What would you do?
When was the last time you dusted off your passport? You might think I am talking about the documents you use to explore, play, laugh and cry in foreign lands. You would be correct; only I am thinking of a passport to explore digital worlds made in foreign lands. I encourage you to play games made by foreign developers and explore digital lands made by people with different perspectives.
You might have already played games made by Japanese, North American and European developers, and I have as well. My passport, as it were, is both well-worn and stamped. To focus on Japan, I have, of course, played Nintendo and Sega games but not much else.
Then I started playing Okami and Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. These are two beautiful Japanese games that I love. I started playing them because I had looked for titles I had not yet played on PlayStation 3. I was not looking for Japanese PlayStation 3 video games at the time. I was looking for great games because I had bought this console late in its existence and wanted to play the best this system could offer, even though new consoles had arrived. The art of these two games, which I saw in reviews and impressions, intrigued me and piqued my interest.
Okami is a beautiful game made by the now defunct Clover Studio in Japan. I think this Japanese team poured their heart and soul into this game, and you can see this in every stream and peaceful garden in this work. They made this beautiful world while also drawing on Japan’s rich stories to tell a tale about freeing the land from darkness. For example, Amaterasu, the main character, is named after the Shinto sun goddess. The game also features a world that looks like a moving Japanese painting. To save this world, players add to the beauty and paint a better day. I felt had much more to learn about Japanese history after playing, even though I had taken one course on the subject. That the game was beautiful was crystal clear.
Ni No Kuni, which I have not finished, is the second game. Level-5, also a Japanese video game developer, created it with help from famed Japanese animation company Studio Ghibli. The artwork, especially the varied landscapes of a dry desert, active lava-spewing Volcano and haunted trails worthy of a terrible nightmare, grabbed my attention. The adorable creatures begged me to keep playing. Then the game exceeded my expectations by sending me ascending toward the heavens on a dragon. Unlike Okami, I’m not aware if any of Japan’s central stories or myths are in this game. Yet Ni No Kuni features a Pokemon-like battle system and proudly sports Japanese in its title.
Okami and Ni No Kuni are both beautiful games, and I’m glad to have read about and then played them. I would encourage everyone to expand their gaming horizons: play video games made by developers in different countries. You might not learn anything about life in that country — I know I did not — but you could learn to appreciate different perspectives on making games. You might change the way you think about video games. You might even understand the world and people better than you did before. You might become a more open-minded person who has developed a sense of beauty and a love for humanity, not a love of mere discs.
I was at home playing video games when I heard the terrible news. Truth be told, I was spread out on my couch, in my pajamas, holding a beer in one hand and tapping “X” as fast as my fingers would allow without blistering. Then I felt deep in my bones that something bad was about to happen. Some grave misfortune was looming and an eerie creaking sound, which made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, seemed to confirm this.
I tried to watch a little T.V. news to distract myself from this warning. Instead, the disaster, unbeknownst to me at that time, was already in motion as I glued my eyes to the screen. This disaster had an insidious history, and I was about to experience it for the first time. And after watching the screen for one minute, I sensed — but still didn’t clearly see — that something was wrong.
I couldn’t believe the absolute chaos! First one fell, then another toppled, and I heard a cracking sound and thud before the entire structure collapsed. I felt a tremor on the ground, could feel the dust in the air and could see it on my shirt. The dust even clogged my nose, causing me to breathe through my mouth and cough.
I turned to my right and noticed my shelf full of video games had fallen over and cases littered the floor. Did you not hear me? All the games I had organized, even when feeling feverish, were now a disorganized mess. What a disaster!
John couldn’t sit still and was on the edge of his seat as he reached the end of the game. This is his internal monologue.
I’ve slayed all the evil beasts who have gnarly, grimy claws in their smokey dens of inequities. I’ve restored peace throughout the kingdom, toppling the dragon tyrant from his throne of bones. And now I’ll open this door to save the princess.
Yay! There she is.
“Oh, thank you dearest prince…”
Are you paying too much for car insurance? Click here to find out.
Hmmm maybe I am paying too much. I… Oh great! I missed everything she said.
Ugh! I guess I’ll just reload the save and try again. OK, a hack here and a slash there, and the dragon falls with a thud — again.
Call today to book your pest control appointment.
Well, I guess I have a lot of bugs in my apartment because I keep replaying this game instead of cleaning. Maybe I will give them a call to… No! I missed the ending again.
Alright, I scale the castle walls, swim the shark infested moat, raise my shield, hack, slash and thud again. Oh, rats, I spilled my Pepsi all over my new carpet. I’d better find something to wipe it up before my girlfriend kills me for ruining the rug. I told her I’d clean up my act.
1 weird trick to get rid of cola stains.
Hey, wait a minute here. How would the console know what I’m thinking, or could it be telling me what to think?
Quit asking so many questions and keep playing.
Ok, reload, scale the walls, swim moat, raise shield, hack, slash and thud again.
“First I’m going to chop down all of your trees, and use the lumber to build my palace. Then I’m going to pillage your castles and plunder all your loot from rickety, old treasure chests. I might leave you a few sheep if I’m feeling generous.”
Steve, clutching a controller on his couch, clicked a button to execute his cruel plan.
“You said you wouldn’t take my lumber! You always ruin the game”, said Susan. “That’s it; I’m leaving and you can play by yourself.”
Suddenly Susan swung open the door and a woosh of cold Fall air entered along with Maple leaves. Then the door slammed should. The game stopped.
Dave rounded the corner, entering the living room and furrowed his brow.
“What was that about? Why’s Susan so angry?” Dave asked.
“Ah, This is just the game we play while we’re playing this game. She’ll forgive me and come back to play more.”
“You sound pretty confident about that,” Dave replied.
“Yeah, look I’ve left her some sheep.”
Once upon a time, there was a lovely little pizza who was piping hot to the touch. It sat on a table in front of a TV, smelled of the Mediterranean and teased others to eat. I know because I put it there and turned around for only a minute.
Suddenly I turned towards the table and saw the pizza was gone. I immediately suspected the Jack-O’-Lantern sporting a mischievous smile. Yes, I had convinced myself it was that rotund, orange backstabber. I could feel it laughing at me the entire time I searched the room over for a more plausible culprit, but there was none. Its big, stupid, googly eyes stared me down. Soft footsteps masking my hard-hearted intent, I inched closer to the traitor, intending to wreak my revenge.
I turned around so fast that I nearly sprained my neck. There it was: a video game case slammed shut, but a piece of pepperoni stuck to the edge. The case’s tongue-like manual had retreated fast, but I swear there had been cheese on it.
I ran over to the case so quickly that the room shook until a priceless porcelain plate shattered on the floor. I did not pay attention; I opened the case to discover nothing was there. I ripped open another case, cracked open a second and tore open yet another until there was a veritable tower of plastic. There was nothing! I almost collapsed because I was so exhausted from the ordeal.
As I walked upstairs for bedtime, I heard it again:
And then I fell asleep.