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What The Hell Is Wrong With Japanese Games?

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pillow 6th June 2008, 04:33 Quote
although, japan is in the "east" relative to europe, it i west of us in america. However if you are tryin to say that japan is not a westernized country, i would say that would be an ignorant remark to say about one of the worlds most technologically advanced societies
HourBeforeDawn 6th June 2008, 04:38 Quote
ya like the above poster stated, Japan is a "westernized" country lol it has been for decades, its just they managed to also keep their core values intact, anyhow I personally like Japanese games and I hate GTA, well 1 and 2 was good but all that came after it is just wanna be thug garbage. You would also have to live in Japan to really understand the bases behind most of its game genre, its easy to judge something from a distances but to really know what its about you have to live at its core. Anyhow I dont feel like ranting so I will just let others do it and read what they have to say =p
Kysi 6th June 2008, 05:50 Quote
being a long time resident of japan, i think you guys are missing it when it comes to westernization. if japan wasnt westernized, the kimonos and yukatas would still be the prevalent clothing type. westernized applies more to appearance and things like that. japan is in the east. it is west of america but it is in the eastern portion of the world.
im going to take a pretty confident stab and say that the author uses the word western to refer to the geographic location instead of in the sense of westernized or not.
Cthippo 6th June 2008, 07:25 Quote
Moving beyond semantics, I think you're on to something Joe, but you really need to do more than a column to even scratch the surface.

Look at the player character and how that is a reflection on who the player wants to be. In western games you usually play as the lone hero, taking on the whole world by yourself. This is reflectine of the individualistic nature of western, or American anyway, culture.

In contrast, I've noticed that in Japaneese games you tend to not be alone, whether it be in a party in FF or with your Pokemon.

Russian games (which we were discussing a few days ago) tend to have the western loner figure, but an underlying theme of difficulty, misery and facing overwhelming adversity, something which seems prevelant in Russian culture.

There is a LOT more to discuss on this topic, but I have to get up in the morning
CardJoe 6th June 2008, 08:02 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by pillow
although, japan is in the "east" relative to europe, it i west of us in america. However if you are tryin to say that japan is not a westernized country, i would say that would be an ignorant remark to say about one of the worlds most technologically advanced societies

Mainly I was speaking geographically in that regard. Though to a degree I was speaking cultrually as well in order to point out that there are still major cultural differences, customs and sub-cultures, I'm certainly not under the impression that you seem to think I am. Japan is definitely one of, if not the most technological countries. It's also very beautiful and with a rich cultural history. I certainly didn't mean to imply that it was backwards in any way or that it's true to the stereotypes of Samurai and Ninjas or anything.

When I say East I either mean that, relative to the UK, Japan is in the far east, or I'm trying to point out that there are sill perceived to be large cultural differences on fundamental levels of the games design industry and geek sub-cultures.

As for there being more to say on topic, there certainly is. I don't want to do another essay on this topic again though just yet, though I have read several studies into Russian games and stories in particular and the strangely limited archetypes present there in.

If you're looking to read some more in to that topic though then Joseph Campbell's The Hero With A Thousand Faces is an excellent place to start: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hero_with_a_Thousand_Faces
DougEdey 6th June 2008, 08:18 Quote
Japan has some f*ed up ideas when it comes to games, and it scares me massively for that reason,
Joeymac 6th June 2008, 09:40 Quote
Look at Japanese TV compared to western TV, if gaming had that same cultural gap we wouldn't play Japanese games. But we do, so I'm thinking that there's not as much of a 'gaming taste' difference as their could be.
Plus, why just look at JRPG's? GTA4 might be big this year, but so will MGS... Then there's the Wii, arguably the biggest mass-market gaming phenomenon yet and it couldn't be more Japanese if it tried.
Veles 6th June 2008, 09:59 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by pillow
although, japan is in the "east" relative to europe, it i west of us in america. However if you are tryin to say that japan is not a westernized country, i would say that would be an ignorant remark to say about one of the worlds most technologically advanced societies

Westernised =/= developed/civilised (well technically it does but I always found the definition rather retarded). They are not a western country, culturally or geographically, they have a very different culture. Just because they have become a highly developed nation in the last century (this applies to other developed eastern nations) doesn't make them a western culture.

