Why do people in this day in age seem to treat the term “rip off” so negatively? I mean it’s not like I’m Jim Sterling number #356 trying to knock game publishers in the name of consumer justice… right? Right?
Ok, ok before people start throwing apples at me, let’s try to be rational about this. Jim Sterling himself is a rip off. I mean, we’re talking journalism here, In journalism you have the “yes” men and the “no fucking way” men (or women). Yes men pander to the publishers and just do as they are expected to do such as Geoff Keighley.
Why is Geoff Keighley such a successful journalist? Because he is a yes man. If he spoke out about certain publishers (lets forget the time he talked shit about Konami’s treatment of Kojima for a minute which considering Konami’s position, isn’t likely to affect him in any way, especially considering how diplomatically he put it) then he’d have nothing to cover and would lose a lot of his influence in the industry.
Then you have people like Jim Sterling, the “people’s journalist”, someone whom tries to relate to the woes of the general public at the risk of sounding controversial or radicalized. He’s a journalist who speaks his mind whatever it might be and although his points aren’t always widely agreed upon (seriously that review of Modern Warfare 3 was just…ugh), he manages to maintain a strong stature in the industry through his iron skin and his past accomplishments. His successes come from pandering to the consumer by enlightening people about the woes of the gaming industry and he does so in what seems to be an intentionally egotistical manner with quotes such as “Thank god for me”. It’s pretty obvious that Jim Sterling’s confidence in himself as a journalist is off the charts and that’s why he’s still going strong today.
But trying to be an inbetweener is futile. The industry doesn’t want original writers/journalists, they want people who can pander to a particular crowd and as such, they want extremists. Whether you want to be the ever lovable optimist or the strong idealistic pessimist is the question you should be asking yourself, you can’t be both and expect the same level of success because that’s inconsistent and inconsistency is poor journalism.
But lets stop talking about gaming media for now as I tire of hearing about it every single day. I already have the stupid SJW vs Gamergate breathing down my neck every day that the mere idea of discussing gaming politics is downright terrifying to say the least. Thankfully This article is more to do with videogames than writers, I was merely comparing myself to an established journalist.
So I’ve used the term rip off before, even blatant rip off. However, would I say that being a rip off is a bad thing? Hell no. In fact I want to see more of it.
Videogames have been a passion for me, so why can’t they be a passion for game creators too? I mean surely you’ve been inspired by a videogame in your lifetime, I know I have. I wanted to work in-game design for a long time in my youth and for good reason too. Games are inspiring. If you’ve ever finished a videogame, you’ll know that as the credits roll, your mind is filled to the brim with ideas. Rather than watching the credits, you spend the whole time thinking about the game and developing ideas from it.
With games as they are, it’s difficult not to think “What if they did it this way?” or “I wonder If I could do that?”. Inspiration goes beyond just videogames. Look at the recently deceased David Bowie for example (R.I.P man). That guy inspired countless people and has changed the way society works for the better. He was a revolutionary artist and people wanted to be like him. That is just the way things are with gaming too.
As such, how can we begrudge these people who want to bring their dreams to life? Their dreams based off of the dreams inspired through other dreams? Is it really wrong to think “Perhaps if I changed this a little, it could be like this”? I mean, if you are any kind of content creator, you will know that art breeds more art. It’s like a reproductory process. It’s like two ideas having intercourse. It is done out of passion (mostly) and it’s the same with games and other media.
So why should people have a problem with this? Because if you do have a problem with concepts ripping off of other concepts then take a good look at yourself because you yourself are a rip off, a mish-mash of genes from past ancestors. However you yourself are an individual. The same goes for videogames. Do I begrudge Warcraft 3 for being too much like Star Wars/Warhammer? Hell no. I love Warcraft lore (well I did before WOW was a thing), it is a well presented mish mash of countless stories told in a single book… only that the “Book” is technically a videogame.
And before someone states “but this game is original, not like your crappy Warcraft game”, how do you know for sure that it isn’t based off of other media? Have you experienced everything life has to offer? Ha, you don’t live long enough for that I’m afraid. We can’t all be like Lezard Valeth and have the world’s knowledge in our hands… oh wait isn’t that character another rip off? Oh hell yeah he is and a well-known one too. He’s based off of JK Rowling’s very own Harry Potter (but with a bit of Medivh shoehorned in there too for good measure). And yet comparing Lezard Valeth to Harry Potter is like comparing a snail to a python. There’s just no similarities besides their appearance and their background.
And whilst we’re on the topic of Valkyrie Profile, lets talk about Arngrim. This character in particular is interesting and his name manages to remain relevant to norse mythology despite being a blatant rip off of Guts from Berserk. I mean, Arngrim is a badass mofo and so is Guts and they both have similar looks and personality. However if you look deeply into norse mythology, you will see a mention of another Arngrim with a similar background to the Arngrim of Valkyrie Profile, a berserker who wielded the sword Tyrfing (technically the ultimate heavy warrior weapon of Valkyrie Profile 2).
