In the world of video-sharing, the website Nico Nico Douga might seem to attract introverted geeks who prefer to stay glued to their computer monitors at home rather than venture out into the real world.
But that is not the case.
Some 92,000 users converged on the Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba for a recent two-day event that allowed those users to mingle with contributors to the website in the flesh.
Nico Nico Douga exists because of videos sent in by contributors who create their own works. The two-day event held April 28-29 had as its theme "recreating on land (almost) all" of those videos.
More than 80 booths were set up by contributors, covering a wide range of fields, including song, dance, craftwork, railway models and commentary.
Two young men in their 20s who contributed a popular dance video explained their original choreography to about 100 participants. After practicing for about 20 minutes, the group performed the work. When they were done, participants as well as audience members watching the performance cheered.
Although the two men had no dance experience, they contributed to the dance category titled "Odotte mita" after viewing other videos in that category. They thought it would be good exercise so they sent in a video of the two of them dancing. One of them said, "Our amateurishness may have been the key because we received comments saying we were cute."
The two soon began dancing with other users who gathered together. One said, "There was a different form of satisfaction than the kick we got through having our videos viewed over the Internet."
Users who contribute original songs using the voices created by synthesizer software known as vocaloids such as Miku Hatsune, the computer-generated virtual singing idol, are called "bokaroP."
At the Makuhari Messe event, one such performer known as "Nanou" sang while playing his guitar before about 1,000 participants.
The man sings for a rock band and he considered creating songs for a female voice as a form of knight-errantry. When he made contributions using his real voice and singing his own songs, the man was struck by the good reception he received from other users.
Live concerts he participated in with other bokaroP were also highly energetic events.
"I felt that fans of bokaro songs also wanted to know what kind of person a particular bokaroP was like and likely wanted to hear live performances," Nanou said.
A related service on Nico Nico Douga is "Nico Nico Namahoso" (Nico Nico live broadcasts). This includes not only formal broadcasts of news conferences by politicians that attracted attention, but also users who create and transmit their own programs.
A 22-year-old man using the handle name of Yukiutagen normally sings parodied songs based on comments that have been sent in by about 30 viewers. At the event, he called out to those passing his cramped booth in order to publicize some of his works.
A huge attraction of the event is that both performers and participants can feel the closeness of their roles as users of the website.
An 18-year-old college student who came all the way from Hiroshima Prefecture said, "I was able to shake hands with and talk to a singer I like. Although it was a weird feeling, I was happy."
Since 2008, Nico Nico Douga has been holding an event in which popular singers and dancers give live performances.
Seiji Sugimoto, president of Niwango Inc., which operates Nico Nico Douga, said, "Once users become very enthusiastic through a real live experience, we are able to have them return to services on the Internet as a part of their daily lives."
Satoshi Hamano, a commentator on social issues, said about Nico Nico Douga, "Even if users are viewing it on their computers at home by themselves, they can feel the realism of everyone becoming enthusiastic."
Users can also feel a virtual form of unity with many others because comments sent in about videos are displayed on the site.
"If that is the case, the natural course will be to generate even more enthusiasm at live events," Hamano said. "Now, the Internet and the real world are not opposed to each other, but going through the Internet allows for an even stronger connection in the real world."
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