Having seen gamers in Japan, Taiwan, and the US, I find that the average gamer skill is about the same regardless of country. Japanese players in general are not any more skilled than any other country.
However, there is one phenomenon I've noticed which is more prevalent in East Asian countries: the best of the best continually bounce off each other to reach new heights. They share their tips, tricks, techniques, and in-depth analyses with each other. They work together to pick apart every detail of a game.
Now, some of these "hardcore" communities end up starting arguments over things like Character Tiers
and what strategy is "best". Too many people just each individually want to be the alpha dog of the community. And that causes the signal-to-noise ratio to drop sharply.
The only real difference by locale I've noticed is that these communities of the top players have better signal-to-noise ratios in some languages. Whenever I browse Japanese game communities, for example, I seldom if ever see anyone proclaiming one strategy or character to be the best. Virtually everyone has an attitude of "Here's what I/we recommend. Take it or leave it, you're free to think whatever you want of this advice." I've never even seen a Japanese flame war over what should or should not be allowed in tournaments; they usually just have a "soft ban" where they unofficially agree not to use anything that makes the game no fun. (Sirlin has a much better description of the "soft ban" phenomenon, by the way. See the section titled "The Two Excellent Examples of 'Super Turbo'".
) In short: I have never
seen a Japanese game fandom where the top players take any “Stop Having Fun” Guys
seriously. (I have
, however, seen them ruthlessly mock those types. So don't get the wrong impression; they're not some kind of utopian community full of politeness and modesty.)
Now, I've also seen English-language fandoms which manage to do the same thing with a great signal-to-noise ratio. For example, back when Super Monkey Ball
first came out a decade ago, it had a fantastic English-language competitive community. They weren't focused on being better than the next guy, they were focused on trying to optimize their own scores. And many of the best SMB players in the world were Westerners. Or there's the Touhou
fandom, where both the Japanese and English communities are good at this sort of thing. The world record holders are all still Japanese, but if you look at the leaderboards, many of them have a Westerner not too far from the top.
But for some reason, this sort of attitude just doesn't seem to crop up quite as frequently on English-language sites. I suspect it may have something to do with the whole individualism vs. collectivism societies, since the whole alpha-dog attitude is closely associated with individualism, though that's a whole separate discussion on human psychology. But it would certainly explain the correlation - Japan is one of the most collectivist societies in the world, while the US is one of the most individualist (and Australia too). It does not
, however, explain why mainland China doesn't have a reputation for skilled gamers, as they're pretty collectivist too.
Or it could just be the sizes of these communities. There exist tons more people who speak English than people who speak Japanese or Korean, and larger communities are harder to manage and keep up with, plus they're more likely to have a single rotten apple sneak in and spoil the whole proverbial barrel. (This would also explain why mainland China doesn't have a reputation for skilled gamers, even through they're also part of East Asia.)
In summary, I would say there is no significant difference in the average
gamer in each country. However, the best of the best in certain communities are more likely to just eke out that last bit of skill that makes their gameplay videos go viral, which then gives the impression that whatever country they come from is skilled at video games. And for whatever reason, such communities seem to be more likely to speak Japanese than English.
edited 11th Mar '12 4:57:05 AM by PoochyEXE