However, the original story of Valkyrie Profile states that he owns a weapon called the Dragon Slayer which was apparently passed down by his father. This makes for a lot of interesting speculation such as “Is the world of Valkyrie Profile and Berserk intertwined?” Of course not, it’s just combining the ideas of berserk and norse mythology to make a character of their own. Though it’s pretty obvious where Masaki Norimoto’s inspiration’s came from
Speaking of Valkyrie Profile, Let’s talk about Final Fantasy XIII Lightning Returns, a game that I have secretly praised for ripping off Valkyrie Profile. However that praise still cannot get me over the fact that Lightning is the main character and that it is set in the same universe as Final Fantasy XIII. And so the director of Final Fantasy XIII thought “Let’s sacrifice originality for familiarity” and believe it or not, it worked… to some degree. However, Final Fantasy XIII Lightning Returns was an attempt to rectify an already broken series of games which should have been left behind. This I couldn’t ignore.
However, with the release of tri-Ace’s Exist Archive. Tri-Ace were able to experiment with different ideas to make a completely different game. Valkyrie Profile was obviously partly an influence but it seems that other Japanese media had a huge influence in it as well and is probably the most exotic game tri-Ace has ever attempted at making. Nevertheless I’d rather play this game over Final Fantasy XIII Lightning Returns not because it’s original but because it’s not trying to shove an established concept into an already established world to try to compensate for the fact that the world itself sucks. As such, Lightning Returns is completely meaningless to me now.
Another example of a game that influenced many other games is Grandia 2. Grandia 2’s plot has been done to death now, so much so that its own plot comes across as cliché and generic. Games like Final Fantasy X, Tales Of Symphonia and Devil May Cry 4 may follow a similar plot formula but can we really say that they’re the same game? Devil May Cry 4 isn’t even an RPG for heaven’s sake, how can you compare it to Grandia 2? Then again, perhaps it’s not intentional. Perhaps the ideas that came up in the developer’s mind were of his own. Perhaps they never even played Grandia 2 to begin with, who knows?
As for Tales Of Symphonia, that game took a step further in the plot. Although Grandia 2 executed it far better than Tales Of Symphonia, Tales Of Symphonia chose to rush that part of the plot so that they could focus on another one. As for Final Fantasy X, looking back, I’d say it’s probably the most generic of the bunch. To be honest, presentation aside. Final Fantasy X felt rushed, I felt the characters were rushed too. As for the presentation, the setting was cool and all but the story itself was presented in such a lazy manner compared with Grandia 2 that it felt like a bad rip off.
On the other hand, Tales Of Symphonia was a good rip off. It established a completely new story built up off of a trope set by Grandia 2 (or whatever game originally started that trope) which was executed extremely well as there is also a lot of depth to the world and lore. This is what I appreciated about Warcraft so much. Sure, the plot and characters may be generic but the world was designed so well that it doesn’t matter, I enjoyed it. It doesn’t hurt to enjoy games every now and again, even for a cynical prick like me.
As for Devil May Cry 4, that game wasn’t even trying to tell an interesting story, it’s a series which has always been based around the gameplay over all else, so why should we care? The story works well enough for what it’s trying to do so that’s good enough if you ask me.
Now ever since the indie scene came to be, there have been some new ideas added to gaming such as Rocket League… oh wait, that was inspired by stuff like Top Gear. Uhh… how about Goat Simulator? Yeah, Goat Simulator is the perfect example of an original game… if you could call it that. Sure it has similar mechanics to Tony Hawk games but it’s not a Tony Hawk game, it’s a physics simulation game involving goats. Well technically speaking, it is kinda a mish-mash of other game mechanics such as skating games and MMO’s. Kinda like a parody. In a way, this makes it a completely original concept… using other concepts. Well that basically sums up how difficult it is to be original these days.
But here’s the problem. People don’t want something new or different, they want more of the same. This is where Nostalgia comes in… and actually connects with the point of this article entirely. As much as people love originality, once the novelty dies out, people get tired of it and then they seek something that can bring them back to the days of old. However sometimes it’s not the player who desires it, it’s the developer. This is why you’re seeing so many spiritual successors of games appearing on Kickstarter right now. They want to bring back an audience of a game that was laid to rest or defiled by their respective developer.
Now remember the review I made recently of Tales Of Phantasia and how it pioneered the Japanese action role playing game? Well that game not only inspired other ideas for games but it was also inspired by other games that preceded it such as Secret of Mana and Final Fantasy. Didn’t you get the not-so-vague hint in my review?
Well in any case, the spiritual successor to Tales Of Phantasia, Star Ocean is also a blatant rip off… just not of Secret Of Mana. Rather they combined both Tales Of Phantasia’s battle system with the story concept of Star Trek. Then it hit me, the reason why the intro cutscene to Star Ocean is voice acted in english, despite the fact that it is a Super Famicom exclusive game is simply because Star Trek was released in the west… and they wanted to emulate that.
I like the word emulate, even better than that of rip off simply because of its meaning “to imitate and or improve on”. This is exactly what developers try to do with their games. They brainstorm ideas from their mind (which is influenced by other media) and then they focus on making it the best they can. Every developer in the history of gaming has always developed a game with the mindset that it will be the best game ever made.
So before you start knocking games or any form of media for ripping off of other media. Remember that it is someone else’s image that has taken inspiration from something else. Be pleased for the games that rip off other games, do not scorn them. Instead, think of it as a form of alchemical art because that is what it is. People may disagree that videogames are art (which could be said for some… but then again games are a content medium and all content could be considered art in a way) but I find art to be the most fitting word to describe this as it is something all of us can relate to and appreciate.
If you want to see less and less games on the market, go ahead but know that 99% of the ideas in videogames are inspired by other forms of media or mythology or whatever. Just appreciate it for what it is for heaven’s sake.