We all love different aspects of our games. Everyone has a special “something” that, if they hear of it in an upcoming game, they rush out to the store and empty the contents of their wallets; without one whit of objectivity, and never even having read one review to show for it. That special “something” varies from person to person, and even the most common strains are usually something very quirky. The difference between a developer that releases games that are merely successful and a developer that unleashes the full fury of a smash hit is whether they hit on that special “something” hard, fast, and repeatedly. Sometimes hitting on that “something” is almost an accident, like striking an oil vein.
For me, however, my special “something” is gender transformation, generally from a male form to a female form. I crave it in my games, and seeing it will cause me to drop all my bags and rush out to the store and grab whatever developer includes it. Darkstalkers 3 didn't need to pass a review with me when they invented Demitri's Midnight Bliss. And more recently, NIS' own Disgaea didn't have to either. Give me my transgenderism (hereafter will be referred to as simply “TG”) and you get my money. That's the beauty part of this whole “something” rule – you don't need your games to even be that good if you know your audience; TG and I are no exception.
If, however, a game is good and it plays to my love of TG I make sure the world knows about it. Disgaea let me play out some of my gender-bending fantasies when it offered me not only the ability to create my own characters, but transform them using the process of Transmigration. To someone like me (one almost starved of their special interest) it was a Godsend. Or a Devilsend in this case, keeping in mind the theme of the game itself. The fact Disgaea was an absolutely jaw-dropping game experience in addition to that put me in sheer gaming nirvana for more than two weeks. Having both the heady experience of having my “something” stimulated as well as offering an awesome game besides had resulted in my convincing no less than twenty people to pick up their own copies of Disgaea. Yes, I kept count. To others in the TG community, this caused the game's popularity to – if I may use a cliché – spread like wildfire. I know others in my “circle” who had similar sales-figures to show for it.
While it'd be raw arrogance to suggest that we made a significant singular contribution to the success of the release of that hot, hot game I'm fairly sure we made up a visible fraction of the sales. Likewise, when the transmigration-less La Pucelle and Phantom Brave were released, it was met with a lukewarm response by my community. I heard Makai Kingdom is bringing that feature back, and if it has a transformation sequence you can be sure that they'll hear roars of approval from our camp again. Playing to our interests certainly didn't do badly for Viz and Rumiko Takahashi when they began releasing the anime Ranma ½ stateside. Were not a hard group to please! Just switch up “boy meets girl” with “boy becomes girl” every so often and it's an instant KO against our wallets.
Where am I even going with this? I want to make it clear to developers (RPG developers in particular) that if they challenge convention, they will overcome the competition, regardless of how much money or influence said competition might present. Convention beyond just refreshed storylines or “inventive” battle systems. It's highly ironic considering how many portray Electronic Arts as being the antithesis of what I'm describing, but their slogan of “Challenge Everything” should be taken to heart – that should include the prejudices of the gamers themselves. Only by freeing one's mind in such a way can one hope to probe out and nail on the “something”that lurks in each and every gamer. NIS managed to do it with Disgaea, and it is thanks to Disgaea's freedom for TG that I raise toasts to the game at dinners with other gamers. Let it stand as the example – finding new ways to crunch numbers or render blood spatter is time that would be better used to try and please gamers that have unique interests, interests which are mostly ignored. Do that and you'll have a following who would throw themselves into a burning white fire for you. Money and influence wax and wane, but the memories of otherwise “starving” gamers are long and their loyalty is an alloy stronger and more durable than any “gold” award from the pithy affections of “buy-this-now!” game magazines.
Likewise, gamers have a responsibility to let compassionate developers know what they really want. Don't take the easy way out with waiting until a game is released to say you don't like it, play proactively and don't be afraid of sharing your “something”. If anyone laughs at it, well, they're not the ones making your games so you can kindly ask them to shut their piehole. And to my fellows in the TG community... well... rock on, my brothers and sisters!