Assassins Creed 3 dev calls out games journalists’ for “patronising” Japan

Like Japanese games storytelling and work in games journalism? Congratulations! You're a racist.

You can accuse games journalists of many things. Sexism, being woefully disconnected from their readers, plain old-fashioned laziness and a lack of professionalism are some examples regularly raised by places like Gamejournos.com and for good reason. Accusations of racism however don’t tend to crop up too often. On the rare occasion they do it’s often in response to some well-meaning piece that ultimately fails because of poor execution, and not some inherent Klan tendencies on the writer’s part. Except that’s not the case according to Assassin’s Creed 3 lead developer Alex Hutchinson, who has accused games reviewers of “subtle racism” towards Japan in a recent interview with CVG.

According to Hutchinson journos are too forgiving of Japanese games, particularly regarding their stories which he calls “literally gibberish“. I’m not taking that out of context either. He literally said “Just think about how many Japanese games are released where their stories are literally gibberish. Literally gibberish. There’s no way you could write it with a straight face, and the journalists say ‘oh it is brilliant’.” You see Hutchinson believes games journalists merely tolerate barmy Japanese storylines in a patronising “look-at-the-funny-foreigners-and-their-nonsense-stories!” kind of way, judging western games more harshly as a result. “Then Gears of War comes out and apparently it’s the worst written narrative in a game ever,” he said. “I’ll take Gears of War over Bayonetta any time.”

Well good for you Mr Hutchinson. I’m glad you’re comfortable admitting your tastes in game narrative and characterisation veer towards stereotypical, trope-ridden western machismo (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). All I ask is that they don’t negatively affect the story of the newest Assassin’s Creed, a series that hasn’t always taken itself entirely seriously thank god. Personally I loved Bayonetta’s storyline because it was such campy, over-the-top insane nonsense, and I don’t mean that disparagingly. Had a western developer made the exact same game I still would’ve loved it because its nonsense is internally consistent. Of course a witch dressed like a fetish librarian who kicks angels in the face sounds crazy and weird out of context. A talking white rabbit with a pocketwatch doesn’t make much sense outside of Wonderland either.

And is Gears of War really any less nonsensical than Bayonetta? Really? Is it really? Gears of War is set in a universe populated entirely by tumbling golems chiseled out of meat by Arno Breker, wielding guns with fucking chainsaws attached to them. A universe where the entire visible light spectrum only goes from Infragray to Ultrabrown, and where there are so many convenient waist-high walls to roll between I’m amazed Marcus Fenix isn’t a vocal proponent of Intelligent Design. When you boil it down Assassin’s Creed sounds a load of old nonsense too. A bartender reliving the memories of his ancestors to stop the ancient Knights Templar acquiring the advanced technology of an ancient pre-human civilisation? Tin-foil hat nonsense! I still love it.

Hey Alex, perhaps one problem is games like Gears of War are written with faces so straight you could use plaster casts of them to mould authentic death masks for the writers. A lot of that Japanese “gibberish” you disparage has a charm and whimsy to it that simply isn’t found very often in mainstream western games development anymore, beaten out of it by market surveys and other nonsense by PR gobshites. That’s not to say Japanese games are or should be immune to criticism either. I’m sick to death of yet another spiky-haired simpering boychild and his friends saving the world from some universe-threatening dark overlord, learning enough about themselves along the way to fill ten self-help books. Japanese game design is as riddled with its own cliches as western games design and plenty has been written about both.

I don’t believe there’s some kind of subtle Japanaphilia latent in the minds of western games journalists. The more likely answer going by Occam’s Razor is simply that many of them grew up playing Japanese games, and nostalgia can be a powerful thing. It can also elicit the most severe reactions, like in the case of Metroid: Other M being widely criticised for unskippable cutscenes, godawful writing, and for reducing one of gaming’s strongest, independent female characters into a simpering waif who couldn’t do anything without a big burly man’s permission. You see Alex? Western games journalists can be harsh on Japanese games.

Which I suppose makes them all double-racist self-hating race-traitors or some such utter, glorious nonsense.

Matt

About Matt

Matt is the irresponsible degenerate behind bitscreed.com and the sarcastic writer, editor, director, presenter and tea boy of Pixel Burn.