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Hi, this is Two Minute Game Crit and I’m Stephen Beirne.
I mentioned before when talking about Vagrant Story, how menus work as a form of introspection, since a menu always represents something internal to the character you’re playing. You can learn a lot by looking at what menus occupy your time and interest.
Persona 3’s a good example because its menus are very pretty, which helps when you spend so much time in them, and also, usefully, they’re quite poignant.
So, what are the menus where you spend, or I should say where I spent most of my time? You have:
- The social links menu, showing all the people you can hang out with and when in the week they’re available.
- The persona fusion menu, which is a recipe book for mixing persona.
- And the battle menu, where you select the attack options of persona you have equipped.
Each of these menus connect back to your use of persona, obviously, but notably they also represent the planning of these relationships across different frames of time: the long-term, when plotting out your week of social activities, the medium-term, when mixing up which persona to bring with you tonight, and the short-term, when strategising with persona in battle now.
It’s clear that time is a big theme in persona 3—clocks, calendars, the Dark Hour—but what about the mental act of planning? Well, planning is important because of NEETs.
In Persona 3 there’s an epidemic of something called Apathy Syndrome, which makes people so apathetic they stop attending school or work and just fall out of society. When you’re using your Persona to fight monsters, you’re doing it to combat Apathy Syndrome, the jeopardy of which relates the growing concern in Japan over the rise of NEETs and Hikikomori, terms used to identify a category of mostly young people who are falling through society’s cracks.
Some do so unwillingly for economic reasons, while others are disenfranchised with what they see as the oppressive, career-led lifestyle that’s socially expected.
Many Japanese games emphasise community and legacy to touch into this sentiment and rouse interest in social participation, and Persona 3’s no different. It wants you invested in planning for the future by asking you to get active in thinking about an allegorical long-term social crisis. In Japan it’s a population crisis and irresolvable pension schemes and collapsing industry. In the game it‘s Nyx coming along and eating everyone’s souls.
And the first step to combating this, is by opening your menu and getting involved.
Stephen Beirne talks for two minutes on how Persona 3’s menu system links the fictional epidemic of Apathy Syndrome to Japan’s real life youth crisis.
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Music: Blind Alley
Composed By: Shoji Meguro, Kenichi Tsuchiya
From: Persona 3
A LONELY LOCKDOWN: THE HIKIKOMORI PHENOMENON, Post Bubble Culture, March 2011
JAPAN’S POPULATION PROBLEM, Forbes, June 2010
YOUNG PEOPLE AND WORK IN JAPAN: FREETERS, NEETS, TEMPORARY WORKERS AND SHY ABOUT WORKING ABROAD, Facts and Details, March 2012
SHUTTING THEMSELVES IN, The New York Times, January 2006