🌟 Spotlight on Furige 20XX

2024年 2月 28日
Indie Tsushin 2024 February issueThis article was featured in our 2024 February issue. Check out more articles and interviews in the full issue.
Furige 2023: The Final

Furige 2023 The Final: Your Best Free Games

Indie Tsushin celebrated its first anniversary this past December. I started this website because I wanted more people to know about and play the kinds of Japanese indie games that I grew up playing as a student: quick little browser games in Flash, or passionate fan projects downloaded from doujin sites, or deep and intricate RPGs with completely original characters and stories. When setting out with Indie Tsushin, I had basically three models in mind: Indiepocalypse, for showcasing a monthly collection of games in a zine format; literary magazines with their author interviews and packaging a variety of short fiction together; and Furige 20XX, for surfacing tons of great free games and encouraging passionate discussion about them from fans. Almost on the same day when I announced that Indie Tsushin had turned a year old, I learned that Furige 20XX, one of my biggest inspirations, would be held for the last time.

Furige 20XX was an annual event where people would vote for their favorite free games (or furige) of that year. Submissions had to be full releases and completely free, so no ad-supported games, early access, demos, or shareware allowed. They also had to have released between December 1 of the previous year to November 30 of the current year. Did you play a free Japanese indie or doujin game that made you go, "This is it!" Those are the games that deserved a shoutout. Users could vote for as many games as they wanted, but only once per game. In 2023, the time restriction was removed and users could vote for games from any year.

The event was organized by Yatarou Akamatsu, a free games enthusiast and reviewer who ran Furige since 2008. The Furige website is delightfully vintage and immediately takes me back to the late '90s and early 2000s, poking around the corners of the Internet for free Japanese games to download and play. It is a vast treasure trove of amazing free games. Now that the project has concluded, it will remain an archive of some of the best free games from the past fifteen years and more, along with the opinions of all the thousand of people who participated in the voting process.

I was very sad to learn that 2023 would be the final year of Furige, but I am also sure that its legacy will live on, and that people will still be dipping into its archives to find new free games to play for a good while yet. If you haven't yet, please be sure to check out the Furige 20XX archives and find your new favorite free game. Indie Tsushin owes a huge debt to Furige and Akamatsu's work, and to all the people who use the #フリゲ hashtag on social media sites to talk about the games they loved.

We were extremely honored and humbled to be able to speak with Akamatsu about the Furige 20XX project, about free games, about online bubbles of video game discourse, and much more.

Interview with Yatarou Akamatsu (English)

Translated by Renkon

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am Yatarou Akamatsu. I have been active online for about 23 years now. I have done interviews with the developers of free games before, but this is the first time for me to be interviewed. Nice to meet you.

What made you start playing free games? What was the first game that you played, and how did you encounter it?

In terms of my first "encounter" with free games, that would be SuperDepth. I didn't have a game console at home and I didn't have many games installed on my PC, so when I was a kid I was starving for games. It was during this time that I read about SuperDepth in a library book. I don't know how many times I read the two-page game profile and small black-and-white photos. I longed to see how much fun it would be to play as a battleship fighting a submarine before flying off into space. However, my PC was an IBM, which was unusual in Japan at that time, and it wasn't connected to any network services, so I couldn't attain my dream of playing this PC98-only game. When I finally got to play it, it was over fifteen years later.

As for the first free game I can say I played, it was after the release of Windows 95, in the era when magazines would come with CDs containing free software. I remember the first game I played was Daisy Skatin' 2, though it was still a shareware game at the time. An upgraded and free version of the game called Daisy Skatin' 2 Expansion is currently available.

Can you tell us about some of your favorite games and genres? And if you don't mind, could you also tell us what kind of games give you trouble?

I was truly starving for games in my childhood, so I don't have any preferences when it comes to genre. Especially after I started writing reviews for Free Software Chou Gekikara Game Reviews from 2006, I've participated in almost every cross review, and I think my biases towards the genres I play has decreased. Because I didn't have much experience playing games growing up, I have a handicap in terms of skill, but even if I'm bad at a game, I'd like to have fun with it anyway.

