Who wants to live forever? As scientists and tech billionaires attempt to tackle the problem of aging and death, we discuss Japanese ideas about immortality. Later, our games writers discuss the recent Palworld-Pokemon flare up.

Hosted by Shaun McKenna and produced by Dave Cortez.

On this episode:

Elizabeth Beattie: Articles | X

Owen Ziegler: Articles

Ann-Loy Morgan: Articles

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Transcript note: Deep Dive is made to be listened to, and we recommend this transcript be used as an accompaniment to the episode. This transcript has been generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcription, and may contain errors. Please check its accuracy against the episode.

Shaun McKenna 00:09

Welcome to deep dive from The Japan Times. I'm Shaun McKenna. listeners. Does the name Brian Johnson ring a bell?

[audio clip]

Shaun McKenna 00:35

So I read an article about Brian Johnson in Time Magazine last year. He's a multimillionaire tech entrepreneur that's working on a life extension regimen called blueprint. So I visited the website and right now it has a lot of merch. There's a blood orange flavored longevity mix, dietary supplement with tons of vitamins and shirts and hats with the slogan “Don't Die.” There's also “Don't Die” meetups, and one of these apparently took place in Tokyo on Jan. 13. They seem to be looking for a host for another one on Feb. 17, if you're interested. Anyway, even if you don't know Brian Johnson's name, you may have heard about the things he's been doing to try to reduce his biological age, including taking 111 pills daily, injecting his teenage sons plasma into his 46-year-old body and sleeping with a tiny jetpack attached to his penis to monitor nighttime erections.

It may sound extreme, but Johnson says he sees himself as kind of a guinea pig in a broader societal quest to stop us from aging. Other wealthy individuals like Jeff Bezos, and Peter Thiel are also investing in this kind of anti-aging effort. But we always hear about these stories from an American point of view. After I read the Time article, I kind of wondered what Japan's take on the immortality project was. So starting January 20, The Japan Times began publishing a series of long features themed on the concept of immortality. Alex K.T. Martin looked at the historical myths surrounding the pursuit of eternal life here in East Asia. Tomoko Otake tackled the science of life extension as it is in the present. And diving into the ideas driving the tech sector was my colleague, Elizabeth Beattie, who's joining me on today's podcast to share what she discovered.


Elizabeth, so we've only got so much time in life, let's not waste any more of it. Are we any closer to living forever?

Elizabeth Beattie 02:36

In a word no. Nothing will enable us to continue with living as we do as present. And I'd love to start the podcast off on a nice morbid little note there. But basically in this piece, I did discover what drives some of us to pursue immortality. Also, some of the different methods that people are exploring, and something that really did emerge was how we feel about death is incredibly personal, and the way we seek to ground our lives and meaning is also a very personal thing.

Shaun McKenna 03:07

Yeah, I feel like this immortality series we've run kind of materialized in part from personal discussions that we had about, you know, as grim as this sounds, death and dying, right? Maybe I had just seen the “Barbie” movie, I don't know. But I can remember having coffee with you, and we really tried to put into words what it was we're concerned with, and kind of found that a bit difficult.

Elizabeth Beattie 03:27

Yeah, it was like our own little death meetup. Yeah, I think this is a conversation that people do actually want to have, even need to have. Because it is something that we all face. What's really interesting too, as being a non-Japanese speaker living in Japan, you don't necessarily have the vocabulary needed to talk about these things with Japanese friends. People's perspectives here are also quite different. I think that's partly because of longer lifespans. And something which came up a few times in the conversations that we had, that I had, while working on this piece was kind of a bit of a cultural difference and a bit of a difference in outlook, maybe.

Shaun McKenna 04:11

Well, we spoke to our Japanese colleagues. And of course, they have the same feelings. Kind of, as you mentioned before, Japan's population is one of the oldest if not the oldest in the world. And it's a country that lives kind of under the threat of large natural disasters, just like the one we saw at the start of the year. So the precarity of life has to be something people are forced to reckon with maybe more often than not. All right, let me embarrass you for a second and read a passage from your piece.

