Anime has it’s downsides. Here are 5 things no MMO should ever take inspiration from.
1. Don’t pander to the fans.
Anime out of all art forms is horrendous for this, coining the term “Fan Service” for gratuitous content that is solely tossed in to please the fanbase. Not only that, pandering to the fans can corrupt unique premises and make anime stereotypical if not distasteful. Sometimes the fan culture can be so warped as to corrupt the medium itself. I’m not going to link anime for this one, because most of them would be NSFW anyways, but nudity, fetish material, or even tired tropes like a cute little sister or a beach episode can count.
MMO culture is similar, though thankfully less creepy. we have been conditioned so long to like several tropes we cry foul if we don’t see them even if the game couldn’t support it. Sometimes you have to ignore people and stay true to your vision.
2. Don’t be opaque or insensitive.
This one is a little different. A lot of Anime simply is opaque to the non-japanese. It’s not just a factor of language, but of cultural references, same as any nation. We don’t reflexively know that character has a Kansai accent and absorb the little connotations that has on a character. We don’t know what the kotatsu is and why so many anime characters fall asleep under it: it’s because the table has a space heater under it and the cloth traps the heat making it very warm.
You can learn, but even then by being outside the culture there are many things we wont pick up intuitively. For MMOs it’s a danger of assuming that your players are monocultural.
This ties in to the second point, insensitivity. Watch Anime and you’ll soon see the Japanese have really little idea of what Americans are for the most part. Some directors buck the trend, but America gets mythologized a lot. Being monocultural again: To understand your own culture and try to observe others should always be a goal.
3. Don’t use filler.
Filler is a term to describe episodes in a series shot because the original manga series the anime is based on isn’t ready to be adapted. The anime catches up to the manga but needs to keep on going. So they shoot filler: talking heads, reusing footage from past shows to recap, or brand new episodes that are unconnected to the main storyline. This isn’t entirely bad: if done well filler can add to a series by expanding on new directions of the manga or fleshing out characters better.
But most of the time it’s just boring padding to keep a hot property going. It can be called “Shonen Jump Disease” from the name of the popular manga anthology magazine. Shows like Naruto, Bleach, and Dragonball Z suffer from this, and they also appeared in that magazine.
For MMOs, that means its better just to lay fallow rather than introduce meaningless grinding or filler content to keep a hot MMO going. Despite the fans raging, we all are heavily invested in the games we play, and it’s not as big of an issue as forumgoers make it to be. It’s better to release good content slowly.
4. Don’t get bloated: brevity is better than longevity.
I enjoy reading the manga of Negima?! It’s a manga take on Harry Potter, and although its way too heavy on the fan service it’s a good read. But the manga is at 25+ volumes, with an entirely separate recap/alternate take on the series Negima Neo at 3 volumes. I think there are roughly 4 full, standalone anime series to it.
This is not exactly point 3. Even at 25 volumes, Negima still has yet to get to the main battle and explaining the history of one of its main characters. It’s a common problem with the serial nature of manga (published by the chapter in anthologies) that it gets bloated very fast, very easily. Naruto is soon to hit 50 volumes of manga without resolving one of the main conflicts, that between Naruto and Sasuke.
It’s better to end way before then, just to avoid fatigue and the story being exhausted. Another symptom of “Shonen Jump Disease.” is “Tournament Syndrome.” If your favorite series sticks its heroes in a tournament, the case is terminal. Negima!? has had two so far.
For MMOs, its better to run for four years and cut a sequel than to be a dinosaur at 10 or 12. It makes it impossible for new players to participate, when they even can due to low population and OS compatibility issues. It also increases the risk the game strays from its roots in an uncrecoverable direction. Live fast, die well.
5. Don’t stay yoked to the past. Some IPs need to die.
A problem with Anime is similar to the problems we have with Star Wars or Star Trek. Intellectual properties balloon to these huge monsters that dominate the cultural landscape. It’s not because the IP itself is relevant, but that inertia and conservatism keep the big companies churning out sub-par material because it will sell.
Those IPs often make real change and innovation hard. Hayao Miyazaki never makes the same character twice: each film is unique. Sometimes a good property should simply run its course. MMOs, too. WoW, EQ, UO-all of these things can harden to dominate the future if held up to imitate.
A lot of these ideas are common to many aspects of media. Disney for example. But anime has so many of these I felt it highlighed the dangers best.