Get Out of The TV! Persona 4’s Anti-Videogame Message

SPOILER WARNING!!! I am going to discuss Persona 4 in depth and I will spoil some of the events that occur at the midpoint of the game. If you haven't played the game or watched the endurance run I advise you do so, but perhaps don't read this post until you finish.

If you have been on Giantbomb for any length of time you have almost certainly been exposed to Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4. This game rocked the site in the original endurance run and it has been one of the most talked about games on the site since, and that is a true feat for, what was at the time, a relatively small JRPG. However, what I feel gets lost in all of the fanfare about the game’s great story and personality is that the game takes a fairly strong anti-videogame and anti-TV stance. The game’s story and mechanics actually rail against the types of escapist fantasies that it provides. Through the use of things like the TV world, social links, and even the basic character development system, Persona 4 clearly articulates an argument against the very media consumption which its audience is participating in while playing the game. It rejects the consumption of fiction and instead endorses social interaction as the guiding principal by which to live.

The TV World: where your dreams and nightmares come true

The gameplay of Persona 4 exists as a very interesting hybrid of dating simulation and strict turn-based rpg. Interestingly, the two gameplay elements exist in almost entirely separate realms within the game world. The dating simulation portion of the game exists outside of the Midnight Channel and the TV world, while the rpg portions exist entirely within the TV. In creating this dichotomy, the game establishes both a firm esthetic difference between the fantasy world of the TV and the real world of Inaba as well as a gameplay distinction between the two worlds. Through the game’s creature designs (such as the Hulk Hogan monster and the Voltron mechs), level designs (each level in the tv world is a manifestation of the hidden desires of both society at large as well as the individuals trapped in the TV), and direct exposition (the final boss explains that the TV world is a manifestation of what people want) it is clear that the TV world is intended to be a representation of the collective id and fantasy of society. The TV world is a place where society’s dreams and desires literally run amok. In contrast, the town of Inaba is a relatively realistic depiction of a small, rural, Japanese town where nothing particularly interesting happens. Inaba is the game’s version of the “real world,” where the realities of things like school, social commitments, and jobs must be honored and addressed. In setting up these two parallel worlds I believe that the developers of Persona 4 create a clear distinction between the “real world” and the “fantasy world” in which most modern human spend their time. Modern life is increasingly becoming a balancing act between the realities of work and social responsibilities and the fantastical indulgences which we enjoy, like going to the movies, watching tv, and going on the internet. Persona 4 shows us these two worlds and how they intermingle, and through its mechanics it asks us to choose the “real world” over the fantastical.

Social Links are the key to effiecient play

To support the Inaba-as-real-world and TV-as-fantasy-world dichotomy, the developers employed two almost completely separate gameplay systems in each world. The “real world” largely plays like a dating simulation: days are spent socializing with friends, family, and strangers to develop deeper relationships through conversation and general hanging-out. These bonds of friendship are represented by social links, which are a sort of friendship level that provides a one time experience boosts when fusing new personae as well as access to some of the most powerful personae in the game. In general, the higher one’s social link the greater the experience boost that new personae receive during persona fusion, one of the game’s two sources of new personae. Often a maxed social link can result in a newly fused persona learning every ability it can possibly learn all at once upon fusing; thus, “completing” the persona and readying it for a subsequent fusion. The alternative way to level up personae is to enter the TV world and grind in the traditional jrpg fashion: find monster, kill monster, get money, get exp, rinse repeat. Thus, the game allows a player who is diligent in maxing his/her social links to effectively skip large swaths of time in the TV, since the exp provided by a maxed social link is often equivalent to hours of battle. This means that in a pure real-time sense it is more efficient to focus on increasing your social links rather than grinding, as social links take relatively little time to participate in when compared to the battles. Persona 4 uses the min-maxing gameplay habits of its player-base (I would venture to guess that rpg players are some of the most frequent min-maxers in the world) to deliver its message: spend less time in the tv and more time in the “real world” and if you have to go in the tv be efficient about it.