Elizabeth Beattie 04:39

Should I just nip out of the room for a moment?

Shaun McKenna 04:40

Don't be embarrassed.

Death has always bookended life — it’s referred to as life’s one certainty, the great equalizer — but our unease about this fact has persevered, spurring quests for eternal life through medicine or spirituality. Through conversations I’ve had with friends, colleagues, family and interviewees, it’s evident that how we feel about death and dying varies greatly. Some view it like a veil that we must pass through when our time comes. Others speak of it akin to a terrifying, sudden grab from the dark. Some consider the concept too morbid to entertain.

Elizabeth Beattie 05:14

You read that beautifully Shaun.

Yeah, I think Alex's pace, this really great pace he did, it really goes into the efforts of Buddhist monks who have tried to confront or stave off death, which included these really intense kind of meditations and the idea that you could kind of continue to be in that state long after the physical body has expired was what was one of the themes he examined at that pace.

Shaun McKenna 05:39

Yeah, regular listeners may recall that I went to a meditation retreat last year on Mount Koya and walking, I'm a prefecture. That's where the monk Kukai, also known as Kobo Daishi is enshrined. He traveled to China in the year 804, to study esoteric teachings. And he brought back knowledge and practices that would later form the basis of Shingon Buddhism in Japan. Kukai is kind of believed to have entered a state of eternal meditation upon his death, which I thought of as kind of a form of eternal being. His mausoleum is called Okunoin, and that temple in the cemetery around it are considered one of the holiest places in Japan.

Elizabeth Beattie 06:15

Yeah, religion, of course, plays a really big part in how we perceive death in our culture. So it figures that it would play a part in how we perceive immortality as well.

Shaun McKenna 06:24

You spoke to a guy named Adam Buben.

Elizabeth Beattie 06:28

Yeah, so Adam is a philosophy lecturer, and he spends a lot of time digging into questions like, would our lives still have purpose if we were immortal? He spoke a little bit about this notion of conditional immortality. So basically, would immortality be more attractive if you didn't have to age or if there was an off switch? He said we tend to use risk as a driving force in our lives. And so there's this argument that if we could live forever, that we wouldn't have the same sense of risk. But then from Adam's perspective, he said, we would actually encounter different kinds of risks. Something really interesting, that he said was that there's something of a personality divide between those of us who think, you know, around 80 years old is enough, enough time to be on this earth, and those of us who want to live forever. And it's quite interesting, because I was speaking to two of our colleagues about this, and they fell on either side of that divide. So yeah, one unequivocally was like, “Yes,” to immortality, and the other said, “No, I want a rich, full life. But I wanted it to end.” So interesting to see that philosophical debate very much alive and kind of represented. Yeah, I really enjoyed talking to Adam, because he is very honest about how he feels about death. He felt less of a sense of fear, which is really common, and more a sense of sadness, because we tend to see our lives is made up of projects, he said, and he felt like whatever legacy building is attempted is one day going to be gone.

Shaun McKenna 08:00

This is where technologists enter. So they seem to be the ones who are defining visions of what anti aging techniques might look like in the future. One of the ones you mentioned in your piece was called mind uploading. Can you explain what that is?

Elizabeth Beattie 08:14

So mind uploading, which sounds straight out of an episode of “Black Mirror.” I actually think that it's an episode about mind uploading, yeah. But it's basically how it sounds. So it's the notion that we could essentially digitize our minds and therefore live indefinitely. And in some cases, we wouldn't be constrained to a human form. One proponent of mind uploading in Japan is Masataka Watanabe. He's an author and associate professor at University of Tokyo, and he thinks mind uploading technology could be available as early as in 20 years. So not long away at all. He's working on this digitized version of the brain, which he wants to try on himself as well. And he would essentially achieve this through a brain machine interface using fine electrodes, which would be attached to the brain. He says this approach would be seamless, because it would be achieved by connecting the device to a living brain before transferring shared memories, rather than the brain having to be dead, basically.

Shaun McKenna 09:20

Yeah. So this is actually an interesting part in your piece, because he then kind of brings up a lot of ethical concerns. He's kind of done the research on that front as well. Right?

