What’s the point of this blog?

When I play a JRPG, I would like to have graphics that suffice for playing the game and help the story.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m looking for cutting edge graphics, but I would definitely favor a game with flavorful competent art over one that is bland or annoying to play.  A good example for a negative version of said art would be something like Hoshi wo Miru Hito (Stargazers / Those Who Seek the Stars) which has problems ranging from incredibly busy tiles to aesthetically questionable character sprites.

I also play a JRPG for the story.  Like any translated text, that doesn’t mean that the story is well written or that every cultural touchstone is localized.  It does mean that I am interested in a nebulous combination of graphics, music, and gameplay that attempts to convey a story.  The amount of text in a game or the cinematic sequences mean about as much to me as the cover and back of a book when it comes to analyzing the story.  If I described some of my favorite scenes in a game, it would be a mix of what I had to do to trigger it, what the game did during it, and how the mix worked.

While I said I look at game play to see how it helps a story, but mostly I’m looking at game systems from a practicality standpoint.  I would prefer competent game play over evocative flavorful game play.  I like turn based games.  Why?  Because a bad turn based game is easier to play than a bad real time game.  I like games where you can grind to ridiculous power levels.  Why?  Because that means I control the difficulty curve.  I enjoy games that don’t waste my time.  Some games favor ridiculous fetch quests, mini games, or ridiculous amounts of enemies to add to the length of the game.  A lot of times it feels like busy work.  As for the presence of random battles, or the exact amount of graphical glitz on said random battles, it’s irrelevant if the game is competently done and they don’t hurt immersion into the game.

Looking at my criteria, it’s pretty obvious that I find older JRPGs pretty tolerable.  Since graphics are mostly irrelevant, I don’t care that they’re graphically less powerful than the most recent computer.  Since the story is seen as a whole, I don’t care about the translation or the amount of text in favor of the amalgam of text and media.  Since competent gameplay is favored, I don’t care if the game is new and novel so long as what it does is done sufficiently well.

If anything, you could say that I’m not that picky.  I’d play a mediocre game, if it had one shining light of interest, or a bad game to see if it had something good in it.  I’ve played more modern games and loved the smoothly polished controls and graphics.  I’ve played ancient games and enjoyed the early fumbling attempts at unique game play.  So why is it so hard for writers to provide RPG commentary that’s of interest to me?

There’s homophobia, sexism, and transphobia in 99% of forums when people discuss JRPGs.  Incompetent children call an androgynous character “girly” or “gay.”  They say a man looking like that could never do anything brave.  Professional reviewers joke that they can’t tell if a character is a man or a woman and that it’s awful.  Any male character showing emotion or homosocial bonding gets comments about wanting to punch them, or that they must be straight, or that they’re gay and disgusting.  People make fun of women possibly liking those “girly” characters.

People like that have nothing of value to contribute to discussion.

Frequently when you do have someone who avoids that kind of insults, you have someone who likes game play, graphics, and novelty.  They’d be the sort of person who’d say a poorly done interesting game is better than a more conventional competent one.  Sometimes, they say that stories mean nothing and the only thing that matters is how the game plays.  Sometimes, they say a perfectly good game is just too “ugly” to play, irregardless of how the game plays or the story.  Sometimes they say they love JRPGs, but what they really love is big budget games, for about two hours.

In my mind, there should and ought to be another voice out there.  Someone who doesn’t aim for revolting jokes and someone who tries to see the value in something other than the gilding on the packaging.  Someone who plays older games with more commentary than the fact that they’re not new.  Someone who’s willing to try to talk about story or dialogue, even if it’s seemingly translated by a rather poor automatic translator.  That’s where I’m coming from.  I’m not an obsessive scholar.  I’m not an expert in anything.  I just want someone else to learn something cool.

  1. yukie’s avatar

    There’s not as much stupidity about androgynous guys in Japan because of the different aesthetic (though you do still get ridiculous jokes – JP fandom has its dork contingent too). Close same-sex friendships aren’t so much seen as a huge threat to traditional values or whatever the touchy-wuss doofii are claiming this time. Masculine and feminine seem to depend more on what someone does than how they look – and even THEN, I can’t say for sure. Hence you get protagonists like Kenshin, who’s not only androgynous but has a female seiyuu (who played guys’ roles in takarazuka – Japan has a big history of crossdressing in theatre). You get characters like Alucard in SotN, who is extremely beautiful but there’s no question that he’s a guy. Even BEFORE he says anything, it’s kind of apparent, and people who claim otherwise are being disingenuous.

    Seriously, touchy wusses – if fourchannel is busting you down as an imbecile for going HURR IS DAT A GUY OR A GURL, you’re a nimrod.

    it’s not like beautiful men are underrepresented in Western art either. Look at prince Valiant (whom I’m sure the original design for Simon Belmont was based on – he has the same haircut). Look at Pre-Raphaelite and Reniassiance and romantic art. I’m not sure where this cult of super duper roidrage machismo being the only true masculinity came from – I remember GI Joe and I remember He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, and while those guys had muscles to be sure they weren’t neckless anatomically-impossible bricks. Seriously. Not even a pro bodybuilder is that rectangular, please get real.

    I can’t blame Dragonball for MOAR MUSCLES. Toriyama’s people have very CUTE faces. Seriously, half of DBZ’s adult Goku’s face is taken up by his eyes. He’s an innocent, goofballish kind of character and he’s drawn cute to reflect such. Toriyama takes a lot after the great Tezuka. And while Toriyama’s got some hyperstylized muscles going on, they’re within the context of the art. Geometric, yes, but so’s everything. His characters push the envelope of ‘oh come on dude’ but are still plausible. I can’t say the same for the Joe Madureira wannabe business I see an awful lot nowadays. Warcraft gets away with it for the same reason Toriyama did. It’s cartoonish more than realistic. Plausible, but firmly in the realm of stylization. Obviously not upheld as a possible ideal. We hope.

    I know there’s a lot of business about Western ideals of beauty influencing other countries and that’s a whole ‘nother can of sardines, so I’ll trail off of that and go ‘shut up, Eurocentric kids’. A game designed and produced in Japan is obviously going to be pitched to JP audiences first and foremost, and expecting otherwise just shows off privilege like it was a pair of dirty undies run up a flagpole.

    This comment got directionless. Sorry. :s

  2. Rav’s avatar

    I think there’s a sort of backlash to anime fandom in some of the “hurr art bad” stuff. Ar Tonelico, for example, is blatantly playing with and catering to the pervy anime fan. (The playing with said fan is clever. Alas, the pandering is awkward enough that I can’t look past it.)

    Of course, there’s also a bit of ugh at the idea that women may find something sexually attractive that isn’t Joe Generic guy. People worry so much about what other people enjoy.

    Still, the kind of people who’re young and stupid enough to be going “animu sucks” are also stupid enough to complain about androgyny. It’s funny that there’s less complaining about the blatant ageism in JRPGS – the cliche 13 year old wonder saving the world stuff.

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