“Why are Characters in Japanese RPGs Always Children?”

tales-of-loli-by-matunoha

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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265 Comments

  • “As a cultural phenomenon, cuteness is increasingly accepted in Japan as a part of Japanese culture and national identity.”
    Read this article on cuteness as a cultural aspect of Japan.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuteness_in_Japanese_culture

    This has its roots in the world’s very first novel, “The Tale of Genji” written by Murasaki Shikibu. The protagonist is depicted as a beautiful young boy that has relationships with both men and women and has features that are more feminine and yet he retains his masculinity. This is thought to be the origin of the “bishounen” archetype. Read this article for more:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bishounen

    Futhermore, beauty in women is generally centered around “cute” and “innocent” rather than “sexy.” As seen in the bishoujo archetype. Read here for more information:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bishoujo

  • well if my childhood was spent doing nothing but going to school, cram school, and studying and grew up to make games I’d make em about kids who acctually had FUN when they were kids 2

  • “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.”

    “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.”

    When it’s put that way, it kinda makes sense. I’ve been asking this question for years and I think these two combined satisfy my query.

  • I think most western games have a more realistic approach. Many games are based on stuff as WW, mafia, gangsters and stuff, and in these settings a young leading character wouldn’t make much sense.

    In the other hand, when we think of, I dunno, JRPGs, they are mostly focused on characters abandoning their common daily life and discovering the world. In this setting, a young character may be more fitting because young people are more inexperienced, in an emotional sense. It’s easier to work on their character development and they are usually far more suscetible to the events around them. Adults may already have set their minds regarding many things.

  • Why are western characters so “overly-ripped”? Well, while I’d argue that they are moreso than needed, you need to be pretty fucking tough to square-of against a dragon, lol. The real reason is just their need for cutesiness and having a child save the world because it’s unrealistic.

  • “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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

    Finally someone is right about this for a change. The people talking about 'the west' as if it's a single country and culture annoy the hell outta me.

    • yeah I get the idea that for the Japanse West = America (which ironically is much closer to the EAST of them than to the west). Europe has much different likes than the US. Sure it’s still “western” but there’s more of an acceptance of eastern values here. Now if only JP game makers would understand that and release more games in PAL territories…

      Heck I have a proposal for them: skip a US release, go straight for a EU release. Some JP companies are already doing that. Just don’t bother with 1001 local language adaptations. An english version is more than enough. If you want to localise, use subtitles! That way you can even keep the original JP voicetrack on it in addition to the english voicetrack, and localise everything with subtitles. That way we can play it with japanese voices and english subtitles as well.

  • I agree with many of you… why must be one or the other? Personally I don’t care of the age of the characters… as long as they can pull off a nice story.

    In the end I think the reason why in jRPGs the protagonists are mainly teenagers is because, being a teenagers, that is when you have to face many important decisions to determine your future (and/or the future of people around you).In the same way the protagonists of the RPG tend to face all these dilemmas, be it the most trivial question to many of us. When you’re, say, already in the working class the choices you make do not feel as influential, or feel as they can affect and shape who you are; you’re already been shaped into something at that point. That, to me would be the most reasonable answer. Of course then there is the idea of using more appealing characters in terms of age and looks, and also chosing characters whom the players can somewhat relate to.

    Putting all these stupid questions aside, I can ask these “western gamers” one question as well: why in american games/movies (except in whacky destroy all genre games), America is never the one that is shooting the nukes? Of course, another country did it! It’s never our fault of course!
    I know it kind of touches taboo but >.>

    • You say it like its just America.
      what about self-sympathizing japanese anime like code geass where glorious and noble japan gets colonized by this ‘britania’ country, while in the real world japan did most of the colonizing of east asia

  • The funny thing is that idea that idea of childhood innocence that he (guessing) values so much prolly has resulted in the worst that the Japanese gaming industry has to show. Galges and eroges definitely play to a such warped views of the world. I’d personally be alot more comfortable in a world where NEETs were obsessing over muscle bound gorillas rather than little children <.<

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Why not both?
    This reminds me of that one time when my friend asked me why all men in japanese manga looked like girls. Honestly, I wasn’t sure…but in turn, asked if he was complaining. He never answered that and just went back to reading.