Elizabeth Beattie 09:32

So we, we kind of had quite a wild discussion about all the kinds of hypotheticals that come with this notion of mind uploading, because obviously it would change our society a lot. And one idea he brought up was this notion of forcible uploading. That's where an authority like a government gets people to upload their minds as a way to reduce the population as an economical solution to poverty or overpopulation, for example. And even he said that was a “Black Mirror” kind of scenario. So obviously we'd had need to have laws in regards to who would store the cloud where these mines are uploaded, and who would architect these laws basically, to protect those people.

Shaun McKenna 10:18

Tell us about Joe Strout, he seems to take a different approach to achieving the same goal.

Elizabeth Beattie 10:23

Joe Strout is one of the founders of Carboncopies. And Carboncopies, like you said, it's a bit of a different school of thought, where the approach towards mind uploading would be a slicing and then scanning the brain in order to create a copy of a person essentially. He believes that uploading pets, for example, would likely be a precursor to human trials. And one of the reasons is because an animal's brain is smaller than a human with considerably less neurons. Strout also talked about the ethics surrounding the kind of technology, and he thinks that we would see in the future a populace that comprises biological people, people with minds uploaded into some kind of virtual environment where they live and people who have nonbiological or robotic bodies that houses are uploaded minds.

Shaun McKenna 11:14

Which one would you want to be?

Elizabeth Beattie 11:16

I think I'm old school, I think I think I would just keep my mind.

Shaun McKenna 11:20

I’d go for the robot body.

Elizabeth Beattie 11:23

I guess it depends how good the robot is.

Shaun McKenna 11:25

I mean, do you get robot abs?

Elizabeth Beattie 11:29

Maybe? Yeah, but Strout basically believes in 100 years, which is a considerably longer timeframe, then what now they gave the he thinks people will look back and think it was strange that humans used to just die.


So Shaun, I think in my story about tech and its approaches to immortality, I found there are a few Japanese companies kind of looking into these things. And when I was reading Tomoko's pace, it felt to me, like Japanese scientists were more concerned with practical solutions to helping us age better, not stopping the aging process altogether.

Shaun McKenna 12:13

Right. So Tomoko's piece is titled “Living to 100, if not forever, in good health.” And she spoke to Makoto Nakanishi, a professor at the University of Tokyo's Institute for Medical Science, and asked him about whether immortality was in the cards. And he said that he doesn't think it's achievable with our bodies and points out that lifespans are pretty rigidly set at 120, tops. So like, we've never seen a human being who's lived to 150. I don't think we've seen someone live to 130, actually? But many people have lived to 120 if you look at the span of human existence. So a lot of scientists and researchers in this field in Japan are looking at people who live past the age of 100 and studying their cells and genetic make up to see if there is something special about these specific people that gives them an advantage we could pass on to others.

Elizabeth Beattie 13:07

It's really interesting. And it kind of backs up the idea of the technologists that some form of new body would have to be introduced in order to live longer than that

Shaun McKenna 13:16

Precisely. Though I gotta say that reading Tomoko's piece is almost strangely more comforting than reading about what technologists are doing. Because I think what the scientific community is trying to do here is help us live healthier for longer, and it seems like a goal that's more achievable, at least in our own lifetimes. Japanese lifespans are some of the longest in the world. The average lifespan of a Japanese woman sits at 87.09 years — that's the longest in the world for women. And for men, that number is 81.05 years, and that's fourth after Switzerland, Sweden and Australia. And I think that what the government was finding, though, was that the healthy lifespan of Japanese people was much shorter. So a survey done of 300 centenarians in Tokyo back in 2000 found that only 20% of them could really take care of themselves, and Japan switched its focus to achieving a healthy lifespan, which in 2016, stood at 74.79 years for women and 72.14 years for men. The government wants to extend those numbers by three years by 2040.

Elizabeth Beattie 14:26

I guess to a country full of older citizens, this might help with health care costs?