However, I think the environment I grew up in still left a strong impact on the way I approach games. While waiting for the hour or so per week that I could spend playing games at a friend's house, I was the kind of kid who would read strategy guides from cover to cover. I had no qualms about exploiting game glitches. In order to maximize enjoyment in my one hour of gaming, I planned it all out in my head. That's why even now, I tend to read strategy guides and spoilers, and play games my own way. Except that, for free games, there usually aren't any strategy guides.

Please tell us about Furige 20XX!

Furige 20XX ran every year from 2008 December to 2023 December, and was a popularity vote for free games. Voting was open to all free games that had been published or updated in the year leading up to the event. "Free games" meaning games that can be played by anyone, free of charge and without providing any personal information, and which do not fall into the categories of commercial, demo, or test versions. Anyone could anonymously and freely vote for several entries and include their comments. In the last few years, I received between 2,000 to 4,000 votes from about 1,000 people, and each event generally garnered about 1,000 game nominations.

The voting was characterized by an extremely broad range of titles, with no restrictions on language, OS, platform, expression, etc. (But in practice, most smartphone games were not eligible for voting. See below.) Voting was not limited to indie games, and there was even a loophole that allowed people to vote for play-by-web games. The idea was to make it open to all people to freely talk about games.

Additionally, as the recent Furige 2023 was the last event, I decided to allow all free games from any year, allowing multiple votes per person and no tallies of the number of people voting on each title. Because of this, we cannot make a simple comparison with previous years, but the number of votes exceeded 20,000 and the number of game nominations reached 7,700. (As of this interview, we still have not determined the total amount.) Thanks to everyone who voted, we are grateful to have been able to end this project on such a perfect note.

How did you get started organizing Furige 20XX?

There used to be a thread on 2chan called "Interesting Free Game Software." Much like 2chan itself, it was a rough place with endless flame wars. However, it spawned a summary site that sorted out game recommendations and reviews. Starting from around 2001, it collected and visualized a wide range of information on free games, but the summary site stopped updating around 2006. The thread returned to being a wasteland.

There is a website called Free Game Mugen. Currently it distributes free games, but before its renewal in 2009, it only had reviews. They still hold the Free Game Grand Prix, but the nature of the award was very different back then. Back then, it was a popularity contest where people simply voted for games that had been reviewed on the site. However, the voting period was very long and there were no restrictions on what people could vote for, so every year the same popular classic works or those similar to them made it to the top, and it was hard to tell them apart. Mugen suspended operations in 2005, and in 2008, it didn't look like it was coming back.

In addition to all this going on in 2008, there were many indie games and contests in Japan that were discontinued or canceled. My biggest concern was the increase of echo chambers, and the loss of connections between players. Free games are supposed to be open to everyone, but only a very small group of a game's fans get excited about them and have no interest in what free games other people are playing, which I think makes for a very boring world. How can I, a person with no name recognition or achievements, break through such a boring reality? Even if I created a space where people could only talk to each other, in the end it would only be among a small circle of acquaintances, and I don't think that would be interesting. I wanted to involve as many players of free games as possible. I wanted the power to break down all these walls. My answer at the time was a popularity contest of all the free games that released or were updated over the past year, held over a short period of 23 days. I wondered... could I stimulate the competitive spirit of the voters, attract more people, create something so big that it could not be ignored, and show that there are so many free games in the world and that there are people who like them?

To be honest, I'm not sure if I was aware of all that at the time. I probably didn't realize how wonderful, and how terrifying, this idea was.

People who enjoy living in their echo chambers probably wouldn't want anyone breaking down their walls. I thought since I am the kind of person who cannot abide echo chambers, I was the only one who wanted to do exactly that.

I remember e-mailing my concerns to SmokingWOLF back in 2008 (I no longer have the logs), but WOLF replied that this was not the case, at least not among the people around them, and that people shared information about interesting free games besides the ones they made. At the time, I might have thought, "It only looks that way to you because you're a popular creator." WOLF was already a popular indie game developer at the time, and created the general-purpose authoring tool WOLF RPG Editor, and organized the WOLF RPG Editor Contest in 2009 for games created with the tool. It became the center of a huge indie game community.

