The end of a calendar year is a time for those who started the year with goals and hopes to compare their results to those aims, and for those with the motivation to start the new year with those goals to look to the future and make plans. Prior to this year, I counted myself among neither of these groups, and yet, here I am, writing a retrospective of sorts. It’s been a strange year.
2016 has been the first full year I’ve spent working with Becky and LeeRoy, both on Dead Genre Chronicles, and on this, our sarcastically named and smugly located website. My presence on the site has largely been in the margins, as a beta reader for the two better writers in our trio, and posting episodes of DGC to maintain a reliable index of our joint critical works through the year.
My absence from the year’s growing collection of really solid critical writing has been kind of a sore point for me, but I’ve found myself in less need of a place to more formally vent my critical thoughts with the existence of our Discord server. When I did attempt to write, it came out a jumble of rambling pretty words, masking the lack of any substantial point to the pieces. I decided to stick to helping out my friends who could get coherent points out instead, and I think the output of the site has had higher average quality because of it.
This site has had 15 articles over the course of the year; this will be the 16th non-DGC post, posted after the 16th episode of our podcast, to cap off the year of 2016. Unintentional as it may have been, the coincidence is pleasant.
I’m extremely proud to work with Becky Davnall, who, among her own work as a philosophy lecturer, found time to join us in expanding our awareness of the genre in all 12 episodes of DGC published this year, as well as joining me specifically in playing and discussing two Tales games. On top of that, she found time to interrogate Final Fantasy; its divergent development of the concept of heroism, her personal relation to Claire Farron’s arc in the FF13 trilogy, the surprising awareness of World of Final Fantasy, and on the topic of the long-awaited FFXV, the odd nature of its marketing and why talking about FFXV before the dust settles is a bit silly. She also discussed her relationship with Final Fantasy XII and her hopes for the Zodiac Age remaster, the kinaesthetics of Kingdom Hearts (the original), and in my personal favorite to send without context, listed the top 10 JRPG Fish for April Fool’s. Her presence on DGC has been vital as well, of course, lending a set of fairly fresh eyes to the genre and games we’ve selected to counterbalance the bit of experience with older games LeeRoy and I have.
Speaking of LeeRoy Lewin, the other third of our crew, the first piece of writing on the site was by him, titled Why Are JRPGs Dead?, which was a wonderful way to christen the blog. He followed it up throughout the year with great pieces on various games, including Dragon Quest, Symphony of Eternity by “shovelware” developer Kemco, Eternal Sonata, the Dark Souls trilogy, Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan, and even the coherent-but-absurd/”post-ironic” Barkley: Shut Up and Jam Gaiden. Every piece of writing I’ve read from LeeRoy, either for JAD or his work at Vextro, conveys a sense of care for the game or topic he delves into that I can rarely feel from other critics. This might just be due to our time spent chatting both on and off the mic about our DGC topics, but his writing evoked his tone quite well, even before I was this acquainted with him, and his viewpoint on smaller games and histories that are outside the purview of myself and Becky is invaluable to the cohesion of our group criticism.
As for me, I’ve almost definitely been stubborn in ways that frustrate my partners when it comes to discussions of the games we’ve picked for DGC, but a bit of friction is better than none at all when discussing things critically. For every moment I’ve interjected with some objection or another in the course of the last year, I’ve had a hundred where I just soaked in the fact that we could have these critical discussions at the depth we do. We’re not done, nor are we really even super well-informed, but we’re more knowledgeable now than we were when we started this year, and that’s led to some of the best discussions of the genre and specific games on the internet.
To all of our supporters, be it financial or moral, thank you for the wonderful year. Nobody knows what the new year holds, but hopefully, 2017 will bring a bit more Patreon support, a lot more attention to the best JRPG criticism in the west, and at least a little mainstream acknowledgement that JRPGs aren’t dead just because people didn’t like a Final Fantasy game. We will endeavor, as ever, to push the discussion of this hazy genre past the lazy lack of literacy and respect that sustains “weird” as the most common description of the field of games under the JRPG umbrella.
It’s going to be an ongoing struggle, but for the first time in a while, I’m optimistic. Whether that proves to be foolish or not remains to be seen. Regardless, it’s a path I’m willing to walk, a chronicle I’m willing to make, and though this chapter has ended, the next is waiting. Let’s work at it.
If you’ve come across this post without the context of our podcast and critical style, please visit our Patreon page, where you can watch both a short promo and a longer mini-episode as a form of introduction to our podcast, Dead Genre Chronicles. The writing here is general, but our episodes are about single games and take the time to focus on each topic.