On top of the exp benefits that all social links impart on the main character, some social links directly improve your ability to fight in the TV World. Social links with party members unlock various abilities for your party in the TV world such as their ultimate personae and some useful utility skills. Thus, to maximize all of your party members you must max out at least all of their social links. In providing this gameplay incentive, Persona 4 provides a valid gameplay reason to see some of the key character building moments that define the game’s main cast. Another key social link is the fox social link; the fox social link decreases the cost of the fox’s medicinal services in the tv world and the higher the fox link gets the greater the discounts. As a result, a high social link with the fox can lead to a player clearing an entire dungeon in one day of game time, since the fox’s healing is so cheap that there is literally no reason to leave until a dungeon is cleared. The fox’s social link is key if you want to absolutely maximize every day of game time in the all too short calendar of Persona 4.

The beginning of the Void Quest

To go along with the simple real-time min-maxing and character min-maxing, there is also the matter of maximizing the amount of activities you can perform in the game’s finite calendar. Almost every action that you perform in game consumes part or all of a day, and time is not infinite. Choosing to enter the TV on any day prevents socializing or any other character building activity, resulting in a daily decision on the part of the part of the player: am I going to spend today getting to know some people, or am I going to spend my time in the tv? On a new game it is especially important to use your time efficiently because you often find new social links that require high personality trait levels (courage, diligence, understanding, expression, and knowledge). Entering the tv prevents the player from increasing those character traits as well (except for a small courage boost that comes from defeating some optional bosses), which in effect limits the number of social links you can participate in. It is simply more efficient in a time-to-levels sense to spend as few days in the tv as possible, and instead max as many of your social links/ character traits as possible during the day. To further incentivize the player to only visit the tv once or twice per kidnapped person, the final few days leading up to a kidnapped character’s death are always rainy, which prevents most social link progress as few people are willing to hang out when it is raining. On top of taking away social links during the rain, the game also provides special item drops during rainy days, as well as discounts on items that are necessary for long tv runs. Therefore, Persona 4 uses strong min-maxing incentives to drive the player to only enter the tv world when there is almost literally nothing else to do. The message here is clear: indulge in tv and the various fantasies therein to your hearts content when there is nothing else to do, like on a rainy day. However, when the sun is out and there are people to meet and things to do then take full advantage of those opportunities. The social links should come first and the tv time should come when you have no other productive option.

The two forms of Mitsuo's shadow

Persona 4 makes its strongest argument against videogames specifically in the level Void Quest. This level is created by Mitsuo Kubo, an antisocial and depressed apparent videogame addict who murdered Mr.Morooka, the main character’s homeroom teacher, in a desperate plea for attention. Void Quest is visually and aurally styled after early 8-16bit rpgs a la Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest and it uses this aesthetic to comment on the emotional stunting that excessive videogame playing can allow. It is unclear whether Mitsuo was depressed or emotionally immature before he became obsessed with videogames or whether he became that way after he started playing; however, Void Quest makes it clear that Mitsuo had become so emotionally divorced from the world around him that he views the murders that occur during the game as a form of game. After most floors the game displays some of the thoughts that Mitsuo was thinking during the murders and they are phrased using things like stat bonuses and battle prompts, for example: “Thy Excitement increases by 4. They Emptiness increases by 1.” This section of the game is intended to show that Mitsuo viewed the murders as a game, but it also shows how game playing had warped his perception of the world around him to the point that he could view actions like murder as a form of game. Void Quest ends with one final metaphor, as the final boss of the level is also a sort of parable against over indulgence in videogames. Mitsuo’s shadow takes the form of a baby surrounded by an armor made of pixels that form a retro-looking knight. This shadow shows how Mitsuo is emotionally stunted; emotionally he is like baby: immature and self-centered. But, he treats videogames as a sort of cocoon to both protect himself from the real world around him and present a façade of power and confidence to the outside world. Videogames give him a false sense of confidence and importance that are not echoed in any way in the real world; thus, his shadow says things like, “I have nothing. I am nothing.” Mitsuo feels a sense of emptiness and worthlessness to his life; however, his attempts to solve his emptiness using games and murder (which he views to be a game) do not actually resolve his issues, they just cause him to further distance himself from the world around him, which worsens his sense of despair. Void Quest serves as an example of the very worst that game playing and fantasy indulgence can cause: an endless quest that takes you nowhere.

Persona 4 uses story elements and multiple gameplay systems to argue that game playing and other forms of media consumption should be limited in favor of more social interactions. Though there is seemingly a bit of hypocrisy in an 80 hour game arguing that players should drop their controllers, Persona 4 largely communicates its message thorough a language that only the most ardent of rpg aficionados can understand: min-maxing gameplay systems. The game conveys its message in a way that uniquely targets the audience who most needs to hear it; namely, the people who would spend hours min-maxing characters and trying to most efficiently utilize their time paying the game (myself included). If you don’t play Persona 4 multiple times or pay close attention to all of the ins and outs of its multiple gameplay systems, you might not see that the game is desperately telling you that going outside and meeting new people is a superior way to spend your time.

