Pretty, Simple, and Fast-Paced
July 19, 2004

A little quicker with the update this time, despite a near-fatal harddrive crash that threatened to make me a sad birdy. Fortunately disaster was averted thanks to low, but not-insignificant sums of money on my part. The result? An editorials update featuring an answer to last month's question! Phillip Moffett explores what Japan would need to do to make videogames more appealing to a greater segment of the American population.

Feel free to write in regarding this topic, as it's rather large, but if you need another subject to explore, try this month's question: With MMORPGs such as Final Fantasy XI a rousing success, what can we expect (or at least, what do you hope) to see as the next level in Multiplayer gaming?

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Pretty, Simple, and Fast-Paced

"What could Japanese companies do in order to please and attract more American gamers?"

This is the question I saw when I moused-over "The Phantom's Future"

Well, it seems to me Japan is already attempting to do this. I am a fan of the earlier days of console RPGs and games in general, and I have a seen a significant change in the direction a game is presented, and it seems more American every year.

What do I mean? Well, for starters I am seeing a continuing trend of characters in RPGs and several games turning on the sex appeal, and it gets worse every year. Every year the women in games lose more and more clothing, and now it seems the men are following suit. Final Fantasy is a good example, if this keeps up we'll be seeing characters with little more than a patch over characters’ crotches, and two three inch triangles of latex covering a woman's breasts.

It's getting out of hand. This strikes me as something distinctly American, because speaking as an American, I have this sex appeal thrust into my face everyday on television; it was only a matter of time before it migrated to video games. What works in popular entertainment tends to work in games.

But as for what they can do get more of us to play/enjoy games? Well my viewpoints on this subject seem to agree more with bygone themes and characters in RPGs. Characters such as Chrono and Sephiroth seemed to strike more of a chord with me than, say Tidus or Vann in FF12 (on appearances alone, mind you.) And I like slow, deep-thinking games that require large investments of time, and which give you that satisfied feeling when you complete them. Difficulty is also something I enjoy and something I have noticed is very lacking in most releases these days.

Speaking on behalf of some my friends, however, I see a recurring theme: They like things that are pretty (attractive), non-cerebral (simple) and fast (instant gratification). This also seems to be where a large portion of the American gaming demographic sits. This actually sort of sounds like the American mentality in general, doesn't it? If the Japanese market wants to cut in on some of the action of, say, the big Sports game developers and Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto series, then they should adhere to the formula presented: Pretty, Simple and Fast-Paced.

In essence, many of the Japanese games being released over here are slow, thought provoking games. These games give you a long-lasting, satisfied feeling and build up throughout the progress of the game, similar to a good book.

The games my friends enjoy are quick from beginning to end and rarely seem to leave a lasting impression beyond an initial, "Wow, this is awesome,” and a “Wow, that was awesome," at the end.

I mean, come on, how long does blowing up a car or killing some random bystander stick with you? But ending a worldwide apocalypse story, involving mentally complex characters within a rich fictional world will stick with you for a while.

My friends prefer the latter, though, and that seems to be what most of my fellow countrymen prefer. I think Breakdown was a step in the right direction of attracting more American gamers into the market; the Xbox in general is doing that. But it seems that many of the people playing the Xbox just aren't interested in Japanese releases, thus the reason they own an Xbox and not a PS2 or Gamecube. Link (An elf-like boy with a Sword) and Tidus (A whiney blond guy with a sword) just don't seem to attract that sort of crowd.

- Phillip Moffett


Mr. Moffett brings up a subject which advertisers call “marketing” and many educated people call “pandering.” America is definitely a country with a mainstream culture that requires three things: big, better, and now. Japan’s culture isn’t too different in this respect, except that they like things small, better, and now. Still, pandering to the collective American ego as a solution to building more of an interest in videogames is definitely a sad one; in fact, it’s probably that attitude that caused video games to be labeled as trash in the first place. Let’s look towards making video games an established and respected art form, along the lines of the cinema and hope that we can raise ourselves out of the quagmire of stereotypes.


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