There is still quite a cultural gap in terms of gaming, yeah we might buy some of their games and they might buy a few of theirs, but that's a minority of people. Myself and most people I know can't stand JRPGs (well, I kind of like them, but random encounters, save point systems and overly drawn out games are just infuriating and it puts me off playing them a lot) but like western RPGs, none of us like grind fest MMOs but stereotypically, Koreans love them. However we like FPSes but not many Japanese like those types of games.
StephenK 6th June 2008, 10:24 Quote
Interesting article. I think it would be really interesting to explore this further, looking at entertainment as a whole. The differences between the cinema and literature of various cultures might shed more light on how each culture consumes it's entertainment and thus how it designs its games. Think I'm gonna go do some research....
Kris 6th June 2008, 10:29 Quote
I must say, your columns are really really great ^^ Heck, it's a reason why i signed up for the forum in the first place - even though i've been a reader of Bit-tech for quite some time now.

On the topic though. You are right in the article, although where is the fundamental difference that makes the games so different while being quite alike at the same time is a question to which it is hard to find an answer to.

I think my first encounter with japanese rpg-s was phantasy star 4 a loong time ago on the mega drive. It was absolutely brilliant, and hard at the same time. If I recall, there weren't any 'western' equivalents of decent rpg-s at the time, except Zelda and I never really liked it for whatever reason i can't recall.
And the first time I really played a western rpg was Baldur's Gate - a brilliant game, that's for sure - was a number of years later. Now though, when I look back at those both experiences, they both hold a special place in my heart, that can't quite be filled.

So those two games kind of fixed the idea of a japanese and western rpg. Really different games, while being pretty similar too in their openness and character development. It's like under all the coating, it doesn't matter where the game is made, underneath it all it's just a matter of the final look - are there oversized swords with teenagers or soloists who are not so outright 'good', yet get the job done of being the hero.

Dunno if i made sense :)
-logical-Chimp 6th June 2008, 10:48 Quote
I admit that i hadn't thought about it beyond the obvious US-Japan stylistic differences.

However, to pick up on the 'sword the size of a schoolbus' point: Having read a lot of manga / watched a lot of Anime, it appears that they have a strong preference for over-exageration to make things apparent, or the use of stylised 'icons' to indicate emotion. This might also explain the amount of Anime on Japanese TV (compared to cartoons in US/UK) and they fact they are used for more serious/adult topics - instead of relying on actors trying to portray emotion, they can just animate it in, with greater or lesser exageration for emphasis.

This approach appears to then be carried over to the games.

*brainstorm* in a way, it is a bit like the exageration used by Spitting Image - enlarge the attributes you want to draw attention to, make it over-the-top - carricature and all that. In 'Western' culture carricature tends to focus on the face, whereas in Japan it focuses a bit more on the equipment/clothing...

Sorry the slightly unfocused posting - considering this whilst keeping up in a training course :D
Gunsmith 6th June 2008, 11:23 Quote
everyone has thier own style of doing things. The motto here is "when in rome..."
Flibblebot 6th June 2008, 11:45 Quote
I think it's all down to storytelling and the traditions of storytelling in Europe and Japan.

In Europe, we do have the element of exaggeration in stories but they're only really present in children's stories. When we get older, we are told that such things are "childish" and from adolescence onwards, we are told that books must be serious. Even Western fantasy books tend to focus less on the fantastical and more on the serious issues.

In Japan, this tradition of adult stories having to be serious doesn't exist - just look at the prevalence of adult comics in the form of manga. In the West, comics tend to be frowned upon as being only for children; in Japan, comics for adults are prevalent and considered an art form in their own right.
Bauul 6th June 2008, 11:55 Quote
You've definately a point. I think that unlike films or books, which are an extremely developed medium, because games are relatively new they're still forming their own identity. For example, both Western and Japanese films have a rich history behind them, so they can compare and contrast and build on past films to move the medium forwards. Modern Japanese films arn't all samurai stories and modern Western films arn't all dashing romances and wild west shoot outs, because those kinds of films have already been made, decades ago. So, modern films makers can build on these old fashioned story telling methods and deviate from it.