Are there any moments that stood out to you in the fifteen-year history of Furige 20XX?

If I look back and could only choose one moment, it would have to be the 2015 vote. That had the largest number of votes with Inishie Dungeon and ZakuZaku Actors in an unprecedented dead heat, and the contest eventually devolved into small but heated fanbases agitating for the win. I enforced the rules and removed many votes that I suspected of being duplicates, as well as a number of defamatory comments. The final result was 693 votes for Inishie Dungeon and 687 for ZakuZaku Actors, but in truth, nobody knows which work actually got the most votes. These were the highest number of ballots per game in the history of the competition.

But from my opinion as the organizer, these two games are equally as good as the millions of free games out there. If a game gets even one vote, that is proof that at least one person out there likes it. If a game doesn't get any votes, it just means that nobody happened to vote for it among the limited number of people who participated and in the limited time frame of the event. So the fact that the total number of ballots exceeded 3,000, and the number of works that were nominated surpassed 500 for the first time that year, was much more important to me than whichever game won the most votes. But I do regret that we couldn't surpass the voter turnout of 2,200 of that year (not counting 2023, when the votes were not counted). I think 2015 was the turning point of the Furige 20XX project.

What are some of the most memorable comments you've received on Furige 20XX?

I won't get into the specifics, but they did make me wonder at the different comments people wrote.

Some people wrote light-hearted introductions that talked about the gist of the game for other players. There are those who focus on a single point that they liked and go into meticulous detail. There are people who try to liven things up by writing about their experience in a way that people who have already played the game will understand. There are people who start off by saying that they're not good at writing, and then squeeze out all of their impressions. There are those who strike out with words that sting like touching a burning stove. Even one-line comments like "Thanks!" or "It was fun!", or the ballots that did not come with a comment, I believe all of these votes helped someone out there.

Some people try to hold up the games they voted for and write things like, "I can't believe this is a free game!", which is a phrase that annoys some people (like me). But I can't get angry. Other than comments that contrast two games in order to show contempt for one over the other, I don't exclude anything. After all, isn't this the path that everyone has taken once, or might have taken? It's true that my aim is to let people know that there are just as many free games out there that are as good as the ones you voted for. But the most I can do is take you to the edge of the water; the only way to understand how wide and deep is the ocean, is to get in it yourself.

For me personally, I like to dive into a work and comment on its merits as if it were completely my own. Recently this phenomenon spawned a word in Japanese, "oshi" (ed note: someone who is a fan or supporter of something, like a pop idol), and I admire people who are able to fully immerse themselves in something and love it so completely. This is because I am aware that I cannot live that way. But that doesn't mean I am embarrassed by the way I love things.

I'm glad that these results could visualize the different ways of expressing love. Sometimes you may feel uncomfortable with the way other people show their love, or you may despise them. However, there is no proper way to love something. Love does not mean anything goes, but as much as possible, you should be open-minded about the way other people show their love.

Can you tell us about managing Furige 20XX over the course of 15 years? Did you run into any difficulties?

I wish that I could say, now that it's ended, that all my memories of it were fun. But I just can't bring myself to say that.

There are people who attacked game creators for cheating just because they got more votes. There are people who attacked creators for being inferior because their works didn't get as many votes as more popular games. Some authors quit game development because they were crushed by these kinds of attacks.

Of course, the fault lies with the people doing the attacking. This behavior is illogical and unjustified. But how about me? Shouldn't I have known that my desire to ignite a competitive edge to the proceedings would result in such reprehensible people showing up? If the game authors and fans who suffered such attacks resented me, there is no way I could pretend not to know why.

Some authors were sad and angry that they were the only ones to vote for their works despite promoting them to others, and felt that their games were worthless. What can I say to them? Would it matter to them if I said that the quality and value of their work has nothing to do with the number of votes they receive? If they say that I pretended not to see what was going on, I cannot argue. I still haven't found the words to say to them.

Even from my narrow viewpoint, so many things have happened. It undeniably had the potential to alter so many people's lives.

