Game Boy 011 – Ebb and Flow

“Game Boy” is a weekly column in which I write about being a game developer working in Montreal. You’ll find them all under this category, and it starts here.

I was going to start sharing my GDC thoughts this week, but there’s Japanese gaming in the air. This weekend marks the 6th edition of the BitSummit indie gaming festival in Kyoto, and that’s pretty much all I’m seeing on my timeline right now — people taking in cool indie games, and enjoying (drunk) social outings around town.

I won’t lie, it’s making me pretty fucking homesick right now (when you lived in Japan for over 15 years, it’s hard not to consider it one of your “homes” for the rest of your life).

But on top of BitSummit, this week also marks the release of Ebb and Flow, a fantastic new documentary from the team at Archipel. Archipel, composed of Anne Ferrero and Alex Zabava, is the duo that for the past few years has been producing the Toco Toco series, which I’ve highlighted and recommended on this blog countless times because I think it’s terrific — each episode focuses on a Japanese creator, and although quite a few of the episodes focus on the games industry, they touch on all creative fields. They also produced the excellent documentary Branching Paths, that takes a look at the growing indie gaming scene in Japan.

Archipel as a label was launched fairly recently, and is to be the home for all of the duo’s future videos, including more Toco Toco, and even more excitingly, what looks like more long-form videos.

Ebb and Flow — with the subtitle “Conversations on the recent momentum of Japanese games” — is a great exploration of the recent resurgence in popularity of Japanese games on the world stage (they point to the start of 2016 as a milestone date). It features interviews with the creators of all those games (Nier: Automata, Yakuza, Monster Hunter: World, Rez Infinite, Persona 5, and lots more), and I of course loved seeing my friend John Ricciardi (co-founder of the Tokyo-based game localization company 8-4) be included as well, to offer some context.

It’s easy for me to recommend everything that Archipel produces — every time I talk to Anne, I tell her I’m her biggest fan — but at the very least, if you have an interest in Japanese games, you really need to watch Ebb and Flow (and follow that up with Branching Paths, to see a similar story from an indie perspective).

Tokyo Signs

I don’t know how I missed this, but I’m in love with everything that Tokyo Signs has to offer — t-shirts, iPhone cases, a tote bag, and even a pair of tights, all inspired by Tokyo’s signage. The line is produced by Bento Graphics (led by my buddy Benjamin) and they promise items in the future. Via Spoon & Tamago.

10 Years of Spoon & Tamago

Big congrats to my buddy Joseph (aka Johnny Strategy), who recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of Spoon & Tamago, a site I’ve been happily reading (and often linking to) since the very start. We became friends through our shared love of blogging about similar aspects of Japanese art, culture, and design, and it’s really great to see how he was able to celebrate the milestone — read this post, which also includes a nice video that offers a nice wrap-up of the site’s last 10 years.

Soichi Terada (Toco Toco)

It’s as if Toco Toco could read my mind. Earlier this year I discovered and fell in absolute love with the music of Soichi Terada (through the music of Shinichiro Yokota) — his Sounds from the Far East compilation is the record I’ve listened to the most this year (and I’m listening to it right now as I write this). Imagine my very pleasant surprise when I find that the latest episode of Toco Toco — my favorite documentary web series — is all about him. Thank you, Anne.

Design Sprints in Japan

Sure, I mention the Tokyo-based design studio AQ a lot in part because they’re good friends of mine, but it’s no secret that they’re also incredibly talented at what they do — the fact that they’ve been at it for so long and continue to grow is a testament to that. They recently shared an essay (on Medium too) that takes a look at how they’ve adapted the sprint method for use in Japan (where it’s still a relatively new concept to be used within companies).