  • Unlimitedbladeworks says:

    I’m with the westerners on this one. I was playing “Star Ocean: Last Hope” the other day and i was thinking, “Man, if Edge were Commander Sheppard he’d have blitzed through the game in no time and banged all the girls in the process(especially considering my Sheppard is Pure Renegade)”

    Anyway I guess us westerners like our heroes… heroic. Japanese heroes tend to be angsty whiners. I much rather entrust the fate of the world to Commander Sheppard or Master Chief than Edge Maverick or Cloud Strife.

  • ChaosAngelZero says:

    Why does it have to be one thing or the other?

    Also, 2ch users seem to have a hard time acknowledging that almost all these games are clearly geared towards moe-loving closet pedophiles/ man-children. The only JRPGs actually geared towards actual children are the Pocket Monsters ones, and a couple knock-offs.

  • I’d like to pose a question in return – why is it western games are packed with muscle bound beefcakes? <— totally agree. Barbarian Nier is fugly and not compareable to his Japanese counterpart

  • 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.

  • “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.

  • loli in a box says:

    “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)

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • the question of why theres a difference in the characters to begin with is total fail. its like asking why anime has lolis and western cartoons dont. its the difference in CULTURE.

    getting tired of these “why east and west is different” crap. so pointless. people should actually think before asking a question with such an obvious answer. you can compare if you want to see which ones better which is all up to preference but asking why its different is just dumb.

  • “Why are characters in JRPGs always children?”

    Well, why the hell does it have to matter? If you want to play a game, then chances are you’ll play it…regardless of visual style. Questions like this only waste our time.

  • “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.”

    Hmm… If it was a parody game, I wouldn’t mind playing as a middleaged salaryman. It would be a refreshing change of pace.

  • how is being a muscle bound beefcake as close to reality. Alot of westerners are far from being muscle bound beefcakes. I myself am a westerner(almost muscle bound) and just saying what I see around me.

    • its not close to reality but its what many westerners think of as being a “good” body. not beefy like gears of wars but just being fit and ripped whereas japanese find that to be gross haha. They prefer fit, slim guys and not beefy weightlifters

      • you know killing yourself is always an option not many seriously consider.

        i personally will never get a great job, and have serious issues with trusting people. i will never do anything of importance, and here is the sad thing, i’m intelligent enough to know how fucked my life will be, but i’m not smart enough to do anything.

        some people could claw there way to millionaire and living a life where they dont need to work ever again. they can take the gamble and from what they know, they can make it less of a gamble.

        i cant do that, and i accept it.

        one day, when the reasons to live don’t out weigh the means as which to live, i will off myself. i have already lived my best years, and its all down hill from here, so why bother.

      • you know killing yourself is always an option not many seriously consider.

        i personally will never get a great job, and have serious issues with trusting people. i will never do anything of importance, and here is the sad thing, i’m intelligent enough to know how fucked my life will be, but i’m not smart enough to do anything.

        some people could claw there way to millionaire and living a life where they dont need to work ever again. they can take the gamble and from what they know, they can make it less of a gamble.

        i cant do that, and i accept it.

        one day, when the reasons to live don’t out weigh the means as which to live, i will off myself. i have already lived my best years, and its all down hill from here, so why bother.

  • Untill your nation becomes modern and you waste your time in a dead end office or burger flipping job the normal child bearing years for people is 13-25.

    It seems the world has forgotten how to have a good time……. then again back then life was war of attrition over death disease and time.

  • I think the Japanese just have a pedophile fetish whether it’s games, anime, hentai or whatever.

    And come on I don’t actually believe all those posters were children themselves or the majority of 2channers being children either.

    Such Delusion.

  • i dont know if this has been said, but here is how i look at games.

    an athlete is in there prime from 21-30 and there are outliers, like people who peak eairlier, and ones who go on far longer.

    now in a robot anime, or in a war with guns, you can argue skill over age, because if a kid can be a top class sniper you not going to take him, or they are athletic enough and smart enough to pilot a giant robot, you are not going to let them?

    but when you are fighting for your life with a sword in an rpg than fuck you. no way is a puke stain 14 year old going to be able to take out someone 10 years older with more experience and full plate armor.

    exceptions can be made with magic, because you can be a prodigy, and you dont need physical skill and not to much experience.

    see they look at what games that have a beefcake? because i can only name gears of war as being overly muscular and most other epic games. other than that its more or a realistic mussel mass for what they do

  • I have a better question, why are both sides providing equally weak arguments?

