between characters. This may attest to the game’s writing, which successfully conveys the multitude of different personalities in this game in fresh and amusing ways.

The way the game carries you along is quite remarkable. Everything culminated so perfectly at the end with the dialogue, setting, music, etc. that the memory of it still strongly resonates with me. Once it was over, I hesitated moving on to another game. I simply wanted to experience that adventure all over again. It is moments like this that remind me why I love video games.

It is thanks to Fire Emblem Awakening that I understand the passion fans have for this franchise. If you were disappoint by Fire Emblem games in the past, or tactical games in general, then you should definitely consider giving them another chance with Awakening. Just like I’ve declared it to be the must-have 3DS game of 2013, it is also a JRPG worth its weight in gold (the Fire Emblem currency, not the shiny metallic stuff).


Now you know my picks, but what do you think? Was there JRPGs that I missed, that you think should be on this list? Feel free to let me know in the comments below!

Sayonara 2013, Konnichiwa 2014

Sayonara 2013:

A year ago, I was busy packing for and traveling to MAGFest, listening to video game music, and having fun meeting and making friends. As a result, I declared 2013 to be a year dedicated to video games, and, boy, I definitely wasn’t far off.

IGDA Scholars at Riot Games
The 2013 E3 IGDA Scholars at Riot Games.

Since the beginning of my college career, I’ve been planning to use my junior year to get jump-started on graduation preparations with networking. As someone who wants to work in game development, the best place to go for that was, by far, GDC. In February, I received my chance by getting selected to be a Conference Associate for GDC. This was indeed a priceless experience, but the opportunities did not stop there. Greatly inspired by GDC, I applied for the 2013 IGDA E3 Scholarship. Every year, the IGDA awards these scholarships “to the most promising students studying anything related to game development.” I couldn’t have been more honored than to be selected among only 8 to win this scholarship by the IGDA.

Pegasus Theater Enforcers at PAX
The Pegasus Theater Enforcers at PAX Prime 2013.

This was a very exciting opportunity for me, because I’ve wanted to attend E3 (as well as GDC) for a very long time. Not only did I get to attend E3, the scholarship also granted me more opportunities for networking and professional growth. The more I got insight from professionals in the field, the more clear my goals and career direction became. I also got to see, sit by, and talk with many of video game developer heroes such as Shigeru Miyamoto, Eiji Aonuma, Jenova Chen, and Kellee Santiago (who was my mentor)! The cherry on top of all of this, would be getting accepted to be an Enforcer at PAX Prime in Seattle. While I didn’t find PAX to be as useful as GDC or E3 (mostly in thanks to the IGDA scholarship) for networking, it still provided me several opportunities to be with friends and to visit one of my favorite places in the U.S. In one year, I managed to visit for the first time three of the largest gaming events in the U.S. and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunities provided to me to do so. Every year has its ups and downs, but I can say that 2013 will definitely be a year I will not soon forget!

Konnichiwa 2014:

By the end of 2013, I’ve decided to combine my love for games and my love for Japanese culture into one and pursue a career in Japanese game localization. I honestly don’t know why this realization didn’t come to me sooner, but I’m certainly glad I’ve embraced it now. For those who do not know, localization is the process by which games created in Japan (or other countries) get translated and prepared for an audience in another part of the world. Beneficial skills needed to do this type of work are creative writing, scripting, drama, and most importantly a strong foundation in Japanese (or other foreign languages).

You can help me study abroad in Japan with a small donation or even sharing this blog!
You can help me study abroad in Japan with a small donation or even sharing this blog!

With this career goal in mind, I’ve reached out to professionals in the field to gather advice in preparation for graduation this year. I was told that if Japanese game localization is something I’m interested in, I need to get myself to Japan. That’s because companies hiring for Japanese game localization positions really favor candidates who have lived in the culture, speak the language fluently, and understand all the nuances of both the game content and business communication with the companies involved. Now, I’ve wanted to study abroad for a long time, because 1) I’ve wanted to visit Japan since I was a kid and 2) living and breathing the culture and language is the best way for me to learn it. My last attempt to go to Japan in 2011 didn’t work out due to the earthquake and tsunami, but now I’ve been provided another opportunity and probably my last before graduation in December 2014. Kennesaw State University has a program in May which not only takes to me Japan, but also provides me essential credits required by both my major and minor.