I said many times before that if you get even one vote, it means it must be someone's favorite game. I have tried not to use the word "ranking" on the site or in my own statements. I have even said that the number of votes doesn't tell you whether a game is good or bad, and that the number is meaningless. But this message will only reach people who already "get it," and it won't make it to people with bad intentions. Other than making the vote counts private, there is no way to stop malicious actors. I didn't do that, partly because it is the only way for those who didn't comment to see the impact of their vote, and partly because competing for the most votes is part of the fun. But the biggest reason was that I was afraid that if I let go of the idea of holding a completely free competition, that Furige 20XX itself would turn into an echo chamber. For those who didn't feel threatened by the thought of being in an echo chamber, or who already thought of Furige 20XX as an echo chamber, these people probably can't understand my motivation to avoid such a crisis. They criticized me for being happy to let free games compete with each other, and it is true that I continued to allow it.

I continued to run Furige 20XX because, to put it simply, I wanted to. I believe that even though I knew some people would get hurt, a world with Furige 20XX is more wonderful than a world without Furige 20XX. It's difficult to ascertain the benefits I received from this project, but nothing made me happier than living in a world with Furige 20XX.

I sometimes wonder if this project were run by someone else, would it have been easier to understand, had fewer mistakes, been cooler, and had more people voting.

Every year I recruited staff to help deal with the ballots, and I sometimes hoped that someone would take over running the project for me. However, I quickly gave up on that. It's a tough job just looking up all of the game titles and checking that they meet the voting criteria. On some days I would have to check over a hundred titles per day. Without their help, I would not have been able to manage this project. On top of all that work, I couldn't imagine transferring even more responsibilities onto someone else.

I always thought that I was just doing what anybody could do, and that I just happened to be the one who kicked things off. But I was the only one who actually organized and ran Furige 20XX. That's what it was all about.

Are there any particular points about Furige 20XX that you hoped to convey to users?

I think it's obvious from my previous answers that I am a very particular person. However, such things are "null" to the users. Players are free to love any games they please, and that is the spirit in which I managed this project. If they love this project too, that's great.

In order to get more people voting for the same games they voted for, some people were passionate about posting fan art and calls to vote. There were people who sought out works that only they would vote for, and tried to leave behind traces of themselves and that work. There were people who wrote comments for over 100 titles they played that year, and used it as an opportunity to reflect on the games they played throughout the year. I have tried to accommodate these many diverse ways of enjoying the voting process.

Even if you only check the results and download the titles that catch your eye, I think this project carries a lot of meaning. I hope that you can find your new favorite game. Some people enjoy looking at the order of the number of votes. It is dangerous getting caught up in the "results" of votes from a very limited number of people and time period, but if you know that it's just for fun, then it's all good. There were also people who only looked at the results and criticized the project for this and that. Furige 20XX is over now, so I'm sure those opinionated people will lead us to a bright new future.

Also, from the very start, this project had no intention of contributing anything to the game creators. Our stance was that this was supposed to be a popularity contest among players, so as much as was possible we did not interfere with the creators, but we also did not support them in any way. For creators, I personally believe it is better not to care too much about the players, especially regarding things like how many or few votes you get, because getting caught up in that can make you sick.

But when it really comes down to it, there were a lot more creators than I expected who were encouraged by the project. Even if their game only got one vote, they had confidence that it was someone's favorite. There were people who said they had worked hard on their game with the goal of getting votes. There were people who were grateful that the votes from Furige 20XX brought attention to their works. Above all, the developers' calls for votes increased the number of votes for all works, not just their own. This project was not built on the support of developers and did not aim to support them, and developers were free not to support it in turn. Despite that, I am grateful to the game creators who enjoyed the project, and for helping to broaden its scope.

When managing Furige 20XX, did you notice any trends or changes in free games over the past fifteen years?

2008 was a long time ago. Society has changed a lot since then, so naturally the state of indie games has changed a lot, too.