    Games are not just for children, if I had children, I wouldn’t be letting them play some of the mature games that are coming out, you’d let your kids go play games like GTA or second life?

    Ugly muscular characters are more realistic than cute weak looking ones. I’m sorry but you can’t just pick up a sword and become a highly trained swordsmen fighting of hordes of monsters.

    Neither genres are realistic, oh what about fallout 3? Everything that happened would have taken many more years than what was stated.

    Play the fucking game and enjoy it, it’s as simple as that. Don’t like JRPGS? Don’t play, don’t like WRPG then don’t fucking play them. At the end of the day they are just games and nothing more than personal taste in choosing what to play.

  • easy. Japanese games are usually about a nobody getting drawn into something against his will. (makes sense for it to be a teenager, it would just be weird if a middle-aged office worker/peasant starting fighting the god of destruction). While western games are usually about a battle hardened veteran who goes looking (or ordered) for the fight, which would be unusual for a teen to take the role of (and is when the theme shows up in anime).

  • >implying there’s anything wrong with that.

    Loli, DFC, unrealistic, but deliciously young characters anyways >>>> ugly old hangs, and the flaws of “realistic” designs

    Fucking Wester gamers.

  • The first answer was retarded but the third answer is very realistic.

    “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.”
    This sounds very fañse and hypocritical.

    “I don’t want to hear this from people whose games consist of a procession of muscle-bound gorillas.”
    This is the typical otaku answer.

  • The easiest way to say why anime has “kids” in it is one the writers are re living their childhood or living threw their characters an 2 teen aged adventures sell to kids and adults kid age adventures sell to teens kids and weird adults. 😛

  • 2DGIRLSONLY says:

    Well in the WEST: we mostly play shooters, for the rest we import them like Pokemon on the DS and Wii, the big boys like HALO, COD, GOW, we like violence and yes the blood splattering >:D

  • I’m still waiting for an anime style FPS that takes place in fictional environment, a story similar (or at least vaguely) to that you’d find in most of the leading FPS games. Strike Witches, I’m counting on you. It’d be an interesting slap to the face.

  • Klingengeist says:

    This:

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

    And this:

    “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 never saw the point of making a muscle head =/

    but then again if i could choose between girl btween an art student or cheerleader, i would choose the art student anyday

    westerns think muscles are a good thing, because they are brought up to think violence is the answer and being bigger is better.. while people in the east tend to think charisma is better than cute

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

    Quote FTW ^^

    japanese tend to do things that are not possible at real life. seriously who can hold a buster sword and go flying around like it was nothing?

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

    it’s because it’s extremely great game combined with fun mechanics. not to mention the art is pure win. a combination of the two. Snake looks badass with his bandanna and the boss fights are incredible. Yoji Sinkawa FTW 🙂

    *now please make zone of the enders 3 konami ^^

  • Yeah, I’ve had way more freedom as an adult in America. My life has certainly been more dangerous, and romance has meaning. Sure, freetime can be a little short, but my employer sure doesn’t get it. If the Japanese want to give up when they become adults, then that’s their problem. You truly do not begin to live in America until you are in your late twenties, and if you have heart, life only gets better from there.

  • A better question would be; why do western gamers have a problem with that.

    The answer: The west hate teenagers

    Why?: I’ve grown up in the west, interacted with those older than me while young and those younger than me while old, seen the debate from both sides, and I still have no idea.

  • Who wants to play an RPG where their protagonist is so experienced in life that there’s nothing for them to gain from the adventure? Part of having a market where the characters are such a significant piece of the package involves giving them development, room to grow, and a chance to learn. It’s a ‘role-playing’ game, after all.

    • The characters in JRPGs might be younger because the designers prefer “coming of age” type stories.

      Western games usually follow the belief that the characters need to be plausible in terms of their experiences, skills and implied badassery, hence they are older (if not wiser).

