Pixels 13 – Buying into the dream

On this episode we discuss:

  • The Konami betrayal
  • Bloodstained, the answer to our prayers
  • Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
  • GOG Galaxy and The Witcher 3
  • And more…

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  1. Hi Patrick,
    Been listening to your show forever. By forever I of course mean since episode 1. But 13 is an auspicious number, no?
    I want to make a comment about Konami /Kojima but also not make this impossibly long.
    I have felt for a long time that the entire Japanese video game market is propped up on the shoulders of a few of the “old gods” so to speak. For the most part, the West abandoned propping up individual directors/designers as the important parts of the games back when Dai Katana came out and we all realized that unchecked design philosophy is sort of not good. How many Western project leads can you think of without running to Wikipedia? Chris Roberts? Peter Molyneux? Howard Scott Washaw? That guy that made Doom? We have some stand outs, sure. But the leaders of the AAA market are teams like Black Isle, Bethesda, Ubisoft Montreal, The Team That Brought You That Call of Duty That Was Slightly Different Than The Other Call of Duty.
    From Japan its different. Sakaguchi, Miyamoto, Kojima. There are household names, even in the West, Inafune is making a Kickstarted Megaclone? Count me in! In my opinion, this sort of single vision has driven the continued success of some of video games’ largest franchises. But it has also resulted in one of the largest complaints against Japanese video games: stagnation. When was the last time a Japanese video game patriarch had something truly NEW to offer to gaming?
    This is not to say that Japan does not have its super star studios. Clover Studios was one of the greatest teams to come out of Japan. Their games were fresh takes on familiar genres: Critically acclaimed and artistically superior. The sales were decent, but Viewtiful Joe was not a franchise king and Okami was not the break out hit that it really should have been.
    Anyways, this is now too long of a thing. Do you have views on this? Have I oversimplified the equation? Are Japanense video game directors as important as other directors from Japan? Takeshi Kitano, Yoshiyuki Tomino, Hayao Miyazaki, Akira Kurosawa?
    I hope you respond to this. I love Pixels and its approach to understanding the industry and art of video games. I find your show to be much more interesting than the usual review/preview/plug and hope you continue long enough for me to become a famous pod-caster and get to be a guest commentator.


    • patrick says:

      Hey Noel, thanks for the comment, it’s some food for thought indeed. I have to say, I do wonder about this aspect of the video game industry; there were some very well known names in the olden days, but the last one I can think of is probably Cliff Blezinsky, and he’s been around for a while. But… I’m not sure how much of this is related to the Japanese industry’s issues though, rather than it being a somewhat random (albeit interesting) correlation.
      I’d argue that the jJpanese devs you’re talking about there are also of an older generation, and come from the 80s or 90s. Yes they are still “the big names” from Japan, but the country’s strength has declined so much that I’m not sure it means a lot more than our big names here.
      So then for my attempt at explanation:
      For the first element (the games’ quality), I’d say the decline probably has more to do with Japan’s structural and cultural inability to change and evolve… Everything works with consensus there (to an absurd degree), and consensus isn’t very conducive to innovation. The west is more willing to take risks, especially when danger looms.
      And for the second element (the teams being responsible rather than individual), I think it’s due on one hand to the nature of the medium, which is, more than any other, a collaborative effort, and on the other hand possibly to a willful design by developers and publishers (as companies) who don’t want to give one person too much sway or power. Not sure about that one, but it’s definitely a possibility.

      So… Correlation or causation? Not sure, but I’d ere on the side of the first one.

      Lastly, I’d mention the fact that we’re seeing “big names” rise again, ironically in the indie scene, where both those elements (team size / company control) don’t play a role. Funny how life works…

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