While some things I agree with and others I don't, I do believe EC and viewers alike take a look at this before Part 2 comes out next Wednesday.
I think he gives too much credit to how intermingled the development industry around the world is.
It has been a growing trend for many years, certainly. There are games which highlight my counterpoint though. Binary Domain, Vanquish, etc. trying to capture a Western audience and yet still feeling Eastern, for example.
So yes, Oblivion may have had a lot of influence on FFXIII-2, but the game will still feel Eastern for myriad reasons.
The entire foundations of the Japanese industry are rooted in their culture, what games sell over there, etc. Factors vastly different to their western equivalents. What sells over there doesn't always float over here, and vice versa. Same with games from other countries too, no matter how intermingled it all is. Regardless of whether the first RPG was developed by a foreigner, or if D&D is popular over there.
Long story short, each culture has definitely evolved its own trends and development patterns over the decades, due to the nature of certain regional industries being some-what self-contained on a development level.
How I approach designing a game and how another person approaches it might lead us to make two completely different games, even if we were working from the same core concepts - due to the differences in our backgrounds, our cultural heritage, our education, etc.
As to the other point; arguing whether visual novels are interactive fiction and share their heritage with point and click adventure games is arguing over a moot point. Nobody is denying this, really. That the big RPG developers began with interactive fiction isn't a point we need to linger on. They did, they also worked on other games.
The greater question is... are visual novels and interactive fiction from Japan the same as adventure games and interactive fiction from the West? Not at all.
Here, let me explain;
Do they share similar mechanics? Sure.
Does this make them the same as one another? Nope.
One does not inherently imply the other.
This is the same of WRPGs vs. JRPGs. They share a wide array of different mechanics, and often share a lot of similar mechanics and other elements. But are they the same? Nope.
There is always something distinctly Japanese about a JRPG, even if it tries to mimic the mechanics of a notable Western RPG, because there will always be that entire cultural background from the people, country and industry brought into any Japanese offering - and that background is vastly different to the Western world's.
But then this seems to be a conflation of the insistence that mechanics solely determine the genre. A flawed concept.
If you're determining that the mechanics alone determine the genre, then sure - all RPGs are RPGs, whether Western or Eastern. However, if you throw in that not only mechanics, but aesthetics, and a whole slew of other factors, determine the genre - you realise why WRPGs and JRPGs are not the same. They are definitely both RPGs, but they still require being two separate genres unto themselves.
So yes, some facts are correct - but I feel people are missing the bigger picture here.
Nobody is saying that JRPGs aren't RPGs. Nor is anyone trying to add fuel to that fire.
All that is being said is that on a fundamental level, the ways in which each culture approaches the design of their games is different and thus creates different games. (See also; The Myth of the Gun - for a similar argument about cultural influence.)As an example;
I feel that an Eastern developed version of Skyrim would have been a distinctly different game to its Western counterpart - regardless of whether it was mechanically identical to said Western counterpart.
Well, the RPG Fanatic took a look at this and this was his reply:
" "Eastern feel" is something subjective to him. As I said in the article, there's no uniform way that Japanese developers make computer RPGs. They don't get together in the cafeteria and decide, "This is how we will make games!". It's not even like that in certain companies; Square has always had several different brands of RPGs that focus on different types of mechanics. SaGa is their non-linear narrative dungeonc crawler brand, Mana is their action RPG brand, FF is their cinematic linear narrative dungeon crawler, etc
As for his last bit, cultures do not make games, people make games. And games like Final Fantasy use as much "Western" cultural ideas as they do Japanese ones. Square in particular has a fondness for Lovecraftian deities and several of their titles are hugely inspired by the philisophy of Nietzsche. I mean look at Xenogears. What cultural ideas does Xenogears have that is ANYTHING like Japanese culture? The whole thing is influenced by Gundam and Nietzsche-- and Gundam is heavily influenced by the science fiction genre, which was pionerred by "Western" authors.
The aesthetics of a work is irrelevent to the mechanics. Games do not need graphics to be games. And changing the graphical style doesn't change the way the game is played, as has been proven by the many remakes of videogames over the years where all that was changed was the graphics, the underlying systems not changing at all.
"I feel" is not a rational thought if those feelings are not based on limited knowledge about the subject you are critiquing. I would no more listen to a film critic who has only watched films produced in the past 10 years than I would listen to a videogame journalist who has only played RPGs made in the past 10 years. And that is the biggest problem with many people who think "JRPG" and "WRPG" are distinct styles; they have played very few games in the genre and have no idea of what games were made to get us to Skyrim and FF 13.
*I mean if they are based on limited knowledge. Opinions of critics must be based on having a breadth of knowledge about the topic, not a small about.
His entire argument is based on ASSUMPTIONS; he assumes because Japan has a different culture than the US, that game designers approach the topic differently. He ASSUMES that aesthetics are selected for cultural reasons when in fact the aesthetics may be due to limitations of the technology at that time, availability of artists or even something decided in a board room meeting based on the target audience of the game (my honest opinion is that "cartoony" graphics are more popular in JRPGs because most JRPGs are aimed at a younger audience than the SIGNIFICANTLY SMALLER "WRPG" industry is, because they are trying to capture adult audiences with their titles. Dragon Age 2 is simply not aimed at the same age group that Pokémon and Dragon Quest is, but Wizard 101 and Adventure Quest are aimed at that younger audience which is why they have the cartoony graphics -- it's actually called caricature art, but again, he would have no idea about it, he just thinks it is all "manga")
Aesthetics only contribution to a game is in helping set the mood. A horror movie can have many different kinds of aesthetics; they can be bright and sunny like Texas Chainsaw massacre, or dark, or black and white, or whatever. They can be avant garde. surrealism. They don't have to have a particular aesthetic to them and having that aesthetic doesn't make them a brand new genre of horror film. And the type of aesthetics a game has doesn't determine what "genre" of game it is either.
Plot elements determine narratives genres. Game mechanics determine game genres. Nothing else. Visual aesthetics and music must be are seperate from the game, as is the narrative. They should be individually recognized and not tried to be forced into some catch all term like "JRPG" and "WRPG", because a large portion of games made in either side of the globe do not match up to the stereotypes people have invented based on the games being sold at Gamestop.
Also his judgement that "what sells over there doesn't float over there" is based on nothing. Sales figures for Japanese games do not indicate that to be true. FF 13 sold 6.2 million copies by August 2011. http://release.square-enix.com/na/2011/09/20_01.html
Since FF 6, every FF game has sold pretty well in NA and is a strong brand. Pokémon is also one of the strongest RPG brands around. The idea they have some unique cultural design that doesn't fit with "Western" audiences is bullsh*t."