For decades, the term JRPG (Japanese role-playing game) has been used to categorize a specific type of gaming experience. The 1990s saw the term really catch on as titles like Final Fantasy VII, Chrono Trigger, and Shin Megami Tensei redefined the industry at large. While many Western gamers use the term fondly, Japanese developers see it very differently.

During the recent press tour for Final Fantasy XVI, producer Naoki Yoshida was asked about the current state of “JRPGs” by YouTube channel Skill-Up. Yoshida quickly made it clear he and many on the team didn’t care for that label .

“For us as developers [in Japan], the first time we heard it, it was like a discriminatory term,” explained Yoshida. “It’s as though we were being made fun of for creating these games. So for some developers, the term JRPG can be something that will maybe trigger bad feelings because of what it was in the past.”

All these years later, the label feels far too restrictive on the most basic of levels — and patronizing to the work of talented developers. While the moniker grew in popularity, there was never a similar term developed for games from the West — there’s no such thing as a “WRPG.”

As gaming moved into the Xbox 360 and PS3 generation, the term started to take on a much different connotation, almost derogatory in a way to emphasize aspects of design that some saw as a negative. As Gene Park of The Washington Post points out in the Tweet below, much of this terminology stemmed, knowingly or not, from anti-Asian sentiment.

In 2012, Phil Fish, the creator of Fez, became infamous for saying Japanese games “just suck,” as reported by Eurogamer. During a Q&A screening for Indie Game The Movie Fish and the other panelists were asked what they thought of modern Japanese games, and the response left a lot to be desired.

Fish followed up on Twitter later saying, “So I guess I’m some kind of big racist now. I’m sorry Japanese guy! I was a bit rough, but your country’s games are f*** terrible nowadays.”

Fish is obviously an extreme outlier, but this whole event was representative of a trend in the industry at that time, and a prime example of how the term JRPG or even just calling a game “very Japanese,” started to take on an extremely negative connotation. This should go without saying, but if the person being referenced by a term feels it’s offensive, it doesn’t matter if that was the initial intention or not — it’s discriminatory.

Even if you look past its discriminatory nature, on the most basic of levels the term just doesn’t make sense. The distinction between Western and Japanese games is less clear than ever before. Teams collaborate internationally all the time. Elden Ring is made by a Japanese studio, but sports a typically “Western” aesthetic and features lore by George R.R. Martin. Does it still count as a JRPG? Even staple series like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest have drastically different experiences that don’t fit inside one box.

We also already have categories that exist to define games in much better terms, like turn-based RPGs, tactical RPGs, action RPGs, etc. No matter what angle you look at it from, JRPG is a term that’s better left in the past.

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