There’s an excellent article in the latest Edge magazine by RedEye, a supposed industry hack who generally rants about shit I don’t care about but hit home this month. I’d like to present to you a few quotes if I may. He starts out referring to a girl he used to like because of her sexy accent. She was foreign and therefore more appealing. I think we all know how that works.
“Snobbery is innate in those who believe they have the smarts. We are all attracted to things that are rare, different, because appreciating those things makes us elieve we are connoisseurs. We may not even be aware we are doing it, but we do it all the time. This is why people who think they know a lot about music like band X that no one’s heard of, why film buffs name Swedish epics as their favourites. And it is present, naturally, in videogames.
“But it also manifests itself as racism. Generalising, of course, so perhaps you’re different because you’re perfect, but hardcore gamers love Japan. They consider it their homeland, dream of being on first-name terms with shop owners in Akihabara, of high-fiving the teddy boys in Shinhuku park, of local noodle bars and overpriced alcohol, of tiny Japanese girls treating them like David Beckham. Of being an accepted gaijin; it is utopia, and it is the home of the best videogame makers in the world.”
He interjects at this point with a story about a website at a press conference, but it’s a boring story so I won’t repeat it. Then he talks a bit about otaku:
“Otaku isn’t a good term, you know. It means unhealthy obsession. [...] It’s not glam, different, interesting. It’s dirty, pathetic, lonely.”
He says a Japanese company can make a sexual game for an otaku audience and we don’t care, where a western company would be hung out to dry. Referring to the Japanese, “But we let Japan get away with it, because, hey they’re a different culture, and it’s all a bit of fun, and they’re exotic and exciting and we are head over heels in love with them.
“RedEye doesn’t believe that the Japanese are really any better at making videogames than the west – just that they happen to have made some of the best, and that mediocre games of theirs appear exotic and interesting to us and that makes them more than mediocre. Take scripting as an elemental example. Videogames with terrible dialogue are damned over here, but we forgive Japanese stuff because, hey, it’s lost in the translation, and the bad grammar and bad spelling’s just part and parcel of the experience, and it’s crazy and we can laugh at it. Only it’s probably not lost in the translation; it’s just bad writing, translated badly, and we’re idiotic, patronising fools.
“A land of invention? Christ, EA has nothing on the seuquential habits of the Japanese: Capcom, Taito, beloved Nintendo, Enix, all companies who thrive on squeezing franchises to within an inch of their commercial lives. And Square, Square is the worst. Kingdom Hearts, whatever its merits as a game, was nothing more than a cynical attempt at hitting the Japanese market dead on, old Final Fantasy characters and Disney all wrapped up in a (typically absurd) plot which makes nonsense out of any of the series’ previous lighthearted attempts at coherence.
“RedEye’s been reading a lot of ill-educated comment recently about western design, and most of it seems to be rooted in cultural snobbery. Sudeki uses Japanese aesthetics and gets damned for it. They’re bland, apparently, although RedEye can’t help but think that if they’d come from Sega they’d be labelled sumptuous by the same people, people furiously masturbating over ‘Famitsu’ as they anxiously await their copy of DoAX. And there are other examples – Rare moved from eastern hands to the west, revealed a new manga Joanna Dark and got criticism from bitter Nintendo kids for ruining their heroine. Silly, ghost-white otaku desperate to prove just how genuine they are.
“If this is hardcore, then fuck the hardcore, or let them fuck themselves.”