Kotaku’s denouncement of G4’s infamous JRPG review has only exposed their prior hypocrisy with how they treated the genre as a whole.
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In a recent interview, Square Enix producer Naoki Yoshida revealed that he and other Japanese developers hated the term ‘JRPG.’ Despite it meaning Japanese RPG on the surface, Yoshida felt it was a “discriminatory term […] As though we were being made fun of for creating these games.”
Discussion only increased when an insulting G4 review Monolith Soft’s JRPG Baten Kaitos Origins resurfaced — leading to former host Adam Sessler throwing a tantrum and refusing to apologize. Discussions of how critics and gaming press have been handling Japanese games have since rumbled on.
Some outlets somewhat reflected on their industry. A piece by Kotaku’s Sisi Jiang — titled “Old G4 review is forcing gaming to reckon with its racist JRPG past” — condemned it for being racist (such as mocking Japanese names). The author also noted it would’ve been preferable if the critique over the game’s jiggle physics featured”a feminist critique without being forced to endure the racism.”
Jiang was also aghast Morgan Webb had introduced the segment with a joke about Indians or Chinese replacing the US population. “I’m all for people growing into a better version of themselves,” Jiang clarified. “But let’s take a moment and recognize that what’s racist right now was still racist back in 2006. There’s no such thing as ‘it was a different time.'”
“Jokes about the great replacement theory were always dehumanizing, and they made Asian Americans feel like dogs—t. The main difference now is that public figures who make racist comments might have to read some mean tweets about it,” Jiang defies.
Despite Kotaku’s denouncement, others had taken issue with Kotaku being hypocritical. Many took it as Kotaku attempting to point the finger at G4’s racism while distancing themselves from their prior actions.
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“Gamers were the ones buying those JRPG’s and defending them it was your ilk that were calling them weird and icky, in need of some good ole westernization for years,” @LavenderGhast derided, “hell you guys still do.”
“Forcing gaming? You mean the international hobby that arguably got it’s modern day start in Japan? Since WHEN did ANY iteration of G4/XPlay speak for all of Gaming and Gamers?” @JeanGen09181213 defied. “My American ass was practically raised on JRPGS and Japanese videogames in general.”
“This you?” rhetorically inquired @OhNoItsAlexx, sharing a screenshot of an article by Kotaku UK’s Laura Kate Dale, who baselessly claimed that the lyrics in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate‘s Persona 5 DLC included a disability slur.
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Bringing up the same Kotaku UK article claiming Atlus had included a disability slur in the Persona 5 DLC, @TheHatalwayswin pointed out, “Remember when someone got paid for writing an article cause then mis heard a lyric.
“This is rich coming from Kotaku,” mocked YouTuber LegacyKillaHD, singling out author Sisi Jiang, who wrote a piece condemning Final Fantasy series producer Naoki Yoshida for his response regarding Final Fantasy XVI‘s lack of diversity.
He went on, “Especially the author of this piece, Sisi Jiang, which months ago wrote up a racist article attacking Japanese Culture because they were upset with the lack of inclusivity in FFXVI.”
Kotaku have certainly taken swipes at JPRGs, and pretty recently to boot. Yoshida was once again defending Japanese games, as some of the gaming press were upset Final Fantasy XVI had a lack of ethnically diverse characters.
Apart from the setting being inspired by medieval Europe and set on a single landmass, Yoshida explained, “we simply want the focus to be less on the outward appearance of our characters and more on who they are as people — people who are complex and diverse in their natures, backgrounds, beliefs, personalities, and motivations.”
As mentioned above, Yoshida’s response did not satisfy neither Kotaku nor Jiang, who deemed it a “terrible answer.” Alleged harassment would inspire an editorial titled “We Need To Start Holding Japanese RPGs To Higher Standards” — wherein Jiang argued that “respecting Japanese video games means not treating them with kid gloves.”
Jiang essentially argues that it is incomprehensible and indefensible that a Japanese developer, especially one with the resources of Square Enix and with a franchise as popular as Final Fantasy, wouldn’t want or be able to have diverse characters. The author also defies claims that developers wouldn’t understand or empathize “about representation for Black and brown people.”
“When I write about wanting Japanese games to be less socially embarrassing, there’s almost always a backlash,” Jiang bemoans.
Jiang later argued that Yoshida being a producer on such a monumental franchise meant “It’s his job to keep up with popular media and culture trends. Racial diversity is definitely one of them.” The Kotaku writer also noted that inclusivity was as important to “artistic achievement” as technical elements such as graphics or cinematography.
The argument further extends to, despite the genre previously suffering mockery and lambasting, JRPGs popularity and mainstream acceptance in the west meaning that the urge to snap to its defense is “not necessary anymore” and “feels even more dated to me.”
“Genshin Impact will survive the criticisms of how it represents Southwest Asian people. FFXVI will sell millions of copies no matter how bad the representation is on launch.”
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Jiang further condemned critics, noting those who defended Japanese games’ portrayal of women or LGBT people with “aggressive rebuttal” were usually American.
“How predictable. Here’s why: White conservatives are terrified that they’re losing hold on popular media. They’re looking for their own utopia—a place that excludes women and minorities,” Jiang speculates.
“For some white people, Japan is seen as an eternally unchanging, conformist, and traditional society where marginalized people know their place. Obviously, countries don’t work like that. But gamer chuds want Japan to be a safe space from all that SJW nonsense. Regardless of what’s good for JRPGs as a genre or what actually makes good business sense,” Jiang claims.
“Expecting these games to have good representation isn’t ignorant—it’s a sign that we’re finally taking Japanese games seriously.” Jiang had also previously defended China’s restrictions on youth playing for just one hour a day on weekends and public holidays.
“It’s important to consider that the gaming landscape in China is very different than in North America and Europe,” Jiang justified. It should be noted the flak Kotaku is getting is not purely over Jiang’s one editorial.
Like some Twitter users above pointed out, the outlet had previously mistaken a Japanese singer performing Persona 5′s opening theme as saying “retarded” due to their accent (later publishing an apology and deleting both), hated the game handling gay relationships different from the west (featuring a stereotype fr comic relief, and a male character only having a friendship with the main male character).
Kotaku’s general stance against fan service has also seen them often come to loggerheads with fans of Japanese media — be it games or anime. One editorial whining about living in Tokyo attempted to claim each point applied to video games — from disliking then-modern anime and Japanese comedy to how often people smoke, drink, and attend work parties.
YouTuber Cult Classic Cage also felt Kotaku’s report on G4 was disingenuous. “They’re no better than the individuals that they themselves criticize, let’s be real now, because they double-down on their garbage nonsense — just like Adam Sessler does!”
Cage felt Kotaku’s motivation was purely to jump on a popular story, and write a “stink piece for clicks,” and that it was obvious even without having to dig into Kotaku’s history or prior articles. “I don’t understand why Kotaku continuously makes articles about gaming, when it’s clearly hate gaming, and they show it at every point possible!”
She also admitted gaming had moments where “things were nasty,” and Japanese media has portrayed racist stereotypes in the past, noting as all nations had.
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