Dungeons and Dragons in Japan

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yakumo9275
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CRPGS have roots in D&D, and we know well the history of D&D and Gygax and chainmail and such and the history of war games... This all formed the basis of our beloved CRPG's. Before homebrew computers, Apple II's and Ultima were exported to japan, what did japan have?

What brew japans gaming traditions? I cant somehow see someone taking kabuki and opera and going 'lets make a computer game simulation with those rules!'.

Anyone know what kind of impact D&D had over there?

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Bill Loguidice
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Egypt
Matt Barton wrote:

Fascinating stuff, Rob. I am definitely not adventurous enough to go to Japan all by myself (or even with Elizabeth in tow), but I might get up the nerve to try Canada or Europe one day. I've always wanted to visit Mark in France or the Netherlands, and would love to go to Belgium very much. When I saw that Mark's wife was an Egyptologist--ahh, that's my dream, to see the pyramids. I've read and studied Egypt as a hobby for some time now, and would love to get to see it.

Christina and I would love to see the Egyptian pyramids, but I just can't trust the region. We did see the pyramids in Mexico on our honeymoon in 2001 and absolutely loved it. Canada was nothing special, though we only went to Nova Scotia, Montreal and Quebec. The latter two did have a very European feel (not that I've ever been there, unlike Christina).

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Xbox 360: billlog | Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Matt Barton
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Fascinating stuff, Rob. I am

Fascinating stuff, Rob. I am definitely not adventurous enough to go to Japan all by myself (or even with Elizabeth in tow), but I might get up the nerve to try Canada or Europe one day. I've always wanted to visit Mark in France or the Netherlands, and would love to go to Belgium very much. When I saw that Mark's wife was an Egyptologist--ahh, that's my dream, to see the pyramids. I've read and studied Egypt as a hobby for some time now, and would love to get to see it.

If I ever came into a large sum of money, I'd definitely like to take a tour. However, I'm never figured out the right way to handle bums. I hate it when they start pestering me.

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Rowdy Rob
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Visiting Japan: the cultural differences
Bill Loguidice wrote:

It really is a fascinating culture there. I almost wonder if some of us wouldn't be happier there in some regard.

In some regard.... yes, some of us would be happier, although I think American "geek" culture has largely caught up, and in many ways far surpasses what I saw in Japan. While Japan may be a more "geeky" country than America, a geek is still a geek, no matter what country you're in, and true "geeks" in Japan are just as ostracized there as they are here. The Japanese equivalent of "Bill Loguidice" would probably be seen as a weirdo, unless he was a respected scholar who played off his "videogame collection" as a study in modern anthropology. From my view, it appears that such "eccentricities" are only tolerated in Japan if you've achieved some significant social status. Although.... Bill probably would get a pass since he is (soon to be) a published book author, which is very respectable (here in America, too!). Matt... an easy pass, since he is a scholar and published book author.

The "geek" culture was awesome in Tokyo back in the 80's! Here's some highlights.

In America, you might go to a local arcade to play videogames. In Japan, there were literally STREETS with almost nothing but video arcades!!! I'm talking one arcade business next to another, next to another, etc.!!! It was a coin-op gamer's paradise!! Played all the coin-ops in this arcade? Go next door and play the games in THAT arcade! Needless to say, arcade hopping with my friends in the "Shinjuku" district was among my fondest high-school era memories, particularly since it was at the beginning of the Japanese videogame revolution! I was there from "Space Invaders" to "Pole Position, Operation Wolf, Punch Out, Gladiator," etc. I saw Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Frogger, Galaxians, Galaga, and a host of other games long before Americans did. Of course, I saw the "Famicom" about a year (or more) before it came out in the States as the NES!

I even tried to become a "foreign correspondent" for the U.S. "Electronic Games" magazine, but that never came about. Perhaps my writing wasn't up to snuff for them, I dunno. Too bad for them... I sent them a review of "Donkey Kong Junior" (which I raved about) long before the game hit US shores.

