Interview with an Newbie

I’ve been wanting to know how the perceived differences between JRPGs and Western RPGs effect the player experience, it’s actually the main area of my study in this subject. However I am in an awkward position where I already have a large amount of interaction with these games. I have been playing some new games in the genre, but I feel that I already have a grasp on what I expect from both.

Cue a non-gamer. I managed to find a subject who has almost never played games. She has played Fruit Ninja and that’s about it. It was the perfect clean slate. So we sat down and talked while she went about playing some RPGs.

To say that she ragequit the first game would be completely accurate. She is an artist by trade, as well as a feminist, and took issue with almost every aspect of character design with the game. From the scantily cladness of the girls to the wishy washy characterisation in light of what could be an engaging story, it just wasn’t what she wanted. She also felt this was amplified by the fact that for the first section of the game, she was just given narrative and exposition with very little interaction. She just got bored.

This is contrasted to the Western RPG she played, which she was enjoying. The lack of pre-set story dependent on the main character being established let her create the character she wanted to play as which she said was one of the best things about it. The action started quickly with little skirmishes, and the simpler battle screens was easier on her for being a new player.

Speaking from my own reflection on the comments made, I feel that the main consideration of the differences come from a paradigm shift in aims for a game. A JRPG, as we’ve known all along is about the exposition of a story where you ride the wave of the story. Meanwhile a western RPG will focus on creating a richer experience, much more focus on exploratory storytelling and interaction. Neither is better by a concrete definition, it’s just different. I am loathe to make such a clear distinction but in the lead up to my final posts I think finally building a definition of the typical qualities is important for my later analysis.

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4 comments

  1. I am a big fan of western RPG games, but i cannot say i’ve played many JRPG games in my lifetime. I am a casual gamer, and I feel that unless i’m quickly drawn to the story of the game, I won’t be able to focus for long enough to finish. A key element for me is immersion, and for someone who’s never played one of those games, it’d be interesting to see how that goes. Maybe i should try a JRPG… i’ll add it to my list.

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  2. Really interesting, I’m a massive fan of Western RPG’s and I have played a few JRPGs. JRPG’s kind of remind me of Western MMO’s where it involves a lot of grinding in order to become strong enough to fight bigger bosses, taking on a linear path.

    Alternatively, Western RPG’s seem to be experimenting currently with allowing the player to create their own personal story. My recent experience with this sort of RPG is LOTR: Shadow of Mordor. It’s interesting since although the story itself is extremely linear, the gameplay itself with the dynamic system of orcs allows you to always experience a unique, dynamic and personalized experience, something I absolutely love. All the reviews have been hailing this system, and it certainly sheds a light on the fact that games which allow for this unique experience are succeeding! Hope to see more games in the future work and improve on Shadow of mordor’s nemesis system 🙂

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  3. I think one issue with having someone try out a game for the first time as your volunteer did is that a lot of non gamers might not associate story telling with games. Playing games like Fruit Ninja for example might mislead some persons to thinking that games are meant to be all about interactivity, but truthfully even in Western games that have less of a story focus there is still a story, theme and personality throughout the entire game that you become familiar with the more you play it.

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    1. I play almost entirely RPGs and the girl in question is my live in girlfriend so she is well aware of the context of RPGs in comparison to other types of games.

      And definitely, it’s impossible to have anything to do with roleplay without having a story tied to it. However taking a step back and looking at the aims and core elements that are the causes for us to look at a game and label it as a JRPG before we know where it even came from are what I’m building on here.

      Every time I go to examine a game I have to go and see where it was developed and by who to determine if it is breaking the theories I have been building in this subject, so far none have. Many however have come very close.

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