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WTF is Wrong with You, Japan?

View Nelson Schneider's Profile

By Nelson Schneider - 08/07/11 at 06:16 PM CT

Dear Japan,

We’ve been friends for a long time. Ever since we met back in the 1980s, I was impressed by your quirky sense of humor and ability to come up with strange ideas that ultimately ended up being very entertaining. Sure, you were weird, but your weirdness was what made you unique.

But now, things have changed. I should have suspected it all along, but we were having such good times that I just went along with it and didn’t say anything. Now it seems obvious to me that something was wrong the entire time we’ve known each other, and you’ve been walking closer and closer to the precipice as the years have passed.

Japan, you have a problem, and this is an intervention.

I know you’ve had it rough lately with the economy. We all have. But the fact that your youth population is shrinking and what few youth you do have are straying down the paths of NEET, Hikikomori, Otaku, and Herbivores doesn’t mean you should embrace those negative aspects of your personality. You need to keep your head above water and give those wayward youth something to aspire to. Don’t aggrandize their negative situation to make them feel better about it; instead create entertainment that allows escape into alternative scenarios where their ‘Samurai Spirit’ is alive and well.

You see, Japan, when you create media products aimed at your increasingly-bizarre youth pop-culture, you end up with products that can ONLY be sold to these unbalanced souls. Moe, idols, and questionable dating-sims: Is this really what you want? What happened to all the steampunk, giant robots, and space operas?

Just take a look at these old videos, Japan, then take a look at yourself in the mirror. Here’s one from 1996, the height of the ‘Golden Age,’ and another from the long-tail of the late 1990s. Now, here’s one from today. You’re no longer the culture I once knew.

Of course, the first step in dealing with a problem such as yours, Japan, is admitting you have one. The situation looks promising from this perspective, as many of your game developers have come forward to lament your fall from grace. Unfortunately, most of them don’t know WTF they are talking about.

Capcom thinks a game about zombies in a mall is ‘too Japanese.’ Capcom also thinks they need to study non-Japanese in order to learn how to appeal to them. Even more insane, Capcom thinks non-Japanese gamers are more ‘curious’ and willing to experiment with different types of gameplay, despite the fact that almost every popular/successful Western game is an online-centric shooter.

While Capcom may have the lion’s share of ass-talking about the Japanese gaming market, it’s not a complete monopoly. Sony thinks that out-of-control Western development budgets are necessary. Meanwhile, Square Enix thinks that making gamers wait for real games will result in sales growth as these poor customers buy up whatever long-awaited crap Square Enix manages to squeeze out of its constipated bowel.

Thankfully, someone called-out these companies for the navel-gazing, hand-sitting, flakes they are. Sadly, other voices of reason are rare, as companies like to fall back on the excuses of marketing and graphics whoring to explain why no one wants to buy their games.

Japan, your personality has split. One side continually makes desperate attempts at aping the West with its invariable fixation on dark, gritty realism. The other side dribbles out bat-guano crazy ideas like “Noby Noby Boy” and “Catherine” that blow past ‘quirky’ and lodge firmly in ‘alienating.’ That central space where your insanity and pragmatism met has all but evaporated.

But the solution for all your woes, Japan, is simple: Cast your eyes not toward the West for inspiration, but to the Past. Look back to the time before your videogames were overloaded by the burden of your pop-culture. It was a time before whiny, androgynous heroes. It was a time when characters didn’t dress like their closet exploded with them in it. It was a time before every overused cliché and trope from manga and anime was laboriously rehashed in an interactive format. It was a time before mind-altering substances were required to understand and/or enjoy a game’s premise. It appears that Nintendo is beginning to understand this. Others need to follow suit.

So please, Japan, clean up your act. I’m staging this intervention because I care about you and your games. I don’t want to see you die just because you happened to get mixed-up with the wrong crowd. Whenever you’re ready to start making good games again, I’ll still be here to buy them. Just don’t forget to translate them into English first.


Melted Joystick
c/o The United States of America

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View Chris's Profile


Wrote on08/11/11 at 08:09 PM CT

I'm not watching that video again. Once was (more than) enough. I have a feeling things aren't going to change any time soon, at least I'm not holding my breath on it, we'll see what this next generation brings us.

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