In Dandy Dungeon - Legend of Brave Yamada-, our titular hero is a 36-year-old "single aristocrat", who lives alone in his humble little studio apartment where he is surrounded by video games and collectibles. Yamada sits all day at home in his underpants, with his work slacks sprawled over the floor with no intention of ever placing them into the laundry, and yet despite this unflattering image, he is not a shut-in by any means.
Sure, he hasn't been to work for a while, but this is not a deliberate attempt at playing hooky. You see, Yamada is working hard to create his very own dream video game, and his missing work is more to do with giving priority to his passion project over a stable income stream from a large corporation.
Ironically enough, Yamada actually does work in the very industry he aspires to, working as a coder and programmer in the largest video game empire, and yet he truly hates his job. Overworked, underpaid, and creatively unstimulated, he makes a bold choice to take control of his passion. To him it's not about the job or money, he simply loves creating video games for their own sake.
Upon hitting a creative stride, Yamada simply does not realize he had forgotten to clock into work. Soon enough his colleagues start checking in, and it doesn't take long for the big mean company boss to show up at doorstop, and fire our brave game developer right then and there. But that's okay, because Yamada is creating his own special RPG where he uses his personal life, with all of its ups and downs, to fuel ideas for the game's design and narrative. Life itself is a constant RPG to him, where every moment and interaction, including the failures, grant the player valuable "experience points".
This fourth-wall-breaking narrative has the player in the role of the "debugger" with whom Yamada often talks (does he imagine these encounters?). It is up to the player to test this game just as ideas are progressively developed and implemented. It's quite compelling to see the organic progression of the game's development, and how Yamada's personal anecdotes spark inspiration.
As tongue in cheek as the humor is, there is still an underlying cynicism. A lot of aspiring game developers have unfortunately shared experiences similar to those of Yamada, as those who join the big companies often find their dream job isn't what they hoped it would be. Even in just recent years, there have been reports of programmers being overworked, underpaid, and just demotivated, especially when having to meet unrealistic deadlines.
Experiences like these can take away one's passion for their craft, and some are often able to find their own calling by going independent. But as we learn from brave Yamada's own quest, this path to freedom is rife with its own unique challenges, even though they are made by one's own choice.
Dandy Dungeon - Legend of Brave Yamada is a comedic yet bittersweet insight into the realities of chasing the elusive "dream job". Whether it's creating video games or any other creative endeavor, these things are often backed by big corporations, with passionate creators and their projects being under the mercy of boardroom executives. Our brave hero Yamada quickly realizes how often our hopes and expectations are crushed by aggressive businesses. But then much like this rogue programmer, perhaps what we love can still be pursued in our own special space, even if it doesn't pay the bills.
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