Fez Creator Says People Have Gotten His "Japanese Games Suck" Comment All Wrong

Illustration for article titled emFez/em Creator Says People Have Gotten His Japanese Games Suck Comment All Wrong

Phil Fish doesn't want to talk about Japanese games anymore. Like, really. The Fez creator's been smothered by haters after his controversial remarks earlier this week. But he does want to set the record straight on some things.

Fish is sick of the controversy that's dogged him, saying that it's blown up totally out of proportion. "Yes, I acknowledge that I was rude," he admits. When I spoke to the Canadian designer at GDC yesterday, he said that the Q&A where he blurted out his comment was a freewheeling, loose affair. He said it's not an excuse, but his exclamation was in the spirit of the moment.


"And people have gotten it wrong. I said modern Japanese games suck," Fish clarifies.

"Nobody's mentioned that Jonathan Blow backed me up," Fish adds. Part of the conversation that night went to the differences between the first Legend of Zelda game and more recent ones and, according to Fish, the Braid creator "actually called modern Japanese games joyless husks."

When I asked Fish to expand on his antipathy for modern Japanese titles, one thing cited specifically was how the technology pipelines in Japanese development have been short-sighted and inefficient. "All these companies made separate engines for different games and then when Lost Planet and the first Dead Rising use the same engine, for example, it gets treated like this big revelation." Fish thinks that something's really wrong with that mindset.

He's not the only one, either. While interviewing Keiji Inafune yesterday, the Mega Man creator laughingly shot out the word "sucks" as soon as I mentioned Fish's name. Inafune said that he completely agrees with Fish's comment. "I want to give him a round of applause because it's a very brave action of giving an honest criticism," Inafune said.


I'd spoken to Inafune before running into Fish and, when I told the indie game-maker about the elder designer's comments, he said he appreciated the solidarity. The influence of older Japanese games on Fez is obvious, Fish says, and it hurts to be branded as arrogant and racist by Twitter users and message board commenters enflamed by his remarks. Ultimately, he wants to put all this behind him, he said, and focus on getting his long-brewing game out into the world.

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He shouldn't throw Jonathan Blow under the bus, Blow in his interview gave a very succinct run-down of his problem with many modern Japanese games right now, and of larger western titles.

Blow highlights the lost of player discovery in alot of Japanese games, and some larger western franchises. You have these games that hold you buy the hand, or present you with scenarios with very simplistic solutions, rather than giving the player tools to figure it out on their own. This also in some ways extends to player agency in a game-world, where the more tools I'm given to discover things on my own, the more I feel apart of the world, because I'm not being told what to do at all times like a "guest". As a player who plays video games for their interactivity, I want to have a strong sense of agency in a world, whether or not I'm playing a character with a fixed personality, or role-playing my own. What matters to me is a sense that the game developers are respecting my skills as a player, and give me just enough freedom to express myself.

CoD single-player doesn't do this, FF13 doesn't do this, Asura's Wrath, Zelda Skyward Sword....it just gets old when a game is so damn scared that I might not be able to handle simple tasks in front of me, and needs to hold me by the collar to finish them. Alot of Japanese games do this, but there are those that don't, and I love them for it. Dark Souls is a game that gives me the tools I need, and sets me off with tasks to go use them. As I move through the world, I'm encouraged to explore, surprises will greet me for doing it, and I need to solve the challenges on my own with little to no assistance. Persona 3 and 4 do alot of the same things, just they have a longer tutorial process, but once you're out of it you're pretty free to do alot of tasks at your own pace that lead to disovery, and move through the story. Valkyria Chronicles also gives me room to explore my own strategies for solving different military conflicts, and as I progress the game expects more of my experimentation, and gives me less assistance.

Quite literally that sense of discovery is what leads me to the Japanese games I've liked this gen, along with Western titles in the last year like Witcher 2, Deus Ex: HR, Skyrim, Fallout: New Vegas, Kingdoms of Amalur, SSX, Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl, Saints Row The Third, Orcs Must Die. At some level all these games gave me the tools to play, gave me a world or levels that were open to explore, and through my discoveries I had more fun than any of the other game experiences where the developer pushed me along a leash to show me what they thought I would enjoy. A game doesn't need to be open-world to do this, it just needs to be open enough for me to be able to discover things on my own about the game, not pull me along with heavily scripted sequences, elongated numerous cutscenes, and simplistic "one method to solve" objectives.