There is a lot of overlap between the anime and gaming fandoms. Many of the world’s most popular video game franchises originate from Japan, anime’s homeland, anime and video games have, historically, faced similar controversies in terms of their content and representation of certain groups, and both pastimes, whilst once fairly niche, have now achieved mainstream popularity. Long gone are the days of being a closeted anime fan or gamer. As such, it is not all that uncommon for an anime to feature a world that operates on video game mechanics or a video game obsessed anime character. Today’s blog post will focus on the latter.
I recently watched an anime called High Score Girl. Set during the 90s it follows a boy named Haruo who absolutely adores video games. It being the 90s, a time when home video game consoles were only just beginning to hit their stride, Haruo spends most of his time in some shady arcade or another. Haruo considers himself somewhat of a pro when it comes to video games, and revels in lording it over his fellow players, that is, until his rival, Akira, the sheltered princess of the Oono family, makes her arcade debut and completely blows him out of the water! What follows is an extremely heartwarming romance that continually made me smile, played up to my sense of nostalgia, and shattered all expectations that I had for it. I’d definitely recommend that you give this show a go, especially as its second season is scheduled for later on this year!
Despite not uttering a single line throughout High Score Girl, Akira’s feelings for Haruo are crystal clear. However, she is not the only girl to take a liking to him. Another one of Haruo’s classmates, Koharu, also harbours feelings for him. This is in spite of the fact that Haruo is not conventionally good-looking (the way that he huddles over a screen calls to mind the image of Gollum hunching over his Precious), flunks all of his subjects at school, and is much too busy button mashing to max out his social links. Even he admits that, aside from his video game prowess, he doesn’t have much going for him! So why is he so inexplicably popular with the girls?
The same could be asked of Sword Art Online’s hero, Kirito, or The World God Only Know’s protagonist, Keima. Despite his single-minded focus on playing SAO and extreme lack of social grace, particularly when it came to women, Kirito cleared the aforementioned game having, somehow, landed himself a wife and a bevy of beauties clamouring for his attention. Whilst it could be said that Kirito was at least nice (in a saccharine little brother-y kind of way), the same cannot be said of Keima, who, no matter how you look at it, is kind of a jerk. He possesses no real feelings towards the girls he seduces, seeing them only as objects to conquer, like the girls in his precious dating sims. Not to mention that his love of video games, more so than Haruo’s or Kirito’s, is undeniably unhealthy! Yet he too is surrounded by a gaggle of girls just frothing at the mouth to be with him!
So why are these gamer guys, with so little going for them, so popular? Whilst some have explained away this curious phenomenon by saying that this is merely wish fulfillment – content creators cleverly tapping into viewers’ (many of whom love video games themselves) desire to be popular with girls, I think it goes deeper than that. I think that the reason these boys are so popular is this: passion.
Haruo, Kirito, and Keima each possess a fiery, all-consuming passion for video games. Every waking moment is spent either playing or thinking about them. In a world where TV and the Internet are constantly clamouring for our attention, this kind of single-minded focus is actually kind of remarkable – and appealing! Not to mention that this trio are always seeking to hone their gaming skills. Video games may have achieved mainstream popularity, however, gaming skills are still not (rightly or wrongly) considered as valuable as, say, social skills or academic prowess. Nevertheless, their desire to constantly up their game is still admirable! Finally, whilst the girls who surrounded these three boys did not always share or understand the all-consuming love that they had for video games, you could tell that they were still drawn to the sheer enthusiasm that they exuded for them. I think, in the same way that laughter can be contagious, so too can joy. Watching somebody become all animated or their eyes light up when discussing something that they love, you can’t help but be filled with joy yourself, even if you don’t quite share in their exact sentiments. In light of these things, it is totally understandable that girls would want to be with, or at least around, these gamer guys, in spite of their flaws.