Yu-Gi-Oh! Mixes the Real with Fantasy.

Trading cards, Game Boys, and character merchandise create what Anne Allison (2004) has called “pocket fantasies,” “digitized icons . . . that children carry with them wherever they go,” and “that straddle the border between phantasm and everyday life” (p. 42). The imagination of Yu-Gi-Oh! pervades the everyday settings of childhood as it is channeled through these portable and intimate media forms. These forms of play are one part of a broader set of shifts toward intimate and portable technologies that enable lightweight imaginative sharing between people going about their everyday business. In many ways, this ecology is an illustration of concepts of ubiquitous or pervasive computing (Dourish, 2001; McCullough, 2004; Weiser, 1991; Weiser & Brown, 1996) extended to popular culture. In Japan this pervasive media ecology includes trading cards, portable game devices, “character goods” such as mobile phone straps and clothing, screens and signage in the urban environment, and multimedia mobile phones that capture and exchange visual as well as textual information (Ito, 2003; Okabe & Ito, 2003). Imaginative fantasy is now more than ever part of the semiotics of everyday social life.

In the Yu-Gi-Oh! comic book (manga), monsters are an intimate presence in the lives of the characters. Characters carry cards that “contain” the monsters, and they engage in duels that combine a card game with lifelike monster battles, projected in holographic 3-D from “duel disks” worn on the players’ arms. Boundaries are blurred as the duelists suffer collateral harm from monsters blasting the playing field with dragon fire and destructive magic. Yu-Gi-Oh! is thus a very explicit drama of the hyperreal—of objects of the imagination becoming more vivid, life-like, and omnipresent, to the point of sapping the strength of flesh-and-blood bodies. But the strange mingling of the real and virtual in the pages of Yu-Gi-Oh! is just one aspect of a larger drama of simulation. The Yu-Gi-Oh! manga series has spawned a television animation, an immensely popular card game, at least 10 video game versions, and character goods ranging from T-shirts to packaged curry to pencil boxes. All project Yu-Gi-Oh! into different sites of consumption, play, spectatorship, and social action.

Yu-Gi-Oh! is similar to the media mixes of Pokémon and Digimon in that it involves human players who mobilize otherworldly monsters in battle. There is a difference, though, in how this fantasy is deployed. In earlier media mixes, such as Pokémon, the trading cards are a surrogate for “actual” monsters in the fantasy world: Pokémon trainers collect monsters, not cards. In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Yugi and his friends collect and traffic in trading cards, just like the kids in “our world.” The activities of children in our world thus closely mimic the activities and materialities of children in Yugi’s world. They collect and trade the same cards and engage in play with the same strategies, rules, and material objects. Scenes in the anime depict Yugi frequenting card shops and buying card packs, enjoying the thrill of getting a rare card, dramatizing everyday moments of media consumption in addition to the highly stylized and fantastic dramas of the duels themselves. In Japan during the period when I was conducting fieldwork, Yu-Gi-Oh! cards were a pervasive fact of life, a fantasy world made manifest in the pockets and backpacks of millions of boys across the country. A 2000 survey of 300 students in a Kyoto elementary school indicated that, by the third grade, every student owned some Yu-Gi-Oh! cards (Asahi Shimbun, 2001).


Similar to Magic the Gathering, with the player being the real and the cards the fantasy.

Folksonomies: games fantasy entertainment gaming

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Playing card (0.977945): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Mass media (0.797999): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Mobile phone (0.791932): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Drama (0.689053): dbpedia | freebase
Card game (0.667520): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Fantasy (0.616098): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Duel (0.612166): dbpedia | freebase
Game (0.604772): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc

 Technologies of the Childhood Imagination
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book Chapter:  Ito, Mizuko (2007), Technologies of the Childhood Imagination, Retrieved on 2013-06-29
Folksonomies: culture geek culture