Comfort gaming and the uncanny valley

If you’ve read our site at all, you know I’m the guy who loves to play sports games. And if you’ve read any of our old Backlog articles, you know I love the Pro Evo Soccer games. It’s not just a great series, but it’s tantamount to comfort food for me. Different experiences are great, but sometimes you just need to sit on the couch in your favorite sweat pants, you know?

After plowing through play-throughs of Mass Effect 2 and 3 a couple months ago, I needed that comfort again. PES 2012 was an inevitable purchase. But on the way, I learned a lesson the hard way.

Living in Japan makes some things a little more difficult. Fortunately, through the magic combination of credit cards, PSN and Amazon, I’ve been able to take care of most everything gaming-wise without breaking a sweat. Though Japanese game stores are fantastic if you love games, they aren’t necessarily the cheapest; they are great if you want to buy older games, but brand-new titles can run $80 or more.

I should’ve known to go running to Amazon when I saw Winning Eleven/Pro Evo Soccer 2012’s price in Japan – over ¥6800, or higher than $80. Yikes. But it is PES, and I know I can get more than 100 hours out of it…so I paid the price. I was sold on the impulse buy. I picked it up on a whim when going to see friends (my town is too small for a game store of its own) and that was that.

I should’ve known to follow Tyler’s advice, too. Before I moved to Japan, I researched the region-free-ness of PlayStation 3 games, and was directed by our other man in Japan to a Wiki that tries to catalog the English language support in Japanese console games. I’ve learned to trust the guidelines on this Wiki (though it seems to be down) when it comes to buying Japanese-market PS3 games.

Of course I didn’t check to see if PES supported English. I should’ve heeded the warning signs.

“But Doug,” you must be thinking, “You live in Japan now and are some kind of weeaboo asshole, right? Surely if anyone can play games in Japanese, you’re the guy? Right?” Okay, maybe you aren’t thinking that, but, yes, I do have a couple Japanese-language games that I've given them a try. I can stumble through them alright and chalk it up as language practice. Once I realized my Japanese copy of PES 2012 didn’t support English at all, I tried to give it a shot in Japanese.

It’s just that I couldn’t do it. The game had dropped into an uncanny valley for me. It looked familiar; it was wonderfully similar to the PES games I’d spent hundreds of hours on. Playing the game was the expected dew-drop of bliss that I needed at that moment. But it had Japanese announcers, Japanese writing, Japanese menus, and all that threw my poor American English brain for a loop.

I had bought the wrong flavor of comfort food. To make things worse, I couldn't just return it for store credit – I had to sell the game used back to the store and lose about $25 in the transaction. Live and learn.

I don’t have anything against playing games in Japanese – I actually have a plan to play through Yakuza 3 in Japanese with a friend who’s language skills are even better than mine. But when I wanted – needed ­– my comfort food game, it turns out I needed it in English.