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East vs. West: Cheering on the Underdogs

Despite a strong argument made by no less than the Pet Shop Boys, I choose East.

Normally, I can`t say no to a man in a helmet that awesome.

I love Western games, and your stereotypical Western game packs a lot of FPS or TPA (3rd-person action) punch. Big, meaty shooters with solid explodin' and tough dudes.

But sometimes, too much is just too much. Tautologically speaking.

I've struggled somewhat with this blog call, because outside of a JRPG, I have a hard time determining a stereotypical Eastern game. Western games, even those with RPG leanings, tend to incorporate a great deal of shooter and action elements - there are very few triple-A titles that don't include these to some degree. Open-worlds are also de facto for my stereotypical Western title.

But what of the Eastern stereotypes? Yes, JRPGs typically contain spiky-haired orphans with large weapons defeating an anthropomorphized representation of an ancient, fundamental evil force. But what about shmups? What about dating sims? Horror games? Metal Gears (which wear their Western-inspirations proudly emblazoned on their sleeves)? There are tons of Eastern games that share few similarities across them.

It is somewhat fitting that the embodiment of all evil has a clown nose.

So, let me define my stereotypes:
- main character is typically a strong or capable soldier type (either military, or extremely proficient like Uncharted's Nate).
- the main character drives the story, which is typically extremely high-stakes - the one super-soldier that is responsible for saving all of humanity from being annihilated.
- typically structured so that difficulty progresses steadily throughout.
- has a multiplayer component, which may overshadow the single-player.
- narrative may be free (first-person) or cutscene-heavy.

Something like this. Might need more ladies.

- a underpowered or (nearly) helpless main character
- an epic story that involves the player, but doesn`t revolve around the character. Typically one that sweeps up the player, as opposed to one starring them.
- a game that typically provides a high level of challenge, and has noticeable difficulty spikes (that stab you).
- a game that has a strong focus on the single-player campaign.
- unafraid to use tons of text. Not afraid of using copious cutscenes.

Um, maybe this? Seems Easterny.

So, in the end, it seems to boil down to whether I prefer games about empowerment/badassery (Western) or games about overcoming challenges/adversity (Eastern).
Broken down into these terms, I have to Go East.

It breaks my heart, too. WHY MUST WE DISAGREE?!

I'm not above enjoying a power fantasy. They can be fantastic, adrenaline-fuelled adventures that constantly impress with spectacle. But the games I remember and love are the ones that strike deeper. Games where the characters resonated, or the story impressed, or games where I actually felt deeper emotions than "Dude! I totally shot that dude IN THE FACE WITH A SAWBLADE!"

Although that is badass.

I've replayed the Ace Attorney games numerous times. I am considering buying a Wii mainly to play Fragile Dreams. The Clock Tower and Fatal Frame games still give me pause when I play them. And I am extremely excited that I'll be able to play Ico when it's re-released. And I have been enjoying the even greater challenge of Demon's Souls on NG+.
Each of these games strikes me a being quite Eastern, as I have never felt completely in control during any of these titles. They force the player to predict, to react, and to accept vulnerabilities in various ways. And by forcing the player to do that, it makes success so much more exciting.

No one expects Dom or Master Chief to fail - it may take many respawns, but you`re the big badass. But when Phoenix Wright pulls through a trial by the skin of his teeth and numerous surprise turnabouts, or Rei manages to find out the meaning of her tattoo, or my Temple Knight finally triumphs over the False King Allant, it makes that much more of an impression because it was never assured. I, the player had to overcome all of the obstacles presented in addition to the inherent disadvantages of the character I was inhabiting. By succeeding where there is no implied guarantee of success, it makes the eventual victory that much better.

I haven't just beaten the game - I've prevailed. And that is why it is fitting I choose East over West - West may have all the advantages (size, strength, regenerating health), but East has heart.

And if you have heart, you get to hang out with blond Russian chicks. Also monkeys.
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About Gnarlythotepone of us since 6:36 PM on 02.17.2011

I'm a male Caucasian, who enjoys playing games of most genres. I typically purchase a single console for each generation, but refuse to get caught up in console wars (although I`ll happily provide the details for my choice, if asked, but hardly expect anyone to switch or care).

Favorite games: typically adventure style - I`ve always loved Sierra games and SCUMM adventures. For modern games I tend to skew towards ones that I find interesting and especially those intersecting with other interests (e.g., I enjoyed Wet, due to my skewed film preferences).
In general, I also tend to enjoy games that at least try to do something a bit differently, or at least with a little humour.

Last game(s) played to completion:
Ace Attorney - Justice for All
Costume Quest
Scott Pilgrim VTWTG
Deathspank: Thongs of Virtue
Red Johnson's Chronicles

Games I've played in the last month(ish):
Room 215: Hotel Dusk
Shadows of the Damned
MGS: Peace Walker
The Warriors (PSP)
Costume Quest
Demon's Souls
Scott Pilgrim VTWTG
Tactics Ogre: LUCT
Patapon 2
Ace Attorney - Justice for All

Systems Owned (* = currently):
Apple IIe
PC* (various)
SNES* (bought after PS)
Nintendo DS Lite*
GBA (broken :( )*
PSN ID:Bionic_6


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