For example, in 2008, very few people had smartphones. Until 2022, Furige 20XX used to identify users based on how they would access via a fixed IP address, but that is now completely outdated. Back in 2008, very few people were making their own games that ran on cell phones, and almost no one was playing such games. Nowadays, everyone is making and playing games for smartphones as a matter of course. By the way, it is up to debate whether free games for smartphones count as "free games." This is because smartphone apps are almost exclusively controlled by the Apple Store and Google Play, both of which require you to register using your personal information, and have both detailed and large-scale regulations on expression. The rules of Furige 20XX stipulated that titles requiring personal information would make them ineligible for voting. However, most players don't care if that counts as a "free game" or not.

In PC gaming, Steam opening up the platform to individuals was a major social change. Where once it was a pain for individuals to sell their games, now they can pay $100 and have the chance to sell them on a huge marketplace. Many other platforms besides Steam popped up, and now there are fewer people selling games from their own websites. From a player's point of view, it is easier to get and update games as well as exchange opinions, all in one convenient and safe place. More than freedom, many players want security. For people who don't know one end of their computer from the other, it is decidedly much safer to be within the walled garden of a large corporation than to risk downloading malware from a strange and unknown website.

From the days when it was taken for granted that things on the Internet are free, to the days when it is obvious that you need to pay for things, there has been a huge shift in attitudes. Phrases like "Take my money" and "This isn't a bank transfer scam" are now used as compliments. As for me, I feel that it is the game creator's exclusive right to put a price tag on their indie game, and people asking to pay for them is stepping over the line and disrespectful, but this is probably just old-fashioned thinking. In fact, maybe you can't help but think that it's unsettling to get games for free.

2008 was also the year Twitter became available in Japanese. During this trend away from message boards and onto short-form SNS and video clips, the emphasis on short, easy-to-understand "buzzy" content also spilled over into games. Even in indie games, people have become much more aware of concepts like clarity and visual appeal, and I feel this has pushed up the standard to new heights. On the other hand, there are some games that are hard to understand at a glance, and you can only realize how interesting they are when you take the time to play through them slowly. I believe that indie games still have a chance to express that kind of fun, but these days it's getting harder to get people to pick up games that are difficult to understand.

In 2008, very few people made videos of themselves playing games, and the number of people who watched them was limited. And the idea that an individual could broadcast a video of themself playing a free game and then receive money from viewers and make a profit, this situation was unimaginable. The issue of receiving money from these broadcasts became a major point of contention, not only for the developers of free games, but also for producers of free content. I can understand why it would be upsetting if others were not only profiting off of materials you provided for free, but in some cases not even offering a word of thanks let alone a share of the money, with viewers who are satisfied just watching the video and hardly any playing the game for themselves. On the other hand, it raises questions like why exactly that is so upsetting and why you would release games for free. I feel as if I am being forced to answer that question for myself.

For indie game creators in general, the need to release games for free is on the decline as the methods of distributing games increases. And for players, free games are only one option, and the incentives to actively seek them out are decreasing.

Game creators should therefore become more self-conscious about publishing their games for free. Becoming more self-conscious can also be a hassle. However, I expect that games published for free, a method which developers chose in the past for negative motives such as that it was the only option available to them, will become more interesting if games are published with a positive motive, such as developers daring to make their games available for free. The number of people choosing to release their games for free may be lower than before, but it's nothing to be sad about. They're not going to disappear. People who want to release free games can do whatever they want with them, however they want.

There are always going to be people who underestimate the value of a game just because there is no price tag, and this is a big issue that will probably never be fundamentally resolved. That said, the idea that a free game has inherent value just because it is free is also biased. For players, games are ultimately all about whether it's interesting. It's true that some experiences can only be found in commercial AAA titles, and it would be foolish to aim for that with an indie game. But that's not the only thing that makes a game interesting. As a developer, you can create whatever fun things you want, and as a player, you can respond to the fun presented to you, and if you like it, you can share it with the people around you. It's all up to the individual.

You mustn't push people who don't want to swim into the sea and beat them with sticks. But guiding them to the water is something anyone can do, even you. With the wide sea spread before them, the people who want to swim, will swim; that's all there is to it.

Free games are of course free, but finding them can be quite a challenge. What keeps you playing free games?

The difficulty is not in "finding" free games. If you aren't picky, knowing just a few of the major distribution sites should be enough. You can find games that look interesting with just a quick glance, and have more than enough to keep you entertained for the rest of your life. But there is a chance that you will be drawn to games that don't suit you.

