Recent events in the anime and videogame industries have got me thinking about the differences between the two, the overlap, and the underlying cultures behind them.
As both an anime and a videogame fan, I enjoy the mechanics and culture of the industries, as well as comparisons between the two. Every industry is unique, from music, film and mobile phones, to the more engaging anime and videogame industries. The reason I find the latter two so interesting is the dialogue between their creators and the communities, and the nature of the communities themselves.
The games industry is uniquely open, generating massive amounts of content to please and entice the omnipresent community (via the Internet) long before the release of their latest blockbusters. It’s more than that, however. Unlike the mobile phone industry, there is actually communication, even if it is predominantly one-way, between the industry and the community, who meet at the point of games journalism. More than this, however, the community is in perpetual dialogue with itself. The mobile phone, and even the film industry don’t captivate their audiences to the point of warranting a similarly infinite number of forums as those for videogames.
Developer diaries and other media bits floating around the Internet are not specific to the games industry, as we know, and their equivalents can be found as extras on our discs, but the anime industry isn’t quite as forward with its self-promotion. The culture is different, and even though Japan and the West have a unique dialogue, cultural and linguistic barriers also act as a roadblock to this becoming as large a part of the mechanics of the anime industry. This is one of the major differences between the two; whereas the games industry puts emphasis on institutionally-generated content, the anime community itself mirrors the output of the industry, with its voluminous fanfiction, character art (what would DeviantArt be without the anime community?) and AMVs (anime music videos, which are equally prominent on Youtube).
There’s still a common thread between the two though – one would hardly be surprised to hear that an anime fan also likes videogames, even beyond the obvious crossovers of the next Naruto beat-em-up. The anime aesthetic has obviously influenced videogames, from those that directly try to imitate it, to the cel-shaded stylings of Jet Set Radio and The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker. Japanese culture has ensured the continuing byplay of the industries, and the ever-increasing reliance on computer-generated technology in the anime industry makes it ironic that the anime of tomorrow will look more like the videogames that often tried to imitate its own style than itself.
Ultimately, however, the industries shared a Renaissance through Japanese culture. As much as some people might envisage anime as a unique field, separate from other forms of animation, and videogames as beginning with the 8-bit console war between Sega and Nintendo – the majority also recognise that this isn’t the case. Anime and manga were both developed out of an interest in Western cultural practise and entertainment when Japan was increasingly opening its borders to foreign cultural influence and ending its historically Isolationist policy. Likewise, the videogame industry began long before the former card game company Nintendo threw its hat in the ring, with early PCs and arcade cabinets playing host to the now comparatively simple games. I like to think that Japan didn’t invent manga (comic books), anime (cartoons) or videogames, but that they instead injected the cultural mould that first excited a mainstream audience, making them what they are today.
The point I would like to aspire to in this article, other than an appreciation of the common-thread of Japanese culture in anime and videogames, however, is a greater reverence for the community and mechanics of our industry. The events I referred to at the beginning of the article are the Jeff Gerstmann situation at Gamespot (in which a respected and well-loved presenter was fired, sparking controversy and suspicion over the reasons behind his being dismissed), and that of Anime Network’s presenters, Emma Vieceli and Stuart Claw. Wanting not to be political about these matters, my concern instead rests with how these events have provoked extraordinarily similar reactions in the two different industries. If nothing else, I took it as a surprising and heart-warming sign that both are still essentially the domain of the community, which has a very human heart, unlike that of most other industries – and that is why I so enjoy being a part of both.