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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.