Games, however, have no rich history in comparison, game developers can't really look back in time and build on what came before to advance the themes and ideas in their films. As such, they're still basing their ideas, on both sides of the pacific, on the cultural influence of their societies. So Western games are all about lone heros shooting people, where as Japanese games are all about classic stories of honourable quests with big swords. This is a generalisation definately, but I imagine that when the medium properly starts to mature in maybe 30 or 40 years time, game developers will look back at the games of today and see all the stereotypical stories, settings and styles in much the same way we look back at 1930s films and think the same.
Paradigm Shifter 6th June 2008, 11:58 Quote
Quote:
...and ten seconds later he's standing in the open, talking on the phone as enemies only a few feet away continually avoid hitting him.

Somehow, if that scene were in a western game I think it would go down differently - I suspect a western hero would change his sword for a gun and spend most of his time rolling from cover to cover.
So you've missed just about every over-the-top action film ever, then? ;) The one where Arnie (or Stallone, whoever...) charges in with one gun and perhaps 30 rounds against an absolute army of supposedly 'the best' mercenaries/evil-general's-subordinates and have all of them fire fully automatic weapons at him while said protagonist stands there in the open and takes them all down with a film version of God Mode + Infinite Ammo... :)

Personally, I'll take the "not-compensating-for-something-honest" enormous sword better than I will the guns. Always been way more interested in classical history more than modern and guns don't tend to feature a lot in pre-gunpowder history. Unsurprisingly. Also, the enormous-sword-syndrome isn't only in Japan - ever seen a Claymore? They ain't exactly small... but hey, they're a different style of blade, so... :)
kenco_uk 6th June 2008, 11:58 Quote
The way the language is 'written' in the Far East is an absolute mystery to the native majority occupying the rest of the world. I think because it comes over as nearly an art form, it follows through in games exported from the region (your case in point, Joe, of using icons to express emotions).

I think it's great that each region of the world has a different way of doing things, although sometimes we are surprised when something doesn't quite fit into the pigeonhole.
CardJoe 6th June 2008, 12:13 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paradigm Shifter
Quote:
...and ten seconds later he's standing in the open, talking on the phone as enemies only a few feet away continually avoid hitting him.

Somehow, if that scene were in a western game I think it would go down differently - I suspect a western hero would change his sword for a gun and spend most of his time rolling from cover to cover.
So you've missed just about every over-the-top action film ever, then? ;) The one where Arnie (or Stallone, whoever...) charges in with one gun and perhaps 30 rounds against an absolute army of supposedly 'the best' mercenaries/evil-general's-subordinates and have all of them fire fully automatic weapons at him while said protagonist stands there in the open and takes them all down with a film version of God Mode + Infinite Ammo... :)

Personally, I'll take the "not-compensating-for-something-honest" enormous sword better than I will the guns. Always been way more interested in classical history more than modern and guns don't tend to feature a lot in pre-gunpowder history. Unsurprisingly. Also, the enormous-sword-syndrome isn't only in Japan - ever seen a Claymore? They ain't exactly small... but hey, they're a different style of blade, so... :)

You're confusing the issue. There's a difference between games and films for starters. More importantly though there's a crucial difference in the way that the weapons are presented.

A Claymore is a big, scottish two-handed broadsword. It's big. However, in most games where you see them the focus isn't hugely on the weapon itself as an item of power and the weapon itself isn't hyped to mythic proportions.

Point in case, take a look at William Wallace in Braveheart and compare him to Sephiroth in FFVII. The claymore is a big sword, but a realistic one. Sephiroth's sword is patently unrealisitic.

Looking back at Arnie films, there's a crucial difference there too. The suspension of disbelief in 'western' films is something we always try to maintain, whereas in Japanese films it's less of an issue.

