Gaming With God: Eastern vs Western Gamers

If you’re reading this, most likely you are on the western hemisphere of this beautiful world we call Earth. If not, then you’re on the eastern hemisphere and may or may not be in Asia. Wherever you may be, video games will be played or purchased in different ways. Loyalties to Xbox, PlayStation or Nintendo differ depending on where you go, and there are many statistics done yearly to show how gaming is evolving throughout the world.

I love how big our world is, and the cultural diversity we all have. We are all the same, but given access to the same technology doesn’t always mean it will turn out the same. If you were to look at the games that are produced in Japan compared to those in the USA, you can see a striking differences. Just think about American cartoons and how different anime is from them. The same goes for gaming, and even the devices used to play them on.

Let’s go over some statistics shall we? After that, I will go over my personal perspective on the differences I see between each side.

Courtesy of:

As you can see, these are statistics for the USA only, and they are very interesting to see.

  • Most gamers are adults, and male.
  • 2 out of 5 gamers are female, so there goes that bias that video games are only for boys (take that, opinions and assumptions)
  • 65% of American households play video games.
  • Software sales for consoles are at $150+ million, while PC software sales are at $36+ million. Cry PC Master Race…cry me a river.
  • The best selling video games were all Nintendo games, though I have to point out that several of them came included with the console, so I’m not sure if that detail was figured in that stat.

Now let’s take a trip over to Asia, and see how games are played over there. Let me make a note here, the statistics are not as detailed as they are for America, but I can make a few notes based on the graphics seen below.

Courtesy of:
  • Mobile games are played more than consoles in Asia. In fact, over $18 billion is spent on mobile alone. This would include the purchase of the game/app, and freemium games (basically a game that’s free but you have to pay to unlock certain features or goods).
  • China increased it’s gaming sales in 2012 by 34%, and online games made up 94% of that revenue.
  • Arcades and Pachinko is very popular in Japan (only Japan, not all of Asia) compared to the states, where Arcades are rare to find and often empty.
  • Video games that require cooperation between players are more prevalent in Asia due to the culture norm of working together in groups.
  •  Top Platforms: Mobile, social, online, PC
  • Expect to see consoles make lots of revenue in China since they lifted their ban on consoles.
Commander Shepard of the Mass Effect series.

Ok, so if I overloaded your mind with numbers and facts, let me apologize. Now, let’s get to my personal analysis of differences between both sides. As a gamer who was born and raised in the United States yet has a passion for anime, Japan and JRPGS in particular I have seen big differences between both types of players.

So let’s talk RPG’s, which is one of the largest and most obvious divide between both regions. When you look at an Eastern RPG (Final Fantasy, Star Ocean, Disgaea, Dragon Quest, etc) compared to a Western RPG (Mass Effect, Fallout, Star Wars: KOTOR, etc) it comes down to several factors that make them unique. Eastern RPG’s tend to focus on groups with a lead protagonist (Cloud, Lightning, Ryu (Breath of Fire), Sora) while the other games only have one main character interacting with several other NPCs.

Tales of the Abyss party.

The other matter is that you get to influence the story in Western games unlike Eastern ones where you just follow a set path for your party (FF XIII anyone?). In most games that are created here in the states, we are given free roam to the world and the choices are ours to make unlike most Japanese/Asian games where you aren’t even allowed to make a choice, aside from what weapon or item to buy. Decisions can influence your love interests, enemies, side-quests, and even the endings of the game itself. One JRPG though that did break that mold was the classic Chrono Trigger, which is one of my favorite games of all time.

There’s also lots of tongue-in-cheek humor and oftentimes even sexual innuendos in Asian games, while games like Grand Theft Auto tried to push that to another level. Americans like to push all the boundaries in gaming while the Japanese tend to follow a pattern that works and they are reluctant to change regardless of what their fans or critics say about it. I believe this has to do with the Kaizen way of life that many Eastern people live by, which makes it difficult for them to go a different route than they have because of all the data and approvals that are needed to switch the smallest element of a game. Just look at Nintendo! (Yes, I went there.)

The pope from Grandia II

The last difference I want to point out is the spiritual aspect between both sides. In the USA, we tend to stay far away from religion or anything that has to do with God. If it’s mentioned, an uproar may occur, though I personally think people won’t make that big of a deal about it. Eastern games are not afraid to have a god or religious figure and often will have characters fighting a god or “messiah-complex” figure. This can cause confusion to Western gamers who aren’t used to seeing religious topics in their games, yet some even poke fun or show disdain to churches or faith in general.

What kind of gamer are you? Which side do you tend to lean towards? What differences do you see that I didn’t cover? I know there’s so much that can be talked about here, so let me know in the comments below. God bless ya.







18 thoughts on “Gaming With God: Eastern vs Western Gamers

  1. 1) “The other matter is that you get to influence the story in Western games unlike Eastern ones” – Major criticism for Mass Effect 3 was that all of the choices you made in the other two games had literally no effect on the ending.

    2) “In the USA, we tend to stay far away from religion or anything that has to do with God.” – God of War, anyone?

    3) “There’s also lots of tongue-in-cheek humor and oftentimes even sexual innuendos in Asian games, while games like Grand Theft Auto tried to push that to another level.” – Bayonetta anyone?

    4) “In most games that are created here in the states, we are given free roam to the world” – In the Final Fantasy games you mentioned, you’re allowed to walk around the overworld similar to western games… (FFXIII excluded)

    1. Hi marthaurion, thanks so much for the comment and also for reading my article so thoroughly. Allow me to explain each of your points, as you made some good references there:

      1) True, ME3’s ending didn’t change regardless of the other two transferred data but I wasn’t talking about the ending, I was just talking about making decisions in Western RPGs overall not the ending. Sure, some games have endings that won’t change regardless of the decisions you make but hey, that’s gaming.

