Let’s Bloviate: Censorship, Gamergate and Nontroversies

Update: Tecmo Koei, who were undoubtedly waiting for my definitive hot take before speaking further, has released a statement basically disavowing the earlier Facebook comment that started the whole mess.

Every so often I find myself bored and jacked up on tea with too much sugar in it in a scholarly frame of mind, and I decide to undertake some deep analysis of other people’s opinions on the internet.

Today, we’re looking at a graphic (NSFW) created by a user of The Hashtag That Will Not Be Named alleging to detail all the ways that feminists have censored video games, which ties into a larger ongoing drama surrounding the concept of censorship, and the many ways it’s mis-applied by angry game dudes.

A little background: the latest internet controversy that wasn’t involves a game called Dead or Alive Extreme (sorry, “Xtreme”) 3, a spin-off from a fighting game franchise famous for its cheesecake where you play mini-games and ogle scantily-clad women on a tropical island. The franchise has never had a huge fanbase either in Japan or the west and is largely seen as a niche product.

Last week someone asked the game’s publisher if the latest instalment would get a western release; after getting confirmation that this wasn’t going to happen, people asked why, and received an extremely garbled statement that appeared to have been run through Google translate talking about the depiction of women in games. Cue instant outrage from the kinds of people who like to complain about outrage, whether or not that outrage is in fact taking place.

Things took a strange turn when Play-Asia, a site that sells imported Japanese games among a lot else, made a series of tweets hyping up its copies of the game (the PS4 isn’t region-locked and the mainland Asian version has an English language option, which naturally begs the question of what all the fucking fuss was about) by referring to “SJW nonsense”, which was then followed by cracks about trigger warnings and smug take-thats against the SJW-led boycott of Play-Asia that wasn’t happening and that no one had called for. It was an obvious attempt to drum up sales by leaping on the non-controversy (the nontroversy?), and it seems to have worked like a charm, gaining the site an influx of fans from The Hashtag.

Weirdly, this isn’t the first time a game-focused retailer has tried this. Direct2Drive, a seller of digital games that’s been largely made obsolete by Steam, recently went on a spree of Hashtag-baiting with its “trigger warning sale” on games that SJWs (Social Justice Warriors, if you’re not clued into the lingo of internet douchewagons) supposedly can’t stand, accompanied by thinly-veiled rape jokes. The implication was that by buying these games from Direct2Drive you were in some nebulous way sticking it to the evil feminists and SJWs, that Anita Sarkeesian was foaming at the mouth with every purchase of Hunie Pop and Hatred.

Again, the whole thing was transparently a grab for the wallets of a very particular minority of gamers by a company whose prominence had faded in recent years, and once again it seemed to work like a charm, at least temporarily.

Now, we can all roll our eyes and laugh at this, but courting Gamergate might actually be dangerous. It’s been noted that GG’s long-time harassment victims tend to see an influx of abuse whenever the ‘Gate receives mainstream recognition, likely as people who had grown bored with it temporarily jump back on the bandwagon; in other words it’s like poking a hornet’s nest with a stick, except when the bees get pissed they fly off and attack other people who had nothing to do with the poking. Indeed, in the middle of its little lulz-session Play-Asia had to make a tweet asking its new fans not to harass anyone, which pretty clearly indicates that they knew exactly who they were dealing with and what they were capable of.

The strangest part of all of this is that there was no feminist campaign against the game in question. No one cared about it. No one was protesting the idea of an American release. I don’t think most gamers, “SJW” or not, even realised it was coming out until this whole shitstorm started.

The result of all of this is that the Gaters are now in a tizzy about “censorship” of games and have gone scurrying off to find more examples of the evil no good SJWs ruining the vidya. As the image I linked to above shows, they didn’t find many, and the examples they did manage to find aren’t very compelling. Let’s go through them one by one.

(The original version is laid out extremely poorly and confusingly places the game names beneath the paragraphs of text discussing them, except when it doesn’t, so I’ve typed it all out below. The things I do for you people.)

