“Why are Characters in Japanese RPGs Always Children?”


Western gamers asking why it is the characters in Japanese RPGs seem always to consist of a party of children have sparked an interesting set of responses from Japanese gamers.

2ch’s response to the question after it was translated and posted in a thread is instructive:

I’d like to pose a question in return – why is it western games are packed with muscle bound beefcakes?

Isn’t it just because games are for children?

It’s probably a difference in the premium market segments – how many Japanese would buy them with an old guy as the protagonist? Without children and adult NEETs buying them, their sales in Japan would likely not be good.

The west = as close to realistic as possible
Japan = as far away from realistic as possible

Visually speaking, aren’t young boys and girls better? I don’t want to play an RPG with nothing but middle-aged old guys in my party.

In Japan, adults don’t play them. They’re just a product, made for children by adults. For exploiting children, we could say. In Japan recently we are seeing more adult children, and there are adults playing them, but unlike Europe adults don’t normally play them. So it’s really the foreigners who are childish.

What the hell are “adult children”?

It’s probably just that over there fighting is not seen as something children should be doing. Also, if the hero isn’t 14-15 he can’t really be dating a girl of that age… perhaps that has something to do with it.

Because it’s easier to empathise with kids.

So why are all the western game characters totally ripped?

“Overseas gamers” < Aren’t there people from a variety of different countries overseas?

It’s just a difference in demographics. These games are for people in school. It’s no wonder they have protagonists the same age. When you’re an adult you don’t have the time or energy for games.

So why has Metal Gear, with all its old guys, sold well in Japan?

I don’t know about America, but in Japan you get the most freedom in your life from middle school to university.

Perhaps it’s because children and adults are much more clearly delineated overseas?

This isn’t really limited to RPGs – it’s the same with anime.

When I was a kid I always wondered why Japanese robot anime ace pilots were all kids…

This is not something I want to be told by a bunch of guys whose games are packed with bikini warrioresses.

Japanese games are aimed at children, but overseas a lot of people keep playing them even into adulthood.

Games are something children play, so the protagonists are children. Portraying their growth is a common story theme.

In Japan and overseas, if you put games or anime out for children you’ll get adults buying them too. There seem to be a lot of them overseas actually…

In the west they seem to think children entering into danger is a problematic subject, and not all are comfortable with it. On the other hand, in Japan having adults engaged in martial adventures is something people are uncomfortable about. Japanese tend to be distrustful of ideals of “righteousness” – often it is the villains who are pursuing ideals in RPGs. Basically Japanese prefer green protagonists in tales of empathy.

JRPGs are aimed at children, that’s all.

Anime style characters all end up looking like loli anyway.

Somebody in the original post said a Japanese person told him “highschool is the best time of your life for a Japanese.” I think this may be it. Japanese seem to think something important is lost when you grow up, like they worship a sort of childhood innocence. As a result JRPG protagonists are mostly youths.
On the other hand, overseas becoming older is more like “levelling up” and getting access to more experience and status. We could even say the western view has a “dream” – life still progresses and improves after childhood.

I don’t want to hear this from people whose games consist of a procession of muscle-bound gorillas.

Apparently a significant proportion of Japanese still view games as an entertainment medium for children.

With the average salaryman forced to work long hours and to turn much of his leisure time over to his company, it is interesting to speculate whether this is having an effect on the inability of Japanese publishers to make much headway into the mainstream of adult gamers overseas.

Censorship decisions made in Japan seem to indicate console publishers are very uncomfortable with marketing games covering more mature themes in Japan, and whilst the “mature gamer” is a cherished demographic overseas, in Japan it seems to be considered an inconvenient niche market (given the dismal sales of western blockbusters in Japan, this may well be a realistic asssessment however).

Japanese RPG developers (and for that matter, anime studios) might well find dumping their endless succession of adolescent casts and school settings has a positive effect on their increasingly tarnished reputation for originality overseas, although with most of the major Japanese RPG franchises having become the Japanese equivalent of EA Sports titles any significant change now seems unlikely.

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    Comment by Anonymous
    08:49 13/02/2011 # ! Neutral (+0.4)

    lol japs. trying hard to make up plausible excuses when in truth they just dont want their loli girls taken away from them

    not that i have a problem with that.

    Comment by Anonymous
    19:19 22/08/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    "So why are all the western game characters totally ripped?"