Shaun McKenna 14:30

Yeah, exactly. In fiscal 2021, Japan, which is both the government

and the citizenry, spent a total of ¥11.3 trillion on health care costs, that’s US$76.4 billion. That was 2.6 times the figure from 2001, and the costs are expected to surge even higher as the country gets older and there are less young people around.

Elizabeth Beattie 14:55

And, how are scientists tackling this problem then?

Shaun McKenna 15:00

Well, one government-funded initiative that is trying to solve it is the Moonshot Research and Development Program, named after the equally ambitious Apollo moon-landing mission. The goal of this program is to make it so that everyone will be able to live to the age of 100 without any health concerns.

Elizabeth Beattie 15:17

Yeah, that is quite ambitious. What does the program involve?

Shaun McKenna 15:21

So currently, it supports eight projects that involve cancer prevention, gut bacteria control and improving the function of mitochondria, which are organelles that generate the energy to power cells in the body. So for the piece, Tomoko spoke to Toshio Hirano, who oversees the program at the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development. It receives funding of about ¥3 billion a year, that’s around US$20 million, and it involves between 1,000 and 2,000 scientists across Japan. Hirono said that, for example, they may be able to prevent dementia by regulating the way a person diets and exercises and sleeps, and they could possibly, you know, develop exercise mimetic drugs so that people can harness the effects of exercise without actually doing the physical activity.

Elizabeth Beattie 16:13

It's really fascinating. Something that Watanabe said to me when he was talking about the technology approaches is the idea of putting a coin in a slot machine and just continuing life basically. And it made me think, do you think we've entered this new phase of living where we're trying to gain life? Is it something that comes from that generation that tried to kind of crack codes of video games? Is there a perfect way to do life that could see us basically succeeding at it for longer?

Shaun McKenna 16:45

I can totally see that people look at it that way. I think that maybe as a species, we have been able to achieve so many things at this point. So you may even look at the speed at which the COVID-19 vaccine was created and implemented, for example. I think that people with scientific minds, especially, look at a problem and just think there's a way to solve this. Another person that Tomoko spoke to for her piece was Masashi Yanagisawa, who is approaching the idea of longevity from a completely different perspective and that sleep research. So Elizabeth, are you comfortable sharing with us how much sleep you get on average?

Elizabeth Beattie 17:23

Me? Well, I used to have quite bad insomnia when I was a teenager. So maybe this kind of screws up my average now but probably about eight hours, pretty standard.

Shaun McKenna 17:34

Yeah, I think I actually get a decent amount too, anywhere from 6.5 to 7.5 hours, and that might be on the low side. And I kind of worry. If you're looking at everything from a gaming standpoint, I guess when you don't measure up one night, you can kind of get a little bit stressed out. But I think the key is that you shouldn't get stressed about a lack of sleep. But you know, a lack of sleep can contribute to a lot of health issues, including depression and dementia and hardening of the arteries, which raises the risk for heart attacks and strokes. So Yanagisawa is already known for some successes in the field of sleep research, and he currently heads a 200 researcher team at the International Institute for Integrative Sleep Medicine at Tsukuba University, which is especially important in Japan because people here are notoriously sleep deprived. Where he comes in with regard to the immortality project, though is that his team is working on the idea of artificial hibernation or suspended animation, which could have the effect of being able to kind of, as he describes it, put people on hold if they're in a critical health condition so that doctors can eventually get to work fixing them.

Elizabeth Beattie 18:44

That really does sound like a computer game. It kind of also brings new meaning to that idea of hospital wait time?

Shaun McKenna 18:52

Yeah. Could it be like two years? You're just kind of in a coma for a little while? Yeah, I think that with this series, we kind of also wanted to explain where people in Japan were coming from when it comes to ideas on immortality, and, Alex Martin looked at mythology surrounding it. But first, when you think of immortality myths, I guess, as a New Zealander, what things do you think of?

Elizabeth Beattie 19:17

I think in the Maori, the New Zealand indigenous people, in that culture, there is a sense of death being a greyer thing, more ambiguous, I would say. So I have that association. And there are legends that touch on immortality. But to be honest, I didn't really think much of immortality until we started this series.

