02 March 2006

Brain Training and Seniority as a determinant of Ranking

So this evening at Scott & Amy's house we checked out Brain Training, a "game" for the Nintendo DS that alleges to try and keep your brain fit into old age. It's a series of simple puzzle and math games that really is kind of akin to doing crosswords puzzles to "keep the brain sharp".

The UI was a little difficult for us only because I can't read Japanese fluently, but in general the UI of Brain Training is super supportive. It very clearly tells you where to click next and when you should get ready because the "test" is coming up soon. It reminded of a persistent difference between Japanese and North American games: Japanese games are often easy, with an emphasis on putting in your time rather than insight and/or skill.

Brain Training has some drills that require thought, or at least attention, since one of the raison d'etres for it is to keep your mind sharp. But in general it very gently guides you through a series of exercises which, if followed, promise to decrease your "brain age". The most obvious analogy is to Japanese RPGs, which typically reward time and effort rather than any particular skill.

Today it finally occurred to me to congruous this is with the postwar Japanese culture: in the traditional sarariman structure, your place within the company is mostly determined by seniority, with individual merit and/or achievement having only a minor effect. These sort of games that kind you very strongly through them are an entertainment equivalent, where the 60 hours of gameplay will surely be rewarded by saving the universe, whether or not you applied any special insight along the way.

Of course, the sarariman culture is collapsing in the post-buble Japanese economy and currently Korean and Chinese fashions are all the rage there. Who knows what systems Japanese games will reflect in ten years?

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