    Probably because you really need to be physically fit when you're saving the world one sword slash at a time.

    Avatar of Guumii
    Comment by Guumii
    19:37 22/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Why can't we just stop all this arguing and just make the main character a semi-ripped 21-year old lad.

    Because in Japan the age of adulthood is 20, where in America 20 is still a relatively young age, though it's past the age of adult-hood.

    Comment by Anonymous
    19:54 22/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Games need more protagonists like Travis Touchdown. A character in their 20s that appeals to everyone yet no one at the same time.

    Avatar of Terra
    Comment by Terra
    10:30 23/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    So the japanese just... stop gaming when they hit adulthood... very odd. It's a case by case thing really but the situation can be improved by bumping up the average cast age to 20+ thus still allowing for a young but believable cast without stepping into gorilla territory.

    SquareEnix's method of dividing the fanbase ala Nier is not the way forward and does little more than annoy fans who feel they ended up with the short end of the stick. Also the very best jrpgs tend to be the ones that break from the schoolboy norm and have an older cast. The western audiences were captured during the ps1 era and now we're expectng jrpgs to mature "a little" if they are to retain our interest.

    Comment by Anonymous
    19:31 22/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    The Majority of the Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy RPGs have late Teens-middle aged characters in a party. But then again of course to americans if the women don't have at least D cups and men don't have uncomfortably large muscle build, they must be chilldren.

    Avatar of NightRaven
    Comment by NightRaven
    20:44 23/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Muscle-bound 20+ heroes in Western RPGs.
    Slenderly built teenage heroes in JRPGs.

    What the fuck ever. I don't pay attention such nonsense. If a game appeals to me, I'll play it. The only preference I have in a game is if it has a half-way decent storyline.

    Avatar of Arcadiac
    Comment by Arcadiac
    19:22 22/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    my character in fall out 3 isnt all buff. hes a mild mannered man by the name ching chang chong who in his off time likes to collect the meat of his dogs that died and store them in his fridge at his awesome love shack in megaton!

    Comment by Anonymous
    20:04 23/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    "Games are for children"!?

    Games are an art form!
    I will continue play games until old age!

    Comment by Anonymous
    19:29 22/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    They think JRPGS sell well in the west...

    Comment by Anonymous
    13:19 23/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    wow really? this is totally opposite from what i believe.

    but wait, im from 90s and below generation, where japanese game and anime were realistic. so
    so i think today japanese market already shifted a lot.
    so this is why kentaro miura turn into moe lover?

    I love moe anime too, but I dont want people denying what japanese anime/game look like 10 years ago.

    take a look original ps-one FFVII then take a look FFXIII
    if you cant see the difference then I assume you born in late 90's

    Comment by Anonymous
    19:27 23/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    "The west = as close to realistic as possible
    Japan = as far away from realistic as possible"

    I think that's the point. Different culture, different art, different purposes.
    Japan likes the romantic thought of refuge from reality, while the west tries to create a realistic adventure to let it feel like a real experience and maybe even to compensate the real experiences with this one (a bit of prove yourself).

    In my point of view (european) it's good both kind of games exist, from time to time I enjoy both. Mocking each other to say what is best or trying to merge is a bad thing. Accept it and don't play it if you don't like it.

    Avatar of Lucien Mavor
    Comment by Lucien Mavor
    16:25 23/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Why are characters in Japanese RPG Caucasian? Blond hair, blue eyed. Japanese people suffer from inferiority complex

    Avatar of Ben
    Comment by Ben
    01:17 24/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Haha, that can also be a commentary on height difference.

    Comment by Anonymous
    15:48 23/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    "The west = as close to realistic as possible"
    "Japan = as far away from realistic as possible"

    Yeah, I'd had to agree.
    Might be one of the reasons I'm more into the japanese stuff most of the time, I do like some over the top crazy american shit but overall it tries to emulate and simulate reality too much instead of actually doing something cool and stimulating.

    Americans are more into the idealism, I on the other hand see reality as it is.
    And it sucks.
    Well cynicism. I'd rather have something unreal and awesome instead.

    Avatar of xRif
    Comment by xRif
    14:42 23/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    a simple equation would be western(old adult)= super soldier who can survive war while eastern(young adult) = idk someone who has less percentage to surive as a soldier. basically western want their people to be inspired to be a soldier while the eastern probably want their people to be a butterfly.

    Comment by Pyrolight
    14:13 23/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    2 ch always has an interesting response.

