I wanted to update my Mass Effect let’s play today but for some reason WordPress confused the Save Draft button with the Delete Everything button and so all my work was shot into oblivion. Anyway there was something else I wanted to talk about instead so until I can rework the motivation to restart the update, let’s talk about this.
Last week IGN posted an article about how all video game protagonists have the exact same design. That of a stern, rugged faced skinhead. They even went on the superimpose heroes from completely different games to show how exactly the same they are. But I think IGN missed half of the issue. It’s not that all video game protagonists look like Vin Diesel, it’s that all Western video game protagonists look like Vin Diesel. But why pick on the land of eagles and greasy hamburgers when glorious Nippon has had the exact same problem, only worse, and for longer. Because let’s face it, all Japanese video game protagonists look the same.
Here’s Cloud from, you know where he’s from. And on the other side is the pretentiously named Noctis Lucis Calem from the up-coming FFXIII-Versus. Getting past the ridiculous and implausible hair styles, if you shaved these two they would have the exact same face. It’s not enough that Square keeps reusing this androgynous pretty boy look for all their protagonists, it’s that they all have the exact same face. Large eyes and a long face and delicate, almost female features.
But picking on Square-Enix is expected of me. There’s plenty of other popular Japanese developers who are even more blatant about this.
Kasumi and Tina from Team Ninja’s fighting/volleyball/soft core porn series Dead or Alive have the exact same face as well. What’s even more insulting is that one’s supposed to be Japanese and the other American, but they could be clones for all I know.
Konami is a little better about it, but even they have a specific, stylized way of doing faces that make them look all too familiar. Remember the Beauty and Beast unit from Metal Gear Solid 4? Remember how all those characters had their faces based off real world super models? Remember how weird and uncanny valley-esque they looked compared to all the fictional Konami characters?
And here’s where it gets weird. Because it’s not just game developers who do this. Nearly every aspect of Japanese popular media does it. In anime and manga, sure every artist might draw faces differently from other artists, but when you look at a specific work all the main characters look the same. They look like anime characters. It’s part of what makes artists who draw manga style such a blight here in the west, because it’s not an art style that encourages realistic faces, or even different faces.
And now here’s where it gets insane.
This is an ukiyoe painting of two courtesans from the Edo period in Japan. It’s about 300 years old. Both of these women have the exact same face. So IGN, when you pointed out the similarities in American video game protagonists, the answer to that lies in the greater creative mire the industry is stagnating in right now. But when it comes to Japan, in a weird way, they’re more creative. Characters have wildly different costumes and hairstyles from each other, and even different games in the same series can have a completely different art style. But the problem of why they all have the same faces stems from a greater cultural issue. So my question is why? Don’t give me, well that’s just how their culture is. There has to be a reason for it. I want to know, because this is kind of ridiculous.