      One Japanese exception as pointed out would probably be MGS, where Solid Snake and Raiden start off as rookies in their early-mid 20s with training and little combat experience (plausible, since SF operators recruit from soldiers with at least 5 years experience), and even implied badasses like Naked Snake and Gray Fox were in their mid-30s and about a decade worth (or more in Gray Fox’s case) of experience.

      Remember that the concept of teenagers is a relatively recent invention, and even in the last century there were 13-17 year olds (lying about their age) fighting in WW1 and WW2, and in the Napoleonic Wars, midshipment (and ensigns) were usually 12-14 years old…

      If people wanted to play games with grizzled 40 somethings, they could always try the old Traveller games (very little skill development as characters are all assumed to be retirees or veterans).

    • Being an adult does not equal being “so experienced in life that there’s nothing for them to gain from the adventure”.

      For example, most adults have no experience in saving the world.

  • ‘Cause it’s going to be very obvious that the adult would make a good pilot (and the story would be predictable)…

    If the pilot is a kid, no one will see it coming.

    *2ch forgot this one*

    • Obviously your friend should have made a skill/will user, that way they aren’t ripped amazonesses.
      I agree putting strength in females on that game is not a smart idea.

      Honestly I like the cynical 20-30 year old to a squeaky teen protaganist.

  • jamesownsall says:

    “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.”

    I don’t know about Japanese disliking righteous ideals, but yeah, I notice that the villains are ALWAYS supposed to have this grand scheme of things that he thinks would be good for mankind and the world.

    “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.”

    It’s obvious for Japan that adults have plenty of shit to keep up with, where those who can’t end up being hikikomoris and NEETs to escape the reality of their society.

    But at the same time, not EVERYONE overseas think that adult=instant freedom too. It really depends on what kind of job you do, and what kind of people you live around. In the US’s case, perhaps it’s easier to assume that with it’s somewhat more ‘relaxed’ culture, adulthood is much more cherished. I mean, getting driver’s license, being able to drink alcohol, can enter strip clubs, etc.

    • finally, someone who says something with meaning.

      so we can say that:

      Chilhood/teenage = Freedom, oportunities

      Adulthood = Responsibilities, pression, a kind of like destiny that’s already been settled (in other words, work ’till you die)

      Imagine just how stressful the japanese adulthood can be that they cherish the high-school years, even though they have A LOT of pressure too!! (from family, society, etc., get a 100-over-100 mark in these four exams today or you will ASHAME OUR FAMILY’S HONOR!!!)

  • Some surprisingly good comments. The second to last is really interesting. But I have to say, even though I prefer this style over Gears of War-like characters, I getting a little tired of the same 13 year old boys who are destined to save the world.

  • …I wonder why nobody said that alot of characters in these games arent even children, they just -look- young? Because real japanese people look younger than they are anyway. One of my 22 year old japanese friends looks about 13; I can never tell how old anyone is just by looks over there.

    • Kyon Theorist says:

      Nobody bothered saying it for two reasons:
      1) They can claim that the characters are whatever age they want, aka Disgaea (sp?)
      2) It’s a question about attitude and looks far more than age, if they’re 50 years old but look and act like 12 year olds then they might as well be 12 year olds.

    • Shippoyasha says:

      LOL. Pachinko.

      But seriously, that is some weird irony going on. Childish avatars and characters in Japanese culture propagate even to adult venues like Pachinko and products aimed at adults. And yet the culture sees gaming as ‘childish’ after a certain age.

      Yet in the west, it’s a perfectly acceptable thing to game INDEFINITELY until death and yet they are touchy feely abou the subject of children characters in their games.

      Irony at its best.

  • Oh you silly Japanese, you waterlocked near sea people judge everyone but yourselves and deny that your country is anything but perfect.

    Your hate for USA consumed your theories and “Ideals”, as I’m sure by saying the “west” you implicate Americans are stupid enough to play games in their late 20’s. Until recently, Japan was the head of Ero Gaming, would you like to tell me that those games are for children too? =3

    • Exactly. I’m fucking sick of Japanese nativism. It’s perfectly okay to be proud if your medias extend far beyond your country, but it doesn’t put you in a position of power.

      It’s just fun. Try some.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

    ——-Advice——

    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.

