Final Reflection

Aims:

The concept behind this project was to find a way to explore autoethnographic research, focusing mainly, on Asia. For this, I picked a well-known Japanese horror commuter game called ‘Corpse Party’, as I had already watched the short TV series that was made based on the game. Some of the reasons for this choice in the game came down to my love of the horror genre, and a desire to see if I could play a horror game (because I am such a wimp when it comes to horror games). But also, to see if the game itself reflected Japanese culture. This would then lead to further research into the game, and eventually into reading Asian Urban legends which became the focus of the next part of my project.

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Method:

In the beginning, it was all about wanting to try my hand at a ‘Let’s play’ video. I have watched so many, and know my children (especially my oldest) enjoy watching them. So, it just made sense to me that I gave it a go. The horror genre was just a given. I might hate (and still hate) playing horror games, but I did not wish to stray too far from familiar territory since I was doing something new ( let’s play1, let’s play 2, let’s play 3).

For those who are not familiar with the let’s play genre. It is, essentially, about people (solo or in groups) who film themselves while they play games. These can be board games, console games, Apps, even role-playing games. Someone I follow regularly is The Rad Brad, can make quite a decent living out of these videos. The concept is for people to enjoy the “experience” of these games, even if they may not own them, or have the capacity to play them, themselves. They can also come in handy if you DO own the game, and might be a little stuck on what to do. Sort of like a walkthrough. My son watches them to learn new things about Minecraft, also, and rather annoyingly, discovers new games that he will then beg me to buy.

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This particular project would follow along with the path of multiple autoethnographic research methods. The ‘let’s play’ videos and blogs would be more of a ‘layered’ account of my experience playing the game combined with the research. Layered accounts illustrate how “data collection and analysis proceed simultaneously” (sited Ellis, Adams & Bochner, 2011, CHARMAZ, 1983, p.110) encouraging those who are watching my videos, and reading my blogs to be part of my own experiences.

Not wanting to spend too much time talking about anything unrelated to the game as I played, I also wrote up small informative blogs that accompanied the videos. The blogs (blog 1, blog 2, blog 3, blog 4) contained the history of the game, information about the Japanese horror genre, tropes and anything else I came across in my research. It was through this research that my project began to evolve, and I ended up changing my mind about the initial concept.

Wanting to know more about the religious, the cultural and the economic aspects that are often used in these horror games, my research had begun to broaden. I found that some of the tropes that popped up over, and over again in many of the movies (and the game) were in some way linked to mythology, folk tales and urban legends told across Asia. This was when my research evolved into more of Narrative ethnographies and Reflexive ethnographies research method. As my blogs began to follow along as I went from playing the game, to extend my research into movies and then the legends. My backstage research endeavors become the focus of investigation (ELLIS, 2004) and I explored the narratives of these legends through a ‘reaction’ video where I read out multiple legends.

The reason for my reaction video was due to how extensive my research was getting, so I opted to focus on, and investigate further into urban legends. According to Wikipedia, Urban legends are a form of modern folklore usually consisting of fictional stories, often with macabre elements, deeply rooted in local popular culture (2017). Apparently, these are meant to be retellings of “true” events. However, thanks to the internet, it is much easier to debunk those stories that are fake. Either way, it is very scary knowing that some of what you’re reading could, very well, have some element of truth, however minor it might be. It is this little tidbit of information, that made this become a little bit too scary for even me to continue after I made my own ‘reaction’ video as I read out some urban legends that I found.

Discoveries:

Sophia Siddique and Raphael Raphael expressed in their book ‘Transnational Horror Cinema: Bodies of Excess and the Global Grotesque’ how ‘the first works of horror stitch together the flesh of various national and generic texts. They believed that all horror movie all seem to explore the notion of the transgressions of corporeal boarders or the exploration of the borders between humans and animal (2016).