In many countries, you might find street vendors that sell produce, fish, trinkets, or whatever, but in Tokyo (in the Akihabara district), you find street vendors that sell electronic parts, such as diodes, transistors, joystick connectors, etc.!

Yes, comics, and to a lesser extent, videogames and cartoons are considered a bit more acceptable to adults. It was not an uncommon sight to see an old business executive reading "manga" while riding the train. Cartoons.... it depends on what type of cartoon it is. Many "Anime" cartoons that are popular here in America with older geeks are considered "kiddie fare" in Japan, even though many of them are crude and violent by Western standards. You'll probably never see some of the cruder kiddie animes over here that I saw regularly on Japanese TV. For example, one popular comedic cartoon featured an intergalactic wrestler who flew through the air, propelled by.... his flatulence. :-( Needless to say, my Western sensibilities were disgusted.

Some (like Bill) are not fond of the "cute" Anime style, but my cousin once asked me "why do all American cartoons feature talking animals???" I didn't have an answer to that one.... :-)

Bill Loguidice wrote:

At the same time, it's a small, overpopulated country. I'm sure a vacation there would fix any long-term interest in the country right up--staying in one of those famously tiny hotel rooms would probably do it.

The hotels I stayed in over there were quite spacious, easily comparable to typical Western hotels. This doesn't count the "cubicle hotels" that many train stations have... those are rentable "coffins" merely intended for a cheap place to crash if it's too late (or you're too drunk) to go back home. Apartments and houses, however, really are notoriously cramped in Tokyo.

Probably the hardest barrier to enjoying Japan is the cultural barrier. A typical Westerner would find it a very alien society, and Japanese is considered one of the hardest languages in the world to learn. To be honest, it would take a very open-minded, adventurous American to "get" Japanese culture. You're not going to "get it" in a one-week vacation, even if you have a little fun. I think the average "Joe Six-Pack" should vacation in Europe instead... the cultural barrier is much less shocking.

Taking a bath in Japan is not the same. In Japan, you're not supposed to get into the bathtub until you are finished washing yourself. ("Huh?" I hear you all saying :-) ) Speaking of baths, some hotels have "public baths," meaning you have to bathe around other people!

Toilets are not the same. Yes, there are "toilets," but Japanese toilets have electronic control panels full of buttons with Japanese writing on them. Yes, they're super high-tech! And you're screwed if you try to use one of them... how do you flush the thing??? Here's a link to a humorous news story of a Western diplomat trying to use a Japanese toilet.

http://www.theplumber.com/japan.html

I've seen posts on this website pondering (lamenting?) the cultural influence of Japan on Western society, but from my perspective, there is little, if any, Japanese cultural influence here! On the other hand, Western influence on Japanese culture is enormous! Western fashions, movies, music, and sports are very popular in Japan. It's fashionable in Japan to dye your hair to a "Western" color (rather than the Asian "black"); apparently nearly everyone dyes their hair in Japan now. Heck, there are even people getting surgery over there to reduce the "slant" of their eyes to look more Western!

Ok, thank you for reading my book on the subject! Until next time....

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Bill Loguidice
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Agreed
Matt Barton wrote:

Mat T. went there for a month and loved it, though he seems more comfortable with big city life than I would be. I might be able to get used to it, but I'm happier with more privacy and a bigger living space. I definitely would hate living in a slummy apartment and paying out the wazoo for "the privilege."

I'm most certainly a suburban person, not a city person!

Vintage Games book!
Xbox 360: billlog | Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Matt Barton
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Mat T. went there for a

Mat T. went there for a month and loved it, though he seems more comfortable with big city life than I would be. I might be able to get used to it, but I'm happier with more privacy and a bigger living space. I definitely would hate living in a slummy apartment and paying out the wazoo for "the privilege."

