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Cooking Advice and Gaming Criticism

Scott 'Fowl Sorcerous' Wachter
Dread News Editor

I live with my darling Sam's (that's Nyx to you readers) family. They are a giant, semi-sane, stereotype-confirming Italian family. Part of this life means regular contact with the "Marchello Family Pasta Sauce," which is always done exactly as Nonna has made it since sometime when the proverbial "spicy meatball" was made out of brontosaurus. The recipe is as follows: one quarter onion - sliced (for "flavour"), two tablespoons olive oil, one gallon of water, three cans of tomato paste, a half cup of sugar, and a quarter cup of salt. If it weren't sickeningly sweet, it would be incredibly bland. Completely without texture, it is about two ingredients and a "57 varieties" label away from being ketchup. Three generations of Marchellos maintain that this is the best sauce on the face of the earth and look at me like I'm mentally unstable when I start adding seasoning to the food on my plate.

This has nothing to do video games. It does however have to do with the way JRPGs are viewed by those outside the fandom.

Nonna's recipe dates back to a working class immigrant family trying to feed six people (all of whom are too skinny by Nonna's standards) on a limited budget. It is the product of constraints that its consumers have come to expect and even demand. There are a lot of surface elements to JRPGs that are similar to that. To over-generalize; things like save points, cutscenes that are nothing but text at the bottom of the screen, palette swapped/re-skinned monsters, limited character customization, on-rails plots, and so forth have been part of the genre from the days when the best a developer had to work with was blast processing. And, much like my in-laws, JRPG fans have accepted these as being necessary to the genre. When someone outside the community, who has been spoiled by other styles of genres and their various herbs and spices, offers the suggestion of "trying something new and advanced" to JRPG fans, it's met with defensiveness. It's not that we're out to get you and your games, it just that we're confused that we still have to deal with things like save points or text-heavy cutscenes when the rest of gaming has moved past that.

Sometimes those outside the JRPG fandom might not express this as diplomatically as we could, but there are perfectly good ingredients in the spice rack now, so maybe it's worth investigating adding some of them. Again, I am painting with a very broad brush as there are devs that are shaking things up. The guys at Zeboyd Games have great ideas about updating the 16-bit style JRPG. The core of the JRPG is worthwhile, otherwise there wouldn't be the interest from the outside, but there are many surface elements that can leave a bad taste in your mouth, if you aren't already too familiar with them to care.

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