It’s no surprise that the crew at Varms loves older games… especially since we put out a podcast about classic games. I have been hammering out game time on just about every home console that has been around since the mid 80’s; among them are the latest in gaming hardware, including a Xbox 360, a PS3, and a pretty decent gaming PC. While everyone out there is going gaga for the latest and greatest FPS games and checking into rehab for Call of Duty: Black Ops addiction, I spent my free time playing Hyper Dimension Neptunia and Ar Tonelico Qoga- oddball niche titles no one really gives a crap about. Having beaten the both of them, I began to crave more JRPG gaming. I found myself buying a copy of the first Ar Tonelico game and popped it into my PS2, since I never played it and figured it would be a fun diversion after completing the newest title in the series. I became hooked, and lost 9 hours of my Sunday destroying anyone that stood in my way with the power of Reyvateil song magic.
I then realized that over all the years this current console generation has been around, there really hasn’t been much of anything for the fan of niche RPG’s to play with. Sure games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age are fun, but sometimes I just want to jump into a quirky, colorful, and charming JRPG… and these opportunities are few and far between on this console generation. I can understand that niche titles are called that for a reason- they are meant for a narrow audience. The problem I seem to have with this console generation is that even though companies still hammer out shovel-ware, I still can’t get my JRPG fix on the regular like I have on every other console generation. I decided this would be a great time to take a look at how the game industry and gamers themselves have changed the modern gaming world into one that is unfriendly to niche gamers.
It’s All About The Money
Newer games have fancy graphics and physics engines that give them that shiny new look. Unfortunately, this is only made possible with fancy new computers, software, and tons of time and effort… and all of that requires piles of money. These simple fact forces developers to be at the mercy of greedy CEO’s that would rather sell blockbusters than invest in something that is expected to sell to a small audience. Video games became a huge industry in recent years, so this mentality is pretty much standard for the industry. A Japanese RPG contains tons of content and costs a fortune to make on newer hardware, so they have to fit into the realm of “everyone will like this and play it”, versus something made for a fan of the genre. This is how we ended up with the latest Final Fantasy game being 50% RPG tutorial for dummies and 50% actual RPG.
People Are Obsessed With War
Okay, just to clear things up, most RPG’s are about war and fighting, at least on some level. What I’m talking about here is people’s obsession with real war, and the urge to bring it into their living rooms. American game companies dominate the industry these days, and all of the big sellers out there are about war. It seems every damn game I pick up now involves me wandering around bombed out battlefields and post apocalyptic wastelands, shooting up the locals in the name of freedom and justice. Don’t get me wrong, I like darker stories, but I also like going on a journey through a world that isn’t just a mess of blown up buildings. Even worse, there is only so much to say about the motivations behind conventional warfare- so you usually wind up with a shallow storyline that sums up to a bunch of one-liner grunts fighting an enemy that won’t give up for some reason. This goes even further downhill when you look at a game like Call of Duty: Black Ops, where the single player experience is a mess of bad AI and throwaway plot for the sake of focusing on the multiplayer experience that people buy the game for.
I actually feel people give games like this far too much credit than they deserve. Black Ops is nothing more than a shallow rip-off of Modern Warfare 2. The campaign is nothing more than mess of half-assed and rushed development, and the multiplayer is Modern Warfare 2 with some tweaks, maps, and name-changes. This game may print money, but it doesn’t deserve to. I love the COD games, but I have to admit that the franchise is getting past its prime, even more now that Activision screwed over the original developers out of sheer greed. I’m not saying everyone needs to become a super crazed JRPG nut that looms around wondering if a game has a female protagonist that is a Tsundere, but let’s face it… war… war never changes.
Haters Gonna Hate
In an era where more and more companies are taking to the internet to figure out what people want to buy, I am starting to take concern with the fact that website blogs and social networking have been getting more and more attention from game developers and publishers. Yes, I am aware that I am writing this article for a website blog and that I would love for you all to tell your friends on Facebook and Twitter how much you like wasting your time reading and listening to our crap… but there is one force on the internet that looms in the darkness, waiting to ruin everyone’s good times: Trolls. Trolls are lurking on every website, waiting to get a rise out of anyone with an opinion about something. The problem being, what happens if someone starts to take these douche bags seriously?
It turns out that in some ways, this actually may be a problem. Retailers and game publishers have experimented with tracking visitors on game review websites and seeing what kind of “buzz” the game is generating. The internet is full of foul-mouthed jerks that love bashing on the geekier breeds of gamers, and perhaps the most poorly treated segment of gamers are those that like JRPGs. The internet is rife with a culture that labels fans of anime and Japanese games as lonely freaks that have betrayed American culture. Even one of my favorite video comedy/review sites on the web, Zero Punctuation, is just full of hate for JRPGs. Even television has carried on the trend of attacking this segment of the geek population- you can’t watch X-Play on G4TV without knowing that host Adam Sessler HATES anything remotely Japanese. Now, while it’s fine for someone to have an opinion and express it in public, what is the point of having someone that hate’s JRPGs review them? Obviously they won’t like the games, and obviously they will bash the hell out of it and pick on the people that do like those games. All this does for the gamer community and the internet at large is feed the trolls.
With all these seeds of hate planted on the blogs of the world, I can’t help but feel that all this bad press is giving some publishers the wrong idea about whether or not they should take the risk of trying to sell niche titles anymore. Some have even attacked reviewers themselves for even reviewing a niche title. Here is a comment off of Destructoid.com, from a blogger that is angry with a writer for doing a review of Ar Tonelico Qoga, and giving the game a decent score:
Yeah, the end reAlly is near for dtoid if it doesent get rid of hack writers like this turd-eating retard reviewer. He also writes for japanator, this site’s otaku pimple. Seriously, all you weeaboos should quit chugging the soy sauce and realize that games like thus and most if what japan craps out these days are the cancer killing the industry. All they can sell now are rape simulators and kiddy pron fodder for fat losers who never see anyone naked besides their mom.
Seriously japan, the best you can come up with us a third-rate gears clone like vanquish? Fade away already, or take a hint from the giant wave and wash your industry clean.
Fun Fact: I left the horrible spelling and grammar intact for everyone at home to enjoy!
Okay “xxbarbicanxx”, we get that you can find it in your heart to hate foreign culture and make wild speculations about how they live, but damn man, can’t you at least realize that maybe some people play Japanese games because they are sick to death of testosterone-fueled grunts shooting up blown apart cities? Deal with it. Way to keep it classy with the poorly-timed tsunami joke, I do a classic video game podcast that sometimes degrades into conversation about people helping dogs masturbate and somehow have more tact. Also, anyone who uses the term “weeaboo” should be shot. It’s for the benefit of all mankind, trust me.
Sure no one with a real brain can take a troll seriously, but most marketing dummies out there don’t always have real brains. I hate to say it, but giving haters a voice may very well be making a small contribution to keeping most of my modern gaming experiences locked to a set of crosshairs and ammo counts on the screen. All I know for sure is that I’m sick of having to dust off older generation consoles and my Nintendo DS just to scratch my JRPG itch, and I just want to give kudos to companies like NIS America, Aksys Games, and Atlus for at least trying to give me some niche goodness I can pop in my PS3 and Xbox 360.