Myself (and many others) have always recommended you study Japanese together with the things you enjoy. I enjoy video games, but I also enjoy watching people play video games. A little under a year ago I came across a YouTube channel run by two Japanese brothers and was surprised by it. First of all, they were Japanese people doing "Let's Play" videos, which I hadn't really seen before. Second, they were playing first person shooters and other "typically Western games." Combine all this with the fact that they are entertaining to watch and you have yourself a winner. You definitely can't say that about every YouTube channel, that's for sure.
At the time of this writing, they have 653,521 subscribers on YouTube. It seems they're doing something right. I had wanted to interview them for a while, and I finally got the chance. As a primer, here's a compilation video of some highlights from 2014.
Koichi: Let's get introductions out of the way. What are your (internet) names?
Brother 1: anijya 兄者 – Editor's note: This is the kanji for "older brother" and "person."
Brother 2: otojya 弟者 – Editor's note: This is the kanji for "younger brother" and "person."
Koichi: They're an older and younger brother duo, in case you (the reader) didn't get that.
When did you start doing "Lets Play" videos?
Otojya: I started in November of 2009. At first, we didn't include our own commentary. We simply added subtitles and made game video tutorials.
Koichi: Here's the oldest video I could find on their channel.
Koichi: And why did you originally start doing these videos?
Anijya: I saw a "Let's Play" video my brother made and I got interested in how people commented on it, so I started doing it too. However, the videos I made initially were things like "how to post a video online without losing its picture quality."
Otojya: The biggest reason was I just wanted to know how people would react to my "Let's Play" videos. I still remember one of the comments on one of our first videos that said my voice sounded like a villain character and that made my brother laugh so hard. After a while, I've really come to enjoy communicating with a large number of people through our videos.
Koichi: That's so true. I think it was your voice (Otojya) that originally drew me to your videos. I thought it sounded more like an "announcer" though, which really added a lot of excitement to watching you play games. Okay, maybe an "announcer villain."
Koichi: So what keeps you doing "Let's Play" videos now then?
Anijya: I want to enjoy games with other people – Or rather, because I do enjoy playing games with other people.
Koichi: I can definitely see that in your videos. I think some of my favorites are the 4player ones you do. I have a soft spot in my heart for the Left4Dead videos, but that's because I particularly enjoy that game.
Payday2 was pretty good too.
Otojya: I like gaming, so I try to convey how fun and interesting games are. I introduce them to people like, "Here is a fascinating game that's now out there!"
Otojya: I also want people to evaluate the playing styles I come up with for multiplayer games. One thing that has come from posting videos that makes me the happiest is when I am told "I started gaming after watching your videos." It makes me hold up my fists in triumph.
Your Favorite Games
Koichi: Well, it made me want to start doing "Let's Play" videos, but then I realized people would get angry at me for not doing my actual work. Speaking of games, what kinds of games do you usually play?
Anijya: I play FPS (first person shooters) and TPS (third person shooters), but I actually try out all the games that interest me. Games are so profound and I'm fascinated with them.
Otojya: I usually play FPS
and I recently started playing horror games
as well as retro games
but I like every kind of game.
Koichi: I think I know this already, but what's your favorite genre?
Anijya: FPS perspective games. I've liked this genre for a long time because it gives you the feeling of being in the game and you can immerse yourself in its world.
Otojya: If you have ever watched our videos, you will probably know, but my favorite genre is FPS! Although I say FPS, there are some other types, like puzzles, adventures, or horror that I really enjoy too but I like all kinds of FPS. My most favorite FPS are those with explosive action.
Koichi: I have to ask. Least favorite game genre?
Anijya: RPG or MMORPG. I get tired of playing games where all the events or missions are offered from the beginning.
Otojya: Well, to be honest, I just mentioned how I like every kind of FPS, but I like horror games the least among them. When I was a kid, my brother and his friend played a zombie horror game called "Biohazard 2" (many of you likely know Biohazard by another name – Resident Evil) and it scared me to death. I'm afraid of zombies, so I don't like my brother…oops I mean I don't like horror games very much. Haha!
Koichi: You two often play games together. What are your strong points and weak points? Are you a good team?
Anijya: A strong point would be that we can communicate without saying very much at all. I've played games with him longer than anyone else, so he can help me out without me even asking him. He is very reliable. However, as a weak point, we have really big arguments when our gaming doesn't go very well. You may think, "it's just a game, right?", but we play it so seriously and enthusiastically that sometimes we get a bit too intense. We're an ideal team rather than just a "good" team…at least in my eyes, the older brother, who likes gaming.
Otojya: The strong point would be our teamwork. I've played games with my brother more than anybody else, so that naturally created our ability to work as a team. It's also easier to play with him. However, we are often too serious about gaming, so if one of us makes a mistake, we get into a serious fight. In terms of enjoying games from the bottom of our hearts, we are the best and strongest team.
Koichi: Aww, that's 可愛いね.
"Western Gaming" vs. "Japanese Gaming"
Koichi: What do you think is the difference between Western gaming and Japanese gaming?
