On Jim Sterling:
I understand that he needs to put a video out regularly and as such he needs to find material for each video, but it seems like he's picking and interpreting the facts to fit his narrative rather than extrapolating and coming to logical conclusions by examining said facts.
Let's take the Batman video, for instance. The thing one has to keep in mind is that Japan, like the U.S., have a very limited view of overseas culture. The only thing the normal Japanese citizen knows about American culture is what they see in movies and media. So if a large company, say Square Enix, wants their product to do well in the states, they look at the media trends and direction. One doesn't have to think too hard, then, to find that their pattern recognition is going to latch on to the obvious cues: overly detailed transforming robots
, overplayed stories about time travel and duality
, pretentious love stories that dramatize and romanticize illnesses or other undesirable traits
, easily accessible games that we can pick up and play and put down at a whim
, etc. They have a decent idea about the difference in American design sensibilities
as compared to those of Japan
. They know that there is a niche for the latter, but that is not where mass market appeal lies.
Note that none of these are bad
so much as they are a one-dimensional distillation of what they think we like. If we were to go with Sterling's postulate (that more detail = worse design) then the 1960s Batman would be the perfect Batman design - not that there's anything wrong with the 60s Batman, I just don't think anyone misses the costume. You see the same thing in American culture: look at Teen Titans Go, it has everything people seem to love about anime: overly cutesy characters that have giant googly eyes, slice of life events that make almost no sense even in context, wild character personalities that clash with each other on a very basic level, the works - and it will still have its fans because it is going where the market trends are. Square Enix only failed badly on their games in the Western front because they tried to do a deep, cerebral RPG that had the same accessibility as a FPS, which can't be done, or at least is very hard to pull off. By comparison, almost none of America's market trends have even a dint from traditional JRPGs like Tales or Bravely Default, so it'd be natural for the thought of releasing these games stateside to give their respective publishers pause - they think of them as investments, first and foremost.
His relationship video also does this - it just seems like contrived pandering. If he's saying that video games only represent an overly simplified version of real life - well, yeah, that's the point. Saying that it distorts real life expectations is much like if I made the argument that, because of progression systems in RPGs and games with RPG-like systems, people think that training and becoming more healthy and fit is a very simple affair, and not something that requires time, effort, and work. If one were to play a game that required constant gym time over the span of a year in order to get marginally stronger, then one would be better off going to the gym himself and training his actual body rather than watching a video game character do it on a screen. By the same token, if Sterling wants games to portray relationships as they are in real life - with all the minutia and subtle cues intact - then the player of that game might as well go and try to find an actual relationship (for the record, two games I recall that do this - The Darkness and GTA: San Andreas - were boring as hell during those little sections where you do those little everyday activities with your significant other; they were good for character building, but that doesn't make them any less boring).
The fact that he chose a game series like Mass Effect, that has one of the BETTER portrayal of relationships - both between friends and partners - in the game industry, shows that he either didn't do the research or didn't think it through - he just had an ax to grind, or wanted to get page views from the sensitive individuals. In Mass Effect 2, jumping directly into a sexual relationship with someone was portrayed quite glaringly obviously as the WRONG thing to do, and you closed off that character's development and prevented her from coming to terms with her trauma if you did so. In Mass Effect 3, you could have sex with Cortez or be his good friend - either way you could help him come to terms with his late husband's death, and I enjoyed being able to help him in a way that didn't end in me boning him out of depression. Sterling also does not take into account current technological limitations that prevent relationships - both friendly and romantic - from being strictly linear affairs for both men AND women when portrayed in a game, so his attempts to portray the entire affair as some form of sexism or misogyny feels extremely off-base.
tldr - Jim Sterling uses the information he has to forward his opinion rather than coming to a logical conclusion from said information, and that's poor form. He thinks that his ideas are unique and he is a maverick, when in reality his ideas are stupid and he is an asshole.