American food culture is horrible. I don’t think pointing at gamer food drives home the point, because it’s more an ironic ludicrous nonsense sort of thing. What it does show is that how corporate marketing drives food culture in America, so much so, that it dominates the mainstream thought; it’s more about profits than refinement of arts. The point I want to make, though, is that we will probably never see a US-developed game with a food culture as rich as, say, Final Fantasy XIV.
I mean, seriously. Take a look at this list–this is just what people can create at a few months since launch of the game. I mean, like, ugh, it makes me hungry while playing. Speaking of which, no thanks to Log Horizon, I took the plunge to another MMORPG. I hope it doesn’t impact my productivity–veteran MMORPG players don’t just know how to play the game, they know how to control themselves…right? And I think that’s my problem with Log Horizon (or why it’s great): playing an actual game with friends is just that much better of an experience. On the other hand, for people in the peanut gallery, maybe they can wax nostalgia hard to it. I sure did. The story itself is interesting but what can I say? It’s just one story, told by an NHK anime. You either find it appealing or not. It’s not really special; just like how everyone out of the hundreds of thousands of people playing FFXIV has his or her own story.
Anyway, FFXIV has a pineapple pound cake in it for crying out loud. I mean, when’s the last time your average CODer had some cheese souffle? I don’t even remember the last time I’ve had a pineapple pound cake, and I eat a lot of different sort of things all the time. This is like, Japan’s best foot forward for an internationally appealing audience. And it’s very similar what you’d see at a world-class Japanese food establishment, if you get what I’m getting at. This is their food culture, and it kicks the crap out of ours. It’s not to say Americans don’t eat well or don’t have delicious foods, but the issue is that unless you watch, say, Bizarre Foods America, you would have no idea what’s actually delicious that can be had in the US outside your local area. There is a different “food culture” in the US, but it’s a far departure from mainstream US food culture. More relevantly, the delicious part of American food culture is not glamorous or fashionable. So instead you have companies trying to create the Lowest Common Denominator sort of an appeal, and what you get is 20th century-style mass produced stuff that tastes pretty good, but is a far cry from what Americans can actually create in terms of a culinary heart & soul sort of thing.
It would be pretty neat if playing FFXIV means eating gamer food appropriate to the game. Mmm grilled trout. And this is also why food is a plot point in Log Horizon. I hate to say this but food culture might actually be one thing that anime has that western equivalent lacks.
And here is another thing: crafting MMORPGs. You know FFXIV is a big budget game when it incorporates the most elaborate crafting system in a standard dungeon-and-adventures type game. This is yet another thing I don’t expect most western MMORPGs to get. A good crafting game is not exactly a sandbox game like Minecraft or Second Life. Or I should say, in the genre of crafting MMORPGs, freer is not always better. I think of these more limited-form crafting games as a form of gameplay themselves, more along the lines of say, EVE Online, where the gameplay come in a more holistic sense with regards to player economy and other aspects of the game (means of using the goods or creating an epic item for example, desire and demand for trade goods and skills). In short, crafting should be a game in itself. It’s like going into a dungeon, except it feels like a series of quests where your trade skill mettle is being tested, rather than clicking on plus signs to unlock talent trees or learn new spells.
It’s a bit like tabletop D&D where you need the right reagent to cast spells. Reagents are dumb these days, but only as a requirement for common spells. They ought to be how we look at trade skills–in a lot of ways that’s how modern MMORPGs treat trade skills. I think a successful crafting system has to marry both of these aspects.