Indeed, through the playing of the game, watching movies, and reading many different Asian Urban legends I began to get the sense of familiarity with the western style movies, games, and tales I also knew well. The Asian urban legends dealt with vanity, rape culture, murder, and domestic violence (to name a few themes) something which I could still relate to easily, even as a westerner. The urban legend called ‘The red room’ seemed to also touch, ever so slightly, on how we are being advertised to everywhere we go. What I mean is, this is an urban legend based on an internet pop up add. It was bizarre, funny, and absolutely terrifying all at once. I also recognized some of the legends, such as the one about Kuchisake-onna, from movies I had watched.

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It was interesting to discover, though not surprising, that Japanese horror movies are some of the more successful types of films, and in fact some of the more influential types of films, as far as impacts made on horror films in the western world after the second world war. In the book, A Companion to the Horror Film, Harry M. Benshoff believes this could be due to the preoccupation with the uncanny, and the ‘monstrous’ hybridity provided social barometer for a myriad of cultural anxieties (2017) which is definitely something that can be easily shared with any other culture around the world. And most likely why I find this genre of the movies, and TV shows so intriguing and entertaining no matter the country it originates from.

Results:

I was unaware how far I would end up from where I began, and it has been extremely eye-opening. Not just on an intellectual level, but an emotional one as well.

As far as dabbling in autoethnographic research, I will not dispute the fact it can be used as part of a larger research project. Personal experiences have merit, and if you have documented this experience along the way to prove this experience then, most certainly the information you have gathered is legitimate. However, I would argue that, maybe due to my own experiences, the issue of this information being significantly biased could result in skewed results. For me, it meant that, while processing my own experiences, I also sourced other information to support it. I felt like I was writing more of an opinion piece for the Asian horror genre, and not a research project. However, it was an enjoyable way of handling a project, and I can honestly say that I think this is a great way to get a deeper understanding of the subject matter. And I guess, if the whole idea is just to get a better personal perspective, then a bit of bias isn’t a bad thing.

The project did take on a bit of a personal aspect for me. I have always been a spiritual person, I believe in the afterlife, I believe in ghosts/spirits. I have personally had experiences, as a young child and as an adult, that even my logical brain cannot explain.  So, let’s just say, when I started watching a YouTube video that narrated some rather more, gruesome, urban legends/ghost stories, I was quick to stop the video and just walk away. After that, the lights were left on and I decided I had, had enough of researching these stories. I found my limit, watching a movie/tv show is a very different experience to reading/listening to these stories as you have to personally visualize the images. This personal element just made me very uncomfortable.

I also took a very relaxed view when it came to creating my videos. I am not great at editing, so I simply filmed and uploaded what I did in one shot. Indeed, when filming my reaction video I did it from the comfort of my own bed. I found the idea entertaining as that is where I generally hide to watch all my scary movies since I have kids. I was also being lazy that morning and just didn’t want to move.

From start to finish this has been an amazing experience. I have learned so much about Asian cultures that I now appreciate the movies I have watched so much more.

 

 

 

 

 

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Autoethnographic research, as I understand it

I honestly didn’t know what to think about Autoethnographic research when I began the task of playing ‘Corpse party’ for my little project. The idea that experiencing something as a legitimate way to collect data baffled me and I wasn’t sure how well I would do, and I wasn’t all that keen to start. Even though I fully threw myself into the task, like I do with anything these days that is new, I wasn’t sure if the outcome would be very fruitful. How wrong I was.

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Franco, J 2013, HAPPY NEW MONTH! Wrapping up October 2013, Nov 2,http://limereviews.blogspot.com.au/2013/11/happy-new-month.html

Through experiencing the game, and the research I did to back up my little let’s play experiment, my eyes were opened to a new way of looking at the horror genre.  When watching these movies and TV shows, I never really stopped to think of the little tropes that have begun to crop up in pretty much every movie I have watched. Although, some have managed to move away from these and the movies that have resulted are honestly some of the best I have seen.

