New Tokyo: One JRPG's Take On Modern Policing

April 11, 2017 Written by

There was a moment in police work, about fifteen years ago, when criminals had become frighteningly tech-savvy, while many cops couldn't work a computer.

Traffickers of any product banned in broad daylight utilized chat rooms to connect with consumers, distribute goods, and transfer payment. Bookies ditched their telephones for email accounts and websites with automated betting. Particularly, producers and consumers of child exploitation material thrived; closet pedophiles made predators rich and swapped images anonymously to complete their explicit collections. Chance discoveries of hard drives packed with their galleries led us to a new realization: we needed a new kind of street level cop, because the meaning of the “street” had changed. We thought we knew about organized crime already, but The Godfather's got nothing on our internet.

All of the sudden, the people we look to keep us safe were totally out of their depth. The average police detective maybe had a kid who knew something about AIM. A department on the east coast of America would know someone's toddler went missing, and on the other side of the country a week later another department might turn up a picture of that kid on a suspect's hard drive, but there was no central database or way for them to coordinate about these things. Criminals developed extensive and sophisticated networks to conduct their business over the internet before police even figured out they had a problem.

So law enforcement turned to kids for help.

To the digital nomads. Suddenly, teenagers were the experts, and young adults just breaking into the criminal justice field were the most valuable members of an investigative team.

It's a parallel that came to me while I reviewed Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy, in relation to the power used to fight that game's monsters that manifests in ordinary high school students but fades as those students grow up: “The writing embraces the ethical problems of Japan's police knowingly training and throwing high school students into danger, and the chief police detective you interact with expresses his frustration with the growing obsolescence of his role”.

Operation Abyss already offers a solid critique of the child or teenager in fiction who takes on adult responsibilities and outperforms actual adults.

Further, however, it examines the adults who are, or have been, in the process of being supplanted by recruits who, though utterly unqualified when it comes to real work experience, are simply better at a given job because they are younger [EN: eSports]. Circumstances are such in Operation Abyss that the time when your player controlled characters were born gives them different expertise, much like the fresh graduates snapped up by agencies today.

In the crime nonfiction book Caught on the Web, author Julian Sher describes a typical investigation hub which, although it was the best police could assemble, couldn’t handle the data mining job: “their computers were far from the latest models, and their surroundings were typical police drab. The gray carpet was stained from age. On a crowded coffee table, an empty coffee maker fought for space with a big open jar of peanut butter. One entire wall was covered with a large whiteboard detailing their mountain of assignments.” A whiteboard. That's how bad it was. They didn't even use Excel.

I read plot elements of Operation Abyss, in one way, as an allegory for the existential crises internal to modern policing. The chief detective NPC in particular has trouble ceding duties to you, the player. You represent that generation with skills that only youth have by sheer random chance. You, too, will become dated. [EN: You, too, will get old] We gain an opportunity for insight into an expertise-based conflict in our own world via sympathetic older police NPCs in an anime dungeon crawler RPG.

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Kelsey Erwin

Kelsey seeks out RPGs with the narrative clout of Greek tragedy and strategy sims more punishing than QWOP. Their favorite part about being a gender neutral PC gamer and reviewer is that it's probably the only thing no one else on the site will put in a biography. Super saiyan special snowflake originality! Kelsey always keeps a pot of hot tea close at hand, and the sign of a truly great game is when it can monopolize Kelsey's attention so completely that the tea grows cold. While a dedicated believer in the PC Master Race, Kelsey also still spends time with their old favorite console, a cinderblock size Playstation 2.