Posts Tagged ‘western games’

West-washing the world’s games

October 21, 2016


“I can’t remember the last time I played a Japanese game,” my friend Mike said to me.

Our tastes are largely different. He plays primarily open-world games, racers, and first person shooters, pillar genres of “western” game design. It’s true that I tend more toward Japanese games, and occasionally games that are garishly and loudly Japanese. So his statement should have been unsurprising. We just have different tastes. But it was when he said it that surprised me.

I asked him what game we’d been playing.

“Mario Kart. Ah, yeah. Yeah. I didn’t really think about it, huh? I meant really Japanese games, you know?”

In Mike’s defense, Mario is difficult to pin down as Japanese. He’s an Italian plumber, after all, and basically the Mickey Mouse of videogames. He’s so famous that he can’t be said to belong to one culture at all–he’s globally recognized, and every tuned-in culture likely has “their” version of Mario, the same as they have “their” Mickey Mouse or McDonalds.

But it’s been weird, seeing this trend from Japan’s complete dominance of console gaming to a sort of coup by western game developers. In large part I suppose that’s due to the Xbox brand: gamers can play a largely western catalogue of games on an American-made console. It’s also due to the lopsided categorization: Assassin’s Creed, Battlefield, Forza; these are all considered “our” games, despite being from three different countries. Meanwhile, Japan is just Japan.

Many gamers seem content to let Japan just be dead. After all, where are all the Japanese role-playing games? We have The Witcher (Poland), Elder Scrolls (US), and Dragon Age (Canada). This despite the massive number of Japanese role-playing games that get released on 3DS and Vita to critical acclaim. Well, those are handhelds, they don’t really count. Small in size, they’re assumed to be small in scope.

I suspect that much of the American gaming public is holding their breath for Final Fantasy 15. SquareEnix have been in and out of gamers’ graces for a while. Can the Japanese prove they’ve still got it? The massive success of Dark Souls and Bloodborne should prove that they have, in fact, got it. Nevermind that both series are wrapped in the bleak cloak of western fantasy; us westerners wouldn’t accept anything less.

If Final Fantasy 15 flops, will American gamers write off Japanese role-playing games entirely? That’d be a very sad thing, with Persona 5 just over the horizon.


Let’s talk about Japan

December 20, 2013


Why the decline of Japanese games development is an overstated myth

To hear people talk, you’d think that the Japanese don’t make games anymore. There’s a growing cynicism and sense of schadenfreude concerning Japan’s development scene as the medium diversifies into new markets and developers spring up all over the world. Japan has lost their stranglehold over the international market, and they seem to be losing the market entirely.

Tell me if you’ve heard these: Japanese games suck, they’re behind the times, irrelevant, stagnant. Players and journalists lament that Japan can’t return to its former glory, settling instead for endless rehashes and pathetic imitations of their Western peers. Japanese developers humbly admit their games are lacking, promising to mimic Western design so they might save themselves from obsolescence.

Western games are just better. They’re larger in scope, more cinematic, more relevant, more real. Western publishers are willing to invest more money, allowing developers to create expansive worlds rich in player agency and choice. On the other spectrum, a growing indie scene is crafting more creative games than even Japan’s most original teams, and doing so on a far smaller budget. There’s nothing left for Japan to do except stop making games entirely.

There’s only one problem: That’s all a bunch of garbage.