It's quite a big party, too - this is less than 10% of it, during a more quiet moment

What do you get when half a million people pour into a single building over the course of three days, not with one objective or agenda but rather as tens of thousands of independent groups each aiming to educate, inspire and above all else entertain the others? Well, you get one of the world’s largest cultural events, and of course video games are more than welcome to the party…

I’m writing this on Monday 15th August, and over the last three days an artificial island in the Tokyo bay has been the venue for just that – the biannual “Comic Market” convention. Comic Market, or Comiket as it is often known, is an example of a volunteer-run “doujinshi sales event” – it is a venue where people come to buy and sell self-published books, music, games, and a wide range of other items.

The key term here is “self-published” – whilst there is a small section of Comiket which is reserved for commercial enterprises, the vast majority of the event is given over to individuals or groups (known as “circles”) who wish to display or distribute their own works. Anyone can register, pay a small administration fee (about 7500yen/60UKP/95USD), and get a table.

In practice it should be noted that as there are usually more applicants than available space, a lottery system is used to bring down the numbers to a level which fits. This is necessary because Comiket is a large event, and fills to capacity the Tokyo Big Sight convention centre at which it is held. Twice-yearly (August and January) over the course of the three days around 40,000 circles and up to 560,000 people attend. The catalogue which lists all of the participating groups is literally the size of a phone book – the introduction in recent years of searchable CD-ROM version is an absolute blessing!