Is Shenmue the Seinfeld of Video Games?

listening to the video game history hour:

Frank mentions “shenmue is a game about boredom”.

got me thinking about **Boredom** being a main Verb of Shenmue,

but does that make Shenmue the Seinfeld of Video Games?

I don‘t agree that Shenmue is “about” boredom. It is a game that lavishes in the mundane, but it’s never out of boredom; to me, Shenmue is restlessly curious. “Boring” implies a lack of intrigue, where much of the “nothing” that happens in Shenmue is born of an obviously intense fascination with the quieter parts of life that don‘t often get much attention. Maybe to some people that’s boring, but I'd say those people just gotta learn how to appreciate things more

Would that make the Yakuza series Curb Your Enthusiasm?

I do not agree with Frank’s assertion but I came in this thread expecting the punchline “… because only white people care about Shenmue” and, now that I think of it a bit more seriously, it actually might be true.

Regarding your question, I think "fascination for the mundane" might be a more accurate description of what _Shenmue_ was about. The first game specifically was a conscious effort to recreate a (tiny) virtual reality, up to absurd details such as the possibility to open and check all the drawers in Ryō’s house, with a focus that made sense for a video game designed in the late 90s.

In that sense, _Seinfeld_ is also about a "fascination for the mundane" much more so than it is about "nothing" ← a self-deprecating jab at the show which has been taken too literally by TV critics and which both Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David have subsequently rejected.

The big difference between the two is that _Seinfeld_ wanted to poke fun at how we take for granted things in our daily lives which are absurd or funny in nature, while _Shenmue_ earnestly tried to integrate the same little things into a simulation, to show how great a Sega video game could be. _Shenmue_ was absurd and nihilistic by accident.

Ah! @"Funbil"#p102749 said the same thing more concisely.


@“connrrr”#p102750 Would that make the Yakuza series Curb Your Enthusiasm?

Maybe more _It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia_.


@“chazumaru”#p102753 Shenmue was absurd and nihilistic by accident

I disagree. _Shenmue_ is about and portrays depression and inertia, but it doesn't endorse either

person who edits mr bean and ace ventura into cyberpunk 2077 footage: if you're reading this please put george costanza in Shenmue

Maybe I should get another, Jerry?

@“chazumaru”#p102754 I think maybe we're all wrong and Yakuza is the Seinfeld of video games. This is absolutely an NPC from a Yakuza sidequest:

@“yeso”#p102755 Fair enough. Let me correct myself: Seinfeld isn’t really nihilistic either. It’s far too materialistic, as demonstrated in this famous study. “Jaded” would be a better description for Seinfeld, I guess.

_Shenmue_ is more so accidentally "futile" than it is nihilistic (or jaded), because I don’t think it came to the developers’ mind how well the game portrays the futility of revenge. Especially if you consider the meta-textual narrative of its unfinished plot.

I think we‘re approaching the question wrong. We can’t start with any supposed equivalency between Shenmue and Seinfeld; we have to start with what both terms on their own are, and then consider if that equivalency between them exists. Let‘s start with Shenmue:

  • - Considered the height - or, at the very least, occurring within that height - of a popular entertainment company’s willingness to experiment with form in a mainstream commercial context, but at the same time so ambitious and expensive to produce that it could easily have contributed to said entertainment company's downfall.
  • - Narrative defined by a tension between its quotidian action and the exciting and intriguing story happening off at the margins of that action, ultimately producing a tragic tone.
  • - Ended prematurely (again, too expensive to produce), but intense fandom around it eventually lead to a tentative reboot in the late 10s.
  • Given all this, the *Shenmue* of TV can't be *Seinfeld*. As for what it actually is, I don't have a fucking clue. *Twin Peaks*, maybe? I don't watch nearly enough mainstream TV to say one way or another.