    - some get it.
    - some totally miss the point.
    - some take the question as an insult.

    Avatar of loli in a box
    Comment by loli in a box
    14:01 23/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    "Why it is the characters in Japanese RPGs seem always to consist of a party of children?"

    The answer is so simple.
    It's because it won't sell if it doesn't have any moe or lolis.
    The demographic won't change in this aspect.

    If you want musclebound characters or "mature/realistic" stories (lol.)go play some western games or read a book.

    (2nd post in case the anti-spam filter got me again)

    Avatar of TC-man
    Comment by TC-man
    19:13 22/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Isn't it more that Japanese gamers just want to remind their youth, school life or something of the past, or simply said the Japanese gamers just want to keep themselves young, well at least mentally. That's why a large part of seinen mangas is about school life.

    As for Western gamers, well, I think most gamers want to look good, that's why most heroes in games made in the west have such muscular build, most of the male heroes are handsome in western sense: rectangular chin/jaw (Batman-like), unshaved/bearded, mostly bald/short hair, lower forehead, mostly with tatoos over his body. Mostly the opposite what the Japanese gamers like, e.g. bishounen/bishoujo characters, who are never old in age. Yes, simply said, it's well mannered & civilized bishounen/-shoujo from the East versus the rude/unmannered brutes and Neanderthalers from the West

    Comment by Anonymous
    18:42 23/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    “Overseas gamers” < Aren’t there people from a variety of different countries overseas?

    Best comment.

    Comment by Anonymous
    19:06 22/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    My fem Sshepard begs to differ about the whole musclebound beefcake thing. That said it simply makes sense, if someone in their 20' or 30's is gonna swing a sword aroudn for any significant period of time it's only normal for them to get ripped.

    Avatar of Barbarian of Gor
    Comment by Barbarian of Gor
    17:39 22/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Responding to the kind of groupthink projection of the article...

    I don't think kids in Japan have the $ for all the deluxe adventure games and PVC toys.

    IMO, the game makers are counting on a nuclear level NEET and "Infantile adult" and otherwise desperate to escape reality hyper introvert market. They can only empathize with and sexually lust for the child like characters. And, simply put, the market decides... Should be really scary for Japan.

    I joked earlier the issue of having say one of these game Loli's meeting Conan... "Wow! You slew that big bad giant! Mistah! Will you be my lover? Most men my age are SUCH little boys!" And Conan imagines his usual set of Harlots and lusty princesses trying to get him lynched and for what? No breasts, a tiny pussy (double entendre for Neko-Mimi Lolis) he'd do severe injury thrusting in, and a whiny child who'd find a way to be as bad and domineering and greedy as both a woman and a spoiled brat?

    "Excuse me, young child, but I have a boil on the inside of mine arse which I must lance forthwith..."

    Really, they joked on this dynamite subject, believe it or not, in the rather obscure "Amythest, Princess of Gemworld" short lived series by DC. Tweeny girl goes to other world where she's a princess and a proto - Xena warrior magic user. She quickly falls in love with the heroic prince, but she's facing competition by a fiery redhead warrior princess for him. Being a child still, she doesn't notice it. And so she thinks nothing of the consequences of a 'shortcut' she takes in an adventure by using her powers to go into the "Real" world then back to her otherworld. So one second she's a sword and spell slinging Xena then she's a young girl in a frilly pink nightgown in a room full of stuffed animals. Her speech, her personality, etc. changes... Then they port back to the otherworld, she's back to "Normal". But her lover has the "Groom in Caligula" face. In his mind the gorgeous blonde princess he'd courted and made love to is now eternally the too young, immature, skinny girl. Sensing his "Ye ghastly freake oute" the redhead warrior woman princess steals him out from under Amythest while she keeps fighting to save this imperiled fragile otherworld...!

    In the "Western" market the "Pulp Era" still holds sway, even though those that own the media and the presses have tried to supress it, since they want to turn us into pathetic weaklings like...well no offense...

    But one of my favorite genre is the "Planetary Romance" which is a heavy Fantasy Sci-Fi adventure. It's the same story in many ways, a man (sometimes a kid, but rarer) is transported to another otherworld and he finds a purpose in life, learns to survive, finds love. It was really popular during the "Depression" years.

