Lying to myself – my strange and enduring non-relationship with JRPGs

I have finished three JRPGs in my life.  The first, Final Fantasy VIII way back in the late nineties, blew me away.  It was cinematic, it was touching, it was a hell of a lot of fun.  Its 2000 sequel was the second, which raised the bar by presenting what I still to this day is one of the best ensemble casts to grace a video game screen, while hooking me in with simple yet engrossing battle system.  The third, more recently over the summer of 2008, was the fantastic Persona 3.

As recent as that seems, that’s coming up on seven years ago now, seven years that have gone by without seeing those ever elusive credits scroll, without ever seeing the always long-winded and often poorly translated story to its undoubtedly fitting conclusion.  Sure, I’ve dabbled, even enjoyed the odd JRPG over the years.  But no game since that crazy tale of teenage life in Japan has held my attention long enough to grind past the first misstep.  I lost my whole party in Dark Spire in one fell swoop way back in 2009 and shelved it indefinitely.  Which by the way I’m still incredibly bitter about. While perhaps more akin to the more western style of roleplaying game I played and loved in my youth – Eye of the Beholder and Bards Tale – it is a pretty good indication of what the genre is up against in vying for my attention.

But I’d still make excuses as to why I wasn’t playing them.  “I just don’t have the time, what with my job and my social life, and my responsibilities.  God forbid I have kids, am I right?!” I’d say.  “I just don’t start them because, bloody hell, that’s one hell of a time commitment I just can’t afford”.  I’d use any excuse to justify why I wasn’t playing them, but it was the severe reduction in free time that came with moving out of home and into full time work that best corroborated my story.  “Just give me something quick and dirty”.

Of course, I’d then go and spend 30 hours with the latest Far Cry game.  I was lying to myself.

And for a long time I stuck to that story, that idealised version of myself, almost to the point where anyone that came to know me probably thought that up until 2005, I was a sucker for the old Japanese role playing game.  They may have even thought me to be a bit of an expert in the area, not of my doing of course, but it was probably an easy assumption to make.  It’s irrational I know, almost as if I’m clinging to some version of me that I desperately wanted to be, the version of the video game fan I saw on the internet in the mid-2000s, where anyone worth their salt was playing the latest opus from the East.  If you hadn’t played Chrono Trigger, you were the gaming equivalent of a Luddite  And I kept up appearances with that persona (ahem) for a long time, buying seemingly every worthwhile title that hit that market, even searching high and low for the more obscure ones to add to my collection.  Games that still sit there on my shelf, largely untouched, definitely unfinished.  Resonance of Fate sitting alongside the seemingly thousands of entries in Namco’s Tales series, gathering dust, while I pillage and plunder the games from around them.

Which brings us to now, seven years and one console generation later, and still no more JRPG notches on my belt.  And that’s sad on some levels because I simply love the idea of JRPGs.  They’re usually thematically beautiful games that, more often than not, take me on a grand and sweeping journey to fantastical worlds to meet even more fantastical people while fighting my way through fantastical bestiaries.  They offer an amazing cerebral challenge, taxing the brain in a way that no other genre tends to, and in the best cases, offers the same sort of satisfaction I can imagine Napoleon got upon decimating the armies of his foes.  But there is almost nothing about the act of playing them that gets me excited.  Which is weird, because when it comes to accumulating them, I’m quick to the draw.  It’s like I’m almost hedging my bets in the hopes that one day, just one of these days, I’ll decide that JRPGs are the best thing since Vegemite and pour hours upon hours into traipsing through dungeons while assuming the role of an unlikely hero.

Problem is I’m not sure I’ll ever be that bloke.  But I think I’m finally actually okay with that.


I’ve developed a bit of a fascination with how people create and often curate their video gaming identities. Want to know more?  Try:

The Great Videogame retcon: how the internet has Americanised our gaming history

Beware the retrogaming illuminati (and don’t let videogames define you)

2006: A Spacial Odyssey – how objectivity is ruining the Nintendo Wii’s Legacy