The TV Program X-Play has come under fire for its fairly racist coverage of Japanese video games from the 2000s to the early 2010s.
This comes in light of Final Fantasy XVI Producer Naoki Yoshida‘s recent comments about the Western media often feeling discriminatory against Japanese games during this time period, leading to many netizens looking through old articles and reviews.
The issue with X-Play was first sparked when Youtuber and Twitter user Tarks Gauntlet posted X-Play’s old review of the 2006 Gamecube RPG Baten Kaitos Origins as an example of the discriminatory portrayal of Japanese products in Western media.
Update – 04/04/23: Tarks Gauntlet has taken down his original Tweet. Here’s the original quote from the post and the video it linked to:
“Some people weren’t around when JRPGs were being dragged by the mainstream gaming press and have no clue why some devs felt slighted by the term, so I want you to take this 2006 Baten Kaitos Origins “review” from X-play as an example. Salvaged from the Internet archive:”
Within the almost a-minute-long clip, the reviewer starts by saying that the game was proof that Japanese gaming with “in decline”, complaining that the plot was cliched, and then proceeding to just make fun of the main character for having a Japanese name.
Adam Sessler’s Response
Unfortunately, this sort of racist humor was common among the 2000s edge culture however former X-Play host Adam Sessler has since responded to the criticism of the Baten Kaitos review and doubled down on his statements.
Dude is angry I didn’t like his consumer boner stimulator in 2006. A truer gamer there never was. https://t.co/ghnylbTUZ5
— Adam “So Not A Gamer” Sessler (@AdamSessler) March 4, 2023
We should once again stress that the original post by Tarks Gauntlet was not an attempt to call out X-Play for being racist but rather use them as an example of how Western gaming media portrayed games from Japan. Sessler however dismissed the criticism entirely, saying it was just the whining of an angry fanboy, essentially making a strawman out of a legitimate issue.
Further X-Play Skits
Unfortunately for Sessler, this wasn’t a single incident. After the tweet went viral, users dug up several more clips of X-Play jokes or skits that can come across as racist.
Another trending clip saw X-Play complain that Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga was too confusing. The skit depicted a Japanese “Communications Director” attempting to explain the game leading to a montage of assorted footage from various comical Japanese gaming ads (Hi Segata Sanshiro). The clip ends with Host Morgan Webb saying “I fear for the day that zany bean-curd-loving race finally rules over us”. When you hear lines like that, you really have to question how no one saw them as racist beforehand.
Yet another has Asian actors pretend to be the program’s hosts Adam and Morgan playing caricatures of Japanese people. The video is filled with stereotypes emphasizing how “eccentric” Japanese culture is.
The racism towards Japan on G4 and X-Play was actually so much worse than you know. pic.twitter.com/xSWNhWRI5v
— Spooky (@spookygoo) March 5, 2023
From this example, you can see a recurring pattern of portraying Japanese games as overly weird and zany. The show often took footage of Japanese games out of context to intentionally misinterpret them to better fit the stereotypes they wished to joke about. How else do you get the dark apocalypse of Digital Devil Saga and boil it down to “haha Japan is so quirky”?
Adam Sessler Doubles Down Even More
Following the various criticism of his initial response, Sessler says he “is not defensive and also not apologizing to the MAGA weirdos with anime porn in their timeline”. He has made several more tweets that would go on to state that the Games industry is a “circle-jerk of sophomoric narcissism” and that he’s glad that he left.
“Final thought on the latest Alt-Right Cause-Celebe/Progressive Knee-jerk catharsis I find myself in”. Sessler says. “At the end of the day, the only true regret I’ll admit to publicly is that I spent as much of my life as I did in the thrall of such an insipid culture and audience. I love the games and game design but the rest is an orgy of desperation that I wasted decades on”.
A lot of this MAGA alt-right talk comes about because Sessler has been harassed in the past for being “Woke”. While this is unacceptable, using your previous harassment to deflect from your own inappropriate behavior is in pretty poor taste.
The Response To The Response
Many notable figures in games media have since responded to Sessler’s comments. Gamespot Editor Jessica Howards replied to Sessler “I have no idea how you could watch this and grow defensive rather than admit it was 15+ years ago and the whole thing was pretty insensitive/is not content you’d stand by making today. That’s wild and disappointing”.
Meanwhile, Kotaku Senior Writer Luke Plunkett has pointed out that all Sessler had to do was “acknowledge a review was over 15 years ago, times have changed and you have moved forward”. He has a good point. The 2000s were the peak of edgy offensive humor and many people participated in it. What’s important is to acknowledge what happened and try to do better in the future. Sessler however has chosen to do the opposite, remaining in denial of his racist comments.
We should note that while Japanese games and JRPGs are seen in a far more positive light nowadays, it’s still not uncommon for Japanese games like Xenoblade or Fire Emblem to get hit with complaints of being “too Japanese” or “too anime“. We’ve come a long way since X-Play but there’s still a good way to go.