So in other words, the difficulty lies in making "the best use" of your time, playing only the games you want to play and avoiding the ones that don't suit you. If you follow players whose tastes seem to match yours and read their impressions, you'll have a better chance at encountering a game that suits you. But what if you can't find anyone whose interests match yours? What if you want to play a game that others aren't talking about? The only way to find out is to take the time to search for games, play them, and find out for yourself. Playing free games is a hobby that hardly costs any money, but definitely takes a lot of time. It is basically immune to the current trend of "respecting players' time." It is only when you start to enjoy the search itself that it becomes truly fun.

Look through Furige 20XX. All the names there represent a game that someone voted for as their best. So out of the more than 7,000 titles listed in Furige 2023, how many are right for you? In the past, even the titles that got the most votes didn't capture 20% of the vote. With such a wide variety of games and players with different tastes, the only way to find what games you like is to actually gain experience playing them. Playing a wide variety of games may broaden your tastes, or it may help to clarify and confirm your preferences.

What happens when you become too picky and are no longer satisfied with the games out there? Well, then there is nothing left but to make your own games, right?

Have you ever wanted to make your own games?

Actually, I've already published a game, but I cannot objectively recommend playing it. Whatever quality you are looking for, this doesn't have it. Someone actually voted for this game in Furige 20XX. Well, I guess I don't feel bad about it... really.

I have been told many times in the past that I am more of a creator than a player. I still don't know what they mean by that. Will I ever figure it out?

Do you cover free games in any other capacity, like writing game reviews or blogging?

I'm still writing reviews for Gekikara. I want to continue doing this for as long as I can.

Do you have any projects lined up for the future?

I've just finished one huge project, and I'm not ready to start something new just yet. But I'm sure that I'll start something soon. That's life: too short to do anything, but too long to just do nothing.

Having said that, about two years ago I started analyzing bugs in Final Fantasy 6 as a means of relaxing, but got burned badly doing that. It was just too narrow and too deep a rabbit hole. For now, I just do it purely as a way to relax, and it's hard to think of it as a stepping stone to something else. But you never know what will happen in life, and you never know how things will turn out. I think we should just enjoy each moment to the fullest, without rejecting those who come or chasing after those who leave.

Do you have any messages for the many Furige 20XX fans and those who want to try free games in the future?

Furige 20XX defines a free game as "a game that can be played by anyone, free of charge, without needing to provide personal information, and that is not a commercial, trial, or test version." I believe that the meaning of "free game" is nothing more and nothing less than that, and is simply a classification of how a game was published. Its breadth is so vast that it cannot be summed up in a single word or phrase. The cultural background of the works, the motivation and purpose of why they were released for free, what makes the creators and player base happy, the means of expression, these are all different from game to game. People often talk about "the free game community" or "free game culture," but this is just the limits of their field of view and the names of the echo chambers to which they belong. I am no different from them. I have written many such pretentious things, but these are just my beliefs based on my own experiences, which are small and biased compared to the whole wide world. There is an entire world out there where such "common sense" does not apply, and it stretches on forever.

As for you, do you think it's scary? Or do you find it interesting? On the Internet, you will encounter people and works that align with your way of thinking, and you will also encounter people and works that are far off the mark. You will encounter people and works that benefit you, and people and works that will harm you. And you yourself can be a benefit to someone else, and at the same time, you can be harmful to someone else. You never think that you will harm others, right? Or do you just accept that it is the people who get hurt are the ones at fault?

If you don't want to be hurt and don't want to hurt others, you may need to avoid living with others and spend your time living in secrecy. But maybe you desire to open your heart. Playing games made by others, and having others play games made by you, can provide an intense experience that is hard to find any other way. Without words, received directly through the player's actions, it is possible to receive an experience of the mind and body. And releasing games for free has the potential to transcend all barriers and reach people you will never know.

I would like to believe that there is still hope for the Internet for even a little while longer. I am not forcing anyone to do anything. But, maybe you choose to "dare." Whether you succeed or fail, no matter what, I'm sure it's all part of a wonderful life.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us!

