Do Western Developers Take Gaming Too Seriously?
Much has been made of the Japanese vs. Western debate in this industry; the gap appears to be widening from both a financial and stylistic viewpoint.
Although many Japanese developers continue to attempt to emulate Western design in order to appeal to Western tastes, some Eastern game makers seem to be maintaining something special: a tongue-in-cheek sort of humor. Now, while Insomniac does Ratchet & Clank and other developers do all sorts of games that cater to a younger demographic, I'm speaking of something different. I'm speaking of a singular attitude and style that seems unique to Japanese products.
It's an absolute focus on the fact that gaming is supposed to be fun. As amazing as so many Western-developed titles are, it's clear they take everything seriously. Even the one-liners and humor in a franchise like Uncharted is more reminiscent of a Hollywood blockbuster than a video game. See, there was a time when video games often poked fun at themselves; even when they were trying for an older audience, there was always this smirk; this wink; this wry little grin that cemented the experience. Take Shadows of the Damned, for instance, or Bayonetta, or Vanquish, or the upcoming Lollipop Chainsaw.
They all have a little something that differentiates the games from their Western counterparts. It's obvious with Bayonetta and more subtle in Vanquish, but it's there. Of course, this isn't a sweeping generalization; when Japanese developers want to go full-on serious, they do; examples would include Metal Gear Solid, Gran Turismo, and Resident Evil. And I'm not saying Japanese developers are doing more of this tongue-in-cheek stuff; I'm just saying we're seeing a marked decline in "poking fun at ourselves" in the all-too-serious Western trends.
It's just an observation and this doesn't involve overall quality. It's merely a design element that I sorta miss...and I often have to turn to Japanese games to find it.
8/1/2011 9:08:38 PM Ben Dutka