Date of Award

Fall 12-12-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

MA Asian Studies


Language/Literature /Culture


Shigeru Osuka, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Jeffrey Rice, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Anne Giblin Gedacht, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Dongdong Chen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Diana Alvarez-Amell, Ph.D.


Japan, Japanese, Video Games, Design, JRPG


This thesis is an exploration of how the Japanese experience in the second half of the 20th century shaped video game design in Japan from 1985-1995 – particularly the formation of the Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) genre. To understand the connection between the Japanese experience and JRPGs, research for this thesis was conducted around specific game developers and their creations, namely: Yuji Horii and Dragon Quest; Shigesato Itoi and Mother 1 & 2; and Tajiri Satoshi and the Pokémon games. The crux of this paper centers on primary source interviews with developers where social commentary was cited as the primary influence behind design decisions. Developer commentary on the Japanese experience related to topics such as work life balance, gender roles, and urbanization. To determine that the social commentary was indicative of the wider-Japanese experience, each chapter places the cited material in context with the Japanese historical narrative and data related to each topic. Additionally, Dragon Quest, Mother 1 & 2 and Pokémon are analyzed to understand how the Japanese experience informed design decision related to each game. Ultimately, this paper concludes that the Japanese experience as it relates to work life balance, gender roles, and urbanization affected the gameplay systems, narrative, character development, and presentation in Japanese role-playing games.