As I mentioned on my Twitter, I’ve been watching GameCenter CX (in the US it was retitled Retro Game Master). It’s a show where a Japanese comedian is tasked with beating old, hard, and/or terrible video games; it’s also interspersed with interviews with developers and trips to Japanese game centers.
Here’s a sample episode for your perusal. In it our hero, Shinya Arino, must complete the original NES version of Ninja Gaiden. He’s never heard of it before.
(Anyone who has actually played Ninja Gaiden is probably chuckling already.)
Now, I love me this show a lot. It’s got humor, game history and interviews with luminaries of the Japanese gaming scene.
But at the same time it makes me wistful. Why? Because the punchline of the show isn’t that a 35-year-old man is playing games. It’s his reaction to being locked in a room with a terrible (or terribly difficult) game and being told he can’t go home until he finishes it that’s funny. When Arino visits game centers there are just as many adult players as children.
As you watch the show it becomes clear that gaming in Japan is not stigmatized like it is here in the United States. Nobody cares that Arino plays games; hell, everybody does it! There isn’t a single person in Japan that is Arino’s age that didn’t play a Famicom at some point in their childhood, and continuing to play games into adulthood isn’t seen as a failing but as perfectly normal.
I just wish that were the case here.
I leave you with Irish comedian Dara Ó Briain’s take on the social stigma of playing games here in the West (warning: salty, hilarious language).