In Star Wars, the Stormtroopers had crap aim and liked to shoot the walls a lot - but you never caught Han Solo stopping in plain sight of them to make a phone call without even flinching as the lasers whizzed by. Even when he had to go into the open then he was still ducking, diving, grimacing and wincing. In Japanese films, that's less common - they'd more likely charge through unafraid, skillfully dodging the blasts.
Kúsař 6th June 2008, 12:14 Quote
I think that the biggest difference is in imagination/creativity - imagination of many Japanese developers is flying sky high, while imagination of "western" developers is now (almost) buried in the ground - they are trying to be too much real.
Some years ago I used to build my own levels for Doom, Quake, Duke and I really admired work of level designers of these times. Just take a look back at 90's - games like Heretic, Hexen, Thief etc.... - level & game design of these games is work of imagination and creativity. Noone asked why this structure is here, why there's lava pool inside house or why there is water running upwards. These games would be on scale somewhere between Japanese & "western" developers now. When games like Half-life and especially it's mod Counterstrike appeared they were trying to be as much real as possible, and people liked it, because it was something new. But this was beginning of the end of creative era for many "western" developers. While level-design of many modern games was masterfully handled(F.E.A.R, Quake4) they never presented me with atmosphere of the old games. Attempting to copy reality prevents it. How many modern AAA games revived the feeling of the old games?
I think this is the biggest difference between "western" and Japanese games.
CardJoe 6th June 2008, 12:27 Quote
FEAR did not have good level design. That's a fact. :p
Bungle 6th June 2008, 12:29 Quote
Film wise I think the best cross genre piece of work which bridges East and west nicely was The matrix. There's alot of eastern influence throughout the film but it's done in a way that it's believeable.
Maybe the presence of a very real and old cultural developement (Martial arts) in the modern world helps the Japanese to suspend their disbelief. Certainly shows in the films where you have masters moving with supernatural speed and elegance.
Paradigm Shifter 6th June 2008, 12:35 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by CardJoe
You're confusing the issue. There's a difference between games and films for starters. More importantly though there's a crucial difference in the way that the weapons are presented.

A Claymore is a big, scottish two-handed broadsword. It's big. However, in most games where you see them the focus isn't hugely on the weapon itself as an item of power and the weapon itself isn't hyped to mythic proportions.

Point in case, take a look at William Wallace in Braveheart and compare him to Sephiroth in FFVII. The claymore is a big sword, but a realistic one. Sephiroth's sword is patently unrealisitic.
Now you're confusing the issue by comparing games and films, when you just told me that I was...?:?

Zanbatou. Very big sword used for cutting down horsemen. That's a real sword too - while it's not got the blade length of Sephiroth's sword, it's still really big. Although anyone who wants to stand in the way of a charging horse... be my guest. :)

Cultural thing again... Westerners can obviously take the idea of someone lugging two guns so big they need to be tripod mounted around without issue, but can't grasp the idea of big choppy swords.:D
Jipa 6th June 2008, 12:36 Quote
I've come to conclusion that living in an island drives people mad. That goes particulary well with Japanese, but also to some extent also works with Britons.. The thing with Japs is that they lived for so long in isolation from the western world and their culture hasn't mixed with other.

My myself, I'm a true J-stuff hater and just can't see any reason why I would be interested in either Japanese gamer or anime/manga in any way. I just don't see anything but similarily drawn characters all over the place.

Maybe I'm culturally limited.
liratheal 6th June 2008, 12:36 Quote
There are only two things that I get confused about when it comes to Japanese games, one is the hentai stuff.

How is it that one country has managed to spawn the majority of that genre of games (At least, more that're heard of/known about)?

The other is the characters. Why is it a large portion of them are emotionally crippled narcissistic goons with a strange ability to attract everything under the sun?
CardJoe 6th June 2008, 12:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paradigm Shifter
Now you're confusing the issue by comparing games and films, when you just told me that I was...?:?

Hypocritical tangents - I go there!

Paradigm Shifter 6th June 2008, 12:39 Quote
:D

I know what direction you're coming from, and for the most part I agree with everything you said in your article. I'm just playing Devil's Advocate.
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