  • 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….

    • Kyon Theorist says:

      Why’s it gotta be one or the other? It’s perfectly reasonable to have mature characters who don’t look like they’ve got some kind of disease that makes their muscles expand to uncomfortable levels. Then again build the character for the medium, if they looks out of place in the world it doesn’t matter either way.

      • I don’t really mind the age or physical appearance of characters, as long as they have a well developed personality and act according to it, and the plot is interesting and consistent. Of course, anime-styled characters are appreciated.

        • Kyon Theorist says:

          I already said it doesn’t have to be a muscle based adult, and yes as a kid I had no problem with media that had adults as characters so I don’t see any reason that a kid would have a problem with it these days.

        • On a side note.

          I seem to remember playing as a strapping young lad in Fable, and on another side note it seems that Fable also happened to have piles upon piles of rather adult sexual undertones.

          Nothing graphic, just not the sort of thing mothers want their wee grade school children entertaining themselves with.

          heh

          ~Just food for thought. Take it for what it is.

        • Seriously, why do so many think western games are filled with muscebound freaks? That’s NOT the common aesthetic you morons. Find me 5 game examples before you start with crap like that.

          Not even in the more common movies genre do you see bodybuilder type heros.

        • I dont see anything wrong with anime filled with fan service and lolis. “whatever floats your boat” is what i always say. so now i ask this, as many before me have: why the fuck does it matter? I am a lolicon(only in the 2d world, dont call the FBI yet) I love fan service, but i also love a good story, and deep characters. i love jrpgs with their all teenage, and mostly female casts, and i also appreciate the great stories many of them are accompanied with, and the deep cast of characters. but on the other hand, i thoroughly enjoy games like ME2, and fallout. i have fallout new vegas on preorder. I love the gritty realism, the intense customization, and the freedom. why doesn’t everyone just stop bashing on what other people like. its childish, and in the end, no one gives a fuck. and a final word to anyone thinking about saying something to bash on jrpgs, or wrpgs… please don’t feed the trolls.

        • Common Sense says:

          This is the same as assuming ALL anime are disgustingly filled with fan service and are geared towards pedophiles. Sure, many are, I don’t know about most.

          Well, almost the same except I don’t see many muscle-bound characters in my American videogames… I must be missing something. Either I’ve been in my room far too long or the idea of “muscle-bound” has changed to “being in shape”.

        • Really I don’t care about this “western” vs. “Japanese RPG” stuff. Like Kyon theorist said already: “Why’s it gotta be one or the other?”.

          I don’t like the fact that these 2channers think all western gamers only play western RPGs. And to think that their RPGs are supreme for the wrong reasons (because it has kids!), it’s just as wrong as people thinking a western RPG is better because it has mature characters…

          What kind of stupid reason is that? You don’t play games because one character appeals you; well, you COULD, but I think that’s the wrong reason to love games. For example, I like Link of Zelda, because the games are just great. I don’t care if he’s in cell-shaded form or the semi-realistic form of Twilight Princess. Of course, I’ve got preferences, but that shouldn’t ruin the whole game…

          It’s like these people we’re discussing about only care how the characters look like. Not about the games. I get sick when I hear these trollings.

        • Female characters are normally young, as men likes young girls. Male lead is often young to match the females age. Simple as that.

          Although, I do wish the average age would break 20, at least.

        • I’ve always prefered the medium. I like both ends of the spectrum equally, but way prefer games/anime that have both. Every now and then, you’ll get fantastic gems with kids and adults, toothpicks and beefcakes. A good balance between the two is awesome and pleases everyone.

        • Yeah children sure do hate muscular main characters… Superman, Batman, Spiderman, the male cast members of Fist of the Northstar, Wolverine, male cast of DBZ… I know I sure hated watching movies like Terminator 2 as a kid–where we all the girls sitting around talking about cake?!

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

          Answer:
          If you have somebody who saves the world by killing hordes of monsters nobody else beside him is able to kill, and that with a sword or something similar, chances are high that he is muscular.

        • How bout imagine Mass Effect or Witcher with moe characters and 2D art with 3D graphics. Now I have a great new idea for a third person RPG shooter. I’ll call it Moe Effect. I bet it’d sell more than a million copies it’s first day.

