Recently I accomplished one of my goals over the past couple of years: I finally created a team of 9 unique Hanayos in the popular mobile game Love Live: School Idol Festival. Seeing as how tomorrow I’m going to see the Love Live! movie, I think now’s as good a time as any to discuss how I play School Idol Festival as a fan of the franchise, but also as someone who knowingly restricts his exposure to the game, and creates games within games.
There was a time when I didn’t feel as strongly about Love Live! as a whole. All I knew was that I liked the anime quite a bit, and when I discovered the increasingly popular mobile rhythm game, it introduced me to the collector’s mentality that goes into supporting idols, digital or real. What began as a curiosity became an understanding of how involving the rhythm game with its collectible card aspect, character loyalty, and other aspects could be. The game taunts you with the prospect of buying more gems to give you that next gashapon-esque crank of the lever. If you choose to not give the game money, it then becomes the absolute biggest time sink there is. It’s a dangerous combination not uncommon to mobile games, and seeing the potential threat to my free time that the game posed, I knowingly restricted my goals. Thus, the All-Star All-
MaddenHanayo Team starring Jerry Rice became my aspiration. I could pick my battles, prioritize certain events over others, and prevent the game from destroying my free (or not free) time.
While I hit my original goal, what’s funny is that somehow I feel that, by aiming for it so intently, it actually got further away from me. What I mean is that in the process of trying to get 9 unique Hanayo cards, I ended up with full teams of Eli and Umi without even trying. I’m sure there are fans of those two characters who would devote their everything to having full squads, but it was merely a stepping stone in my process. Again, it’s a good thing I didn’t approach the game with a completionist mentality, or else I would really be in trouble.
In the end though, I find that the game was merely supplemental to my fondness to the anime, which is why I’m looking forward to the movie far more than my anticipation over getting the final 9th Hanayo on my team. There’s an interesting disparity between the worlds of the game and the anime, and that has to do with the role of men. While players of Love Live! traverse all sexes, genders, and sexual orientations, there’s still the residual effect of idols classically being a point of desire for guys. A lot of the rewards for playing the game are messages from the girls, who will talk about how they want to be alone… with you.
In contrast, men are virtually non-existent in the anime. This is what perhaps makes it yuri fuel for a certain contingent of the fanbase, and certain characters’ actions acknowledge that men exist in a kind of abstract sense (Nico’s behavior, for example), but a lot of the character dynamics and interactions are pointed towards each other rather than the hypothetical viewer/player. The game is where I show my support as an extension of my fondness for the anime, and even if I ever buy a CD (NicoRinPana of course), then that’ll also be supplemental to my fondness for the overall narrative and theme of Love Live!
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