All quotes were found on: Lets Play archive

25 Comments
26 Comments
Edited by believer258

Just remember that Persona 3 had a lot of the same ideas and you don't jump into the TV in that game. Its final boss even comes about because of human despair, depression, etc.

But I didn't read your whole post so maybe you addressed this? It seems more like they were using a similar foundation for a second game and not at all trying to tell players that they should stop playing games and go outside.

EDIT: Also worth noting, I'm toward the end of the game on Hard, I've maxed only a few social links, none of them Fox's, and have had to do very little grinding. I never pay Fox, either. The key to getting through dungeons quickly is smart SP use, not grinding. Social Links are important but not really necessary if you're picky about skills and which personas you use.

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Posted by Wolfgame

@believer258: I see what you are saying, but even from an early development perspective they are tackling tough topics for Persona 5, if we take a look here in an early interview for the new game they are hoping it has a message and resonates with people who are "Bored or Discontent" with where they are in life. In regards to your edit I don't believe the OP is attempting to say there is a "right way" to play persona 4, he is saying that the developers atleast intended to give some commentary on gaming culture and how it can be a detriment depending on how the person uses it. This really boils down to the fundamental "games are art" argument that we have around here. Either you are in the subset of gamers who believe games can be poignant and have messages on these sorts of things, or chock them up to just being video games without any substance. I am not intending to step into that debate necessarily , it's a matter of opinion really, we all interpret video games, movies, books , music and any thing else we consume as entertainment with our own interpretations of what it means to us individually.

Posted by kalmia64

Whoa. That was a fantastic read. Thank you for putting that together!

Posted by Karmosin

I often fail to put things like this together, wether they be intentional or coincidences, so it's always interesting to read and find a different perspective and a way of thinking about fiction like this. I love this game, and it's pretty clear that it wants to tell you to don't live in a fantasy, don't take all you hear as truth, go out find the truth yourself. That the mechanics themselves had such meaning behind them however, I didn't expect. And wether it were their intention or not while making the game, you make a good argument why that could be the case. Good read. :)

Edited by believer258

@wolfgame said:

@believer258: I see what you are saying, but even from an early development perspective they are tackling tough topics for Persona 5, if we take a look here in an early interview for the new game they are hoping it has a message and resonates with people who are "Bored or Discontent" with where they are in life. In regards to your edit I don't believe the OP is attempting to say there is a "right way" to play persona 4, he is saying that the developers atleast intended to give some commentary on gaming culture and how it can be a detriment depending on how the person uses it. This really boils down to the fundamental "games are art" argument that we have around here. Either you are in the subset of gamers who believe games can be poignant and have messages on these sorts of things, or chock them up to just being video games without any substance. I am not intending to step into that debate necessarily , it's a matter of opinion really, we all interpret video games, movies, books , music and any thing else we consume as entertainment with our own interpretations of what it means to us individually.

That's true, but when you start digging for deeper and hidden meanings, you start to come across things that aren't actually there. If this is what the OP actually thinks Persona 4 is about, more power to him/her, but I seriously doubt that a company like Atlus, one that has been making games since the NES days, intended on telling people to not play any more video games, or to play fewer of them. And why the bloody hell does the game take forever to beat if the idea is that you shouldn't spend dozens of hours playing games and watching TV?. His argument is rather flawed, especially since some of the foundations for his argument were key mechanics in Persona 3, which doesn't have anything to do with televisions aside from Tanaka's coming on every Sunday.

As for the whole social linking thing, if that is what they were going for then they failed. Quite spectacularly, I might add. I like a lot of the characters in Persona 3 and 4, but I focus on the social links of the main party and the main reason I do it is to get the skills and bonuses. As for min-maxing, that's generally how I go about social linking in the first place. Pick someone, or a few people, and get those social links up. If anything, the theme of social linking fits more in line with the whole power-of-friendship thing that you see in some Shonen anime. That interpretation fits both games quite well and you can see it reflected in both game's endings (though, ironically enough, finishing more than the required social links doesn't change the endings all that much).

