Personality tests and cultural sensitivity in games

or “Why don’t Pokémon fart in the US?”

If you have children of “Pokémon age”, then you’re probably aware of the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon (PMD) game coming up for the Nintendo DS & GBA. One clever aspect of this game is that you take a personality test to determine which Pokémon you will become in the game. Personality tests like this are widespread – most popular TV shows have at least one quiz available online to determine which character in the show is most similar to your “real” personality. I don’t know if this is the first use of a personality test for character generation in a game (I kinda doubt it), but it’s the first one that I’m familiar with.

A flash demo of the PMD personality test is at the above site. In it you are asked 8 questions (randomly chosen from a list of over 60) like “A test is coming up. How do you study for it?” or “A human hand extends out of a toilet! What would you do?”. Your answers determine if you are Impish, Quiky, Timid, Hasty, and so on, which in turn determines which Pokémon you become.

However, there was one question/answer pair that seemed odd:

You broke a rotten egg in a room. What will you do?

You have two options for answering:

Open a window right away.
Take a sniff first.

Now, why would you “take a sniff first” if you broke a rotten egg? A look at the questions from the Japanese version of the test shows that this question was changed from the original.

へやで オナラ しちゃった…… あなたは どうする?
Heya de onara shichatta…… Anata wa dou suru?
You farted in a room… What do you do?

Now the “take a sniff first” option makes sense. ^_^

I like the idea of taking a personality test to determine your character’s attributes in a game. It’s much more subtle then asking the player directly if they want to play a brave fighter or a sneaky thief. For my game (which is an RPG), I’ve been toying around with the idea of having the player compose a personal ad for themselves, or a wanted ad for their ideal soulmate, or perhaps casting a horoscope for them as part of a character creation process. That probably won’t happen anytime soon, but it’s nice to dream…

But what’s also interesting with the PMD example is the cultural issue of why Nintendo felt the need to change the question from the original Japanese version. The other questions in the personality test stayed basically the same. The original Japanese “Do you long for a life of drinking tea on the veranda?” became “Do you dream of lounging around idly without much excitement?”, but most of the others were practically literal translations.

So, why aren’t kids (or Pokémon) allowed to fart in the US? Is this what the world has come to?

Comments (5)

  1. rijit says:

    Funny. Definitely a cultural difference. Considering how most Americans joke about flatulence, it seems like a silly thing to change.

  2. Grimmstail says:

    Quizes were somewhat common methods of character generation on some types of MUDs back in the day. Often they were given as a series of life event choices in chronological order.

  3. Caladin says:

    Ultima used a series of choices to determine your personality and decide on you character class way way way back.

    I know u5 did it, and I have a vague recollection of it being done in Ultimas before that.


    [I figured someone must’ve done it before. Thanks for the info. -GaryKac]

  4. The Japanese on the other hand…