By r2khimself 40 Comments
Last night, I was trying to get my brother, who is 17 years old, to play Chrono Trigger. He was hesitant and really didn't seem interested. I explained to him that it was one of the first games that actually made me fall in love with video games. Then I asked him to spend one hour playing the game. If he didn't like it after that, he could stop and I wouldn't ever ask him to play it again. He half-heartedly agreed and started a new game. It wasn't but 10 minutes later when he turned around and looked at me and said, "I'm sorry, but I really just don't want to play this game." In all reality, I wasn't surprised in the least bit.
You see, my brother's first game that he played on a consistent basis was Modern Warfare 2. He had played other games, mostly sports titles and the occasional platformer. But MW2 was the first game he really loved. I was dissapointed that he wouldn't even give the game an hour of his time because I know that if he had, he wouldn't want to put the game down. Chrono Trigger is still that engaging, even today. But I think the problem lies with the average Western game developer and what US gamers expect from their games now.
As I was going through some of my old Google Reader articles this morning, I came across an article on Kotaku from earlier this year. The article, written by Brian Ashcraft (Kotaku's Japanese editor) talked about the rise and fall of the Japanese RPG in the United States and a Nintendo round-table discussion with Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, Xenoblade designer Tetsuya Takahashi, and famed creator of the Final Fantasy series, Hironobu Sakaguchi. They discussed how foreign films are often successful elsewhere in the world, mainly due to the fact that there are elements of film that most people on planet earth can relate to. On the other hand, JRPG's have traditionally been made for the domestic, Japanese market. It wasn't uncommon for a Japanese game to become a big thing here in the States, but it wasn't always expected.
RPG's are a staple of Japanese gaming. Everyone that knows something about the gaming industry knows that for a fact. However, here in the US, RPG's are not our "go to" game, first-person shooters are. FPS's saturate the western marketplace. Looking at my brother's game library, he owns 9 Xbox 360 titles. Of those 9, 6 are FPS games. 66% of my brother's library. And he has a relatively small collection.
And most FPS titles have the same type of fast, frenetic gameplay. You get in, get out, and get your entertainment in 7 to 12 minute increments. Most of the stories in the games are quite forgettable. Even Halo, a series I've really had a lot of fun playing since it's first iteration, is lacking in the content department. Sure, the games look pretty and they are fun to play, but what kind of content are we getting? Most of the time, it's shit. No character development or proper story-telling. It's just here are few characters, go run and do this, here's some plot-twist that doesn't really fit the story at all, and then BAM! an explosion. I have no problem with FPS titles, though. For example, I love the Battlefield series. It's fun and different every time I play a game. However, many people still favor the arcade style of Call of Duty over the the realism of Battlefield because COD gives you 8 minutes of action-packed gameplay. It's like watching a Michael Bay movie every time you start a game. Whereas Battlefield has loads of realism and quality gameplay, but it's not as frinetic.
It's hard for me to believe that the average gamer in the States wouldn't love a game like Chrono Trigger. It has all the elements of a great video game: good story, good characters, good music, good gameplay. It's hard to beat a game like that. Yet, my brother will never experience it's greatness. And that actually makes me kind of sad.
It gives me hope when I see companies like Atlus and Irrational Games put so much emphasis on creating an amazing story and stellar gameplay and then working to combine those two elements. It could be that the rise in popularity of the casual games market has introduced another element in to how developers create their games. I just hope it doesn't become the future.