Watch me talk about game archaeology

The GDC talk I recently gave is live on youtube now - I basically talk about my work with Capcom and SNK properties, going around Japan and trying to find stuff. Lots of photos so you can kind of go on a tour with me, which is nice since we're all stuck at home. Frankly it was nice to go through the photos and remember what it was like to be somewhere else!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oB1ocMxccCc

If anybody has any questions (I had to fit this into 30 mins which was tough) let me know and I'll answer here! Also it starts slow because I was a bit flustered - I had my calendar set to the wrong timing and it started an hour before I thought, and I didn't get my last chance to practice in.

Cool talk! I had no idea you had to kinda unofficially talk to anyone that wasn't still employed by the companies for these collections. Def enjoyed the ASO anecdote and all the travelogue-y type stuff. The warehouse full of arcade boards is insanely sick.

I'm def with you on appreciating the importance of tracking down even the most seemingly unimportant variations and minutiae of games, I think all that stuff is really interesting. Congrats on getting that full page Special Thanks spread in the SNK collection, I'd have that on my wall.

Do you think traveling so far is more helpful when trying to get shown things like these or do you get a fair amount of resistance, being a foreigner?

I actually think being a foreigner helps, as long as I‘ve got a good recommendation from somebody - it kind of increases the exoticness of the conversation for the person being interviewed, and gives them more plausible deniability of something gets out that shouldn’t, like “well, they told me it'd be fine” etc.

Like the story of getting into that archive room - the guy I was with who said it was impossible, he's a western guy also, and he'd never been let in there. But because I came all the way from california to the office, I was able to get more special treatment. Plus the fact I don't work for them, but peripheral to them, lets me ask questions that I couldn't if I were an employee, or if I were an employee they wouldn't tell me because it's above my hierarchical grade, etc. That kind of stuff!

I've many times thought about whether I should contract directly with SNK to do some of this work, but I suspect it might actually REDUCE my access... it's hard to say without trying, but I'm wary.

Fun talk!

That comment about Mahjong Gakuen caught my ear—is that a different game to the one ghost-dev'd by Capcom? Because there were milder variants produced of certain games, especially once Capcom stopped making them, but the ones by Akiman & co. could not have been hornier.

Must be a different mahjong gakuen!? this one only has a lady on the title screen, then never again! (there might be small face avatars, but I don‘t think there’s even that - been a while though)

I'm also very interested in preservation so “context, game, museum” as a summation of the core things for the collections really resonated with me.

Thanks for the photos. I've also been to Nagoya, once!

I'm burning with questions because this is a subject I find very interesting.

Im a big fan of longnow.org and an interested in cultural differences in long term planning/preparation. I dont know how often you deal with american companies VS Japanese companies when it comes to this kind of stuff, but as someone who is not Japanese but has interacted with them frequently, I wonder if you had any thoughts. I noticed you took note of the impressive work and foresight displayed by the guy with the warehouse. Are all companies generally similarly short sighted? Are there any that have stood out as doing exemplary work recording their own history (but I assume often the real problem is the access to the record not the record)? What's the worst horror story or unreasonable request you've received?

There's a (unfair? Made up?) stereotype about shortsighted americans and more long term focused Japanese and I'm wondering if youve see any truth in that in a modern practical sense.

What I‘ve found is with american or british companies you’re more likely to come across someone who just kept everything. Just took it all home and kept it. With Japanese companies, for a long time older stuff was destroyed to protect trade secrets, et cetera. The only reason SNK kept all that art they had is because they knew they could use it to sell art books.

I suspect there's lots more floating out there in japan, but finding the right people and getting them to give up their stuff is very difficult. Also the vintage game community there is much more insular, not wanting games to be dumped and shared, to a much greater degree than you see here. I think there's a perception of western folks coming in and buying up all the games and driving up the prices, which makes people want to guard their treasures.

Overall the biggest difference I've seen is there has been a wider culture of sharing information about game development in the west, through publications like Game Developer magazine and blogs and whatnot. In Japan even through the 360 era they'd have two teams in one company working on different codenamed games and not allowed to share resources or talk to each other about it. I'm sure they did talk! but the fact they weren't supposed to changes a lot of things.

I'd say Japan does a good job of looking forward with finished products, and seeing how they could reheat that for future generations. but when it comes to stuff that never came out, or older documents, or things like that, there's no company-level preservation, and it's more frowned upon for individuals to take the stuff home themselves, so it's tougher to find. In the US there's no company-level preservation either (more now), but you sort of expect someone to have taken all the design docs home before they got thrown out... or something?

The guy with the warehouse doesn't have foresight - he just has a big warehouse and a desire to be able to rent everything (his business is as a rental service for arcades, so the more games he has, the more he can rent out). What I have found in Japan is that preservation largely surrounds whether there's a business reason for it.

But at the same time, the tokyo diet building had scanned archives of every magazine we could ever want, which we were able to send someone to in order to get ads so that we could place the release dates of games. So it's kind of a mixed bag and you just have to sort of navigate it!

I'm not sure if I've really answered your question :P

I'd understand not wanting to sell your super rare treasure to some “collector” but the weird refusal to even have things dumped for historical purposes is immensely frustrating.

This ruled.