Shaun McKenna 19:42

Right, right. I think I've kind of picked up over, you know, time just from the media, things like The Fountain of Youth or the Holy Grail, you know, being able to drink from that cup and getting everlasting life. So Alex talks about a legendary Chinese explorer named Xu Fu who came to Japan in search of eternal life himself. One myth he brought up though was that of a Yaobikuni, an 800-year-old nun who’s also known as Happyakubikuni or Obikuni-sama depending on the region.

According to one telling of the story, six people are once invited for dinner at a rich person’s home. Before they arrive, one of the guests takes a peek into one of the windows and found the host cooking a mermaid. The six invitees discuss things and decide not to eat the mermaid. One of them has hearing issues, though, and he brings some mermaid back home with him, but his daughter mistakenly eats it and from then on she becomes basically immortal, the 800-year-old nun.

So my retelling did not do this piece justice. I really recommend reading Alex's piece as well as Tomoko’s and yours, Elizabeth. But one question I want to ask now that we're just kind of approaching the end of our discussion. We kind of started off talking about this issue as a way to kind of alleviate our own little existential crises that we were having. Did this make you feel better at all?

Elizabeth Beattie 21:21

That’s a big question. But it kind of weirdly did. Like I felt a little bit like the Grim Reaper was reporting on this, you know, asking so many people about death. It's such a taboo thing. But it did make me think about, it sounds cheesy, but living more consciously or being more present, just the notion that there is a time limit on our life, basically.

Shaun McKenna 21:47

I think for me, it was kind of like talking about it so much, it stopped me from thinking about it on my own, like at night before I'm trying to get to sleep. You know, it's like I kind of got it out of my system. And I think it kind of help a little bit.

Elizabeth Beattie 22:03

I'm glad to hear you're sleeping better Shaun.

Shaun McKenna 22:06

Thanks for coming on Deep Dive.

Elizabeth Beattie 22:08



Shaun McKenna 22:19

I'm back with Owen Ziegler.

Owen Ziegler 22:21


Shaun McKenna 22:22

And, Ann-Loy Morgan

Ann-Loy Morgan 22:23


Shaun McKenna 22:24

Two editors at The Japan Times who also play video games and write about it. Okay, so I think the last game I played was Candy Crush but I eventually got bored of that. However if it had been Candy Crush with guns then maybe I would have felt differently. Ann and Owen, can you tell us what this game Palworld is?

Ann-Loy Morgan 22:42

Well, it's not Candy Crush your guns, sorry. Palworld is like, it's a genre mashup right? People online call it “Pokemon with guns.” But it's so much more than that. It's a multiplayer, creature catching, open world survival, crafting, base-building game. It's a lot of things. But most importantly, it's a lot of fun. So the game comes to us from Pocketpair, which is an indie developer from right here in Tokyo. And it's a huge success. It's now one of the handful of games ever to hit 1 million concurrent Steam players, me included. And it's more adult than you know, what one would expect from a game like what is often compared to which is Pokemon right? There's really adult mature jokes. There's of course, guns. It's a game that even the devs called a miracle. Since it's been released, there have been 19 million players. I can't even visualize 19 million people and 7 million on Xbox and 12 million are on Steam, and I'm one of the steam players. I'm a PC player. And I enjoyed it. I had fun because that's what's important to me as a casual gamer.

Owen Ziegler 23:55

I have to undercut things here and lawyer I think that is probably the rosiest description possible of Palworld. I think that you know in large part perception drives reality right and the conversation around Palworld online has not been you know about how great Palworld is, but dare I say “Pal-agerism?” So a lot of people have looked at the character models that are being used in this game with the Pals, as they're called, these little creatures with different abilities. If you had called them Pokemon, I think a lot of people would not have been able to tell the difference. If you get into the nitty gritty of you know the shapes, the polygons, used in these character models, there are really serious concerns over whether Pocketpair simply just lifted designs from Pokemon games in the past. Now you can say that they took one design from one Pokemon and another from a different Pokemon and put them together in a new Pal. Right? But does that make it Pocketpair’s own design?