I’ve started a fundraiser with GoFundMe for anyone who is willing to help me to go study abroad in Japan.

However, study abroad is not cheap, and as a poor college student who is already dependent on loans, grants, and scholarships, I can use any help I can get. I’ve started a fundraiser with GoFundMe for anyone who is willing to help me to go study abroad in Japan. Any donation is appreciated and will help me be just one step closer to achieving this goal of mine. If I can manage to save up enough money, I will be attempting to stay in Japan over the summer to do an internship with a game localization company too. Since 2014 has been on my mind for awhile, there are some other opportunities I took advantage of, which includes (but not limited to) me applying for: the Critical Language Scholarship to go study Japanese in Japan over the summer, the 2014 GDC IGDA Scholarship, and to be a Conference Associate for GDC 2014. There is no guarantee that I will get these amazing opportunities, but I will never know if I don’t try. Wish me the best of luck! While I was able to successfully use 2013 as a launch pad, 2014 is the year that will mark the end of a chapter and the start of a new one. It’s more important than ever that I continue to develop my professional growth and continue to aim for my goals. I still have lots of work to do ahead of me, so there’s no slowing down. 2014 here I come!

ACNL_Full_4

Erich’s Top 3DS Games of 2013

Long time no see everyone! 2013 is already nearly over, and what it year it was! There was a lot of fanfare behind the releases of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 back in November. However, 2013 really belongs to the 3DS, Nintendo’s latest handheld system.

It’s hard to believe that 3DS was once nearly regarded as a flop near its launch. Now, the 3DS is, by far, the system to deliver the most bang for your buck. This year, tons of great games came out for this handheld system.

It was a challenge to determine what was the cream of the crop, but here are my top five 3DS games of 2013:


5. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon

Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon

In an interesting marketing twist, Nintendo celebrated 2013 as the Year of Luigi. Which is now confirmed to spread in 2014…so it’s more like the Fiscal Year of Luigi? Anyways, out of this emerged two noteworthy 3DS titles: Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon and Mario & Luigi: Dream Team. While I was a big fan of Mario & Luigi games in the past, Dream Team is having a hard time gaining some momentum with me. Therefore, the honor of fifth place goes to Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon.

Dark Moon is a follow-up to the GameCube classic, and I’ll admit I have a soft spot in my heart for some spooky Mario…er…Luigi goodness and Boos. While the ghosts are a bit more generic in design than they were in the original game, they are used in a multitude of clever ways.

The common Greenies will be wearing cooking pots on their heads one moment, donning sunglasses the next moment, and then haunting suites of armor another moment. All of these different scenarios require a different approach for Luigi to use in order to capture the mischievous ghosts in his Ghostbusters-like contraption, the Poltergust 5000. However, it should noted that the bosses are far from generic, especially since one of them is a staircase. Yes, you did read that correctly.

There is a nice variety of worlds too, since Luigi is no longer confined to one haunted house. This is a game with surprises up its sleeve, and it’s certainly not one to leave you bored anytime soon.

Still, forget “Year of Luigi”, 2013 is the Year of the 3DS, which you’ll discover why as you read on.


4. Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Animal Crossing: New Leaf delivers everything Animal Crossing players wanted in the past (like pants) and more. This latest entry is the best Animal Crossing has ever been. The potential for endless creativity has always been a staple in the Animal Crossing games, but with New Leaf, that potential has been even further extended.

Along with wearing pants, the new additions of swimming, hanging things on the walls of your house, saving patterns as QR codes, and customizing your town with public works projects are also welcomed additions. I only wish my villagers would recommend some new public works projects more often, because you can’t build them until they’re requested.

In part thanks to the introduction of public works projects, there’s a bigger dependence on bells (the game’s currency). Conveniently, there is a tropical island full of lucrative beetles not far offshore. Although, I would be careful with the beetle-farming as it can get old fast.

