Persona is my life now.

It’s an understatement to say Persona is just a game. It’s not even just experience. For the hundred hours you play, Persona feels like another life. It feels like your…

…persona…(sorry)

This could be us but I'm playin'

This could be us but I’m playin’

The Persona series is an incredibly success spin-off from Atlus’s Shin Megami Tensei series. These games have been going for so long and have so much lore that I can’t begin to tackle it. However, Persona 4 Golden is one of the most accessible and arguably the most popular in the SMT universe, spawing several of its own spin-offs. You play a high-schooler who’s moved to a new high school and also has to solve a murder mystery just because. The gameplay resembles a traditional JRPG, but the social link feature is what makes Persona so unique.

To gain additional powers in battles, you have to hang out with your friends. That includes going to school with them, choosing who to hang out with after school and even dating some of the female residence. In fact, the game is a lot more hanging out with friends and solving their problems than actual gameplay. And there’s a lot of game. I finished my play-through after 85 hours and I still didn’t do everything there is. I could keep going but I’ve got some autoethnographic analysis to do.

580meatdimension

I’ve never felt the same playing another game. I’ve felt happy, sad, angry, pretty much every emotion playing a game before. But somehow, Persona makes you feel like you are forming genuine relationships with these characters. They all bear their souls to you and you’re responsible for their happiness, so you genuinely feel for a character when they’re going through a rough time (every character is always going through a rough time).

After trying to analyse why this might be, I think the reason might be considered a weakness by some. The main character is You (his name is literally Yu or whatever else you choose). He is a silent protagonist that doesn’t say anything except for the choices you make. He has no other interesting characteristics except he loves fishing. Yet, everyone in the town loves him, and all the girls want to be with him. Persona definitely plays to the wish fulfillment of the player. Because you are the main character, you are beloved by everyone and you vicariously live the popular life. Fan service seems like a cheap way to elicit an emotion from the player, especially at the cost of the character having a personality. But maybe I’m analyzing it a bit too much. I still love Persona. I’m going to convince everyone I know to play it, which might be difficult as its a 100+ hour game

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2 comments

  1. Persona sounds like an interesting experience, Brendon. What about this game do you think makes it such a phenomenon in Japan? Do you think their are any cultural ties in its content which resonate greatly with Japanese audiences that you think you were excluded from? Conversely, would you expect there to be any personal biases of yours which shape your time with the game differently those this in Japanese audiences, perhaps its differing themes from traditional RPGs we are used to playing?

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  2. When you said Persona makes you feel like you’re forming genuine relationships with people, I immediately thought of the game in the movie eXistenZ and how the people in the game are projections of actual people. The screenshot of Persona in this post actually reminds of the restaurant scene in the game of the movie too. If you haven’t scene it, the movie is pretty good and has some interesting insight into where games and reality collide.

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