Shaun McKenna 24:58

Okay, so oh and no pal of Palworld, then. I don't know a lot about games, but I do know a thing or two about copyright. Is Nintendo mad about this?

Owen Ziegler 25:07

That's an interesting question. Are they mad? I don't think anyone can say. I think what we can know for sure is that Nintendo has definitely taken notice of Palworld’s success. Nintendo is usually very tight-lipped about most things, even positive announcements about their upcoming games, but a couple of days after Palworld was released, and I think at that time, it had, you know, 5,6, 7 million sales already, Nintendo was kind of forced by internet discourse to release a statement saying that, “yes, we are aware of Palworld.” The curious thing is that they did not name Palworld in this statement, I believe they referred to it as a game released in January 2024. Yeah, they took care to say that Nintendo did not license any Pokemon IPs for, you know, that game or that studio. Now, you can wonder whether this statement was released just to kind of get people off Nintendo's back and kind of to quell the online discourse, or was it a shot across the bow of impending legal troubles for Pocketpair initiated by Nintendo? Nobody knows just yet.

Ann-Loy Morgan 26:18

So okay, to be fair, first of all, I'm not a lawyer, despite my mother's wishes. I think that they had to say something, because people online just wouldn't stop talking about it, and so they had to put out a statement. And the comparisons are inevitable, but to say that Palworld is just a copy of Pokemon is not true. And it's also a little hypocritical of Pokemon fans to be so, you know, circling the wagon, when they themselves complain about how stagnant the franchise is and when they're ready to complain about Game Freak, you know, it's quiet all right, but now that this new game emerges, it's suddenly like, “Oh, my God, or precious IP?”

Owen Ziegler 27:04

I can definitely agree with that. I don't know if this will necessarily amount to a defensive Palworld necessarily, but for the Pokemon company to come out and say, “Oh, yes, our treasured IP is now being infringed upon,” for anybody who grew up, you know, playing the games of Pokemon Red, Blue, Yellow, if you stepped back into the Pokemon world now and picked up a recent game, yeah, there would be some, you know, modern updates, but the core gameplay is essentially the same. Now if you're stagnating your flagship IP for decades now, How much right do you really have to complain when somebody comes along, rightly or wrongly, riffing off what you've done for years, but sees massive success with it? I don't, I don't know if, you know, the Pokemon Company is in the right here.

Ann-Loy Morgan 27:54

Yeah. And you know, historically, the gaming industry has just been a snake eating its own tail, this entire time. Games copy from each other, they take here and there all the time. So it's just you know, if you love something, you want to see it improve? Surely. So it's fair for Pokemon fans to say, hey, Game Freak, we would love to see a bit more of what we saw in RCS and we would like to see the franchise grow and evolve. Just like in Pokemon. I think the plagiarism accusations are unfortunate. And it's overshadowing what is genuinely a fun experience.

Shaun McKenna 28:37

Do you know what I'm gonna make a wild comparison as well here, but isn't this the same argument that we had when we first got hip hop, like hip hop would take samples from other people's songs, create it into something new, and then you eventually get to a point where you would get entire albums that were made totally of other people's stuff. And that seems to be the culture that a lot of us grew up in, right? It's just kind of taking property that exists and then re-mixing it into something else.

Owen Ziegler 29:00

In a vacuum, yes, I would agree with that. But I don't know if we want to give that kind of shining ambition to accompany like Pocketpair. If you look back in their history, in their game development catalog, all of their games have been a mishmash of successful mechanics from other titles. Now, you can say that, “Oh, this is all in the ether. It's all being pulled out of this kind of collective creative consciousness.” But there are specific kinds of musical cues and aesthetics and design choices that Pocketpair kind of makes as a business decision just to crib and then to mash together in their own games. Their CEO as well, has said that he's very positive, he's very optimistic about the use of AI to generate things that skirt copyright laws. So is this really the company that we want to push forward?

Shaun McKenna 29:54

Don't a lot of CEOs say that though?

Owen Ziegler 29:56

They say it, but do they put it into practice?