Edit 2024 March 4: This article has been edited to reflect that Akamatsu has only previously made one game, and other minor edits for clarity.





フリーゲームとの「出会い」で言うと、SuperDepthが最初です。家にゲーム機が無く、PCにもほとんどゲームがインストールされていなかったので、幼少期のボクはゲームにとても餓えていました。そんな時期に、図書館にあった本の中で紹介されていたのがSuperDepthでした。小さな白黒写真と2ページほどの紹介文を何度読み返したか知れません。潜水艦と戦っていた戦艦がやがて宇宙に飛び立つなんて、どれほど楽しいゲームなんだろうと憧れました。しかしわが家のPCは当時日本では珍しかったIBM PCで、ネットにも接続されていなかったので、PC98専用の本作をプレイするのは叶わぬ夢でした。ボクが本作をプレイするのは、それから15年以上後のことです。

初めて「プレイした」フリーゲームは時代を下りWindows 95発売後、雑誌にフリーソフトが収録されたCDが付属する時代になってからです。初めてプレイしたのは、当時はまだシェアウェア版でしたが、Daisy Skatin' 2だったと記憶しています。現在はバージョンアップしたフリーゲームDaisy Skatin' 2 Expansionが配信中です。











2008年はそれらに加え、多くのインディーゲームのコンテストやイベントが廃止・中止された状況が日本にはありました。そこでボクが最も懸念したのが蛸壺化、プレイヤー同士で共通の話題が無くなることでした。本来すべての人に開かれているはずのフリーゲームなのに、ごく狭い作者のファンだけがそれで盛り上がり、隣人がどんなフリーゲームをプレイしているのかまったく興味がない、そんな世界はつまらないと思いました。 知名度も功績も何も無いボクが、どうすればそんなつまらない現実を打破できるのか。ただ語り合うだけの場を作っても、所詮は内輪のなれ合いで、面白いとは思えませんでした。ボクはできる限りのフリーゲーマーを巻き込みたいと願いました。あらゆる壁をぶち壊すだけの力を欲しました。23日間という短期間開催される、1年間更新されたフリーゲームすべてを対象とした人気投票というのが、その時のボクの答えでした。投票する人の競争心を刺激し、人を呼び込み、無視されない程おおきなものを作り出すことで、世界にはこんなにも多くのフリーゲームがあるのだ、それを好きな人がいるのだということを知らしめようとした……かどうか。



2008年当時、SmokingWOLFさんにこうしたボクの懸念をメールした記憶があるのですが(ログは紛失してしまいました)、WOLFさんからは、それは少なくとも自分の周囲には当てはまらない、自作以外の面白いフリーゲームの情報も交換されている、という返信がありました。当時のボクは、あなたは人気作家だからそう見えるのだ、と思っていたかもしれません。当時既に人気インディーゲーム作者だったWOLFさんは、2008年に汎用オーサリングツール「WOLF RPGエディター」を作り上げ、2009年からそれで製作された作品を対象とした「WOLF RPGエディターコンテスト」を主催。インディーゲームの一大コミュニティの中心を担っていきます。







中には、投票した作品を持ち上げようとして、「フリーゲームとは思えない!」なんて、(ボクのような)一部の人間をムッとさせるフレーズを書く人もいますよ。でも怒ってはいけません。特定対象と比較して一方を貶めるようなコメント以外は、ボクは排除していません。だって皆さんも通った道、あるいは通るかも知れなかった道ではありませんか? 確かに、世の中には君が投票したのと同じように素晴らしいフリーゲームがあることを知ってもらうのがボクの目的です。でもボクにできるのはせいぜい浜辺に連れて行くことだけで、海の広さや深さを知るには、自分が海に入るより他にないのです。






当然、それは攻撃した人間が悪いです。どのような理屈をもってしても正当化されることはありません。ではボクは? 自分の望みのために、競争心を煽ることを手段とした時点で、そういった不埒な輩が出現することをボクはわかっていたのではないか? そのような辛い目に遭った作者やファンがボクを恨んだとして、まったく身に覚えの無い逆恨みだと言い逃れることは、ボクにできるわけがないのです。