Anijya: I think the differences have been decreasing, but I'd say "reality." In Japanese games, there are often anime characters or handsome boys or cute girls that Japanese people like. However, in Western games, there are usually tough guys and women who are more likely to exist in the real world. Thus, in terms of realism, I think Western gaming has the advantage. Conversely, non-realistic fantasy settings might be the Japanese strength.
Otojya: This is my personal opinion, but I think the difference is "whether a cute character appears or not." There are almost always cute characters in Japanese games. I like movies, so I prefer to play games with cool characters you might see in a movie, but Japanese people tend to prefer playing games with cute characters rather than cool people.
Koichi: Then how do you feel about "Western gaming culture?"
Anijya: Western gaming is very particular about details. There are some very particular things in games that closely mimic reality, but if that were done for Japanese people, none of them would enjoy it. I'm sure there are fans of that style in Japan too, but since we have to get over the language barrier, I suspect it may not be very many.
Otojya: I think that there are many games pursuing reality. Western gaming even diligently pursues reality on silly or seemingly unimportant details, so I feel the scale of Western gaming is vast.
Koichi: On the flip side, how about "Japanese gaming culture?"
Anijya: I think Japanese gaming culture is completely different from that of other countries. The gaming experience that at one time could only be had in an arcade suddenly became available at home with family game consoles, and even people who weren't interested in gaming that much now play app-games on their smartphones. Now, it's trendy to create games for smartphones that everyone can enjoy rather than just for game consoles or computers, which have become more complicated and expensive. The gaming industry is still developing, but I think there is still a lot of room for growth.
Otojya: I think Japanese people consider gaming a childish thing. If you play games as an adult, it can give people a bad impression of you, so I think many people hesitate to confess that they like gaming.
Koichi: I was surprised to see you playing so many FPS games. I've always thought of FPS as "Western" gaming, but a lot of Japanese people love your videos. Are FPS games getting popular in Japan too?
Anijya: In the 90s, FPS games on computers became popular worldwide, and the number of Japanese fans has slowly increased since then. I was actually one of them. Although there were no games that had the language localized in Japanese, I still ran into Japanese players. FPS players increased a lot more after people learned how to enjoy FPS with game consoles, such as PlayStation or Xbox, and the number of titles in Japanese increased as well. The image of FPS must have changed from that of hardcore computer games to a much more common game. The type of gameplay specific to FPS, much like an action movie, makes people excited, and the scenes also change depending on which character you choose to be, so you won't get tired of it.
Otojya: My brother first learned about FPS and I started playing because of his influence. I probably never would have known about FPS if he hadn't known about them. At first, I was just watching my brother play while thinking "I want to play that too!" So I posted "Let's Play" videos for viewers to enjoy with similar feelings that I had experienced. I think FPS are becoming more and more popular in Japan.
Koichi: I'm surprised! I guess I don't know anything. As someone who's on the front lines of Japanese gaming, what do you think about the current state of Japanese gaming?
Anijya: I like obscure games, and I feel Japan doesn't have many unique ones. The games made for smartphones are mostly not my genre either. My favorite game series Metal Gear Solid is loved all over the world, so I hope Japanese game companies create something that focuses not only on Japan but also the world.
Otojya: [Japan] makes games mostly for children and I think that's fine, but they should also challenge themselves to make games that adults can enjoy.
Koichi: And how do you think Japanese gaming will change? As in, what will it be like in 5-10 years?
Anijya: I think the main market will change from consumer consoles to peoples' smartphones. Right now, many games are only enjoyable on game consoles, but I'm pretty sure those will be available on smartphones soon enough. I also think that brainstorming type games might be popular soon. Haha!
Otojya: I think smartphone games will become the mainstream…or web browser games.
Koichi: Well, I hope they get better then. I haven't seen many other "Let's Play" videos from Japan, not like in the West. Why do you think that is?
Anijya: I think it's because it used to be pretty difficult to upload videos of someone playing a game while also talking about it. It costs quite a lot at first, and knowledge of computers is also required. Recently though, computers have changed to PS4s and to Xbox Ones, so everybody can post "Let's Play" videos. It was impossible not so long ago, but now it's awesome!
Otojya: For Japanese people, I think gaming is usually something you enjoy by yourself, so it's not necessary to share videos to enjoy with others.
Koichi: But are there any "Let's Play" people out there that you guys enjoy?
Anijya: I often watch Markiplier despite the language barrier. It's not related to gaming, but I also watch Freddie Wong.
Otojya: I look on Youtube every once in a while, but I haven't found one yet.
Koichi: Dang, so no Japanese "Let's Players" to recommend. I hope more pop up, though I will continue to watch your videos either way. What are your goals for your channel / website?
Anijya: We now have over 600,000 subscribers, but my new hope is to reach 1,000,000. It would be great if everyone could find enjoyment through our gaming videos while watching with their friends.
Otojya: We will post more videos, make new challenges, and increase channel numbers!
Koichi: Sounds about right – so if someone wanted to subscribe to or follow your videos, how can they do it?
Koichi: They're also on Twitter (Anijya, Otojya and TwitchTV, too. Thank you both so much for doing this interview! I found a bunch of your videos that I haven't watched yet while doing research for this interview, so I'm going to go watch them now. Everyone who likes gaming and is studying Japanese, be sure to subscribe to their YouTube channel. It's one of my favorite channels and a lot of fun.