One of the realities of a globalized economy is the exchange of cultural trends and behaviours, and that is especially true in the world of entertainment, with the biggest media exported globally to be enjoyed thousands of miles away.
This is true in the world of cinema, where major Hollywood blockbusters are sent around the world all year round. English-speaking audiences generally enjoy the unedited product, while films are also either subtitled or dubbed for those who don’t understand the language.
Whatever changes are made, the original vision of the product usually remains in place – the fashion, the culture, the music, and the ways of life. Alongside their storytelling, the biggest movies are enjoyed for the window they offer into another world.
While film has entertained for more than a century, other industries have also played a key role in cultural exchange. And in this article, we will examine the impact made by video games in helping the world’s population learn something new about another culture.
BIG IN JAPAN
As one of the industry’s international mega-powers, Japan is the obvious place to start here. The Land of the Rising Sun is the home of household names like Sega, Nintendo, and Sony. Japanese brands like Bandai, Konami, and Capcom have also made enormous contributions to the scene during the last 30 years, with Capcom’s Devil May Cry series continuing to make major waves.
The export of games developed in Japan has helped provide a unique insight into the nation’s culture and mannerisms, whether that be the style of story-telling, the characteristics of the games’ heroes, or the design of the levels and environments. The Anime art style is a major part of this, with games like Pokémon Red in particular helping to popularize the genre in western markets. Anime pre-dates console gaming by several decades, but it was quickly assimilated into the industry during the 80s.
Games are of course developed with a global audience in mind, and developers working with teams of translators and advisors to ensure the finished product is right for players in Europe and America – although, in the early days, the translations from Japanese to English were far from perfect.
The cultural exchange between Japan and the rest of the world hasn’t been one-way traffic. Western trends have a big influence in Eastern Asia, with traditional American sports like baseball now entrenched as a part of Japanese culture.
Professional wrestling is also well-established in Japan, through promotions like New Japan Pro Wrestling, while other entertainment services are being translated and adapted for a Japanese audience.
In gaming, the arrival of Microsoft on the console scene saw an American brand gain a foothold in the Japanese market, although their Xbox line of consoles has struggled against ‘home-grown’ products from Nintendo and Sony. Elsewhere in the industry, there are more obvious examples of cultural exchange in the software itself. Titles like Metal Gear Solid helped influence the stealth genre which subsequently saw the release of Splinter Cell, while aspects of Skyrim helped to influence Zelda: Breath of the Wild with the concept of the large expansive worlds you could explore.
Outside of the video game industry, the influence of traditional Japanese culture can be seen in several online casino games, with titles like Pixel Samurai, Geisha Story, and Kanpai Banzai borrowing obviously Japanese themes. This online casino website demonstrates both categories of games and perfectly exemplifies the two-way cultural relationship Japan enjoys with other nations. This isn’t a one-way exchange, and many Western brands, from Europe and America, remain unaltered and available to players in Japan, with games like Justice League, Gem and Spash: Marilyn Monroe offering a true slice of Americana.
I’ll keep this quick.
1. Xbox One in Japan hasn’t even sold what the original Xbox sold on launch day in Japan. pic.twitter.com/C9O6ZG6Loo
— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) August 29, 2016
As we can see, gaming has played a huge role in the development of cultural exchanges globally, with the relationships between Japan, America, and Europe being particularly strengthened. And with western brands like Microsoft and Google growing in stature, the industry will likely continue to promote this sharing of national passions.