Bayonetta creator Hideki Kamiya sticks up for the term JRPG after controversy: 'These are RPG games that, in a sense, only Japanese creators can make'

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 13: Hideki Kamiya, Director at Platinum Games, introduces the video game "Scalebound" during Microsoft Corp. Xbox at the Galen Center on June 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.
(Image credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Hideki Kamiya, who you'll probably know as the creator of Bayonetta and Okami and as that guy who blocked you on Twitter, thinks "JRPG" is A-OK. The vice president of Platinum Games was asked for his take on the term—which has been the subject of a debate in the last few months—in a chat with VGC, and came out strongly in favour of it. In fact, he thinks Japan should wear it as a badge of honour: A symbol of everything unique and essential about the country's games.

Kamiya's comments come after Final Fantasy producer Naoki Yoshida (Yoshi-P) sparked a discussion over the term JRPG during an interview in February. Yoshida revealed that, back when the term came into use, a number of Japanese devs had considered the term JRPG a "discriminatory" one, that "[compartmentalised] what we were creating into a JRPG box," even as Japanese devs felt they were "just making RPGs". Even today, when Yoshida says he knows that "JRPG has better connotations" and is "used as a positive," there still seems to be some lingering bad feelings about it.

But it turns out Kamiya couldn't disagree more. In the interview, he said that the use of the term was more about "the unique differences in our culture and how our influences affect our creativity, the fact that Japanese creators have this unique sense when we do create content". 

The creator used God of War and Bayonetta to illustrate his point, describing the birth of Bayonetta as, in essence, what happened when Platinum tried to make a game like GoW: "[Kratos is] muscly, he’s huge, he’s bald, he looks really kick-ass, basically. So we thought, ‘okay, we have games like this which are becoming more popular globally, could we create something similar from a Japanese standpoint?"

The answer, said Kamiya, was "no, we obviously can't, because this is something that's not unique to us as Japanese creators." Instead, Kamiya and his team set out to "create something that expressed our unique sensitivities as Japanese creators, and Bayonetta was a result of that …  she was very unique in the way she was created, in the way we view action game heroes, from a unique Japanese viewpoint."

"So when it comes to the term 'JRPG', this is something that ties into this – these are RPG games that, in a sense, only Japanese creators can make with their unique sensitivity when it comes to creating these experiences."

So it sounds like, in Kamiya's eyes, emphasising the 'Japaneseness' of certain types of games is less about compartmentalising them away or othering them, and more about highlighting the aspects that make them special and unique. In fact, he wants it to be "celebrated moving forward" and declared that "as Japanese game creators, we're very proud of the actual term JRPG."

It's an interesting take, and I have to say Kamiya's understanding of the term is certainly more in-line with how I've always understood and used JRPG as a genre descriptor, but perhaps that's because I wasn't really around back when it caught on in the '90s (well, I was, but I was anywhere from 0 to 6 years old), which is the era in which Yoshida felt most negatively about it. I'd be curious to see Yoshi-P go into more detail about his feelings on the term; he didn't really get as much room to ramble about it as Kamiya did, and I have to imagine he has more he could add.

As for Kamiya, he's bullish on the term, and even encouraged VGC to begin referring to Platinum's games as "J-Action". Given that I am unable to read it as anything other than 'jacktion,' though, I'm not sure it'll catch on.

Joshua Wolens
News Writer

One of Josh's first memories is of playing Quake 2 on the family computer when he was much too young to be doing that, and he's been irreparably game-brained ever since. His writing has been featured in Vice, Fanbyte, and the Financial Times. He'll play pretty much anything, and has written far too much on everything from visual novels to Assassin's Creed. His most profound loves are for CRPGs, immersive sims, and any game whose ambition outstrips its budget. He thinks you're all far too mean about Deus Ex: Invisible War.