Sorry, this one is definitely not FFXIV-related.
Published in 2016/01/21 special issue
Happy New Year! That said, I’m not really interested in New Year’s celebrations, so it’s business as usual for me. It’s already been more than 10 years since I stopped watching TV (aside from having the news playing in the background in the morning), so I don’t feel the festive mood. The company does give us days off though, which frees up time to do other things.
For me, my holiday options are simple things like marathoning movies, playing games, or going snowboarding. There’s been unusually little snowfall this year, so I postponed my snowboarding trip to mid-January, leaving me without much to do right now. (As of right now on December 20th, 2015, even Kagura Ski Resort in Niigata has only gotten 60 cm of snow…)
During the New Year, I always watch the Matrix series starring Keanu Reeves. You may be thinking “What? You’re watching The Matrix in this day and age?”, but I’ve been rewatching the trilogy (The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded, and The Matrix Revolutions) every year for around 10 years now.
The reason why is simply because they’re entertaining. The Matrix itself got rave reviews, but I feel like the sequels didn’t do so well. A lot of Japanese anime and manga do homages to the finale, Revolutions, so some of its scenes are even seen as jokes now.
I think The Matrix has a lot of “game-like” elements. First of all, it’s basically a miracle that they were able to turn the theme of “Can you prove that the ‘real world’ you believe in is truly real?” into entertainment for the general public. In particular, the combination of internet and VR concepts was scarily accurate.
Instead of simply putting elements like bioelectricity, nanomachines, and eschatology together into one “product” based on famous Japanese anime and manga, their filming methods and integration of Asian action cinema techniques turned it into a hit production. Those who aren’t interested in sci-fi or technology might’ve found it artificial, but it’s truly impressive.
Japanese games seem to be putting the word “originality” on a pedestal these days—novelty, creativity, unprecedented ways of thinking, etc. It’s true that Japanese games are very creative, but that’s only because video games used to be a new form of entertainment. Nowadays, it’s almost impossible for a game to be completely original. Even if you think your proposal is brand-new, someone else out there has thought of it before. Saying it like this might make it sound like our lack of ideas is the problem, but you can’t work blindly, and the more you research other games, the more you start to think that you’ll never be able to create a completely original work.
Console games have gotten more complex over the years, and you can no longer focus on a single design. This is partially in order to differentiate them from social games, and I do agree with this progression, but the bigger the divide, the less viable it becomes to create a game based on a single bright idea like a puzzle game. You have to have story, characters, world lore, action gameplay—before you know it, it’s starting to resemble elements from other games. There’s nothing wrong with defying this, but personally, I’m not optimistic enough to spend years and years working on something until it’s absolutely revolutionary.
To me, the Matrix series is something where I can say “As long as the work is solid, there’s no need to worry about originality.” But it also taught me that if the work is too philosophical, the audience will have a difficult time understanding it, and it becomes a joke after too many homages are made. It’s a rare series that drives home the realization that you can’t go overboard.
My favourite part of the Matrix series is the conversation between the main protagonist, Neo and the Architect who appears in the latter part of Reloaded. It’s a scene that caused mass confusion for all of the people who came to watch the sequel to an action film. There’s a lot of online debate about it, but it has zero entertainment value. *laughs*
Still, if I have the time, I’ll watch all three films in one go, and there really is no other scene that can destroy an aspect of the story and completely transform the following course of events the way this one does. I’ve watched it and reflected on it so many times, and every year I come to the same conclusion as Neo: you have to make your own interpretations and decisions in order to advance.
The same applies when creating a game: there aren’t any blueprints, so all you can do is jot down tentative specifications, hoping that you’re on the right track. It’s all about struggling, making mistakes, and pondering how to avoid repeating those mistakes—that’s what I’m feeling after this year’s Matrix rewatch. “Man, movies sure are great, huh? *homage*”
 TL note: This is a catchphrase of Japanese film critic Haruo Mizuno.