Friday, February 10, 2012

My Favorite J-TV Show: Game Center CX

I've been intending to write about Game Center CX for quite some time now, but I guess I was a little daunted. I wanted to make a really good post and get everyone to watch this show. But I just kept kicking the can down the road, so I'm just going to do it already.

One thing you'll hear about studying Japanese is that watching TV or movies is a great way to gain exposure to the language, and study (often in a more passive sense). This is true, but here's the thing about Japanese TV - it tends to be a lot lower budget than American TV and at least in my opinion a lot more boring. These days I find myself biting the bullet more often, but it seems like a majority of Japanese TV shows follow the same format: plunk half a dozen members of the Japanese celebrity pantheon onto a set and watch them watching something (be it a fluff piece or something educational) or watch them eating. Often you get to watch them watch someone else cooking, and then they eat said food. Bleh.

But what if you could watch a show about a middle aged guy who plays video games? And he's a comedian. Man, I'd watch that in any language. Ok, maybe a little nichey, but in my experience the two realms of "interested in Japan" and "interested in nerdy stuff like video games" tend to overlap quite frequently. For those of you who are fully in tune with your unabashed nerdiness, there is Game Center CX.

The show is hosted by comedian Shinya Arino, who takes the role of the 課長 (section chief) of this company that, I dunno...makes him play video games? Arino's Challenge is a segment of the show in which he must beat a game or complete some other task (like get a certain score). These games tend to be older, like from NES or Sega. In earlier episodes, this part was kind of equal among other segments (like looking at old consoles, visiting arcades, and interviewing game developers), but as the show picked up steam, this challenge became the main feature of the show.

For me, it's not just the games but the dynamic of the show that makes it so much fun to watch. Arino is by no means a game wiz, and he often needs help from his crew. His interaction with his staff is entertaining, and although he sometimes gets stuck playing the same part of a game for hours, he never seems to get angry and tries to stay positive.

Here is a random clip if you want a sample (sorry, this one has no subs):

It can be difficult to watch this show, unfortunately. The DVD sets sold in Japan only contain a few episodes each (not entire seasons) and are very expensive...they can be upwards of 8,000 yen for one set. Episodes on You Tube are hard to come by, as they are on Nico Nico Douga. The VG Masters Club does have a number of episodes with fan subs, but after the first few seasons they seem to be missing a lot.

I recently got in touch with Ray of Crunk Games, who has set up an awesome informational page about Game Center CX, and he directed me to a Facebook group. If you're interested, the Facebook group and VG Masters are good places to start. Other sources do exist, but that's not something I can condone in this medium...
*Edit: You should also check out a link in the comments below.

Anyway, if this sounds to you like a fun show, I can assure you it is and you should check it out. If you're already a fan, are there any other websites or sources you'd like to add? If you're not interested at all, well, you'd best get out of here.

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