/On Japanese role-playing games

“Yes, games are power fantasies. But more than that, they show us the way things are supposed to be…”

“What?” She puts down the controller and, for the first time in the conversation, listens.

“I mean, deep down they function how we want the real world to function, right? There’s a set of rules and, if I follow them and do the right things in the right order, success is kind of guaranteed. That’s true of all videogames, but in JRPGs there’s the story too. They have a set trajectory that leads me out of the bastard confusion of adolescence towards an endgame of maturity and identity and, er, status I guess. And all you need to do to experience that is follow the breadcrumb trail and keep turning the cogs…

“Because, while the battles may be random, the war’s outcome is always predestined,” I continue. “You’re predestined to succeed. Just so long as you keep going. And jeez, that may be escapism or a gross oversimplification of the reality we live in, but isn’t that sense of… of justice the yearning of every human being? Are not JRPGs maps of perfect worlds where everything behaves how you expect it to.

“Because, when your life turns to shit and people let you down, or when you study hard but still flunk your exams regardless, or when you work your ass off and your boss doesn’t notice. . . .  Or, or even if he does but is too preoccupied with his own quests to congratulate you. . . . I mean, that’s sort of a broken system. It certainly feels that way. That’s just not how things should be. JRPGs counter all that disappointment and unfairness with dependable justice. They reward you for your efforts with empirical, unflinching fairness. Work hard and you level up. Take the path that’s opened to you and persevere with it and you can save the world. You can fix the things that break…

“Simon…”

“No, wait. They give you that power, sure. But more than that, they give you consistency. This world, and the people in it, do not. JRPGs are, well, er, I guess they’re sort of like heaven in that regard. Except with, like, improbably large swords and nuclear-grade hair gel.”

Simon Parkin, “Maps”

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One response to “/On Japanese role-playing games

  1. I may have accidentally stumbled on this article from your Twitter, but damn am I glad I did. Thanks a lot for reposting!

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