Monster Hunter Autoethnography – the Finale

As the blogging season once more draws to an end, it is time to wrap things up and get on with sitting absolutely motionless for five months until someone makes me blog again. To end my study of Monster Hunter, I decided it may perhaps be best if I play a little more.

As pointed out in the paper “Autoethnography: An Overview”, the autoethnographic process is all about retrospectively and selectively writing about epiphanies that stem from, or are made possible by, being part of a culture and/or by possessing a particular cultural identity (Adams et, al., 2011). From a previous post in which I engaged with my experiences of the game, I feel perhaps did not make it far enough through. While I do not necessarily think this is a bad thing, as the tedious and univiting nature of the game which left me feeling very uninspired will be useful in the reflection process of my final work. However, in order to reach enough of a familiarity with the text to retrospectively reflect upon it later, I do not think I have adequately delved deep enough into it yet. Until today.

Five hours. Five quite dull hours I spent running around, forcing myself the read lines of dialogue, live tweeting my experiences. I fetched mushrooms, mined ores, killed mosquitoes, fought some rather placid dinosaurs. It all went as expected mostly, I really did not feel won over. This was until about the four and a half hour mark – now I love it. I’m serious, something clicked in me the exact moment I slayed my first real monster. After spending hours doing the most mundane of tasks, walking aimlessly in circles and learning to swim, the villagers finally gained enough trust in me to grant me the right to fight. And fight I did. For about half an hour I must have been running through the desert tracking down this raptor-like being, it was a long process and at times I was convinced I am living a lie, however in the matter of about 30 seconds the entire game just clicked. I had finally overcome the hurdle and could see Monster Hunter for what it really is: beautifully uninviting.

Mentioned in many of my previous posts, observing this game without any prior knowledge or attachment to the series is not fun. It seems like a bland and vague adventure which has very little pay-off in terms to the story and characterisation – and it is exactly that. However this game isn’t boring. It is an experience (awful cliche I know). You need to trust it enough to stick with it past those first few hours in which nothing at all happens, where the basic controls are barely explained, where you have the sudden urge to play Mario Kart instead. The appeal of it almost feels indescribable (hopefully I can at least describe some of it in my final assignment), however so very obvious: the world which ironically takes place in the most unwelcoming of games, is one of the most welcoming of all time. A bright and expansive landscape filled with peculiar and cute characters that you and your friends can roam and track monsters within for days – if I am not careful I will do exactly that.

While it is still very difficult to assess as to why this game does not sell better in traditional “Western” (for lack of a better word) environments, the reason why it never grasped me was simply because its design philosophy was just so different from what I am used to. While difficult, this did not at all deter me, I enjoy the challenge. What stopped me most was the pacing and difficulty curve. This is a game that really builds up for the pay-off, and if you go in seeking instant gratification (which let’s be honest I always do), it just wont happen. Monster Hunter, while I now realise is brilliant, is not friendly to newer audiences. Whereas in Japan (in which the series could only be described as a phenomenon) they have already been won over and are ready sit through whatever they have to in order to get that indescribably excellent feeling of pride.

References:

Ellis, C, Adams, T E, Bochner, A P 2011, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Historical Social Research, vol.36, no.4, pp273-290.

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3 comments

  1. Masterfully articulated Matt! As an occasional RPG fan, I empathise with your recount of slow beginnings followed by a sudden infatuation and believe it would be interesting to at least attempt to investigate why RPGs are more popular in Japan and other East Asian nations in relation to this style of gameplay. I would guess that it has something to do with differing cultural work ethics, but would be fascinated by your findings, especially if you found existing scholarly research on the matter.

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  2. Interesting insight into the Game. Are these games specifically designed with a strict Japanese Market in mind or do they plan on penetrating the western market? If so, does the fact that both audiences desire such different game types (the immediate satisfaction you mentioned vs gradual build) hinder the popularity in both countries or is It possible to have both? Pokemon, a JRPG manages to be popular in western and Asian cultures so perhaps it comes down to each specific game.

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  3. I’ve heard that in the latest Monster Hunter game, the demo allows players to get all the mundane tutorials that you mentioned out of the way and when the actual game comes out, you can start up ready to slay some monsters. Do you think it’s purely the difficult barrier to entry that has held Monster Hunter from becoming as popular in the West as in the East? While some Japanese games provide instant satisfaction like Super Mario, the majority of Japanese games I’ve played are targeted at hardcore games and have a particularly slow burn. This is mostly due to progression, and a perfect example is the Zelda series, which defined video game progression in my open. However, Zelda is incredibly popular in the West and East despite its slower pacing. I’d love to know your thoughts on this.

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