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VR Gaming in Japan: Bridging the Cultural Gap

As part of VRFocus’ current Better-Than-Reality-Awards, each category features an industry ambassador to delve into a particular aspect of their subject. Today, STYLY creator Psychic VR Lab talks VR gaming and what Japanese players are looking for. Of course, don’t forget to cast your vote in The Better-Than-Reality-Awards now.

Five Nights at Freddys VR

VR inspired videogames have come a long way since the 1990s with today’s games becoming more engaging with massive improvements in quality and the way we play them. VR games like Five Nights at Freddy’s VR: Help Wanted, a horror-based title, and Pistol Whip, a rhythm-action first-person-shooter (FPS) are both exhilarating and fun.

Through my experience, I have come to gain a better understanding regarding which game genres are most interesting to put into VR. Game genres that require player physicality and immersion like horror, action-rhythm, fitness, or puzzles games are really emphasizing the excitement of the experience. Personally, I am most interested in seeing more games that have great storytelling like adventure titles. In Japan, VR games have been on the rise. The other day Facebook Connect mentioned that Japan is one of the biggest VR game markets. Every day there are VR games developed in Japan being released or launched for Oculus Quest 2 by Oculus.

Pistol Whip - Full Throttle

So… how can foreign games be accepted by the Japanese?

In the past, there haven’t been many videogames developed outside of Japan that were localized for the Japanese market, but since the release of Oculus Quest last year there has been a significant increase in foreign games adapted for the Japanese market. Most Japanese are not proficient in English, so it is extremely vital for games sold in Japan to be well localized.

In addition to language, there are other somewhat unusual characteristics that are also important. Japanese people prefer VR games to have a “unique” and “well-developed” worldview with captivating characters. This may be an aspect that is slightly different and unique from Western interests. This difference is partly due to how the Japanese understand VR.

To many Japanese, VR is a type of “supported reality”. In other words, VR to many Japanese people is not a complete creation of a virtualized reality, but instead, an extended or supported reality. Japan has a unique culture of anime, manga, and games. For many Japanese, this unique culture is an escape to an imaginary world where you can become anything or anyone.

In Europe and America, it is common to see avatars that resemble the creator’s real-life self, however, in Japan, it is more common to see avatars that are quite different in shape and attributes from their creators. This may be because Western countries view VR as a real-life simulator whereas Japanese people use VR to become something different from their real-life selves.

Ready Player One’s Oasis is close to what Japanese people want in VR. Many people are motivated to play games because they can use their own unique avatar. The well-known Beat Saber VR rhythm game became popular by spreading MR-like play videos on social networking sites, but in Japan, the number of videos of avatars playing on social networking sites is far greater than the number of videos of real people playing a game.

I am excited about the future of VR games and I look forward to seeing more Japanese and foreign games becoming popular in Japan.