Where’s The Japanese RPG Textbook? — 22 Comments

  1. This article kind of reminded me of a book I read about a year back called “Changing the Game: How Video Games Are Transforming the Future of Business.” The book was talking about the development of video games for training purposes. They discussed that most video games that try to teach you something either try to teach you too much (so they aren’t fun) or they just focus on fun (so you don’t learn anything). They suggested going be the 80/20 rule; the game should be 80% fun and 20% learning. If an rpg type textbook/game were to be made under the 80/20 rule, it would take an extraordinary amount of time investment to get through a subject as dense as even basic Japanese. Still, I wonder if the extra time investment would be worth it if you were having much more fun along the way.

    • When I look at the manga based Japanese textbooks I don’t find that was their solution at all. They have the same basic structure as most regular textbooks in that they try and teach the grammar and vocabulary that appears on the various JLPT tests, but all of their filler content is in the world of manga. In reality their balance is probably 50/50 but they hide the boring content so well that it seems like its almost 100% fun content.

      Alternatively we might suggest that XはYです and boring worlds like 食べる、毎日、食べ物 become a lot more fun if you put them into a fun context.

      In fact if anyone knows an RPG that is heavy with business, finance, and economics vocabulary I would love to know about it.

      • 食べる isn’t boring when it occurs in its native environment, and is only boring because textbooks only focus on a few basic words in a constructed scenario, rather than exposing its learners to native materials meant to entertain people who know the language.

        I learned much of the foundation of my Japanese from native materials, and because of that none of it was boring. So, perhaps simulating a learning environment to mimic what would also interest a native speaker, with the guidance of explanations (in one’s L1 for lower levels and in Japanese for higher levels) would be a good solution.

        • I finally realized what I was actually trying to say here … there’s that early stage where you know so few vocabulary and grammar points that it’s hard to come up with compelling sentences. So if you have two pictures one of an apple and another of a hero with a sword you get two simple sentences:


          For us RPG loving males the second one seems much more compelling because we thing “YES, COOL SWORDS!” instead of “Oh, fruit. Healthy, yuck. Y U NO HAVE BACON.” (Disclaimer: I actually love apples.)

    • Very interesting concept. It sounds like something that would be worth testing out.

      Does the 80/20 rule also apply to non-educational video games? Because even the most fun games have grinding tasks that you aren’t doing directly for fun (ex. level grinding).

      • sorry for responding like 3 weeks later. I had completely forgot I made this comment until I stumbled back upon it earlier tonight. The book actually does talk about grinding in regards to getting menial office work done, but it didn’t go as far as to talk about how video games in general should work. Although there are a lot of people who live and die by the 80/20 rule, so I wouldn’t be surprised at all if such a theory for video games in general were to exist.

  2. This is a question that answers itself. Make a lesson or two and sell it for your normal reasonable prices and let the sales fund the next ones, etc, etc. When you get 12-15 of them together you clearly have a book and can sell it at a normal textbook price.

    You just need a healthy mix of JLPT style vocab and grammar points along with specialized vocabulary that every 5 year old here knows but never seem to appear in beginner textbooks. (冒険、武器、魔法 are all very obvious examples.)

    Also instead of the normal culture notes you could have blurbs about Japanese mythology or even JRPG history. I think we could all collectively come up with tons of great raw ideas for this. Probably the only reason it hasn’t been done is no one has been motivated to design and edit it into a cohesive whole.

    • This is an excellent idea. Especially trying one chapter and seeing if it works makes it a more realistic project.

      I think this is something definitely worth pursuing here on Jalup. And it would be great to get some group effort here, especially since most people here have a love of a wide range of Rpgs.

      Thanks tokyostyle! I’m going to be looking into this.

      • Random thought: If this was the most amazing Japanese textbook ever it would be interesting to try and introduce kanji through their radicals and in a Heisig-like order. He’s apparently fairly generous about licensing that stuff these days.

        • I’ve been working on the first few chapters of a trial textbook since I posted this. Not exactly sure yet how I feel about the results, but I may post the first chapter for free.

          Originally, this site was working on a video game Anki textbook many months ago. After about 250 cards, and months of work, we kind of scrapped the whole idea, as the results just weren’t what we were trying to achieve.

          Hopefully this time goes slightly better.

  3. First off, yeah, that picture made me laugh too! Looks like Yuki is a water type…

    Second, there’s been at least one other effort at a combo RPG/textbook, Slime Forest Adventure. I tried it a few years ago and it just didn’t hold my interest long. It looks like the developer has put in a lot more content and story since then, so maybe someone who really hates Heisig and is looking for an alternative way to learn kana and kanji might find it worth a look.

    • Yeah, I remember seeing that Japanese learning game many years back as well. It kind of felt like what Bailey mentioned above though, a forced entertainment and education combo. Though maybe the new version is more exciting?

  4. I think one of the problems with the concept is to engage the reader throughout the whole thing. My answer would be to mix it up! Change characters, settings, game styles whatever – so it becomes more like student scribbles and you don’t have to struggle with keeping the reader on “one path” all the time. “Japanese the manga way” kind of works like this, because of different manga examples.
    Looking forward to chapter one!

    • One reason I didn’t like Japanese the Manga Way though is because it was so inconsistent with plot lines. I’d rather have a few seperate stories to follow that represented different genres, rather than everything being different.

      Some perhaps it depends person to person.

  5. There’s a coursera course going on right now that you should look into, called Video Games and Learning. There’s an entire academic field studying this exact problem.

    I remember there a lot of examples from childhood like Carmen Sandiego and etc; the main thing is that it needs to seem like incidental learning, where you’re having fun and need to learn something in order to progress. Which, if you’re looking specifically to learn kanji through a video game, kind of precludes that.

    • This is a real good point. The downside to a textbook is that there’s no reward of progress like there is in a video game, so in a sense you have to pretend that you’re making it to a new world or such. A solution might be to make the rpg game, and supply a textbook as a guidebook or walkthrough to help you through the game.

    • Thanks Pika-chuu. I will look into that course/current academic research on the subject.

      I remember playing/watching Carmen Sandiago as a child, and enjoying it. Was that a successful example or a problem example?

  6. I help write textbooks and one of my goals is to write a textbook of my own. Granted the ones I help write are for math and I don’t get credit but that’s because I don’t have a PhD or a Masters degree. I really like the idea of an RPG textbook but I honestly have no idea how they did it. Does anyone have a link to the RPG textbook or can translate what the pages above are saying (roughly). My Japanese isn’t near good enough to do it.

    • I wouldn’t really use this as a model example. It mostly just uses rpg terminology and theme.

      I don’t think you can find it easily online. You’d have to order it.

      • Dang that sucks. I’ve always played around with this idea. I use choose your own adventure books for reviews in my math classes and I want to take that to the next step.

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