自作への投票を呼びかけたのに、自分しか投票せず、自分の作品には価値がなかったと悲しみ憤る作者もいました。ボクに何が言えるのでしょう? 作品の質や価値と票数の多寡にはなんの関係も無いと理屈を語ったところで、その人の心に届くでしょうか? ボクは見て見ぬ振りをしたと言われても仕方ありません。その人に掛ける言葉は未だに見つからないままです。















たとえば、2008年当時、スマートフォンを使っている人はほとんどいませんでした。フリゲ20XXは2022年まで固定回線からのアクセスを前提とした個人特定を行っていましたが、今やまったくの時代遅れです。2008年当時、携帯電話で動くゲームを個人で作る人はごく少数でしたし、それをプレイする人もほとんどいませんでした。それが今や、皆がまったく当たり前にスマホ用のゲームを作り、プレイしています。ところで、スマホ用の無償ゲームが「フリーゲーム」に該当するかは議論のあるところです。スマホ用アプリの配信はApple StoreとGoogle Playにほぼ独占されており、両者とも利用には個人情報登録が必須で、表現にも細かく大規模な規制が入っているためです。フリゲ20XXでは規約上、個人情報登録が必要なため投票対象外となっていました。しかし、それが「フリーゲーム」かどうかなんて、気にするプレイヤーはほぼいないはずです。











つまりですね、自分の時間を「有効に活用」しようとして、面白いゲームだけをプレイしたい、自分に合わないゲームはプレイしたくない、と思うから話が難しくなるのです。自分と趣味が合いそうなプレイヤーをフォローして、その人の紹介文を読めば、自分に合う作品を引き当てる確率は上がるでしょう。でも趣味が合う人が見つからなかったら? 他の人が話題にしていないようなゲームをプレイしたかったら? それはもう、時間を掛けて自分で探しだし、プレイし、確かめていくしかないのです。フリーゲーマーは金はほとんど掛かりませんが、確実に時間が掛かる趣味です。「タイパ」という時流とは基本的に無縁です。探すこと自体が楽しいと思えるようになってからが本番ですよね。

フリゲ20XXをご覧なさい。あそこに名前があるのは、すべて誰かがベストだと思い投票した作品です。では、フリゲ2023に名前のある7000以上の作品の中で、あなたに合う作品はどれだけあるでしょうか? 過去の最多得票作品だって、全投票者のうち20%も投票していないことがほとんどです。それだけ多様な作品があり、プレイヤーの好みも様々ある中で、自分の「好き」を探していくには、結局プレイ経験を積んでいく他無いのです。多様なゲームをプレイする中で、自分の好みの幅が広がるかもしれません。逆に、より自分の中の好みが明瞭になり、先鋭化していく部分もあるでしょう。

こだわりが強くなりすぎて、今あるゲームで満足できなくなったら? そうです、その時はもう、自分で作るしかないでしょう?








などと言いながら、2年程前からFinal Fantasy 6のバグ解析などという「息抜き」に手を出して大やけどしている最中なのですが。あれはあまりにも狭く、そして深い深い沼でした。今のところ、ボクにとってはあれはあくまで「息抜き」で、それを軸足にすることは考えづらいです。でも人生は何が起きるかわかりませんし、どう転ぶかなんてボク自身にもわかりゃしません。来る者拒まず去る者追わず、その時その時を一所懸命に楽しめばいいんじゃないでしょうか。



あなたはそれを、怖いと思いますか? それとも面白いと思いますか? インターネットで、あなたは自分と考えが近い人や作品とも出会うし、遠い人や作品とも出会います。あなたに利をもたらす人や作品とも出会うし、害を為す人や作品とも出会います。そしてあなた自身も、誰かにとっては利をもたらす存在になる可能性があると同時に、誰かにとって害を為す存在になる可能性だってあるのです。自分は絶対誰の害にもならないなんて、あなたはまさか思っていないですよね? それとも傷つく人間の方が悪いんだと開き直りますか?




Yatarou AkamatsuCheck out the Furige 20XX archives, and especially Furige 2023 for its final results. Visit Yatarou Akamatsu's homepage for more news.