Is that just how I play the game? Kinda, yes, but if you're going to use mechanics to deliver a message, you should make sure that the players can't turn around and fuck that message completely up with the very mechanics you've implemented. Especially since social links with people other than your party members don't actually make you way more powerful like the game says they do. Picking personas with the right skills and checking their strengths and weaknesses makes dungeons easy without social links - this is why Black Frost is so damn useful long past the moment where he should have stopped being useful.

As a final note, Persona 4 goes through great pains to tell players exactly what it wants them to know - that seeking the right answer instead of stopping at the easy one is the right way to go about things and the main theme of the entire game.

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Posted by Wolfgame

@wolfgame said:

@believer258: I see what you are saying, but even from an early development perspective they are tackling tough topics for Persona 5, if we take a look here in an early interview for the new game they are hoping it has a message and resonates with people who are "Bored or Discontent" with where they are in life. In regards to your edit I don't believe the OP is attempting to say there is a "right way" to play persona 4, he is saying that the developers atleast intended to give some commentary on gaming culture and how it can be a detriment depending on how the person uses it. This really boils down to the fundamental "games are art" argument that we have around here. Either you are in the subset of gamers who believe games can be poignant and have messages on these sorts of things, or chock them up to just being video games without any substance. I am not intending to step into that debate necessarily , it's a matter of opinion really, we all interpret video games, movies, books , music and any thing else we consume as entertainment with our own interpretations of what it means to us individually.

That's true, but when you start digging for deeper and hidden meanings, you start to come across things that aren't actually there. If this is what the OP actually thinks Persona 4 is about, more power to him/her, but I seriously doubt that a company like Atlus, one that has been making games since the NES days, intended on telling people to not play any more video games, or to play fewer of them. And why the bloody hell does the game take forever to beat if the idea is that you shouldn't spend dozens of hours playing games and watching TV?. His argument is rather flawed, especially since some of the foundations for his argument were key mechanics in Persona 3, which doesn't have anything to do with televisions aside from Tanaka's coming on every Sunday.

As for the whole social linking thing, if that is what they were going for then they failed. Quite spectacularly, I might add. I like a lot of the characters in Persona 3 and 4, but I focus on the social links of the main party and the main reason I do it is to get the skills and bonuses. As for min-maxing, that's generally how I go about social linking in the first place. Pick someone, or a few people, and get those social links up. If anything, the theme of social linking fits more in line with the whole power-of-friendship thing that you see in some Shonen anime. That interpretation fits both games quite well and you can see it reflected in both game's endings (though, ironically enough, finishing more than the required social links doesn't change the endings all that much).

Is that just how I play the game? Kinda, yes, but if you're going to use mechanics to deliver a message, you should make sure that the players can't turn around and fuck that message completely up with the very mechanics you've implemented. Especially since social links with people other than your party members don't actually make you way more powerful like the game says they do. Picking personas with the right skills and checking their strengths and weaknesses makes dungeons easy without social links - this is why Black Frost is so damn useful long past the moment where he should have stopped being useful.

As a final note, Persona 4 goes through great pains to tell players exactly what it wants them to know - that seeking the right answer instead of stopping at the easy one is the right way to go about things and the main theme of the entire game.

I think I misunderstood your position on this, but if I understand you correctly you are saying that you agree Persona 4 does have a message, but you don't believe it is consistent with the OP's theory. That kind of circles back to my original point, we often have different interpretations of a story and I don't think there is anything wrong with sharing the varying degrees of how the story was relatable to each person. I will say that I respect your interpretation just as much as the OPs, I may agree with thatpinguino a bit more because the experience and outlook he happened to have with the game emulated my experience. That doesn't mean he is more right than you though, it just means we had different experiences relating to the story in Persona 4.

Edited by believer258

@wolfgame:

I think I misunderstood your position on this, but if I understand you correctly you are saying that you agree Persona 4 does have a message, but you don't believe it is consistent with the OP's theory.

Yes, and I believe that Persona 4 makes it abundantly clear what you should take away from the game. It says it outright numerous times. If the game were shorter, it would feel like it was beating you over the head with its message about seeking truth and all that.

we often have different interpretations of a story and I don't think there is anything wrong with sharing the varying degrees of how the story was relatable to each person.

That's fine, but once again, I believe that his argument for his interpretation is flawed and the logic he uses to make his argument doesn't really work.

Good on Pinguino for thinking about something, but make sure it fits and you're not just projecting your own ideas onto something.

