It comes with stickers!
CX Gaming Center, also known as Retro Gaming Challenge, is arguably the world’s first Let’s Play series. It has been a hit on Japanese television since its debut in 2003, spawning several game spinoffs and other side projects. Satoru Iwata, the late president of Nintendo, has already starred in an entire episode. Yet, for some reason, the CX Gaming Center The brand has largely been relegated to “cult favourite” status in the rest of the world. I guess it’s the language barrier.
I’m stuck in a video game could be a step towards removing this barrier, among others. It’s a sweet and simple story about a young girl who enters the world of Pandasourus, his favorite Famicom title. Illustrated and translated by Fangamer and The Simpsons comic artist Nina Matsumoto and written by CX Gaming Center producer Tsuyoshi Kan, the book offers a unique and accessible take on familiar territory.
Cartoons and movies about “getting caught up in the game” have become commonplace in recent years, but children’s books that follow similar setups are less prevalent. For many parents, books are considered virtuous and video games are a vice, so combining the two can feel like fat-free chips or Glengarry Glen Ross with double swear words. Anyone who sees I’m stuck in a video game this way lacks. My two-year-old son’s fascination with the book is proof of that.
My kid is too young to do anything with a video game beyond mashing buttons and singing along to the music, but he still loves the book. I attribute this to its charming illustrations, humor, action, and underlying themes of courage and friendship. The fact that it comes from another culture and is an entirely different medium of entertainment is invisible to him. He sees it as just an adventure about learning new things and having the courage to take exciting risks. Since he learns new things every day, I imagine this is a story he can relate to.
Of course, those are my words, not his. His lyrics are more direct and precise. He calls the book by name (“Stuck in a Video!”) and mimics some of the most exciting parts of the story as we read it. Watching him pretend to be a kid pretending to be in a video game is like Creation, only cuter. Christopher Nolan, if you’re reading this, please take note. You can have sequel material in your hands here.
It will be exciting to see how our relationship with the book evolves over time, as it is designed to last. When my son starts playing video games himself and I encourage him from the sidelines, he can see parallels between him and Mina, the star of the story. She is also encouraged by a father figure, a figure who balances allowing her to learn from her mistakes while protecting her from grave danger.
As he gets older, he may want to know more about who made the book and where it came from. If so, all he will have to do is flip through his bonus pages. They present an in-depth look at how it was written, drawn and located. Interviews with its authors show how they bridged the gap between Eastern and Western narrative sensibilities to tell a story about the divide between books and video games. There’s a lot to learn here for anyone who’s ever thought of making a children’s book of their own or getting into the localization business, regardless of age.
My only criticism of the book is that it’s a bit small for children. It measures approximately seven inches high and nine inches wide. Under-fives often want more than that. Still, that will be less and less of a problem as the owners of this book get older. I guess for most this will have the power to hold their interest while they learn to read and play video games, on their own.