Naoki Yoshida, producer of the upcoming Final Fantasy XVI and sponsor of the revitalized MMO Final Fantasy XIV, isn’t the biggest fan of the term JRPG, as it turns out. JRPG is a term many of us in the West roll around very capriciously, and as fans do, argue endlessly about what exactly constitutes a true Japanese role-playing game. It is used as an acronym to describe a particular style of game design that originated in that country in the late 1980s, reached its golden age in the 1990s, and was instrumental in the success of the PlayStation as a platform.
In an interview with YouTuber skillsYoshida, who traveled to Japan to speak to the senior development team, was asked how far RPGs had progressed compared to action games. According to the interviewer, Yoshida was clearly uncomfortable with this phrase.
Koji Fox, director of localization, explained, “One thing [Yoshida] We want to get past the point is that when we create games, we don’t go into it thinking we’re making RPGs, we’re just creating RPGs. The term JRPG is used in Western media rather than in Japanese users and media.”
We’re certainly guilty of relying on the term ourselves at times and have never questioned its use before, considering it just another MMO-style neutral descriptive acronym.
Yoshida goes on to say (as translated by Fox) that some Japanese developers don’t like the term, explaining that “it will depend on who you ask, but there was a time when the term first appeared 15 years ago, and for us developers the first time we heard it, It was like a discriminatory term. Like we’re making fun of creating these games, and so for some developers, the term JRPG can be something that maybe brings up bad feelings because of how it used to be.”
Yoshida continued, “It wasn’t a compliment to many developers in Japan. We understand that recently JRPGs have better connotations and are used as positive, but we still remember the time when it was used as a negative.”
With Final Fantasy XVI competing against other AAA heavyweights like Hogwarts Legacy and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, it seems some developers don’t want to be confined to a label used in some cases as a pejorative. Yoshida explains that the term has negative connotations, “that it is turn-based, that like the anime, These Teenagers Save the World, is very ‘JRPG'”.
Given how ubiquitous the term is in the industry, it remains to be seen if its usage will change in the future, but Yoshida certainly stirred up controversy with his comments. What do you think of the term JRPG, and can you appreciate how Yoshida feels about it? Come up with a decent alternative in the comments section below.
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