Diffusion of Japanese culture to the West through video games

Started by treismac, February 06, 2012, 09:16:35 pm

Previous topic - Next topic


From what I've read on sites like DP and Kotaku, Japanese video games are not in the forefront of the industry anymore (as a primarily retro gamer, I'm outta the loop on this).  However, this was not the case a few years back.  The Land of the Rising Sun created most of the video games we played as kids and young adults.  Naturally, the culture of Japan was contained within these games to varying degrees running the gambit from more overtly Japanese games like Pocky n Rocky, Katamari Damacy, and Okami to games with slight Japanese flavors like the Tanuki statue in Super Mario Bros. 3 being the Bodhisattva Jizo or the maneki nekos falling from the sky in Keith Courage in Alpha Zones.  Beyond the incidentals and visual themes of games, there must be, I suspect, many traces of Japanese culture throughout many games.  Besides kids (grown up or otherwise) developing a taste for anime, what other cultural influences do you think Japan has had on the West through their video games?


I think that the greatest impact that Japanese culture would have through their video games would be in concepts- either closely or loosely- related to masculinity; such concepts would include ideas such as honor, heroism, gender roles, sacrifice, etc.  Let me get the ball rolling by looking at honor.

Although the initial thought of Japan's cultural transmission of an abstract term like "honor" to North Americans seems to be of little real life consequence, there are real consequences effected by the presence of an honor culture within a population.  In the American South there is already a preexisting culture of honor where "people avoid unintentional offense to others and maintain a reputation for not accepting improper conduct by others" that has a quantifiable impact on the lives of Southerners.  As a result of the inculcation of the values of their honor culture, young white Southern males have a much higher rate of accidental death than their Northern counterparts, as well as a higher violent crime rate.  So, as you can see from this case, there is a very tangible effect that a culture's understanding of honor can have upon its society.  

Through the dialogue and background stories of video games, the idea of honor is seeped into the fabric of many Japanese video games.  Themes of revenge are obviously honor based, so there is little reason to belabor this point, but there are others such as the rescue of damsels in distress that should also be seen in the light of honor.  In a game like Double Dragon, where the protagonists' motive is to rescue the stolen female interest, the reason behind recovering the female could be seen as more of the recovery of a stolen object of prestige rather than merely the helping of another human being.  Reinforcing this theory is the fact that the two brothers fight to the death over the right to "own" the female once the final boss is defeated.  Such objectification of women is not a foreign concept in the patriarchal world of honor cultures, where honor is connected to one's desirability to the fairer sex, and women are trophies to show off to other alpha males.  Japanese women are seldom portrayed in any of their media, video games included, as anything but weak and subservient to men, further strengthening their objectification in the role as prizes to be rescued in order to either achieve or restore honor.

Anyway... that is something of what I have been (over)thinking about in regards to Japan's impact on North American culture through their video games.