Empowerment of Depowerment
In most retro games with statistics, there were ways to have a below average score, that would make a creature worse than an everyday person. But as years went by and the gaming industry was becoming more and more mainstream, newer videogames began removing penalties. It’s like anything below average is still average in terms of numbers.
The reason this happened is because a big portion of players don’t like a game where they need to suffer any sort of penalties. They view them as escapism and empowerment fantasy, so why would they want to play with someone who is weak? In a market where every company is trying to maintain an audience of several millions, while at the same time trying to lure in more players from other games, taking this into account is what keeps them afloat.
So, the modern mentality of games is that of playing so you will be rewarded when you do something right, instead of coping with setbacks or learning from your mistakes every time you are punished for doing something wrong. Instead of feeling anxiety every time you enter a very hard dungeon, now you feel excitement for traveling in an amusement park. Everything you do will reward you with something.
Just think of any fictional versus battle. Is anyone ever taking into account any possible weaknesses the heroes may have? Of course and they don’t, they are always fighting with maximum health, maximum power, and no setbacks. Because who the hell would wanna have tactics in such things, or who would root for someone who has a weakness?
This eventually found its way into anime. In most retro series, the heroes would have some sort of a weakness, not only physical but also psychological. Most of the conflict in the story would revolve around their weakness and would define them as characters. Modern anime on the other hand have removed weaknesses. Your typical harem lead is no longer treated as a four eyed beta male loser. No sir, he is an average teenager, who doesn’t excel at anything. And what he is doing is not pathetic but instead it’s fun... somehow. Because who would like a character who is weak and cries all the time?
And even when it comes to action, heroes and villains also had weaknesses. Remember when Goku had his tail and when that was removed it all came down to arbitrary numbers? Nowadays everything is written to be broken as fuck. Nobody loses because they did a mistake, but rather because they weren’t as strong. And as a result, nobody is learning anything, or even has a fucking personality.
Without weaknesses, everything devolves into power creep, and removes completely any sense of strategy and tactics. It’s all about raw power instead of using someone’s weaknesses against him. And I am just sitting here asking myself “why the fuck would people prefer that than using brains? Too much effort to think of something other than punching people?
I’m telling you, modern audiences have lost all sense of logic when it comes to entertainment. A fucking orc is as charismatic as a human, a fruit fly does the same damage as an adult male, and golden fucking Frieza can defeat super saiyan god super saiyan red but not super saiyan god super saiyan blue, because … numbers which don’t mean anything.
Scum’s Wish has been established by the majority of anime fans as a realistic portrayal of relationships. The way they explain why “fucking around with people you don’t like is real” comes down to how they feel when watching a show. If it makes them feel nice, it means it’s escapism. If it makes them feel awful, it means it’s realistic.
That’s great you guys, now we have the perfect explanation every time someone is asking us why we watch shows we don’t like. Because they are real and happen all the time.
Enjoyment is all about empowerment fantasies. When you say you don’t like fan service, you are being realistic. When you get naked Holo wall scrolls, you are not contradicting your claims, you are just enjoying a fantasy. Everything makes sense now.
But wait a second, what about the case when it doesn’t have to do with how you feel? What if you need to explain why you like something by using critical thinking? Well, in that case all you have to do is claim thinking has nothing to do with quality, since emotions are the only thing that matters. You either feel good or you feel bad. There is nothing else besides those two states. Thanks anime community, once again you are an eye opener.
How many times have we been told our hobbies are stupid because they are not real? Why do you like anime? They are all fictional stuff, unlike live action series. Why do you like playing videogames? They are all fake; go play football instead. Why do you have a waifu? She is not real; go get a real girl. You are not allowed to like what is not real.
Going by this logic, what is real? Live action series are still about actors performing the role of fictional characters, usually with a ton of make-up, and special effects. How does that make them more real than animated characters? And how is what we see real when our senses are just creating a simulation of reality in our minds? We don’t feel reality, because our senses are very limited. This distaste for the unreal ends up being nothing more than someone’s intolerance towards anything non-mundane.
At the same time, being questioned of why you like what you like is the perfect opportunity to improve your critical thinking. Yes, it is annoying to be told your Chinese cartoons are stupid and you should give up, but when that happens, it gets you thinking. When your awesome hobby is under attack, you are wondering why do you like what you like? What’s the reason behind it?
For an outsider, a hobby seems stupid because it has no meaning for him, or he thinks it’s childish fantasy empowerment. For a fan, a hobby is not just empowerment fantasy, it has to be way more than that, even if he has to make up a few reasons. It usually ends up being pretentious overthinking, but these reasons will never be formulated if your seemingly silly empowerment fantasy is not depowered first.
I am no supporter of overthinking, but I definitely prefer it over those who don’t even bother to rationalize their fondness over something, and simply ignore or turn to relativism every time they are challenged. Most people justify what they like simply by saying they enjoy it, even though enjoyment can be excused way better.
The wrong way to explain it, is by claiming how real a show feels. A not fan is not going to buy that excuse; especially when his biggest concern is how not-real it looks in his eyes. What the fans actually mean when they say real, is how the show has a sense of familiarity, it is very relatable to how they feel, thus they are immersed to the point it feels real to them. We don’t watch fiction to be reminded of the boring, simple, repetitive mundane life, we watch it for an idealized version of it. And since the aforementioned attributes are mostly found in escapism and empowerment fantasy series, saying they are real makes you sound like you are delusional.
The best way to explain why you like a show is by presenting it as a magician and not like a wizard. Magic has no explanation; that is why it’s called magic. It has no limitations; anything can happen and can then be undone just as easily, it is always random and baseless. It can impress children but can also displease adults, who have a more critical mind.
Magician tricks on the other hand are not magic. They are based on fooling your senses, which can excuse your fondness of them, while at the same time having an explanation behind them, even if it eludes you. This is what makes Kaiji so much better compared to Yugioh. There is nothing supernatural about it, and all the tactics can be explained through probabilities instead of “Oh, I conveniently pulled the card that can save the day”.
Granted, explaining magician tricks and having characters who are not overpowered for the sake of empowerment fantasy, takes away a lot of the cool factor most of us seek in fiction. But that is also what makes them better fiction and far more explainable, both to those who make fun of our hobby, as well as to us who wonder why we like what we like. That is the empowerment of depowerment.