New Leaf even added the convenience of town ordinances (like the Night Owl or Early Bird ordinances), which helps assist with how a player wishes to play the game. I currently have the Beautiful Town ordinance set up so my flowers won’t die from neglect…yes, it’s been awhile since I’ve visited my town, Foxtail. However, due to the nature of Animal Crossing, which is a game based on real time, there is often always something to do.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf is like a digital zen garden complete with little animal residents. Players take care to arrange their towns and their houses into what they please. The Animal Crossing experience is even more complete with friends, whom you can share your arrangements with. The 3DS is a platform that makes this very easy to do which makes Animal Crossing feel right at home on the system.


3. Pokémon X and Y

Pokemon X Y

There must be someone out there listening, because Pokémon X and Y are truly designed to cater to its players. Training Pokémon has never been easier thanks to things like the Friend Safari and newly added tweaks to breeding such as Destiny Knot. Not only does the series introduce some new (and very cool looking) monsters, it also embraces the old Pokémon that fans have loved throughout the years.

The introduction of Mega evolution helps to spread the spotlight to some of these old Pokémon like Mawile and Kangaskhan. Although, fair few were already in the spotlight without this new evolution (like Garchomp, Tyranitar, Scizor, etc.). Despite this, Mega Pokémon have proven not to overpower the game as feared and adds an interesting strategic element to battles. Also, the newly introduced Fairy type does a great job of putting once rampant Dragon (and Fighting) types in their place while not taking over itself.

From a non-competitive perspective, the Pokémon X and Y are truly the most gorgeous games out of the series. X and Y gracefully took the series into the third-dimension. I really fancy the shaders the developers took care of creating to mimic Ken Sugimori’s style. Shaders which are really at their best during battles (and while viewing the PokéDex).

While I didn’t find X and Y’s story as engaging as Black and White’s, there is no doubt that Pokémon X and Y delivers a solid and exciting Pokémon experience. Of course, the Pokémon games were never really noted for their deep stories in the first place.

For Pokémon fans or even beginner trainers, X and Y will guarantee to delight.


2. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

Admittedly, I was hesitant to play another handheld Zelda, which started having a trend of being lackluster in comparison with their console counterparts. I also didn’t grow up with the nostalgic appreciation that many gamers have for The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, which this game’s world and story is based on. My introduction to the Zelda series was Ocarina of Time…which is hard to top, despite how A Link to the Past is the foundation for much of Zelda lore.

Nevertheless, A Link Between Worlds, with its redirected focus on exploration, found itself placed among my top favorite Zelda games. I can easily say this is the most enjoyable handheld Zelda experience I’ve had since Link’s Awakening for the Game Boy/Game Boy Color. The newly introduce item rental system gives this game some very much welcomed flexibility, something I’ll admit Skyward Sword lacked.

I also can’t help but wonder if Nintendo took notes from the Zelda Symphony tour, because the music in A Link Between Worlds is top-notch. Most of the soundtrack consists of themes found in previous Zelda games (mostly notably A Link to the Past), but the overall quality of the music is great. I highly recommend having your volume up while playing this game, because the music itself really helps to add to the experience.

A Link Between Worlds has worked its way into the hearts of many fans and has even been crowned Game of the Year by some. The hype does not disappoint as this game successfully merges a nostalgia for the old with fun and new mechanics.


1. Fire Emblem Awakening

Fire Emblem Awakening

Choosing which game would claim first in my list was definitely challenge. Despite this, there was a game that stood out from the rest. The 3DS game that surprised me the most and impressed me the most was, by far, Fire Emblem Awakening.

It might have helped that I did not have high expectations for Fire Emblem Awakening initially. The only Fire Emblem game I’ve played in the past was Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon. That was a game I eventually lost interest in and never did return to play. Therefore, I dubbed the Fire Emblem series as games that were not fun for me. I would only pick up Fire Emblem Awakening as part of a coupon deal along with Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Of course, Fire Emblem took a back seat, while I was running around with Isabelle doing mayor-like duties for a spell.

Once I did play Fire Emblem Awakening, I was hooked. Fire Emblem Awakening’s strength lies within its writing, which helps bring its world and, most importantly, its characters to life. Awakening does a great job of taking what I can best describe as “dating sim” elements and incorporating it into a strategy RPG. In the process, I became really attached to the development of my characters, and I would even grind willingly just to see their stories unfold.

