In my most recent PopMatters piece (Filipowich, Mark. “We Are One: JRPGs, the Group Journey and the Mechanics of Cooperation.” PopMatters. Apr 2 2013) I discuss how the JRPG is able to communicate a sense of unity in, well, everything that they do. Typically, JRPGs follow a hero recruiting allies standing against an all-consuming evil by fighting battles as a team. It’s important to know that narratively and—save for self-imposed challenges—mechanically, these adventures are set up as impossible to complete without the united effort of the group. What’s further interesting is that the player doesn’t really play “as” a single hero: the player’s influence in the game is spread equally across the entire party. JRPGs can be excellent character studies because every primary character is an individual and an independent entity vital to the story’s progression; but at their core, these games focus on people coming together.
Not all JRPGs do this well and even some of the best JRPGs don’t necessarily concern themselves primarily with group dynamics (though I do still believe that group dynamics are important to almost any JRPG, even those centred on one or two characters). Still, it’s worth mentioning that outside of the JRPG, not many games are able to emphasize cooperation on every level. In the PopMatters article, I brought up a number of games that I felt did an excellent job of stressing group cohesion but I didn’t elaborate on how each instance does so.
I’d like to talk about some of these games at length and hopefully flesh out a strength of the genre that seems to be overlooked. Also, I’ve decided that April will be JRPG month for me so I imagine I’ll have plenty of fuel for this discussion. Hence, I’ve decided to make a short series on this subject where I’ll elaborate on a number of games that illustrate group cohesion well. The ongoing list can be found by following this link: