Facebook Files: Games With Culture

By Ishaan . September 19, 2010 . 10:29am


In the last few years, games as a business have gotten extremely competitive. We see more games released than anyone has the time to play, and things have reached a point where a game merely being “good” isn’t enough to cut it anymore.


As a developer, even if you do manage to crank out a hit, there’s no guarantee that a sequel will be able to live up to people’s expectations of it. That you’ll be able to repeat the feat a second and third time, and have the chance to establish a franchise that is consistently successful.


What a franchise needs to be successful now, at least in the long term, is its own “culture.” You know the type I’m talking about — games where the experience isn’t simply limited to playing them.


Ishaan wrote:

Something like wipEout and its techno-inspired soundtracks and unique aesthetic that the Designers Republic gave it that exists even today, for example. I’m told wipEout was some sort of club phenomenon in Europe in the series’ early days. And this is despite the numerous similar games such as F-Zero or Extreme G. Nothing comes close to wipEout because the series has its own unique “culture” going for it.


Raphael wrote:

Team ICO has done it twice and hopefully they will pull a hat trick with The Last Guardian.


Anton wrote:

I would say that the Persona and Shin Megami Tensei series’ have their own culture, as well, but I’m not quite sure if it has fully developed to that point. To me, it seems like more of a fandom. But, perhaps that is all that it takes to breed a new gaming culture?


As a big fan of GUST, I find that there is a unique, but small, community for their games. I also find that there seems to be a kind of crossover with fans of retro games. People who tend to enjoy playing older, classic games tend to enjoy GUST’s games due to the somewhat retro atmosphere in some of their games.


Steven Mee:

Definitely Lumines / Rez / Child of Eden.


So, what franchises do you believe have their own unique culture that propels them past the boundaries of merely being a “videogame” into being more of a phenomenon?

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  • RX79V

    How about Pokemon?Despite the cute facade, there are other sides to the franchise. Got to catch them all is 1 side. You can try to do it yourself or interact with other players to work out trades. There is also the side of breeding and building your desired team (competitively or just for the hack of it). Moreover, the series generates lots of fan arts. A person may not play (or may not be interested in) the game, and yet could still be inspired by characters, creatures or (lack of) plots. That in itself is quite an accomplishment.

    • puchinri

      This exactly~.

  • Persona and megaten are the best.

  • I agree with Anton about Gust. It feels like all the oldschool RPG fans who’ve been around for years have fallen in love with them. They seem to run counter to everything I hate in the industry these days. They release lower budget but high quality games regularly, you’re never left hanging for 5 or 6 years for a game you might not even like. They really listen to their fans too and put out actual quality DLC that ADDS to the game instead of cutting stuff out just to mooch cash.

    There’s a few other small name but awesome series like this, like Ys and Sora no Kiseki that have close knit groups of fans

    • I think taking the fanbase into consideration is a great way to look at it. I don’t have a history with Ys, but you can certainly tell that it’s a tight-knit community of fans. Great point.

  • I personally believe that building a culture and a world within a game such that it is believable and complete is the key to an enjoyable game. If you take yourself seriously, others will too.That being said, my most recent examples aren’t very successful ones =P I really like Ys Seven and Fragile Dreams in terms of the atmosphere and world.Older examples…the Persona games, Okami, and Suikoden are some of my old favorites. Radiata Stories was good too… and while I haven’t finished any single game of the series, I believe that Fire Emblem fits too. Complete agreeing with the Team Ico games too.And then there are several others I don’t dare to name or that I’ve just forgotten =P

    Granted, if you’re talking about external influences, Kingdom Hearts takes the cake. That along with Pokemon and (of course) Final Fantasy. The Tales of games too, but to a much lesser extent.

    Interestingly, you can probably tell the most influential and favorite franchises by the number of fanfiction they have on a certain site…

  • goronyan

    A game series wich have acquired its own culture in japan it’s the Touhou Project series IMO.

    The series is known for its huge cast of female characters, soundtrack, well-developed storylines, and related materials such as doujin music CDs, figures, fan-made comics and games.

    It holds its own convention know as Reitaisai every year, got its own ranking chart at nico douga (wich is a big deal), and not only have gamers fans but also have fans who never played as well.

    And the most impressive fact is that this series was created/developed by just one single person.

    • Hraesvelgr

      I’m not a Touhou fan, but it has definitely done well for itself and it is pretty impressive that the series has achieved the level of success that it has from a one man dev “team”. The official art, however, is absolutely horrendous.

    • I agree with this. I’m not in the Touhou fandom, but it seems similar to the Vocaloid fandom, where almost the entire culture is based on the fan community. The doujin music, the fanart, memes, videos, etc.
      There are Touhou fans who’ve never played the original games!

  • Jirin

    Here’s what ticks me off about this.

    Companies don’t want to make games on any console unless it fully utilizes the graphical capability and the scope of that console. But, it’s very expensive to make games on a console. So companies have a choice. Either make a complete top of the line expensive game, or make a tiny game on a handheld.

    Maybe that’s why we’re not getting as many great RPGs. Great RPGs are just too expensive to make! I think companies who can’t afford to make really full RPGs should start developing for PS2 again. That way we can get full games without them having huge overhead costs to make.

    • It’s a dead system. It’s time to move on. It had a good ten years. Now, it’s time for this generation. Personally, I don’t see why more of them don’t do the NIS thing and just make games, regardless of whether or not they’re top of the line, graphically. Sure, they won’t appeal to the people who need 1080p 60fps CGI movies and constant bombast, but if you’re talking RPG’s, then they’re a niche market anyway, that doesn’t care much about graphics. Trinity Universe looks like a PS2 game, but it didn’t stop me from putting 50 hours into it.

      • Jirin

        Fine, it’s a dead system. It doesn’t have to be PS2. But there should be something big enough that you can make a full-sized game that you can play on your television, but small enough that you can make it without spending a huge amount of money.

        Want to know what’s killing the RPG? It’s this choice companies have to make between immaculate high budget production and a handheld-sized game. We need something, anything in between so smaller companies can start making bigger games again.

        • Except it’s a choice they dont HAVE to make. You can happily develop a lower budget game on PS3 or 360. Forces WITHIN the industry are driving towards bigger and bigger budgets but RPG fans dont care that much.

          Oh well I’ll be enjoying Disgaea 4 and Ar Tonelico 3 while the big names take years to show 30s trailers of games that are flawed in fundamental gameplay philosophies and characterisation.

  • Hraesvelgr

    I disagree about the retro game fanbase crossing over into the Gust fanbase, as I’ve never heard of anyone liking their games for that reason, but I will agree that both Gust and NIS have a decent niche fanbase, even if it doesn’t include me.

    Also, games that are just “good” (which is a debatable point, anyway) are enough for me, but I find that my expectations haven’t shot up over the years compared to others.

  • malek86

    While I can understand the point, you have to wonder if the most successful series really need a culture.Does Mario really have a culture? What about Wii Fit? Or maybe GTA, or Call of Duty?It seems to me that games with a culture never really get past their niche status, or when they do, it’s not really related. For example, you could argue that Halo has a core culture, but when you think about it, most of the success comes from people just wanting to blow each other up in multiplayer. Maybe we could say that Mario has a culture, but that’s simply more of a recognizable setting.

  • ForeverFidelis



    Oh wow, nobody’s mentioned it yet?

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