Onmyoji:the utilising of interactivity

Zhumin YU

Class: Rachael Bolton, Friday 12 pm

Core concept

In the digital age, social gaming becomes a ubiquitous platform for leisure in mobile phones. (Fields and Cotton, 2014) In Hjorth and Hinton’s research (2013), social gaming is analysed to have not only the feature of gaming but also social communication. Comparing to traditional games, social media games are connecting to social network sites, which is generally known as SNSs. However, this statement has been critical of claims by other authors like Fields and Cotton (2014) that single-player experience games on multimedia tools could be social games as well since they have utilised the effect of social networks. He broadens the definition of social gaming as games which take advantage of the audience’s interactivity with the assist of online platforms to keep their users.

Interactivity is one of the core concepts in new media. Flew (2008) defined the concept in his article that interactivity on the internet refers to the feature that the audience could both get easy access to a broader source of knowledge and the ability for the connection to interacting various networks, which are called interoperability and interconnectivity separately. By the extent of engagement, the concept could be divided into three main levels as user-to-user interaction, para-social interaction and user-to-system interaction. (McMillan, 2005; cited in Flew, 2008)

Case study

Onmyoji is a mobile game produced by a Chinese company NetEase in September 2016. It describes a story happened in Heian-kyō, a former name of Kyoto, with ancient Japanese myths and demons. It was reported that the figure of active users in this game has reached 20 million by 24, March 2017. (http://www.top-news.top/news-12792496.html) The main character of the game is an onmyoji called Seimei who shows his talent in hunting demons and keep the balance between Yang and Yin, which refer to the place human beings live in and the community of demons. In the category of ludology, it belongs to class turn-based card game. Audiences play the onmyoji and collect cards on different roles to help you fight against other users and the system.

There are two dominant types of battles in the platform, user-to-user and user-to-system. Players have the ability to switch the conditions easily during their games. It is obviously that the front type of gaming could be a suitable example for explaining how interactivity exists and works in mobile games. In this situation, each player could decide their preference on roles before the beginning of a battle. Because different roles have various abilities and skills such as soldier, therapist and subsidiary, the link of choosing roles could show the gaming strategies. After starting the battle, the both two sides would struggle to win by keeping on using their own methods.(Fig 1) It happens frequently that the loser finds out some advantages and tricks like the collocation between roles and some props in the winner’s playing which he could follow but did not notice before.

Fig 1. User-to-user battle

In order to promote the interaction among all the users and improve the users’ experience, NetEase Company has set a plug-in called discussion board in the interface. (Fig 2) The screenshot below illustrates a group of players are sharing ideas on a defensive strategy in user-to-user battles and one is asking for a partner to complete a high reward task given by the system which requiring the collaboration of two players. (The sentence in purple)

Furthermore, collaboration always comes with communications. Some players would denigrate and argue with their teammates and opponents while the situation of a battle becomes pessimistic. There are a number of players invite their families and friends together to complete the tasks in the game. They consider it an effective way to avoid the debate and expand the space of leisure, which means from individual leisure time to a collective intelligence.

This kind of interaction is quite common in social games. (Leaver, Willson and Ebooks Corporation, 2016) It proves that mobile games with this feature could be helpful in social communications because people are willing to share their emotions and information to others on SNSs. Once most of the friends and family members around a person are addicted to Onmyoji, the person could be extremely curious about this game and he/she would be a potential user of it. Onmyoji is taking the advantage of interaction between users and their social relationship to develop the potential users and retain the existing ones.

Fig 2. Discussion board

The user-to-system battles could offer players tools and props to strength their characters and roles. They can use this tools and game currency to improve the levels and power of their roles. In addition, the producer generates an animated story and display it in the first perspective. It is more likely to be a drama play on a mythic fiction. Users can control Seimei to go through a number of obstacles to achieve the goal. This part of the game includes the interaction between players and the system. (Fig 3) It aims at the audience who show little interest in battles but may be into the scenario and the character settings. This group of players could be fans to Japanese fictions and comics in the offline world. Including the storyline, Onmyoji also holds numerous activities on characters and story with the cooperation of some most used SNSs in China, such as Weibo and Bilibili. They encouraged players to design the appearance of all the roles and characters combining with Japanese culture. Cosplay lovers were also engaged in an event held by Onmyoji and Bilibili. All the events were wildly discussed on SNSs and the topic hit the hottest topic rank top 1 several times in Weibo. Fans fiction and comics are generated by players since a considerable number of the audience have been attracted to the game. Although under this circumstance there is little connection among users directly in the game, it leads an interaction on other social media platforms and also reaches its purpose, which refers to enhance the influence of their product and attract more people to join the game.

Fig 3. User-to-system battle


Interactivity could be seen almost everywhere in this digital era. It is not only a social nature of new media forms, but also a strategy could be used in commercial promotion. As the case above demonstrates, the game designed numerous way from the interface design to the scheme of relative events to make people interacts with others. Fields and Cotton (2014) explain that all the social games would be working on the interactivity and try to make the users connect to each other. In fact, the concept of interactivity could also be practised in the implement of the campaign. One of the requests of the campaign, the con, is to increase the amount of sharing, comments and following on conservatorium accounts of SNSs. Considering to use the concept, we caught up with the idea that makes a live stream interview on SNSs. Live stream is an emerging form of media and it is a two-way communication system. The audience could generate comments during the live stream and the host could choose some interesting questions to answer. By emphasising interactivity, the audience would engage in the activities.

To sum up, mobile game has taken the role of social media function. It enables every person who has a smartphone to create an activity with others in anytime anywhere. (Hjorth and Hinton, 2013) Some opponents highlight the increasing interaction in games may cause a damage in communication with people in reality. (Leaver, Willson and Ebooks Corporation, 2016) Nonetheless, the audience on various social media platforms is eager to change and share opinions and information by interactivity.


Flew, T. (2008). New media: An introduction (3rd ed.). South Melbourne, Vic: Oxford University Press.

Fields, T., & Cotton, B. (2014). Mobile & social game design: Monetization methods and mechanics, second edition (2nd ed.). Hoboken: CRC Press.

Hjorth, L., & Hinton, S. (2013). Understanding social media. Thousand Oaks, Calif: SAGE.

Lobato, R. (2016). The cultural logic of digital intermediaries: YouTube multichannel networks. Convergence, 22(4), 348-360. doi:10.1177/1354856516641628

Leaver, T., Willson, M. A., & Ebooks Corporation. (2016). Social, casual and mobile games: The changing gaming landscape. New York: Bloomsbury Academic.


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