Further research into the background stories of some of the more famous Japanese horror movies like the 1998 film Ringu (the ring), and the 2002 film Ju-on (the grudge) revealed that they were both loosely based on Banchō Sarayashiki, a well-known Japanese ghost story about a woman who throws herself (or in some re-telling is thrown) down a well, rising from the well each day to haunt people forever unless someone can find a way to put her soul to rest. As discussed in one of my blogs, the idea is that a person comes back from the dead to seek revenge for their wrongful death, or maybe due to the fact they did not receive a proper burial. Either way, they will attack anyone who crosses their path.

So, what is autoethnographic research? Well, Carolyn Ellis, Tony E. Adams and Arthur P. Bochner describe is as autoethnography as an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience to understand the cultural experience. (2011). It is a way of using your own social, cultural, religious, recreational or some other form of experience as a different way of analysing information. Sarah Wall believes that autoethnography begins with a personal story (Wall 2008) an intriguing and promising qualitative method that offers a way of giving voice to personal experience for the purpose of extending sociological understanding (2008). For me, it was born from watching multiple Japanese horror films in my teens, sneaking into M+ movies after lying to the ticket collectors that I was over the age of 15. Now as an adult, I have seen so many films and shows I can watch them without lights and completely alone. I will not lie, no matter how hard I try those damn jump scares ALWAYS get me and after playing ‘corpse party’ I learned that I will never be able to play a horror game. Just not going to happen.

By diving into this project, sifting through the movies I had watched and finding the various tropes, I have now found myself looking up a variety of folklores, urban legends and ghost stories from all over Asia. I have also wanted to discover much more about the various religions and cultural backgrounds that are often depicted in the movies I have enjoyed so much. This stopped being about the experience I had playing the game, and more about experiencing the entire culture behind the game. Discovering the differences and the similarities that I have discovered when reading these tales to many of the western legends I grew up with.

Even while conducting this research I learned a lot. One thing was finding out that movies or cartoons based on Hindi urban legends is incredibly difficult, and even harder still is finding ones that are in English. I feel I have been let down by YouTube, and that is rare! I am sure, in time, I will find some website off in the corner of the world wide web that can offer me these movies with, at the very least, English subtitles. Because, as much as I would love to learn a new language, I struggle enough with English.

Walls discusses how writing as a form of therapy, a way of making sense of ourselves and our experiences (as cited Wall 2008), purge our burdens (as cited Wall 2008) of the things we have experienced. I can honestly say that my experiences with my research has been amazing, it has been eye opening, and yes, definitely therapeutic as I have used it as a form of escapism, but also a bit of a spiritual journey into the very reasons why I love these sorts of films.

And for your entertainment, a short informative youtube video on 10 “true” urban legends:

References:

Ellis C, Adams T E &. Bochner A P 2011, Autoethnography: An Overview, Vol 12, No. 1, Art 10, viewed 4 Sept 2017,   http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

Wall, S 2008Easier Said than Done: Writing an Autoethnography, 1 March, viewed 4 Sept 2017, http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/160940690800700103

 

Corpse Party Lets play-part 3

So, this blog will be a tad different due mainly to the fact that I have not yet made my ‘let’s play’ video. That will be coming sometime over the weekend I hope. 

(Warning: This blog will contain spoilers for the game and anime series. Do not continue to read if you don’t want the main plot ruined. It also contains images that might be considered disturbing to some people.) 

Part of the reason I wanted to play this particular game as part of my own personal autoethnography research project, was that my experiences of Japanese culture, through their anime, manga and horror films, has been pretty passive. I sit and I watch. I do not engage much past that. The decision to play a popular game, especially one of the horror genre, was about actively participating in the content, which I have since discovered, is heavily based on Japanese culture and is completely removed from my own understanding of the horror genre from a western perspective.

My personal preference for games has always been (and honestly will probably remain) fantasy, adventure, strategy, role playing, and action. I think the “scariest” game I have ever played was Theif: Deadly shadows, where one chapter you enter an insane asylum. Not going to lie, I was terrified of this section and it took close to a week to finish because I kept having to walk away I was so scared. So I have made the decision to step right out of my comfort zone in the hopes of understanding Japenese horror more.

