Examines the ways in which Japanese video games engage with social issues and national traumas

Table of contents

List of Illustrations
Author’s Note
Introduction: Beyond 8-bit
Chapter 1: Limited Engagement: Virtual Earthquakes and Real-World Survival in Disaster Report
Chapter 2: Distanced Engagement: Marriage and Childbirth in Catherine
Chapter 3: External Engagement: Pixelated Pain and Nuclear Memory in Metal Gear Solid V
Chapter 4: Connective Engagement: Social Withdrawal and Player Connections in The World Ends with You
Conclusion: Toward a Gameic World


Toward a Gameic World bridges the gap between Japanese popular culture studies and game studies by encouraging a dialogue centered around Japanese-designed video games and social issues. It examines four contemporary Japanese video games in terms of how they engage with some of Japan’s biggest social and personal issues, including traumas: natural disasters (Disaster Report), a declining birthrate and aging population (Catherine), nuclear proliferation (Metal Gear Solid V); and youth social withdrawal (The World Ends with You). This book asks what some of the positive benefits are of working through a site of trauma from within a video game, and how games might teach us about Japanese culture and society through new kinds of interactive narratives, different from literature and film. The book proposes four new strategies of engagement with video games to explore the productive tensions that emerge at the boundaries of virtual reality, augmented reality, and gamification in contemporary Japan.

Ben Whaley is Associate Professor of Japanese in the School of Languages, Linguistics, Literatures and Cultures at the University of Calgary.

Toward a Gameic World argues that video games have the potential to work through and play out social anxieties and traumatic events in contemporary Japanese society. In contradistinction from extant studies of gaming in Japan that tend to be more historical, ethnographical, and sociological, the book takes on a multidisciplinary approach with an emphasis on ‘textual’ analysis of video games. While embedded in the context of modern Japan, the book reflects on the larger global implications of video games as a viable genre of scholarly inquiry.”
—Leo T. S. Ching, Duke University

- Leo T.S. Ching

Read: Author Q&A | May 3, 2023