Picking my autoethnographic artefact proved to be quite an easy process. Seeing that I am heavily into video games and its culture, it was more hard for me to pick specifically in gaming what I would look at. So what I decided to do, was look at something outside of my comfort zone. JRPG’s fit perfectly into what I was looking for, I have had no prior experience with the sub-genre. However, I don’t think it won’t be too much of a shock for me, and I should be able to easily find some similarities in western RPG games.
As defined by Ellis et al. (2011) Autoethnography is a combination of autobiography and ethnography, this helps to write about experiences or affects that a person receives from different media in different cultures. My own personal understanding of the word, is that it is a form of self-reflection on one’s own experiences in order to connect to much larger understandings, whether it be; cultural, political or social.
Through further research of JRPG’s and Western RPG’s or (WRPG’s), the country of origin in which the games were made have little to do with its identifier. JRPG’s are usually very story or narrative driven, in which you have a pre-set protagonist with a pre-set history and a pre-set personality, and usually you are given a default name. JRPG’s also focus more on the RNG (Random number generator) mechanic rather than the player’s input, and have some sort of turn based function implemented. JRPG games tend to have a very linear story-line in which the player must follow.
Western RPG’s or WRPG’s however, are much more player focused, in which the player is given an avatar that they can customize and give a custom name to, even the personality can be customized. Rather than having a unique character given to the player, they have an avatar that they custom made, in which they play the game with. The gameplay for WRPG’s also tend to be less RNG based and more skill based, allowing the player to have a lot of input into the gameplay. WRPG’s are more about exploring the world, with a lot more freedom for the player to do as they wish.
My own personal experiences with RPG’s prior to viewing and experiencing the JRPG of my choice, stemmed from my childhood to the current on-going obsession with games. Having been born in the generation where technology is easily accessible, and almost every household having a computer or a smart phone. Getting my young grubby hands onto video games felt natural to me, and one of my first experiences with an RPG game would have been runescape. The still popular massive-multiplayer role playing game, had me sitting at my CRT monitor for hours on end, grinding and levelling until early hours of the morning.
The artefact of my choice that I decided to study through autoethnography was a JRPG game called “Aura Kingdom”, also known as “Fantasy Frontier Online”. In Japan it originally was called Gensō Shin’iki (Fantasy Sanctuary), made by the Taiwanese game developer X-Legend. The game begins in a village like setting where the villagers ask you to complete tasks and quests for them, players can pick from twelve different classes: Guardian, Duelist, Ravager, Wizard, Sorcerer, Bard, Grenadier, Gunslinger, Brawler, Ranger, Ronin, Necromancer and Greatsword. Players also are able to pick their own starting pet Eidolon to start their battles with, with the ability to recruit more as the game progresses.
- The art style and general aesthetic of the game’s environment, felt very World of Warcraft like, with the low poly simple villages and forests for the player to explore.
- The character design felt very out of place, as they were very anime-esk, large eyes, big hair, elaborate armour designs, and very distinct Naruto running styles.
- I found there was a lot going on, on the screen, a lot of large animating numbers depicting damage and damage taken, huge sprites for attack animations, it felt like playing an arcade game with the amount of flashing colours and sprites.
- There was a lot of inner monologue for the protagonist, or the character I was playing, each quest the character would question things that happened, it seemed like a very anime thing to do.
- In terms of the other players playing this game, it felt like playing runescape, the chat was constantly being spammed by the people selling gold for real life money, or trading items and such.
- I could tell the community was fairly large just from playing the game for an hour, simply by the chat system and other functions like the shout bar at the top of the screen.
- One thing I also noticed was that the game went from a very linear storyline at the beginning, where it had this different kind of art style, to a very open world game that reminded me a lot of WoW.
- It just goes to show how modern games these days are blurring the lines between JRPG’s and WRPG’s as both games seem to be taking from one another.
- In this instance, JRPG’s seem to be taking from the customizability of characters and names, as well as the idea of open world intractability.
- At the same time the game still felt very JRPG rather than WRPG, even whilst taking some of these aspects from WRPG games.