78-Year-Old FPS Otaku Akira Kitajima Speaks

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It seems it’s never too late to start gaming: 北島彰 / Akira Kitajima, or aki_tan, has been following first person shooters (itself a rare enough thing in Japan) since starting with Doom, when he was a 65-year-old stripling, and is now still playing at 78, as well as writing guides and updating his site.

He recently gave an interesting interview, translated for your information below:

Please excuse the question, but how old are you?

I was born in 1930 and I’m 78 now.

Where and how did you become familiar with FPS gaming?

It’s a little hazy, but I first became interested when Doom got the Nifty-Serve (now a major ISP, Nifty) Forums all het up. I went to Akiba and bought a copy of Doom II, my first I think. I think it was around 1995 – I was 65 at the time.

When I gave it a try, it was really hard, I died all the time and got nowhere. Skilled players were uploading recorded demos of themselves playing to Nifty’s library, and I studied these and practiced as hard as I could.

How long did it take you to clear Doom II?

I’m not too sure, I don’t remember clearly; I think it took many days, perhaps months. It was my first game, I couldn’t even avoid the fireballs!

He goes on to explain how he did have some prior contact with computers in the decades prior as part of his work. He then explains how before (Japanese) FAQs were widespread, he took some 3 months to complete Hexen, and had to rely on a dictionary and an English guide by H.S. Teoh to clear it.

For the first time in his life, he mailed the author in English to obtain permission to upload the file to Nifty.

The file proved popular, and soon he progressed to starting his own FPS website.

Of all the games you’ve played so far, which are the most memorable?

If I had to give just one, it would be Doom II: Hell on Earth. One I really like is Rune (actually 3rd person), it’s based on Norse mythology and has plenty of puzzle elements.

You seem mainly to be interested in SP, what about multiplayer?

I don’t do multi, nor co-op. I want to enjoy the game I’m into when I want, that’s how I feel. Aside from playing, I like to write walkthroughs, so you could say the way I enjoy them is a little different to most.

In Japan, FPS games are really something of a niche compared to overseas, why do you think this is?

In Japan, I think there’s something of an emotional distance kept from shooting games. I get the impression the market isn’t set to grow very large. I also worry that with the increasingly high spec machines required, the playing population will further decrease.

What do your friends and family think about your hobby?

I don’t really know what they think, but they seem positive; maybe they think it’ll keep me from going senile.

Excuse me for asking, but are there many others who have the same interests of your age?

It’s a shame, but it’s next to no one. I’ve met a few in their fifties, but it seems they soon lose interest. Maybe this is the natural pattern of things.

Is there anything you’re thankful for?

I’m grateful to have met so many people online, and to have been able to enjoy talking with them frankly. But lately everyone’s been so busy, they don’t have time to game, so I get a little lonely.

Lastly, is there a release you’re particularly looking forward to?

I’m wondering if a Japanese version of Far Cry 2 is ever coming out…

His latest work is a guide to Crysis Warhead, recently released on his site.

You can visit his homepage if you need help with a particularly difficult spot (and can read Japanese), or just want to see: 3D ShootingGames – Aki_tan’s page.

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You can read the interview in the original Japanese at source Dharmapoint.

I expect elderly gamer moe is something not just of interest to the Japanese (currently the original article is proving rather popular). There was also a recent wave of fascination with a retired American Haruhi fan…

I’m sure there are many FPS gamers amongst you, so you can probably appreciate the appeal of the slaughter (I spent much time playing Quake CTF/TF myself, to say nothing of OFP).

Interestingly, some Japanese 2channers soon started mentioning the experience of WWII as reason why this might be especially noteworthy, considering he lived through it all.

He also mentioned “a sense of distance” from shooting games felt in Japan; certainly there must be a reason for the lack of popularity beyond barbarous western games being derived from a bloodthirsty “hunter-gatherer” culture, as opposed to a refined rice growing civilisation which only produces creative tentacle raep and breast physics simulators, as some untutored (given how recent Japanese agriculture is, historically) interviewers have elsewhere suggested.

Perhaps we would do better to consider more sensible reasons, such as the market structure of the domestic electronics market, and the historical development of the market for PCs in Japan?

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