Published on May 3rd, 2013 | by Michaela Buckley0
The demonisation of Japanese games
Why are Japanese games, particularly RPGs subjected to such vitriolic hatred?
I recently came across a particularly upsetting video which attempted to state that people shouldn’t buy Final Fantasy XIII from Square Enix because Deus Ex is better. Anyone who does is basically a terrible human being.
I was horrified by the attack of fans and illogical defence of the company.
First and foremost, why should ANY gamer be penalised for liking a game?
I am happy to say that I think that the Final Fantasy side of Square died, leaving a dry ashy husk in the JRPG market. But I think that to specifically name Final Fantasy as the root of all evil interactive is hardly the answer, especially when the fans never enable anything that Squenix do that could be considered exploitative or damaging to the videogame industry. Those being the only reason I could think to dislike a fan.
When the Final Fantasy: All The Bravest IOS game was released, FF fans all over the interwebs decried the ploy as the money-making scheme that it was.
Final Fantasy XIII sold a lot of copies, but that wasn’t through any ILLICIT means. There was enough of a fanbase after the release to warrant not one, but TWO sequels. You or I might not have liked it, but it pleased a lot of people.
To be honest I think it goes a lot deeper, this opinion is just another part of a larger picture that includes the systemic exclusion of gamers who enjoy Japanese games.
Not too dissimilar from the console wars that I have talked of before, except that this seems to be something that I haven’t heard talked about quite as much in internet communities. But it’s something I know a few people around me have talked about and agreed with.
There is a large rivalry between Japanese games and Western games, understandably as the industry was created by the west and pioneered by the east.
The games from the respective corners reflect different values and needs of their demographics.
However, this doesn’t make much difference in the mainstream gaming media (by which I mean western, as I live in the UK and read English speaking websites) to just write off the value of Japanese games and their respective fans. Strangely I’ve found that Kotaku are wont to anti-Japanese criticism in some of their reviews but not editorials.
The most obvious and prevalent of the criticisms is the expression that “Japanese games need to be more Western”.
No. They don’t.
Japanese games cater perfectly to their market, especially in their home country. They sell. They don’t (often) harm anyone. So why change?
To meet western expectations? To better suit a western audience?
I can understand this to a certain extent.
The Ace Attorney series had many references that your average westerner would not understand culturally. So there were many changes made to make it more suitable. This I find acceptable. Even as someone with interest in other cultures it still would have been lost on me as we just don’t have the same reference points, context or content (such as Tokusastsu shows) over here.
I think it’s completely wrong however to just assume that all Japanese games need westernisation as there is already a fanbase (although rather small) here. I would even understand if they thought that some changes would vastly increase the appeal, as a larger return would encourage more to be localised, even if they’re altered. Japanese games, especially RPGs have already embraced western elements and incorporated them into their games, but sometimes these can isolate both of the demographics when not implemented properly. Other times it can be incredible, like Dark Souls.
It’s so easy to pick on certain things and the nonchalant attitude that seems to be synonymous with the gaming experience often means that minorities are easily excluded.
I know many people who have been ashamed to bring up that their favourite game is Final Fantasy VII or other famous JRPGs as they know that in all likelihood, they will be ridiculed for it and they often opt to say “less Japanese” titles to avoid it.
I know that Final Fantasy VII, particularly in its heyday, sported some particularly rabid fans that made a thorough job of putting people off the game and the series, but it’s been over 15 years! You can’t let fans influence your enjoyment of game, it’s not only ignorant, but damning for yourself.
Some of the complaints I hear about Japanese games are that the characters are silly and pathetic or that they lack innovation. “I don’t want to play as an angsty teen with big hair” etc.
Nobody’s asking you to. There’s still Final Fantasy VI, the Dragon Quest series, Skies of Arcadia, Shin Megami Tensei and Persona series around, offering a Japanese experience without the above.
Not like when I play games with those types of characters in, it stops me from playing and enjoying a good game. But it’s not simply the dismissal of the games that is annoying, it’s the dismissal of fans and their opinions after the slightest display of the “weakness” that is liking a JRPG.
Scarce innovation is one of the major complaints for JRPGs and even Japanese developers (Atsushi Inaba & Keiji Inafune) lament the staleness of the market lately, but sometimes a formula just works. Mario & Zelda have been making minor alterations to the same formula for a while now and have had much success, so why can’t this be accepted with other kinds of games?
I love my Japanese and western games so I don’t understand why we can’t just enjoy both, along with all the pitfalls and pleasures of each, just because something is different or you don’t like it, doesn’t make it automatically bad.
I don’t play sports games but you wouldn’t find me wandering into a Fifa forum demanding more swords and magic. Even though that sounds like it would make a fantastic game.
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