    Lots of cool names:
    Edgar Rice Burroughs - Barsoom (Mars) and most of what he wrote.
    Flash Gordon
    Buck Rogers
    And for a "later maturity of the genre" - Richard Corben's "Den" series...

    There's the "Weird Detective" and "Regular Detective". The Japanese have this nailed down perfect. Conan, the smart kid one, of course! And, believe it or not, "Cutey Honey". She's a perfect golden era "Superhero" or "Weird Detective Super Sleuth".

    There's the "Supernatural Horror"... Well they focus a bit much on lurid tentacle sex, but... No, just kidding.

    And there's the "Away and beyond" fantasy, like REH's "Conan the Barbarian".

    Frankly, Vampire Hunter D. is awesome. It's like Clark Ashton Smith wrote a long fictional series. The translation get's an "All your base" feel, you have to distill the whole thing and interpret the image the original author is trying to paint, but it's a good one.


    Have game designers go "Independant" but instead of trying to make a "homebrew tales of lolita sexy pirate wenches" go "Guerrilla" and think, "Small, fast and dirty"....

    Check out some cool "Indie" games made in the west.

    Make small, fast, subversive games they sell cheaply or give but ask donations. But these games aren't soulless entertainment that is nothing but another means of sucking $ from people to feed dreams of avarice in exchange for providing dreams of escape. These games will be about real feelings, and the real world even if set in 'fantastic' settings.

    You'll actually fight for justice, disrupt corrupt societies, reclaim your soul, reclaim your personal time, sabotage companies, etc.

    Comment by Anonymous
    17:38 22/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    That said, Kasumi and Ayane are still awesome in the West, and Kenshiro is still awesome in the East...

    Comment by Anonymous
    17:40 22/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I will answer this question in a short sentence

    "Everyone has different taste, and Imaginations"

    oh and it is not only JAPAN, the whole Asian country like their cast Young. The reason in my opinion, they are more flexible to the story, they can be a Comedy, action, Crush(Love) ETC

    having mature character is nice too. Suitable for action, violence, Deep Romance. May have more limit than YOunger ones but they have thier own things.

    Bring more fun games, Nowadays are all so serious.

    Comment by Anonymous
    17:47 22/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I'm overall sick of that garbage & fortunately that garbage archetype is only prevelent in Gust/NIS-made JRPGs, which coincidently are horrible devs & localize any & all crap for easy weeaboo money.

    I'll stick with the Arnold & actual human being designs from much better JRPGs as well as RPgs overalls.

    Avatar of Igarashi
    Comment by Igarashi
    17:35 22/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Not too keen on this whole "Musclebound" arguement. Didn't you like Dragonball?

    Avatar of Ben
    Comment by Ben
    01:22 24/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    And add a "Z" and we're at the supposed western ideal. Not that a very good DBZ RPG game has come out, but still...

    Avatar of Wallace Hunter
    Comment by Wallace Hunter
    17:33 22/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Japanese RPGs are full of children because I can't maintain an erection if they are not.

    Comment by Anonymous
    17:21 22/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    To put it simply, if you have a problem with it then don't play it. There's tons of games out there aimed for everybody. Children to teen characters in a game play its own separate role as does giant muscled ass dudes. But if your a true gamer, character's ages shouldn't really matter as long as the game is good right? That's how I look at it.

    Comment by Anonymous
    17:18 22/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Japan = Conformist culture that leaves a lot of of prime demographic types feeling nostalgic about roads not taken and opportunities missed and for whom childhood represents a period of carefree whimsy where one was free to act without consequence.

    America = Prime demographic comprised of immature man-child slackers who like to dream of being some hyper-capable bad-ass who always knows what to do while the player's personal life could make for an elegant metaphor for chaos.

    On both fronts we see narcissistic jerkoffs who feel clever after seeing a pattern...
    Jerkoffs who need to report their findings to other wankers so they can all have one big hive-mind circle-jerk carnival for tossers.

    you people make me rage sooooo goddamn hard....

    Comment by Anonymous
    17:33 22/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    and why all main male anime characters in harem genre are look like loosers?

    Avatar of Dia
    Comment by Dia
    17:47 22/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I like the second last comment the best, but I think there's a lot of truth in "games are for children", too. I can't really imagine a Japanese salaryman playing with a PS3, but seeing his western counterpart do it wouldn't surprise me one bit.

    Avatar of DigitalPastry
    Comment by DigitalPastry
    18:01 22/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Muscular lolis.

