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Thinking about the Future of Children and Media Part1. Presentation by Toru Iwatani and Hiromi Seki

Part1. Presentation by Toru Iwatani and Hiromi Seki

Sawai: At today's symposium we are going to discuss the issues of Children and Media from the standpoint of Kodomogaku, Child Science, with panelists who develop, produce or transmit media.

Iwatani: I am Toru Iwatani with Namco. My presentation focuses on images from the viewpoint of a game manufacturer. The word "game" may give you a very limited impression, but it is, in our definition, a part of the entertainment, something that makes people happy. So we are developing not only games but also theme parks and social welfare equipment. We are also operating social welfare facilities. I will introduce some of them to you later.

The keyword is "playing mindset," which brings a happy smile to everyone ? small children, young and old people. We are trying to develop such content and facilities. I have been involved in the planning and production of game development for 27 years.
I am aware that games do affect children. There are good and bad media. However, I wonder if it is really a good thing to say "no" to everything. Can children become independent adults if we raise them in an antiseptic environment without contamination from the outside and prohibit them from doing anything? In other words, I think that children should have both good and bad experiences; they should pick and choose what they believe is right so that they can set their own yardstick. I always keep in mind the long-term perspective. How should I raise them so that they can become independent adults who can make their own judgments?

Now I am going to show you images of games and theme parks, but you may feel concerned about some of them. I will discuss how I judge whether they are good or bad.
This is a so-called fighting game. You may frown to see the characters in the game, punching and kicking each other, but young people seem to be enjoying them quite a lot.
This is a driving game. It is not a fictitious game but a simulation of driving on a road. This type of a game once used to be the mainstream of TV games.
This is a skiing game. You slide on skis, moving left and right. You can edge, of course. This is a kind of virtual reality game.
This is a large attraction displayed in a big theme park. Twenty-eight people play a space war game in a 360-degree multi-screen at the same time.
This is a word-building game. You can make up the words using the letters in the left column and their meanings are shown on the right. It is like a language game; you can look up the words in a dictionary.
This is a paste-and-stick-anything game. You can stick police officers, cars and buildings.
Next I will show you some examples of social welfare equipment and facilities. We install the modified game machines in homes for the elderly. The effectiveness of this equipment has been presented and verified in academic meetings.
This is a drum-beating game to a screen display and music sounds. These are the images I have today.

We are developing these games to make people happy and joyful, but there are also various regulations we adhere to.
In the home-use game software, the Computer Entertainment Supplier's Association has regulations on religious issues and violent expressions. Sales of software with very violent scenes such as murder, for example, are prohibited. There is also a rating system which sets age limits. Some software is not allowed for young people under 18 years old, while others not allowed for those below 15 years old. Game stores are told not to sell certain software to children. That concludes my presentation. Thank you very much.

Sawai: Thank you, Mr. Iwatani. Now I would like to invite Ms. Hiromi Seki of Toei Animation.

Seki: My name is Seki. I am a chief program producer of Toei Animation. Toei Animation will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year. In its early days the company was making long animation films. Many of you may know some of our recent TV animation like "Dragon Ball," "Sailor Moon," and "One Piece."

I will explain some terminology used in the world of animation. Animation like "Anpan Man" and "Pocket Monster," mainly for 12-year-old children and under, are called kid's animation. The main audience for this type of animation is primary school students and possibly kindergarten children. Therefore they are produced according to the code of ethics in the industry, so to speak, paying due consideration to violent actions and sexual expressions, and use of officially-designated Chinese characters in primary school textbooks.

At present there are 75 animation titles a week. There are more animation titles than any other genre of program, including news shows, variety programs and dramas. If you include broadcasting satellite channels, communications satellite channels, pay channels and pay-per-view programs in addition to terrestrial broadcasting, there are more than 100 animation titles available a week. However, not all of them are animation for children. There is so-called "high target animation" as well as programs for comic fanatics with possibly only 20,000 viewers.

Some animation programs early in the morning are broadcast around 6:30 or 7 a.m., so children can watch them before going to school on weekdays. Saturday and Sunday mornings are considered prime time viewing for children; animation is aired for about ninety minutes. This time is for children and many animation programs are concentrated during this time. Because of the five-day-school week, Saturday mornings are also becoming prime time for children. On Sundays many popular animation programs are broadcast between 6 and 7 p.m.

When we make programs and do marketing, we think about what children think and how they live. For instance, when we made "Ojamajo Doremi," an animation of a girl who can use magic, we studied magic for children. We did not ask a simple question such as "Do you believe magic?" Rather we asked questions like, "What made you sad in your daily life?" or "What kind of wonder did you feel?" One of them said, "I found it strange when the litmus paper changed its color from blue to pink in a science class." Another child said, "I was very impressed when I was able to ride on a bicycle without training wheels?I felt like I was floating above the seat and it tickled a bit." A girl said, "When I turn my mother's lipstick, it comes out; when I turn it the other way round, it goes down. How does it work?"

I had thought that children today were different from when I was a child, but children are really the same after all; what they find impressive or strange is quite universal. I am here today to let you know that there are programs based on such marketing or research.
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