Tiny Use Case 1 Part I: Investigating Japanese Visual Novel Characters

The first Tiny Use Case undertaken within the JVMG was about Japanese visual novel games and their characters. Japanese Visual Novel Games are prose-heavy interactive experiences whose main goal is to win the affections of one or more characters. Visual novel games feature situations and interaction proper of Japanese anime and manga, which the player navigates by choosing which path to take through the narrative at specific points. These points are presented as choices between multiple options, each of which will steer the player towards one character or another, or even towards a failure state. The player progress towards a character’s affection through a series of narrative events, until physical intimacy is reached. When intimacy gets physical, it is usually represented in pornographic fashion, with situations proper of pornographic manga and anime.

Japanese Visual novel games present an interesting research object in the form of character design elements. within visual novel works, we can observe usage of moe, shōjo manga and BL (Boys Love) aesthetics as an integral part of the gamic experience. In particular, character eyes and gazes are central to depiction of intimacy between characters. Do the eyes of visual novel characters code some patterned ways of relating to them? How can we employ the JVMG data gathering efforts to garner insights into the characters of visual novel games, especially regarding character eyes and gaze? Can we test this against knowledge from both the researchers and scholars in the field?

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Working with the Tiny Use Case workflow methodology in the JVMG project

Following the success of our project launching workshop in July 2019, the work on processing community databases started in earnest (you can read about the technical details of the process in relation to ontology creation and data transformation). By November 2019, we were ready to start examining the data and our infrastructure through the lens of exploratory research.

We decided to adopt the Tiny Use Case workflow methodology to have a number of short-term research projects that would be substantial enough to generate meaningful and interesting results in their own right, but would be compact enough to provide an ongoing stream of feedback on issues with the database, the project infrastructure, and researcher needs. Since each Tiny Use Case is only 3-4 months long, it provides us with an excellent tool for assessing our progress and for uncovering newer issues, as each TUC has a different focus and somewhat different requirements.

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What is a Tiny Use Case?

The term Tiny Use Case, or TUC for short, was coined by the diggr (Databased Infrastructure for Global Games Culture Research) research project team. A detailed description of this workflow methodology can be found in their paper With small steps to the big picture: A method and tool negotiation workflow (Freybe, Rämisch and Hoffmann 2019).

Taking their inspiration from agile software development principles, the Tiny Use Case workflow was created to handle the needs of a complex research project that required the meshing of expertise from very different disciplinary backgrounds and involved a high level of uncertainty regarding the types of challenges that would emerge in the course of the project. By working through a series of three to four month long Tiny Use Cases the diggr team was able to leverage a similar cycle of continuous incremental innovations and assessments that is one of the main strengths of agile approaches.

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