Gacha Gonna Get Ya: Watching Mobile Card Collecting

Curator's Note

In the Japanese mobile game market, free-to-play games centered around card collecting have proliferated in a multitude of genres and styles. Though these games also integrate other forms of gameplay, such as fighting, rhythm tapping, and visual novels, card collecting is often how the games make money: players purchase and spend in-game currencies to play gacha (from gachapon, the Japanese word for capsule toy machines) which issues cards at random. 

Better cards mean higher scores, but many games instead emphasize character relationships as the motivation for collecting new cards: getting a card with one’s favorite character means unlocking new art, new spoken phrases, and new stories. The collection of these cards creates an increased intimacy with the desired character image, often a cute and/or sexualized anime girl or boy; the collection and preservation of these cards in the games’ digital albums therefore includes an erotic dimension.

One way in which fans share their collections is through videos of their gacha attempts. Gacha videos go beyond simply recording the game screen through the addition of commentary, editing, and on-screen captioning (similar to Japanese television’s use of telops, writing on screen which restates or recontextualizes images.) These techniques allow the player creating the video to share the emotional experience of gambling for their favorite character with the players watching. The triumph and despair of gacha is reinscribed in these videos, encouraging both shared fan community through empathy and increased connection to the game, in turn inspiring other players to spend money on gacha as a mark of their commitment.

In this video of a Love Live! School Idol Project gacha, two staff commentators from a gaming channel are shocked to receive the goal card, an Ultra-Rare Halloween version of character Matsuura Kanan, on their first try. When the red envelope that marks a UR card appears, the video cuts closer to it flying from the box, editing which recreates the thrill of the players seeing that card. A cut to a black screen and the words “It came!” in Japanese emphasize the shock as the commentators gasp and laugh. Many similar videos last for 15 to 20 minutes as the player spends hundreds of “loveca stones” trying to win the desired card.


Lindsey Decker's picture


Interesting post! I’d never come across this subset of videos.

It’s interesting to me how most of the affective work being done here relies on the voice — at least in the video you’ve chosen (though, as you point out, the editing also does some of that work). Have you found it more common for these videos to just use audio or do some of them also have the commentators’ faces (in a small box in the corner)? I wonder if that might have any effect on the popularity or effectiveness of the videos.


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