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Posted by Aetheldod

An interesting theory nonethe less , but sometimes people are introverts , and no matter how much social pressure there is , they will not change. You bunch of extrovert opressors D:

Posted by Demoskinos

@believer258: But isnt that exactly what art is? An artist presents the art and while the artist may have had specific motivations while making it. In the end its the person viewing the art to in a sense complete the work by giving it their own meaning through his they interpret it.

Posted by Mcfart

Just remember that Persona 3 had a lot of the same ideas and you don't jump into the TV in that game. Its final boss even comes about because of human despair, depression, etc.

But I didn't read your whole post so maybe you addressed this? It seems more like they were using a similar foundation for a second game and not at all trying to tell players that they should stop playing games and go outside.

EDIT: Also worth noting, I'm toward the end of the game on Hard, I've maxed only a few social links, none of them Fox's, and have had to do very little grinding. I never pay Fox, either. The key to getting through dungeons quickly is smart SP use, not grinding. Social Links are important but not really necessary if you're picky about skills and which personas you use.

Also don't forget that Persona 3 had one social link....in a video game!

Posted by believer258

@believer258: But isnt that exactly what art is? An artist presents the art and while the artist may have had specific motivations while making it. In the end its the person viewing the art to in a sense complete the work by giving it their own meaning through his they interpret it.

No, I understand that. I'm not saying anything against that. I'm saying that this person's interpretation does not really work with the details in the game, especially since many of the features he uses to illustrate his argument were also in Persona 3, and that game had nothing to do with televisions.

He's got an idea, but his argument isn't holding up under scrutiny for me. You cannot simply slap any old interpretation on something just because a few surface details make it seem that way. "Interpreting" does not mean "finding things that aren't there".

But, again, if this is what you believe Persona 4 is trying to say, then fine. Don't let crotchety old me stop you.

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Edited by Wolfgame

@believer258: I don't quite understand how his opinion is debunked by saying that the exact same interpretation should have to account for Persona 3 which had a widely different story, it would be like invalidating an interpretation of the varying final fantasy games simply because they hold the title and are numbered differently, most commonly they stand alone. I think despite many similarities there are a whole slew of differences. I've already linked above the interview that they discuss one of the unique factors in the upcoming Persona 5 story, it sounds like aside from name and number it will be a Persona game featuring different story elements and evoking different emotions. It would seem with that in mind from the developer it would be unreasonable to set a standard where Persona 5 has to account entirely for Persona 4, just as I think it is faulty logic to imply that his interpretation of the game is completely null and void because it doesn't address the lingering questions you have about a completely different game in the series.

Edited by Mcfart

@believer258 said:

@demoskinos said:

@believer258: But isnt that exactly what art is? An artist presents the art and while the artist may have had specific motivations while making it. In the end its the person viewing the art to in a sense complete the work by giving it their own meaning through his they interpret it.

No, I understand that. I'm not saying anything against that. I'm saying that this person's interpretation does not really work with the details in the game, especially since many of the features he uses to illustrate his argument were also in Persona 3, and that game had nothing to do with televisions.

He's got an idea, but his argument isn't holding up under scrutiny for me. You cannot simply slap any old interpretation on something just because a few surface details make it seem that way. "Interpreting" does not mean "finding things that aren't there".

But, again, if this is what you believe Persona 4 is trying to say, then fine. Don't let crotchety old me stop you.

He went a bit too deep with his "interpretation" but P4 definitely emphasizes friendships (what JRPG doesn't?) and tackling problems head-on rather then pretending they don't exist or resorting to some means of escapism. The Shadows of the party members were the direct way for the game to bring out each character's issues that they wouldn't discuss otherwise.

However, it doesn't argue against TV or videogames. Quite the opposite actually, encouraging people to spend ~100 hours playing the game or watching the Endurance Run that they otherwise might spend being social or doing something important :P

Posted by believer258

@mcfart said:

@believer258 said:

@demoskinos said:

@believer258: But isnt that exactly what art is? An artist presents the art and while the artist may have had specific motivations while making it. In the end its the person viewing the art to in a sense complete the work by giving it their own meaning through his they interpret it.

No, I understand that. I'm not saying anything against that. I'm saying that this person's interpretation does not really work with the details in the game, especially since many of the features he uses to illustrate his argument were also in Persona 3, and that game had nothing to do with televisions.

