January 23, 2024

Wide-ranging thread on shoot 'em up video games, vidya in general, and Japanese vs. American aesthetics

Might as well put a new post marker here, since the comments section for the last is getting a bit long. I'll be adding post-length-comments to this post, to make an ongoing thread.

The basic topic is shoot 'em up video games, inspired by watching Fuwamoco play a 2000s Touhou "bullet hell" game the other night. It is rare for non-Japanese people to play video games, rather than simulators, so I take notice and appreciate it every time it happens! But then, they're turbo-weebs, and you can't integrate yourself into Japanese culture without playing video games (created by the Japanese, with an illustrated, not photorealistic, style).

Below is the first "post in the comments" that kicked it off, which I'm putting here to get the ball rolling. More to follow in this post's comment section...

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Frogger was the original "bullet hell" game -- not even appropriate to call the genre a "shooter" or "shoot 'em up" etc.

*You* are the one getting shot at, like crazy, and you don't shoot back -- you can only navigate your way through the moving geometric minefield of bullets, much like the frog navigates his way through the geometric formations of moving hazards, i.e. the vehicles that make up the several lanes of traffic moving in opposite directions, the alligator teeth in the river section, etc.

In "bullet hell" games, you shooting the enemies is only 5% of the gameplay, and it's like shooting fish in a barrel, after the difficult other 95% of gameplay has been performed -- i.e., dodging the bullet waves.

Frogger is only missing that 5%, but it would be trivial to program it in -- right before you land on the safe space at the end, you have to lash out your tongue to hit a dragonfly that's sitting in the way of the lilypad you're trying to land on.

Surprisingly, no one has drawn this clear parallel before. However, the wiki on Frogger says that it was created explicitly to tap into the female demographic, as opposed to the highly popular shooter genre which girls were not very into (e.g., Space Invaders, Galaga, etc.). And they succeeded.

This may explain why "bullet hell" games are at least semi-common among female streamers -- Fuwamoco just played Touhou: Mountain of Faith, and Marine is a huge Touhou player and fan. They're more about fine-scale motion, not large-scale swerving and zigging / zagging, slow speed, not racing all around the screen, defensive rather than offensive, hide-and-seek rather than being aggressive and chasing down the enemies.

They still take a lot of spatial skill, so they're not very common among female players -- but if she does have spatial skill, this defensive and cautious style of playing is better suited to her personality, as opposed to an offensive and risky style that characterizes "shoot 'em ups" proper, which are for guys with spatial skill.

Then there are the bona fide "gamer girls" (not just empty branding) like Korone, who take on Salamander (Life Force in America), which is not only a shoot 'em up, but one of the hardest ones ever made! Much respect. ^_^

And yet even "bullet hell" games have lots of male fans -- it's part of the broader trend in video games towards taking away your offensive abilities, and making you passively hide-and-seek from an all-powerful enemy. Same time-frame as the survival horror genre, which largely robbed you of weapons and ammo (mid-'90s through IDK), and then took them away altogether (from IDK through the 2010s and '20s).

A Euro-LARP-ing pseud would use a fake & gay term like "slave morality," i.e. glamorizing the behavior of slaves. Gamer nerds call it "masocore", a more straightforward term. They're not slaves, they're just downers or masochists or hide-and-seekers, rather than aggressive, offensive, and active. It's a reflection of the broader end of our imperial expansion (and ditto for Japan's failed imperial ambitions), and with it, the end of the heroic age of our culture (and those in our orbit, like Japan).