    Avatar of Stormwatch
    Comment by Stormwatch
    07:00 21/08/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    Maughan Wellham. Look into it.

    Comment by Anonymous
    18:47 22/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I'm always thinking, if they don't like how japanese games are made, then they just don't have to play them.

    Comment by Anonymous
    19:07 22/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I've always dreamed of a great Japanese-style RPG where all the dudes wear hernia braces and you can see the chick's Depends(tm) when the beautifully rendered cutscenes have wind blow up their mothball-smelling gunny-sack dresses! YAH! Let's have more retiree-themed hotness! WHOOOOOO!

    Avatar of Shizu's Waki Obsessor: MaidNiac
    20:55 23/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Umm.. because Adults are overrated.

    Comment by Anonymous
    18:40 22/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I think it might have something to do with entertainment movies in each countries. If you notice, most blockbuster western movies (with the exception of harry potter and perhaps some transformer casts) are those what you call hairy and muscle bound type with mature looking face. Julia Robert, Clooney, Clint Eastwood you name it. Vice versa for Jap for their series or movies which overwhelmingly consist of male or female young idols. In effect it sort of create a perception in society each of their own 'ideal' character. And frankly speaking, I have a feeling that western tend to get 'handsomer' as they grow old (perhaps due to their bulk) whereas Jap tend to head the other way.

    Comment by Anonymous
    18:10 22/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)


    THAT ALL!!

    Comment by Anonymous
    18:32 22/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Am I correct to assume that videogames and anime do not have the level of acceptance as manga in Japan

    because it seems okay for a grown men to read manga on a public transit there, but a grown men watching anime and manga is frowned upon

    Comment by Anonymous
    18:34 22/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Childrens are truhly cute , and if they are aware of themself, they are fearsome for real.
    And I´mnot mensioning lolis,
    Lolis FTW

    Avatar of Vanon
    Comment by Vanon
    19:08 22/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    that's not true what about Raine in Tales of Symphonia or Sheena, and i take over cute look to the muscle style from USA like the way they made Sakura in SSF4 for example -.-

    Avatar of Abel Liegod
    Comment by Abel Liegod
    22:19 23/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    The reason is simple
    Loli characters sells more games and that's all.

    Comment by Anonymous
    14:35 25/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    im pretty sure i have played jrpgs with adult characters in them. and where is this idea that every western game has bodybuilders in it coming from? other then gears of war I cant think of a western game where the lead character is ripped.

    Avatar of Kou
    Comment by Kou
    13:27 27/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    From people that don't know anything about western games, same as this opinion of jrpgs probably comes from people that don't play them.

    Comment by Anonymous
    16:03 25/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Cause Japanese people are really pedophilic, seeing as they prefer their women to act like 12 year olds, walk bow legged (actually destroys quite a few asian womens knee's haha) and act like dunces?

    They don't necessarily want them to look young, just act immature and.. Yeah.

    Avatar of Kou
    Comment by Kou
    11:48 27/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Since when is being a teen or in your early twenties a child? Are you only an adult at 30+?

    Honestly, the kind of attitude when jrpgs are posted about here... -_- No. They don't need to change. If they became more realistic they would suck and lose their current fanbase.

    Talking to people that don't like jrpgs, it's mostly because they don't like the gameplay. A lot of guys think jrpgs are "girl games" and just want action, not long games with lots of walking and reading.

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:18 25/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    What are they talking about? Etna IS OVER 1000!!!

    Comment by Anonymous
    08:44 13/02/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    and she LOOKS like shes about 1000 days old -.-

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:56 25/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Whats with those answers? I thought it was obvious they are usually 14-18 because it means they are old enough to be able to fight and survive on their own but young enough to be inexperienced and immature allowing for easy character development as the boys turn into men. As for games like pokemon, the character is 10 because the game was originally for 10 year olds.

    Also I said usually 14-18 because there are quite a few games where the characters are older. Legend of Dragoon was a jrpg where the characters were all in their 20s (with the exception of a couple of girls). Digital Devil Saga is another example (infact there are no children in the game at all). There is the upcoming smt game catherine in which you play as an adult in his 30s (iirc). FF4, cecil was 20 in the first game then 37 in the sequel.

    Comment by Anonymous
    21:55 24/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Obviously the solution is ridiculously muscled kids - compromise people!

    Comment by Anonymous
    14:43 25/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    a winrar is you

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