Reports are surfacing that Ackk Studios and Ysbyrd Games’ YIIK: A Postmodern RPG has plagiarized wholesale sections from Haruki Murakami’s 2004 novel After Dark, among other properties and works. However, the developers have responded to the charges of plagiarism, saying that the inclusion of various phrases and sections were done as an “homage” to those works.
PlayStation Lifestyle originally picked up the story from the TwoBestFriendsPlay sub-reddit, where user malphasia compared segments from YIIK with Murakami’s work, and it turns out that an entire section was lifted wholesale from the book, word for word.
It wasn’t just Murakami’s work that was allegedly plagiarized for the postmodern RPG. Twitter users have been finding and comparing various lines and paragraphs from other works as well, such as Shivani Shah’s The Conspiracy of H, which was published back in March, 2015.
Its the laziest written game ever made lol pic.twitter.com/75BMtwI2t6
— Vision Creation Failson (@viperwave) May 20, 2019
The creator of the game, Andrew Allanson, actually cited Haruki Murakami as inspiration for YIIK. This was spotted by Reddit user Chris23235, who cited an interview that Allanson had with Indie Hangover, which was published back in January of 2019. When Indie Hangover asked about influences, Allanson replied…
“The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Marukami was a big influence. So was Inherent Vice. They are both stories that are in some ways dream like and at first glance could be mistaken as stream of consciousness, but as you get into them you realize that’s really part of the setup. With YIIK, I wanted the game really feel like it was moving along. At places I felt I would stop and save for the day I would try and put new plot points so the player would have a reason to return. [sic]”
Given all the accusations of plagiarism being leveled at the developers, I did reach out to Ackk Studios to find out exactly what was going on and why certain passages were included wholesale in the game.
Ackk Studios responded by stating that it wasn’t meant to be portrayed as plagiarism in YIIK: A Postmodern RPG, but rather as an homage to the works that inspired them, similar to what Allanson told Indie Hangover. In the e-mail they stated…
“YIIK contains quite a few homages to the writer Haruki Murakami. Our intent was to include little nods to Murakami’s lesser known works as tributes. Within the game, the tributes served a narrative function.
“As the game revolves around the themes of broken reality, much of what the protagonist Alex experiences is colored by the lens of fond or strong memories. We picked out a couple of novels, films and video games to become the subjects of Alex’s memories that influence his reality in-game, through the allusions we talked about. Some of these appear as more subtle homages to other authors like Chuck Palahniuk, Thomas Pynchon, David Mitchell. Since it looks like people are asking specifically about the reference to After Dark, let me try to explain our intentions as best I can.
“Yes, it appears less like a homage and more as a direct quotation of the passage from After Dark. But the “Proto Woman” character speaking the words from the novel is part of a distorted reality being presented to Alex; they’re not a character from the regular, grounded reality Alex believes he knows. A regular person would have been written to speak with the intention and knowledge that they were quoting a book. Instead, the role “Proto Woman” plays is more like a pseudo “narrator” of After Dark.
“The idea is, Alex has read After Dark, and his fondness for the novel is seeping into his reality with vocal and physical manifestations calling his attention back to the passages of the book now living in his subconscious. In that context, we thought it would not be in-character for “Proto Woman” to cite that their words hail from Murakami’s novel, since they don’t have the awareness that their words are actually an excerpt from a book.
Not everyone sees the inclusion of these passages as an “homage”, though.
YouTuber DreamcastGuy actually goes through the details of the alleged plagiarism and breaks down how you can spot plagiarism and why it’s identified as plagiarism.
In the e-mail, however, Ackk Studios rebuts the notion that this is outright plagiarism by stating that within the context of the game’s world, the protagonist is taken aback by characters in the alternate realm who seem to embody and characterize favorite works of fiction from his realm. They explain…
“Also, it was our intention for Alex to be utterly bewildered by the things that he’s seeing and hearing all around him. Certainly the YIIK player might realize these are words from After Dark, but we thought it would be difficult for Alex to consciously realize in that moment that he was listening to a direct excerpt of the novel.
“I hope this goes some way towards explaining what we tried to do!
“Other games have done similar things in regards to intertextual references. The masterpiece Undertale for example: [link]”
Regardless of what the developer may have tried to do the community was quite incensed over the issue. They have been pelting the developer over on the forums, as well as criticizing the developers for their views on Japanese RPGs.
in case you didn’t already think the YIIK dev was a massive he’s also one of the guys that thinks Western Devs are “fixing” Japanese games pic.twitter.com/BlN4qnue4a
— Windows 98 Tech Support (@Win98Tech) April 21, 2019
Allanson’s invective toward the gaming community in a segment on episode 144 of The Dick Show also didn’t help, where he took aim at gamers for not liking YIIK: A Postmodern RPG, saying…
“My mistake was thinking that video games are art. I wanted to make a game about a guy who’s a piece unlikable character, who by the end of the game has to transform. But too many gamers, when they look at this, when they play a game, they’re so used to having to identify with the character, that if they play a game where the main character is unlikable or has to do some bad stuff, they immediately get triggered by it.
“So, the thing is, games aren’t art. They’re toys for children and it’s considered in bad form to talk about anything meaningful, or impactful or thought provoking.”
YIIK: A Postmodern RPG is currently available on on PS4, Nintendo Switch, and on Steam with a user review rating that’s currently “Mixed”.
(Thanks for the news tip Ebicentre and Animatic)