When Games Get (a little too) Real – Yakuza 0

Yakuza 0 - Sega

I’ve had the luxury of playing video games for almost 30 years, and I simply love them. They are a great escape from the troubles and woes of real life and I use them to take my mind off of such things. I’ve been doing that for decades, and up until recently, I’ve not had real-life slapped in my face so hard. I understand that developers want to be edgy and controversial, but they need to understand I’m not buying their game to be preached at by either side of the aisle. I also don’t like issues that are on the news to be displayed in my games, I want to be rid of all that stuff, even if it’s just for one hour to center myself. An enjoyable experience that takes me from the rut of my life into a world that without video games I would never see is all that I ask for. Oddly enough, one of my favorite games this year, Yakuza 0, is the game that slammed real life right back in my face as I was enjoying my time in 1988 Japan.

This past year has actually been pretty rough on my family and myself, so I’ve been diving into games more and more to relax. I put 38 hours into Yakuza 0 to finally see the end and I loved every minute of it, except for two key points. Now, these are minor spoilers, so if you want to go into Yakuza 0 knowing nothing, stop reading this, play the game and then come back. If you don’t care there are two points in the game that really resounded with my life at the time. Let’s start out with the one that won’t spoil the story, Goro Majima’s job. Majima is the manager of the trendiest and most popular nightclub in Sotenbori, The Grand. I’ve been in the restaurant industry for over fourteen years and having one of the coolest characters ever created be a manager of a nightclub was somewhat of a letdown. Every time the story took Majima back to his work I was reminded of my soul-crushing job and it bummed me out a bit. I will admit that I did enjoy the mini-game that had you actually run a shift at the place, that was fun, but I wish Majima could have had another job.

(Yakuza 0 – Sega)

My life and my families lives changed a lot this year, my mother had to start home dialysis and that took a pretty stressful toll and her and myself. During one of my vacations I took my mother to the dialysis class every day, and when I got home I played Yakuza 0 to calm my nerves and take my mind off things. Little did I know that one of the biggest plot points of the game, possible spoiler here, is that Tetsu Tachibana has to get dialysis every few days to keep his strength up. I had no idea this was going to be a minor story element, but it really slapped me in the face as I played. There I was, sweating a little bit after an intense action scene then cutscene and I see Tachibana laying on a hospital bed with I.V. bags attacked to him. His number 2 man Oda explains to Kiryu that Tachibana’s kidneys no longer function as they once did. The loss of his hand and the blood put such a strain on them that he needed dialysis for the rest of his so that he could live. Of all the ailments Tachibana could have had, they chose kidney failure, I don’t know why but that scene really struck home and was always nagging at the back of my mind as I finished the game.

(Yakuza 0 – Sega)

While these two plot points meshed this imaginary world with my real life situation, it didn’t ruin the game for me, thankfully. Yakuza 0 will probably still be my Game of the Year for 2017 and I think the title deserves it. I was just bummed that I couldn’t enjoy a break away from life while playing it. Life kicked me in the nuts this year and for some reason, Sega wanted to remind me of it as I played one of my favorite franchises. Generally, I like realism in some games, I play the Yakuza series so that I can learn more about Japan since I doubt I’ll ever get to visit. It was just that this Yakuza game was too real for my tastes, I hope Kiwami and the others I need to play still aren’t as “real” to me as this one was. I like to play games to get away if I want real life I’ll watch the news or be on Twitter more. Games shouldn’t shove that in my face as hard as it did, and this may be one Yakuza game I don’t see myself replaying in the future.



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