This blog is about Japanese – English Gaming. It’s essentially a blog that translates, in detail, Japanese games into English to create study aids. I hope that in doing so, I (Asher Wolfstein) can help raise awareness of the Japanese language (that I love) and of Japanese gaming throughout the English-speaking world.
I am not a Japanese native. I am an anglophone living in Colorado, USA. However, I’ve been studying Japanese on my own (auto-didactically) for approximately eight years, though I only seriously pursued it in the last five years. I have used several tools in my journey, including WaniKani (for learning the voluminous kanji) and Duolingo. I am by no means an expert and would list my skills in Japanese as intermediate.
I have started this blog as a study aid for you, my readers, and as a study aid and practice for myself. Through writing this blog, I hope to increase my knowledge and proficiency in the Japanese language, and of course, I also hope you do.
My interests vary, but I have a special place in my heart for video games, particularly retro (old) video games. My oldest brother acquired an NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) when I was not yet double digits in age. Up to this point, I had only ever used a TRS-80 Color Computer II (which I taught myself to program).
The TRS-80 CoCo (16k) did have games on it, but they were limited and somewhat abstract. The broadest game I owned for the system was Dungeons Of Daggorath. While the CoCo (as they are referred to) holds some dear memories of learning to program, it wasn’t until I saw an NES in action that I became hooked on video games.
The Nintendo Entertainment System
My oldest brother’s friend brought over his NES one day and hooked it up to a TV to demonstrate. The first images I took in were of Mario jumping through levels in Super Mario Bros. and Link gouging enemies in The Legend Of Zelda. There was something much more polished and complete about these games than the ones I had played on the CoCo, and they were much less abstract and seemed more prominent. At that moment, I had what I can only describe as a sacred moment.
At once, the potential and power of this medium struck me. I knew then that it would be significant, not a fad, not a trend, but serious business. Here was a way that an artist or designer could invent an entire world and let the player “walk” into it and engage it in whatever way he wished. This became even more apparent when I played my first RPG, Dragon Warrior (known as Dragon Quest in Japan), where I could be a warrior adventuring around a world battling monsters. After getting our own NES, it was clear in my mind that I wanted to be a game designer, an artist of the future.
My Hero Shigeru Miyamoto
I subsequently subscribed to Nintendo Power and Game Players magazines, of course. There I learned of the mythical man behind these creations: Shigeru Miyamoto. I also learned that many of these games and ideas originated in Japan. When I was in elementary in my small town, I was asked to describe my hero. This white little mountain boy stood up and said it was Shigeru Miyamoto. Most everyone else thought, “Who!?”
From there, I knew that eventually, I wanted to learn Japanese. I wanted to know more about the culture and language that made these games (and that my hero spoke as his native language). For most of my childhood, I had very restricted resources and had no real way of translating my desire into action. Over time, as I transitioned into an adult, I somewhat forgot this desire.
Finding Japanese, The Video Gaming Way
Approximately six years ago, though, I rekindled this desire and put it into action. I learned the two most common and modern syllabaries, hiragana and katakana, and then dove into learning the kanji. With the help of spaced repetition, I have learned almost a thousand kanji and counting.
While I amassed some resources for learning Japanese (flashcards, grammar books, etc.) I came across a publication titled Japanese The Manga Way. This book uses snippets of manga (Japanese-style comics, a minor passion of mine) to illustrate various concepts of the Japanese language. In this way, it connects something readers are interested in (manga) to language usage.
I always dreamed of importing a video game console from Japan and playing the latest Japanese releases (mainly RPGs) in high school. This situation unsurprisingly never materialized, but it was something I thought would’ve been fantastic. Nowadays, I can play many games, new and old, in Japanese (including games only released in Japan). In light of that, I decided that I might write a similar book, but instead of manga, I’d use Japanese games!
However, instead of writing a book, I decided I’d live in the 21st century and write it out as a blog (a book may come later). Since these are video games and there is an interactive element, I can also feature/create video components to go along with the material. Videos don’t work so great in a book, but they’re great for a blog!
The Origin Of The Name
The first game I will be covering is Dragon Quest (known as Dragon Warrior in North America). Not only is it of sentimental value to me, as it is the first RPG my brothers purchased and conquered, but it uses all kana in its text. Practicing kana is an essential first step in any Japanese student’s journey.
In Dragon Warrior, you, the hero, fight monsters as you adventure around the world of the game. These include the ubiquitous and popular slime, ghosts, warlocks, and wolfmen. In the Japanese version of the game, when you or an enemy attacks the game writes in text: “こうげき！” Kougeki is the Japanese jukugo word for attack!
So there you have it, the Kougeki: Japanese – English Gaming blog by Asher Wolfstein. This blog is hosted by The Novelty Factor LLC, of which I’m Executive Creative Genius. You can also find me writing for How To Program Anything (a reference site for learning how to program computers), as well as my blog World Of Wunk.