The pacing in Fire Emblem Awakening is simply fantastic. Very few video games achieve this, but Awakening is one of them. Through both its lows and highs, the game sweeps you along on a seamless adventure. Nothing can really compare to how the game builds up its finale, which in a brilliant combination of narration, music, and gameplay make you feel as if you finished a epic quest.

Fire Emblem Awakening will make you love its characters and long for more. While the competition was tough, Fire Emblem Awakening, in my book, is clearly the top 3DS game for 2013. I can’t recommend it enough.


Now you know what I think, but what do you think are the top 3DS games to come out this year? Let me know in the comments below!

Chrom and Lissa, two main characters from Fire Emblem Awakening.

The Key to Fire Emblem Awakening’s Success

Fire_Emblem_Awakening_English_Logo

Fire Emblem Awakening is one of those games that leave you longing for more. When I find myself experiencing this, I know that I’ve truly stumbled upon a great game. I’m not alone in saying so. Numerous people, gamers and critics alike, have applauded Fire Emblem Awakening for refined gameplay mechanics and fantastic narrative (yes, the localization is superb).

I’m not here to debunk any of their claims. In fact, I agree with them wholeheartedly. However, I would argue to say that what really lead Fire Emblem Awakening to its success are its introduced casual gameplay elements. In particular, what I want on focus on are the adjustable difficulty settings. Let me elaborate for a bit.

I would argue to say that what really lead Fire Emblem Awakening to its success are its introduced casual gameplay elements.

Fire Emblem Awakening is not my first foray into the Fire Emblem series. That was with Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, a remake of the first Fire Emblem game for the Nintendo DS. A few chapters in Shadow Dragon, I kept losing characters to permadeath and I would constantly restart. Eventually I stopped playing. I lost interest in the game. It was then that I deemed that perhaps the Fire Emblem games were not exactly my cup of tea.

FEA_Screen1

Fast forward to present-day. It was hard not to notice everyone raving about the latest Fire Emblem game, Fire Emblem Awakening. This ignited a sparked interest in the series again. However, I only ended up picking up the game in June along with Animal Crossing: New Leaf as part of coupon deal. My hesitation with Fire Emblem still lingered, so my 3DS time was devoted to Animal Crossing for a while. However, thanks to a certain friend, my Facebook feed was once again filling up with Fire Emblem Awakening praise. The timing was good because summer classes just ended and I decided to give the game a chance. That was a chance I did not regret.

FEA_Settings

Stephen Totilo of Kotaku.com claimed this game to be “The Ocarina of Time of Fire Emblems.” In comparison with my own experience with Zelda, I would definitely have to agree with this statement. However, I may have never realized Fire Emblem Awakening’s potential if it were not for a few tweaks the developers did by adding casual gameplay elements. Most notably is the ability to adjust difficulty (Normal, Hard, and Lunatic) and the option to choose between Classic Mode (turning permadeath on) and Casual Mode (turning permadeath off). In combination, this gives the player 6 different ways to play the game. In an Iwata Asks interview, Kouhei Maeda, the director of Fire Emblem Awakening, said, “I realized there was a value to having various modes, because if it was too difficult on Classic Mode, they could play to the end in Casual Mode. I think a lot of people will play all the way to the end” (http://bit.ly/XVqv6w). This insight is probably what helped saved the series from possible extinction (http://bit.ly/18kf29E). Difficulty no longer becomes a barrier for new players. This, in turn, greatly expands the Fire Emblem audience.

I realized there was a value to having various modes, because if it was too difficult on Classic Mode, they could play to the end in Casual Mode. I think a lot of people will play all the way to the end.

I personally played on Normal and Classic (and still restarted every time a unit died). I found myself enjoying the game so much that I was grinding for fun. A game that I could of beaten within 20-30 hours transformed into a 50-60 hour endeavor. Now I’m trying the game on Hard and Classic, and I’m seeing myself in a similar situation that I found myself in on Shadow Dragon. However, this time I’ve already played through the game to the end on Normal and fell in love with it. As a result, Fire Emblem is no longer a series that I’ve deemed “not fun” but instead as something that I can’t wait to play again. Normal Mode allowed me to ease into the franchise, and in turn the franchise acquired a new fan (and future potential paying customer). My only gripe is I wish I could adjust the difficulty whenever I want, because all that grinding made me a bit over-powered at the end.