          But honestly though there are lots of adults which love playing characters like that worldwide, they’re a sub-species of humans called “Otaku”, and they’re everywhere! I mean more than a quarter of the world’s population!

        • I were never a fan of muscle people.

          Children? Well, who wouldn’t want to play as a 10 year old girl wielding an axe tripple her own size? That’s badass.

          Or a 80 year old guy owning a horde with some martial arts skill.

          Muscle people fighting, it just seems too standard.

        • Well, plenty of western RPGs (most of the good ones recently) are designed not for children, but instead for adults and they do have Mature rating. So you can have an adult in main role without any problem.

          Imagine Mass Effect or especially Witcher with teenage hero. It would be laughable.

        • It’s all media driven, and don’t forget what appeals more to the masses…, The kids today are different from the kids of yesterday, most of them rely too much on what they see or hear, and for them the current fad is that. I also don’t have a problem playing adult-centered RPGs.

          One way to say it is that it’s all about preferences, one guy likes it that way, the other likes it this way. It’s all good till you start comparing which is better in terms of what…

    • I agree with that one 2cher that speculated that it’s a difference in perspective. I for one view my high school days as being my more free, idealistic days, thus I can “relate” to a rpg/action game character that’s a kid.

      Also, I feel bad for the Japanese if they have no time for games once they get older (especially since it relieves so much stress). The fact that so many seem to believe games are a child’s medium is just sad.

    • The answer is simple.
      That’s because Asian standard of beauty is quite different from the western standard.

      Asian standard:
      men = effeminate
      women = cute

      western standard:
      men = masculine
      women = hot/sexy

    • “Why are Characters in Japanese RPGs Always Children?”

      I often wondered that myself and also for a lot of other things anime. No offense to you loli Pedifilers but i prefer to see girls my age (27-years old) a little or older.

    • Whatever, it’s fantasy right? If ppl were like western game characters (a pile of muscles) I bet their arteries would be blocked by their muscles and they’d die. Makes more sense to see a 30-ish loli waving a huge axe.

    • Here we go again with the East/West RPG comparison…

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

      Let me rephrase that…

      The west = Beefy Men with Huge Guns and Life-like Graphics, Story and Plot that could or could not happen in real life…

      Japan = Magical Lolis, Effeminate Young Men, and coming-of-age story with awesome colorful magic spells and ridiculous amount of damage and levels…

      Nothing more to say…

      Oh, and I’m more comfortable being a loli riding on a stuffed plushie than a green spartan with a huge laser gun…

    • I think it has to do with realism. Persona works with high school kids because the story is about kids. But in other games it makes no sense why a little girl can swing around a giant twohanded sword. It does make sense for a ripped warrior to do it.

      It has become cliched and thats the problem. My biggest annoyance is how they never address the fact that they are all kids and pretend its normal. In full metal alchemist it has a great story and most importantly they constantly show that they are two kids forced to grow up fast in an adults world.

    • Shippoyasha says:

      “Japan = as far away from realistic as possible”

      In a way this is true. Fantasy, even involving extreme violence or sexual fantasy even including young girls to more ‘out there’ themes seem more readily accepted in Japanese culture. They have been a heavily fantasy-story oriented culture ever since ancient Kabuki theater and other fantastical mythology/semi-history involving mythical demons, superpowered samurai warriors to magical ninjas.

      With the west, especially in America, that nation was a culture STRUGGLING to survive for a good few hundred years in 1600s to 1800s. So the pragmatism is typically in order even for entertainment where music tries to be relevant to the listeners, movies tackle insecurities of American life to almost all entertainment pertaining to more pragmatic themes.

      That said, there’s exceptions on both ends as well.

      To me, this is not about which type of entertainment is better or not. It’s just different. May as well accept they are different and see both as valid forms of expression.

    • It depends on the story and setup, really. If it’s going to have some major romantic elements, choosing the younger protagonists are usually far more appealing, whereas if it has an elaborate or plot with more depth, choosing an older character would probably be my preference. Of course this can change based on character backstory and game synopsis.

      I’m still waiting for my RPG where I get to be an ass-kicking old man with an epic beard telling the youngin’s to the shut the hell up.