He's got an idea, but his argument isn't holding up under scrutiny for me. You cannot simply slap any old interpretation on something just because a few surface details make it seem that way. "Interpreting" does not mean "finding things that aren't there".

But, again, if this is what you believe Persona 4 is trying to say, then fine. Don't let crotchety old me stop you.

He went a bit too deep with his "interpretation" but P4 definitely emphasizes friendships (what JRPG doesn't?) and tackling problems head-on rather then pretending they don't exist or resorting to some means of escapism. The Shadows of the party members were the direct way for the game to bring out each character's issues that they wouldn't discuss otherwise.

However, it doesn't argue against TV or videogames. Quite the opposite actually, encouraging people to spend ~100 hours playing the game or watching the Endurance Run that they otherwise might spend being social or doing something important :P

And the last bit is what I also disagreed with. Sorry, I guess I should have been a little clearer.

@wolfgame said:

@believer258: I don't quite understand how his opinion is debunked by saying that the exact same interpretation should have to account for Persona 3 which had a widely different story, it would be like invalidating an interpretation of the varying final fantasy games simply because they hold the title and are numbered differently, most commonly they stand alone. I think despite many similarities there are a whole slew of differences. I've already linked above the interview that they discuss one of the unique factors in the upcoming Persona 5 story, it sounds like aside from name and number it will be a Persona game featuring different story elements and evoking different emotions. It would seem with that in mind from the developer it would be unreasonable to set a standard where Persona 5 has to account entirely for Persona 4, just as I think it is faulty logic to imply that his interpretation of the game is completely null and void because it doesn't address the lingering questions you have about a completely different game in the series.

Because the exact same mechanics he uses to illustrate his point were also in Persona 3. Yes, the two have different stories, but the social link mechanics were very, very similar and P3 had nothing to do with TV's or spending too much time in front of them. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that Persona 4 exists because most of its framework was already in Persona 3 - they just had to color in different details. Social links weren't created to make some statement about spending too much time in front of the TV and going outside. They were created in Persona 3 so you could have something to do outside of the dungeon, not to tell you that you that TV and video games are bad.

If you're going to argue that the social linking mechanic itself has some sort of message, then that message has to work for both games since they're the exact same thing. In neither case is there a meaningful difference between the two (or how they are executed, in case you were going to tell me that P4 used them differently), except that teammate social links in Persona 4 gives new abilities and a new persona to the character in question. That only makes people more likely to min-max them, which is in itself a point against the OP. Their purpose is, quite clearly, to promote the age-old JRPG "power-of-friendship" message. Notably, that's another theme that both games emphasize even in the story.

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Edited by thatpinguino

@mcfart: I think that the game can make an argument against spending huge amounts of time playing games while being a substantial game itself. It does make allowances for binging on tv/ games on rainy days. I think that a work of art can critique its own form; it leaves room for people to claim that it is hypocritical, and I don't entirely disagree, but to claim that a long game isn't critiquing long games because it is itself long without considering the content is a bit too simple.

@believer258: First off I am glad you read my post and I am glad to hear an alternative reading of the game. However, just because the social link system was present in Persona 3 does not mean that it has to have the same interpretive weight in both games. First of all the nature of the dungeons in each game are very different, although both contain shadows the TV world is modeled after Japanese tv programs and it is specifically recalling elements of modern fiction like the tv camera segments and the audience reactions. Tatarus from Persona 3 has a completely different aesthetic and as such a different interpretation. Though the social link system is present in both games, smaller parts of that system that I analyze from P4 are not present in P3. For example, in P3 entering Tartarus occurs at night and does not prevent the player from socializing during the day; thus, social linking vs dungeoning is not an either or proposition in that game- you can do both in a given day, and you often do. In P4 every day is a choice to do one or the other. In P4 the developers give you prime days to go into the tv: rainy days. In P3 almost every day is a valid day to go into the tv, with no one day being more optimal. Also the dungeons in P4 are much shorter than the dungeons in P3 and P4 does not have a fatigue system. This means that beating an entire dungeon in one or two days of game time is possible in P4, while virtually impossible in P3. Thus, maximizing your rainy days or your non-social days is not a concern or really an option in P3. Simply put, although the backbone system in each game is the same, various tweaks around that skeleton have made them quite different in my opinion.

@wolfgame: I'm glad you enjoyed the blog, it is something I have been thinking about for a while and I finally got the time to write it all down.