Chrom and Lissa, two main characters from Fire Emblem Awakening.
Own a 3DS and haven’t played Fire Emblem Awakening yet? Get up and play it now!

Fire Emblem Awakening’s attempt to add casual gameplay elements into a typically hardcore franchise has resulted in great success. By embracing the casual market, Fire Emblem Awakening found itself in the hands of many more players. In fact, no one starts as a hardcore gamer. Yet, Fire Emblem Awakening also had something to offer to its most hardcore fans. More games (and consoles) need to follow this same formula. By focusing on one audience over the other, games ultimately lose out on a potential market. However, the casual market is the future of gaming. As much as I enjoy the treats specifically targeted to hardcore players, the casual audience of today will be the hardcore audience of tomorrow.

PIIAC_Cropped

Your Princess Is In Another Castle

Your Princess Is In Another Castle
Originally designed to display as an exhibit. Each image is a separate 11×17 piece, displayed at eye level in a row.

What do those words say? I’ll just go ahead and tell you. They spell out: “Your Princess Is In Another Castle”. This is a photo exhibit I designed back in April and May and it is now on display at Southern Polytechnic State University. Of course, now that it is on display, I felt the time was right to write about this special exhibit. In fact, the timing couldn’t be more perfect with my recent attendance of the XYZ: Alternative Voices in Game Design exhibit at the Museum of Design in Atlanta. The result is a perfect storm of ideas for a blog that simply needs to be written. There is no better place to start than with the inspiration behind “Your Princess Is In Another Castle”.

Back in February, I discovered a video  being shared among a circle of game developers I follow on Twitter. The video was the first part to a new video series created by Anita Sarkeesian and called “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games”. Finding her video enlightening and informative, I’ve decided to see how professionals in the field felt about it. Upon posting the video in the International Game Developers Association LinkedIn Group for additional commentary and feedback, it was an immediately hot topic. It remained the most popular topic for about two months and did not start reducing in popularity until comments were closed. Ultimately, my post about Anita’s video resulted in 208 comments of hot debate about not only the role of women as characters in video games but also as game developers in a predominately male industry.

The conversation I witness unfold around Anita’s video would follow me to the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Notably, there was the IGDA/YetiZen party incident which featured scantily clad female dancers much to the chagrin and disapproval of many game developers. Despite this, and thankfully, GDC was largely defined by a huge positive movement for change within the industry. Leading the way was the newly formed advocacy track. One of the sessions from this new track called #1ReasonToBe, was arguably the most talked about session of GDC.

The origin of this panel has its roots in Twitter hashtags #1ReasonWhy and #1ReasonToBe. #1ReasonWhy encouraged women game developers to speak out about their difficulties of being in the video game industry. The result was numerous tweets that were full of upsetting, troubling, and negative stories about being women who make games and gained a lot of publicity by the media. A number of women game developers wanted to counteract this negative movement through the hashtag #1ReasonToBe, discussing instead why women are a part of the industry and should continue to be a part of it. This Twitter discussion culminated into the session at GDC, and resulted in a powerful message that inspires women to remain strong and pushes the industry forward in embracing gender equality.

Right now in Atlanta, at the Museum of Design, is a special video game exhibit called XYZ: Alternative Voices in Game Design. Its mission is to highlight the work of women as game designers and artists. I couldn’t be more thrilled to see such an exhibit, apparently the first of its kind, form in Atlanta. If anything, it is certainly a sign, maybe even an extension of what I’ve experienced with “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games” and the events at GDC.

Women have been and will always be an integral part of the game development community. Their growing contribution to game development only makes me more excited for the future to come. As a male, I may never truly fully understand the issues and hurdles women face in achieving gender equality. However, I will certainly support the cause. That is why “Your Princess Is In Another Castle” exists.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If this photo exhibit can get someone to ponder about the issues involving video games and gender equality, that would be good enough. Although, I really hope it will be a tool used to help spread the message of #1ReasonToBe.

