Alex Hutchinson, creative director for Assassin’s Creed III, was recently interviewed by ComputerAndVideoGames.com. Most of the interview is fairly standard—no really huge revelations or anything –get it? Revelations?– but there was one part that seems to have raised everyone’s hackles. CVG associate editor Rob Crossley gets into the topic of keeping a franchise fresh, and this exchange happens:
CVG: Why do Nintendo get it right? It releases a new edition of the same franchise every year and no one bats an eyelid. Why?
AH: You want my real answer? I think there’s a subtle racism in the business, especially on the journalists’ side, where Japanese developers are forgiven for doing what they do. I think it’scondescending to do this.
AH: Just think about how many Japanese games are released where their stories are literally gibberish. Literally gibberish. There’s no way you could write it with a straight face, and the journalists say ‘oh it is brilliant’.
Then Gears of War comes out and apparently it’s the worst written narrative in a game ever. I’ll take Gears of War over Bayonetta any time.
It’s patronising to say, ‘oh those Japanese stories, they don’t really mean what they’re doing.’
I think he’s absolutely right.
No, I don’t think game journalists are “racist,” but I kind of chalk that up to a poor choice of words on his part. What I think he’s saying, and what I agree with, is that there’s a sort of reverence for any game that comes from a well-known Japanese developer.
Take Kojima Productions, for instance. I’ll be honest: I haven’t really enjoyed a Metal Gear Solid game since the first one. The second one had its moments, and the third worked well for what it was trying to do, but did I enjoy playing it? No.
Then there’s MGS4, a smoldering wreck of a game buried underneath nonsense plot elements, utterly unlikable characters and completely bizarre in-jokes. Go take a look at Metacritic. I’ll wait.
Ninety-four out of 100. Eight point nine out of 10. Nearly perfect scores for a game that’s more (awful) movie than (mediocre but fun) game!
And of course we have Zelda. Oh, Zelda. The old “get three MacGuffins, get sword, get five MacGuffins, win game” standby. And I bet that I could go to any Zelda game’s page on Metacritic and see similar scores as Metal Gear’s.
“But it’s Zelda! It’s a masterpiece! Miyamoto-sama captures that magic over and over again!” you’re probably saying in that whiny voice all your friends hate.
Alright, but what about Call of Duty? Remember how the first Modern Warfare took the world by storm, garnering praise and numerous Game of the Year awards?
And then remember how Modern Warfare 3 was scored into oblivion because “gamers are tired of the same old garbage! Innovate!”
You want to tell me there isn’t some bias?
I don’t think keeping a working strategy is a bad thing. I play every new iteration of Mega Man because they’re fun, not because I’m expecting revolutionary gameplay. But you don’t get to complain about American developers “being afraid to try something new” and then turn around and praise the Japanese for “sticking to a tried and true formula.”
So, what is it? Am I a philistine? Am I missing something about the sublime art of Japanese game development? Tell me all about it.
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