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yakumo9275
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not to mention cost of

not to mention cost of living would scare us all away

-- Stu --

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Bill Loguidice
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Land of Mystery
Matt Barton wrote:

Fascinating stuff. From my reading, it seemed that Japan got its RPGs from the West, particularly Wizardry and Ultima. Let me say I haven't ever been to Japan, but what I've heard (and believe) is that cartoons, comics, and videogames are much more universally popular and accepted there. It's not like these things are considered "geeky" and "nerdy" and their fans ostracized or limited to a narrow demographic. In effect, it's a more diverse market.

It really is a fascinating culture there. I almost wonder if some of us wouldn't be happier there in some regard. At the same time, it's a small, overpopulated country. I'm sure a vacation there would fix any long-term interest in the country right up--staying in one of those famously tiny hotel rooms would probably do it.

Vintage Games book!
Xbox 360: billlog | Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Matt Barton
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Fascinating stuff. From my

Fascinating stuff. From my reading, it seemed that Japan got its RPGs from the West, particularly Wizardry and Ultima. Let me say I haven't ever been to Japan, but what I've heard (and believe) is that cartoons, comics, and videogames are much more universally popular and accepted there. It's not like these things are considered "geeky" and "nerdy" and their fans ostracized or limited to a narrow demographic. In effect, it's a more diverse market.

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Rowdy Rob
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Addendum: I was wrong!

It looks like paper & dice role playing does have at least a small, devoted following in Japan! Here's a link to a web article that describes the underground D&D community in Japan!

http://no-sword.jp/blog/2008/03/lets_roll.html

Also, here's an article describing the first RPG, computer or otherwise, introduced in Japan. According to the article, not only was it an American who developed the first Japanese CRPG, it was the same guy (Henk Rogers) who negotiated with Russia for the rights to Tetris for Nintendo!!!

Here's the article from the "Edge" website:

http://www.edge-online.com/magazine/the-making-of-japans-first-rpg

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Rowdy Rob
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I suppose I should say a few thoughts on this....

I can't say much for a fact on this subject, since I haven't been back to Japan since 1986, so consider what I say here "educated guesses."

I think Japanese CRPG's are primarily influenced by western CRPG's, with a dose of anime to make the games seem less "dry" to the Japanese palate. I don't know for a fact, but I suspect pen-paper-and-dice role play gaming is very rare in Japanese society, if it exists at all. Considering the time and study restraints on Japanese youth, I doubt that the kids have enough time to really play D&D, which is a very time-consuming game in the long term. I can't even conceive of adults playing pen-paper-dice RPGs in Japan; in "image-conscious" Japanese society, they'd be considered immature!

I think RPG's, both computer and pen-paper-dice, are purely a Western conception, and JRPG's took the idea and adopted it (improved it???) to fit their culture. The anime influence is obvious, but I think anime was applied because earlier videogaming platforms didn't have the resolution to go for realism, but cartoon-style imagery was easier to apply, and certainly seemed to have more personality than the old "stick figure" RPGs of yesterday. Also, I suspect Japanese gamers don't like "slogging," but want immediate goals and drama, hence the more "storytelling" aspect of JRPGs, and less flexibility.

Western fantasy CRPG's go for some level of realism and adult appeal (in general), but I think JRPG's avoid this approach because I suspect (educated guess!) that the Japanese people consider the "fantasy" genre to be kiddie fare, on the level of "Hansel and Gretel" and "Little Red Riding Hood." Hence the "cutesy" approach.

Well, like I said, these are just some thoughts. If non-computer role-playing is happening in Japan today, it would have to be as a consequence of the introduction of CRPG's to their society, rather than the reverse that happened in the West. I suspect that most Japanese CRPG'ers play these games as "videogames," and not "role playing games." I wonder if the concept of "role playing" is even considered (or conceived of) in Japan.

qoj hpmoj o+ 6uo73q 3Jv 3svq jnoh 77V

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