Something about actively engaging in the horror genre adds an extra level to the scare factor. You’re no longer just sitting and watching, you’re part of the movie, and your own actions influence the results. For me, I just can not handle it, and even though Corpse Party is a simplistic, 2-bit pixel art, anime game, the ambient music coupled with the ‘slow burner‘ scares and the fact I already know the story. Well, it gets my heart racing. 

One of the very first things I noticed is the animation style. Anime seems to make their protagonists look overly child like. They have big eyes, large foreheads, and long, lanky, legs. This little detail actually makes the horror series/movies far more disturbing. At least, this is what I feel. Nothing says true horror like little kids (even if they’re really 23) being slaughtered and mutilated. I also began to notice a lot of typical tropes being used. Little details like hair being in random places around the school, ghosts being portrayed as little blue wisps or surrounded by a blue glow. Their films also capitalize on our fear of the uncanny. Evil entities have extra wide mouths, their eyes are often completely white, or their face is obscured altogether. childlike faces become wrinkled and distorted. All of these thrown together can make for some very creepy scenes. 

Corpse party really capitalized on all these stereotypes as well as incorporates typical Japanese cultural. In Japan the two main religions and Buddhism (introduced by China in 500AD) and Shinto (native). It is from both of these belief systems that much of their folk law stems, and how they prefer to represent the dead. Religious flexibility means that there is a wealth of legends and beliefs to draw upon (Chris, 2011) when creating content for films, TV series, Manga and other forms of entertainment. 

The adaptation of Shinto beliefs towards the dead is where corpse party has drawn inspiration. Shintoists believe that the dead can become stuck on earth if they have not been given a proper burial. Once stuck, they are cursed with having to relive the horrors of their death and burdened with ‘excess emotion’ (Chris, 2011). In fact, this particular belief is incorporated in quite a few Japenese horror films and anime. The spirits that are often depicted are called Yuurei, they are the spirits that have been left stranded in the living world due to a death that is sudden, and often violent. Yyuurei have a singular purpose or mission, and they are very often malicious (Chris, 2011) lashing out at anyone who crosses their path even if they’re completely unrelated to the cause of their death. The spirits in Corpse party are either there because they fell victim to the first spirits rather, or, they’re there because of the results of the sadistic actions of one person (the first killer). The only way to stop these spirits is to find out the reasons they cannot leave and resolve the problem in some way. This becomes the main objective in the game once you realize it is what is keeping you stuck in the school. 

Overall, I have really learned to appreciate the historical values and inspirations utilized in this game. The detachment from my typical western understanding of ghost stories makes playing the game that much scarier.

If you want more information on Japenese Horror then I suggest having a squiz at this little youtube video 🙂

Edited to add youtube video:

Reference:

Chris, 2011, Chris’ Guide to Understanding Japanese Horror, viewed 11 Aug 2017,

Corpse Party, let’s play-2

So I’ve played a little bit more of the game. Not much. Honestly felt like I played for a few seconds and then ended up with a 20 minute video. Considering playing for far longer in my next. We will see.

However, I have taken a few little things away from that short time playing, and that is that even if it’s cute little pixel art characters I am a complete wuss when it comes to horror games! The few times things started to happen, as the music amped up. But heart was in my throats and I was freaking out. It certainly didn’t help that I’m aware of what might happen (should my game play end up following the story line of the anime series).

Another thing I’ve realised was when editing the video. I really must invest in a good microphone. Unfortunately, as you’ll notice, my audio isn’t great and it’s hard to hear me. Also, the music was up way too loud for the beginning. So I’m sorry about that.

However, I have managed to find a walkthrough that has the entire transcript from the beginning of the game for those that might not not have been able to keep up here. I hope that helps.

Hoping to get another video done soon, and make those little improvements. Thanks