    And with that undermining of my own authority, let's move onto *Seinfeld*:

  • - Popular with boomers in the 90s, currently seeing a Millennial revival as that generation boomerfies.
  • - The image of bland white normality until *The Office* hit the air.
  • - Credited with starting and/or codifying a genre of comedic television. Its influences work themselves so deeply into this genre that they become easy to take for granted and hence difficult to spot.
  • Again, *Seinfeld* can't possibly be the *Shenmue* of television, nor can *Shenmue* be the *Seinfeld* of games. If anything, the *Seinfeld* of games belongs to *Sonic the Hedgehog*. If you want to emphasize the comedic angle and the connection with Millennials specifically, there's always *Bubsy*. (Maybe *Gex* as well, but I feel like *Bubsy* popularized the general idea first.)

    @“Video Game King”#p102763 I would say that Seinfeld is more of a Gen X thing than boomers.

    @“Syzygy”#p102766 Kramer apparently took a karate class for kids once (I had to Google this). Does that count?

    Yeah, I don‘t think Shenmue is about boredom - like I said in a podcast episode that I’m now realizing isn‘t out yet and is thus not the prompt for this conversation like I thought earlier (lol), shenmue is a job you clock in and out of. That was glib, but shenmue is like ritual practice or something, maybe. Every minigame has just enough in it, just enough fiddliness, that you can’t “just do it,” you have to pay attention and be mindful of it or you‘ll waste all your precious time. Gotta bring those books back and forth, but you gotta wiggle the stick just enough that they don’t fall over. It‘s laborious but the labor seems to be what some people like about it. It’s like playing 50 micro “desert busses” per play session. I've never met a person who really likes Shenmue who would also recommend it to another person, which is kind of neat?

    @“exodus”#p102771 somewhat related to this, has anyone ever met a person who's played and loved Shenmue for the first time in the past couple of years? and/or, did everyone who professes to love Shenmue play it 20ish years ago, when they were much younger and more impressionable?

    what i'm saying is, Seinfeld holds up to repeated viewings, and i think, to first-time viewers who are just coming to it now/recently (provided that they lived through some part of the 90s, maybe?). not sure Shenmue holds up the same way.

    Shenmue, if it's analogous to any TV show, is probably more like one of those cooking shows. you can't quite zone out entirely, though you almost can. and by the end you really haven't accomplished anything, but you feel sort of accomplishment-adjacent for having watched/played it.


    @“whatsarobot”#p102772 a person who’s played and loved Shenmue for the first time in the past couple of years?

    [That's me!]( I played it for the first time during SEGA SUMMER and now it's one of my favorite games ever. lol

    @“Funbil”#p102773 oh! awesome! good to know, lol.

    @“whatsarobot”#p102772 I would bet Shenmue 1’s quasi-fetishistic virtual neighborhood and the Dreamcast’s proto-online subculture are next on the re-appropriation list for all the Vaporwave kids that currently crave or mimick the PS1 </s>æsthetic<e> (bless ‘em). Especially those that grew up with a similarly cursed Wii U generation: it’s probably easy to replace {Splatoon & Miiverse} with {PSO} in one’s mental space.

    That said, like Brandon mentioned, I wouldn’t recommend Shenmue to anyone without a serious background check beforehand.

    Shenmue could never be a game even related to boredom, at least to a kid kicking around in the 90‘s that only knew of the mystical land of Japan through Saturday morning ninjas and coveted video games and maybe granddads racist hatred from the last Great War. Some unbeknownst to me legendary man had poured his and other’s sweat, time, and money into a soup and pressed that slurry into a delicious disc that popped oh so pleasantly into my new Dreamcast and opened young me's eyes to a culture and time a world and time paradox away. Maybe sacrificing all your time and money upon the altar of the cruel gatchpon gods in the painful hunt for your favorite character might feel boring or mundane to some, but I was then a simple boy as I am now a simple man, and the thrill of the spin of the knob, the delightful clatter of fate, was all I needed to feel alive . This game was filled with these moments for me, and it always made me feel disconnected from the herd when others would trot out the old yawn-stick to beat up on my old friend Shenmue.

    Also last time I checked, no laugh track in Shenmue. Though the imagination smiles at the thought

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