      2) God of War does have to do with religion, as do several other games but I mentioned that there are games but they are very rare. God of War didn’t deal with religion in a way that explored it. It was just used as a backdrop for a violent game to do it’s thing, smash bad guys heads to the floor. That’s like saying Doom dealt with the place of hell in an informative way.

      3) Bayonetta is quite the exception, games like that are again the exception. I’m talking about the overall scope of video games, not one or two series/games. To be honest, there are few topics that have not been discussed or pushed in gaming.

      4) I didn’t mention any particular FF game. I did mention Cloud and Lightning. You say to exclude FF13 which didn’t allow free roaming till around the end of the game, and even that wasn’t….that great. FF7 did allow free roaming but to an extend. It’s not like a Western RPG (compare any JRPG to Witcher 3 for example).

      I hope that cleared up those points you mentioned? Not trying to start a debate, but I do like to break down and explain more if need be instead of writing a super long article.

      1. I think my main point is that your post seems to be listing a lot of stereotypical differences between Eastern and Western games without any real takeaway. You seem to brush off my exceptions, but wouldn’t it be more beneficial to say something like this: We’ve long had this split between Eastern and Western games and the claim has been that the “culture” is different in these two hemispheres and therefore, these differences are just marketing. But hey…look at all of these exceptions on both sides that are actually well-known and popular, showing that the East and West can play nice.

        1. Ah, I see what you mean, ok now I understand where you coming across better than your first post. I did list several stereotypes, but they aren’t actually stereotypes they are real statistics.

          I mean, we do play nice, I haven’t heard of angry Eastern gamers hating on Westerners. I mean, if there is a beef between both sides I honestly haven’t read about it which is why I didn’t cover it, nor did I find any of that in the research I looked through.

          Though, that wouldn’t be a bad article to write if it does exist. Thanks for your thoughts marthaurion, and I apologize if I came off a little rough on my previous post, I meant to just clarify your points.

          1. This article was kind of about all games in both cultures so generalisations are entirely appropriate. There are exceptions but we’re talking about differences in games because of what each culture expects from games (or doesn’t). To be honest only the last three paragraphs were worth reading (for me) so the article seemed long winded but left me wanting more (sorry).

            1. Thanks knifey for the feedback. I will be 100% honest, when I wrote this article i was trying for something different in the way I write. I personally don’t enjoy statistic and factual articles BUT I wanted to give it a try to see how it comes out as a writer.

              What’s funny is I was more interested in writing those last 3 paragraphs than actually doing the previous research. I’m glad to know that you were wanting more, as that gives me a clearer picture where my strengths lie in my writing 🙂 God bless ya, and look forward to future comments.

  2. I’m not good with words, so pardon me if I don’t elaborate on this verbally, but I believe you’ll get what you’re hoping to achieve more likely if you ask a different question as the premise of the article.

    Instead of sorting games under two giant umbrellas – west or east, try to associate the games by the person or team who develop it. I think it is more accurate that way nowadays. Not to mention less taxing.

    1. Hiya LGrey, thanks for the comment. Yeah, that’s a good idea about associating the games by person/developers but honestly I’m too lazy to do all that work 🙂 That would actually have me on Wiki looking up each game, so yeah.

      Thanks for your comment. Maybe I can come up with a different type of article for what your saying but an easier way to do it…

  3. Something I’ve noticed is that Eastern RPGs tend to be more team and turn-based, while Western RPGs seem to be more real-time and solo focused. Maybe it’s the team-based social and cultural influence of Asian culture versus the “self-made man” image prevalent in American society? 🙂

    I for one enjoyed the article, by the way. It’s always awesome to hear more about games and how they affect us, especially as video games as a whole are on the cusp of a kind of “adolescence” phase, and I’m looking forward to seeing how games mature as a medium as time goes on. Keep up the good work. 🙂

    1. Hey there Sam, thanks for the encouragement and comment 🙂 Yeah, I also think that’s why we see more team based games in Eastern games vs. solo/individual based on Western games. That’s just the way both sides work, and it’s part of the culture whether people believe it or not. It’s even in the school systems!

      I also look forward to what is going to happen with video games in the future. After watching E3 2015, it’s only going to get crazier with all the new tech and innovative ways to game.

      1. Ok, I’m asking this not to argue but because I am truly curious and I like the conversation.

        Which JRPG’s do you find as solo games? Most of them always have a main character, who has to get a party together to fulfill *insert goal*.

        1. Oh that’s what you guys are proposing by “team game”? I thought you were referencing an actual group of people. I mean…I feel like that mechanic is getting more at a “class system”, which is meant to appeal to a wider audience. If anything, I would argue the difference would be that in Western games, you’re given more control over your own class and specializations instead of being given a set of characters with a pre-determined set.

          That being said, I stand by what I said about MOBAs, which tend to refute this American “self-made man” idea.

          1. Yup, I would agree with the whole class system. You do have much more free range in how your character develops instead of being given a pre-determined set.

            I can’t give an opinion on MOBAs since I honestly never play them, ain’t got time for that haha. I’m more of an old school console guy myself. But they are great.

  4. I’m not sure if I’m on any side. I prefer PC gaming mostly because I have a PC and most games I want to play are only available on there, but I usually don’t like multiplayer games, because my party is most of the time unreliable so I prefer going lone wolf. XD

    1. Yeah if it’s PC… depends on what games you like. Most games for Eastern gamers are Multiplayer. And yes, we all know the unreliable party feeling online haha. There’s plenty of memes for those…

      1. I like puzzle games like King’s Quest and Cognition, though I also play Assassin’s Creed and Skyrim on my PC since I don’t have the coin for an Xbox.

Leave a Reply