Ann-Loy Morgan 29:59

I was about to say, “Wait a minute. I've seen this on X before.”

Owen Ziegler 30:05

Just because they say it doesn't necessarily mean that it should be put into practice. I would say.

Ann-Loy Morgan 30:09

I'm not sure if he's the only one who's ever put it into practice, I just think he's the most successful and putting it into practice. And even that, in and of itself, was a surprise to him. He wrote a blog post, saying that the game's success was a miracle to him. They never thought it was going to be this big hit. I think they really just sat there and probably made a list of all the things that they liked about not just video games, because there's also some references to anime and manga in the game. In Palworld, there are these fruits that you feed to the Pals to give them special powers just like similarly to the fruits, the devil fruits that are in “One Piece.” So I think they just put all these things that they really liked, like concepts that they really liked, all together in a blender and was just like, “run it.”

Owen Ziegler 30:54

I do think that when we get into that kind of conversation about, hey, this is a thing I like, and I want to put it in my game. It's the lack of creativity. It's more fanfiction than an original work. Of course, you can take things and make something that's more than the sum of its parts. But if that is all you have to pin your game on. I don't know how creative that work ends up being.

Shaun McKenna 31:19

That’s interesting, because fanfiction is actually a major part of manga culture. Well, while we still have the opportunity to Palworld, Ann you wrote a review for The Japan Times, what are your thoughts on it?

Ann-Loy Morgan 31:30

First of all, I'm a casual gamer, right? I'm what internet people call a cozy gamer. So I play games to relax just on the weekends. And I think the Pals are one of the least interesting parts of the game. You know, there's base-building, survival mechanics, and you don't really use the Pals for that. You do start off catching piles, and they do help you around the base, but the Pals themselves the individual Pal types, and whatnot, don't factor into that. The fun part of the game is crafting your base and gathering resources, crafting new items. And you could replace those Pals with like, I don't know, slimes or something, and it would still be fun, right?

Owen Ziegler 32:13

My rebuttal to that would be if the Pals are the least important part of the game, then why would Pocketpair choose to use these designs that are so evocative of the Pokemon universe? I just, I have to think that that was intentional.

Ann-Loy Morgan 32:27

Because when they first announced the game, that aspect of the game went viral. So they just leaned into their strength. It became a meme like, oh, it's Pokemon with guns. Listen, when you're a small studio or small business, you are just trying to get yourself out there, I'm not surprised that they leaned into it. But I now think they kind of, you know, forget the punch shot themselves in the foot. Because now that is everyone's focus.

Owen Ziegler 32:55

Yeah, I can agree with that. Its success, for this game, may be more than Pocketpair was able to handle.

Ann-Loy Morgan 33:02

Yeah, they didn't see this coming at all.

Shaun McKenna 33:04

Well, on a somewhat related note, what are some of the other games the both of you are looking forward to. Ann we can start with you.

Ann-Loy Morgan 33:13

For me Dragon's Dogma II, which is a huge, huge game coming out from Capcom. I'm super excited about that. And outside of work, you guys will never see me again. Because I will be playing that game.

Shaun McKenna 33:25

Owen, anything on your radar.

Owen Ziegler 33:27

Yeah, I'm still waiting for definitive news of the DLC for Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree. FromSoftware refuses to announce a firm date. It's infuriating. Kind of like playing their games, but you gotta, you gotta pay attention. You can't miss it.

Shaun McKenna 33:45

Maybe one of those can break me from my slavish devotion to Candy Crush then. Ann and Owen. Thanks very much for coming on Deep Dive.

My thanks again to Ann-Loy Morgan, Owens, Ziegler and Elizabeth Beattie for joining me on this week's show. For more coverage on Japan and greater Asia, please check out japantimes.co.jp. I’ll also take a moment to humbly ask that if you like what you've been hearing, please leave us a rating and comment on your podcasting platform of choice. It helps us reach even more people who might be interested in our work. Deep Dive is produced by Dave Cortez, our closing music is by Oscar Boyd, and our theme music is by the Japanese musician LLLL. I'm Shaun McKenna, podtsukaresama.