Posted by drbobbint

@thatpinguino: Thread needs to be renamed. "Get out of the TV! My Anti-video game interpretation of Persona 4" While you're at it, rephrase some of your sentences and it should work out ok. What you've done is like the AVGN saying (jokingly) that Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde on the NES is a statement about the duality of man and the id and ego, and victorian repression etc. You can say it, but its only your point of view no matter how much launguage you dress it up in.

That aside, i'm not saying it isn't a valid intepretation, because those are personal and unique to us that result from our experience and mood at the time etc. Interesting thoughts though.

Posted by thatpinguino

@drbobbint: Then in your estimation should every editorial/ analytic essay be prefaced with "This is the opinion of the writer"? I mean it is not like I am stating pure opinion out of thin air, I provided my evidence and I made arguments around it, to say that it is my point of view is redundant: every piece of writing a person produces is from their point of view.

Edited by Slag

Interesting piece @thatpinguino. I'm inclined to think the developers probably didn't quite have that intended message since that would be contrary to their own long-term financial self interests, but I see how you came that conclusion. My guess is they didn't intend for that deep of a message in general.

It'd be interesting to read what the devs have to say about it.

All I remember from past interviews I've read is that they created Chie before anything else and wanted to create a more optimistic upbeat game after making P3 (which is why they picked Yellow as the color for P4).

Edited by thatpinguino

@slag: I think that Persona 4 definitely has a ton to say about the intermingling of rumors and fiction in the daily life of modern people. I mean the threat at the end of the game is that the TV world engulfs the real world. I doubt that the developers intended the game to have as strong an anti-game message as I feel there is, but for interpretive purposes their intent doesn't really matter. Once you put out a work it is up to the audience to make sense of it. For example, I think Persona 4 introduces the idea that Kanji and Naoto are gay and transgender respectively; however, the game then explains their potential queerness by making Naoto's gender identity a matter of professional identity (she is genetically female, but wants to work as a detective which is a male dominated profession). They then explain Kanji's potentially homosexual feelings as being centered around having a crush on the seemingly male Naoto and around his love of arts and crafts. Now the game introduces these queer topic and then explains them away; however, Carolyn Petit at Gamespot found the explanations and resolutions of these characters clear gender identity questions to be too neat and ultimately felt they rang false. Now it sure seems like the developers of Persona 4 intended for Kanji and Naoto to be straight with a moment of doubt, but the characters they created were more complex than that and thus opened the door for other readings.

Edited by hermes

It sure is an interesting read, but I don't think the TV world and its nature is really an analogy of media consumption. More like the TV was a gateway to this alternative dimension, as much as dreaming was in 3.

Now, if you want to tell me your read is that "going outside and meeting new people is a superior way to spend your time" that inside a TV, I can't say I disagree too much with that message.

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Edited by thatpinguino

@hermes: I think that part of the tv world's meaning is definitely a metaphor for media consumption, between the variety show intros for each character's dungeon, the studio audience reactions that you hear in the tv world, and the clearly pop culture inspired shadow designs (mecha and Hulk Hogan being the most obvious). I think the TV world also represents what people desire in general (the final boss says as much). That the game expresses those desires in the form of tv is significant for me: I believe that choice allows the game to turn its alternate world into an explanation for what TV does in our society, it shows us what we want to see.

Posted by thatpinguino

@believer258: But isnt that exactly what art is? An artist presents the art and while the artist may have had specific motivations while making it. In the end its the person viewing the art to in a sense complete the work by giving it their own meaning through his they interpret it.

I feel like someone should make this comment at the beginning of every critical essay, it would cut through so many of the structural complaints and get to the actual arguments. Thanks for that!

Edited by Sergio

All I know is that Nanako watches a lot of TV. Nanako is adorable and nothing she could do is bad. Thus TV isn't bad. Persona 4 isn't anti-TV, but pro-Nanako.

Edited by Wolfgame

@sergio: yes but in the early Yu story in Persona 4 Arena I believe the introduction of his story says that "Nanako was practically being raised by the tv." not a big spoiler, it is from the very start of his story mode, but worth mentioning because I think it puts what you have brought up into context to offer up atleast one interpretation of nanakos tv watching in Persona 4.

Posted by thatpinguino

@sergio: @wolfgame: I completely forgot about Nanako's TV watching in P4. Every time you come home she is sitting in front of the TV, save for when you take her along for adventures with the investigation team.