E3_Cropped

IGDA 2013 E3 Scholarship

The month of June was a pretty amazing month for me. The Zelda Symphony returned to Atlanta on June 6, premiering its second season dubbed “Second Quest.” Right after that, 3 years since its last visit, Distant Worlds: music from FINAL FANTASY also came back to the capital of Georgia. I had the joy of going to both of these events. However, the true highlight for me in this month was having the opportunity to attend the Electronic Entertainment Expo (better known as E3) in the heart of downtown LA. Many gamers have dreamed of attending this conference. Finally, for me, this changed from a dream into a reality. In addition, my E3 attendance was part of something very special. I got to attend E3 as an IGDA Scholar.

IGDA Scholarships

Every year, the International Game Developers Association will award these scholarships “to the most promising students studying anything related to game development.” IGDA scholarships include all-access passes to events such as E3, studio tours of local game development companies, mentorships and meetings from senior video game developers. In a nutshell, it’s a priceless opportunity for anyone who wants to work with video games. Lucky for me, I was among only 8 people chosen to attend E3.

How did I get this scholarship? Well, I applied for it! The application asks for some basic information, but it also pays special attention to how you’re contributing to both the game development community and areas outside of that through volunteerism. It will cover game projects you’ve worked on, your career goals and aspirations, and your thoughts on why it’s important that developers should help each other. Certain sections of it allow you to make special requests. In particular, you can ask for your ideal mentor. Remembering a video I saw about the IGDA scholarships before, I took advantage of this and requested Kellee Santiago. She is one of the co-founders of Thatgamecompany, the producer behind Flow, Flower, and Journey, and currently in charge of developer relations for OUYA. Believe it or not, IGDA pulled through and Kellee Santiago became my mentor! However, I didn’t just get Kellee… I also got a second mentor, Erin Robinson (a.k.a. LivelyIvy), an award-winning independent game developer. Erin currently is working on the charmingly Zen-like game known as Gravity Ghost!

Since my return, colleagues often ask me what I did at E3, what games I’ve played, and what I enjoyed most. I played lots of games, so I’m just going to limit it to the ones that stood out to me the most. Well, it should be no surprise that I was absolutely thrilled with the Nintendo booth. I loved playing the two Zelda games, The Wind Waker HD and A Link Between Worlds. Outside of Nintendo, I really enjoyed Tearaway for the PS Vita. However, by far, the best experience at E3 for me was getting to attend the Pokémon X & Y Developers Roundtable presented by Tsunekazu Ishihara and Junichi Musuda. Not only was the roundtable itself pretty fantastic, I also found myself among several of my game developer heroes. I ran into Shigeru Miyamoto on the way there, and I found myself sitting with Eiji Aonuma, Masahiro Sakurai, and Takashi Tezuka. It was truly an honor!

Another thing that was a blast to do was the studio tours of EA, Insomniac Games, and Riot Games. Thanks to my wonderful mentor, Kellee, I also got to visit Thatgamecompany and meet with Jenova Chen. It was very enlightening to visit these different places and witness firsthand how company culture can vary from place to place. I also need to mention how awesome it was to meet and talk with my mentors and industry veterans such as Laura Fryer. These wonderful and talented people were also big highlights of my E3 experience.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Oh, did I forget to mention that I went to see the Zelda Symphony again in LA? The performance at the Greek Theatre blew Atlanta out of the water. Seriously, the orchestra performed at a caliber worthy of Hollywood films and the result was spectacular. I will be forever spoiled.

Trust me, I’ve been to 4 Zelda Symphonies. Of course, I have yet to attend one that disappoints either. Live orchestrated Zelda music? My response anytime will be: “Yes, please.” Anyways, the best way I can describe E3 in a nutshell is that it’s a “video game theme park.” Much of the show is dedicated to the spectacle of marketing, journalism, and PR (all which I think are a lot of fun). Thanks to the IGDA Scholarship, I also got special access to speak with the developers behind the games at E3. The event in its entirety was an extremely rewarding and educational experience. I could honestly write a book about my amazing time there, but instead I’ll end it here with a bit of advice for future IGDA Scholars: Don’t hesitate to take full advantage of the scholarship. Thanks to the all-access pass given to me by the IGDA, I was able to see and do things I probably would have never been able to do as a regular attendee. Never think that something is not achievable. Take a chance: request for that amazing mentor, talk to people who inspire you, and go see the things you truly want to see. You’ll find opportunities in areas you’re truly passionate about, and that will ultimately create an unforgettably great experience.

Game Localization Protégé

%d bloggers like this: