Branching Paths: Japan's independent game scene

Branching Paths is a journey through Japan's independent game scene. It tells a story of a struggle, not only for creative expression, but also survival.

Published by Bryan McDowall on

Whilst it's been almost 6 years since my last visit to Japan, I have many fond memories of my time there. In particular, I spent a few late nights in the various arcades scattered around Tokyo. Even spending a short time in Akiba, it becomes evident that the gaming culture in Japan differs greatly from accepted norms in the western world. Whilst I never really caught a glimpse of the independent game scene, an upcoming documentary might offer some insight before I return next year.

French director @Anne Ferrero and production studio Assemblage at Indie Stream (part of TGS 2015), announced Branching Paths, a new documentary featuring Japan’s independent game scene. Filmed over a period of two years, the project begun as a series of video blogs where Yoshiko Kimura of Onion Games would interview indie game developers.

Young man sitting at a large tablet device. Gaming paraphernalia is scattered around his room.
Hard at work on his next masterpiece

From the Branching Paths homepage:

The Japanese video game industry lead the world in creativity and innovation from the 1980's to the mid-2000's, but in recent years, Japanese studios had been unable to keep up with advancements in technology, and many have shifted focus away from risky projects and unique gaming experiences.

All around the world, many players long to play games like those that inspired and excited them in their childhood.

For industry veterans and young talents who aspire to the pursuit of originality and creative freedom, going independent is the answer.

Japan has a history of independent creators building lively communities, even within industries where large media companies rule. Comic Market, and events like it attract more than 1 million attendees yearly.

For the last several years, the Japanese game industry has begun to recognize the power of independent creators and the momentum of the fledgling scene, and in 2013, the Tokyo Game Show created a pavilion to feature indie creators for the first time in its history.

But is the Japanese game industry really changing? What is the price of creative independence? Why is there no funding or support from the Japanese government? These are just some of the questions we examine, to understand not only this unique scene, but its roots in culture. The answers tell a story of a struggle, not only for creative expression, but for survival as well.

The trailer includes some beautiful key shots from around Japan, and it looks like a great documentary for gamers and Japanophiles alike.

Branching Paths: A journey in Japan's independent game scene will be released in January 2016. Keep an eye on the Branching Paths homepage for further details.


  • documentary
  • game design
  • game development
  • gaming
  • games industry
  • independent games
  • japan
  • tokyo game show

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