Bayonetta

In 2012 certain feminists ran a smear campaign in an attempt to censor Bayonetta, citing her oversexualized depiction and frequent partial nudity as being problematic. The game was rated M.

Out of all the examples listed this is the most baffling. The facts stated here are basically true– Bayonetta came out in 2012, some feminists criticized the game’s portrayal of its main character, and it received an M rating.

The problem is that the text appears to be implying that the feminist criticism led to the high age rating (although it doesn’t state this explicitly, possibly because whoever wrote this thing knew how weak the argument was), rather than the fact that the game features a scantily-clad demon nun torturing angels until they explode into piles of gore.

The ESRB rating under M (Mature) is T (Teens), which designates that a game is suitable for 13 year olds. There was no way in hell Bayonetta was ever going to get a T rating. And even if the criticism did somehow lead to the higher rating, that isn’t censorship even going by the extremely loose definition that Gators like to employ.

I suspect this is only here because Anita Sarkeesian’s “critics” to this day scream bloody murder over a minor factual error she made in a video about the game three years ago.

Bravely Default

In 2012 the Bravo Bikini was censored from the western version of Bravely Default. It was replaced with a less revealing outfit that covers Edea’s hips and cleavage.

No attempt is even made to blame this on SJW outrage, probably because there was no outrage. No one noticed or gave a shit about the revealing costumes. The collective response from the rational parts of the internet when the news about the alterations broke was  something along the lines of “huh”.

Now, it’s true that after the costumes were changed there was some discussion and criticism of the original designs, but whoever wrote this thing is getting their cause and effect mixed up.

Dragon’s Crown

In 2013 feminists heavily-criticised the character designs for the sorceress in the PS3 game Dragon’s Crown. The crybabies at Kotaku complained that her titties were too big, and people threw a bitchfit at E3 2013 when the sorceress was featured prominently on press passes.

This is another example where the facts as stated are essentially true, but I have no idea what point is being made. You’ll note the image never gets around to describing how Dragon’s Crown was censored, which is because it… wasn’t. The game was released in all territories with no alterations.

In fact the text even points out that the artwork that offended people was used in conjunction with the largest and most visible gaming event in the world, which is the exact opposite of censorship.

Final Fantasy XV

Not going to bother transcribing this one because it has the same problem as the last example: there was nothing even remotely close to censorship on display. As of writing this post Square Enix has given no indication that they plan to change the character design in question. The author of this tract is just outraged about outrage.

Fatal Frame 5

In 2015 two alternate costumes in Fatal Frame 5 were censored for the western release of the game.

Because bikinis are evil and must be purged, they were replace with a Zero Suit Samus and Princess Zelda costume. Thus ensuring the safety of all women everywhere.

(There’s a little sample of what passes for humour among these people)

Once again, cause and effect are being mixed up. No one paid any attention to the alternate costumes at all until after the alterations broke and drew attention to them, at which point some people said “ew those were gross, glad they changed them”. Apparently SJW opinions can travel back in time and retroactively affect the decisions of huge multinational corporations.

I suspect the actual reason for the “censorship” (carried out voluntarily by Nintendo– the same people who released Bayonetta 2 with no alterations– on their own product) is that they knew they had a hard sell on their hands (the fifth entry in a fairly obscure horror series whose last installment was never released outside Japan) and figured that both shooting for a lower age rating and adding in references to well known characters would give the game a better chance in the market.

In both this example and Bravely Default (also a Nintendo release) people are up in arms over the kind of international editing that’s been happening forever. Entertainment mediums are changed all the time to comply with attitudes in different cultures; for example, if someone wants to get an anime aimed at younger viewers on mainstream TV in the US they’ll almost certainly have to make changes due to different standards of what’s acceptable for children in terms of violence and nudity. It’s possible to go too far with this– a lot of anime series have been needlessly mangled by people who had no respect for the material– but it’s not automatically some kind of Orwellian affront by itself.

Slave Leia

For those who don’t know, Disney recently made the decision to discontinue all “slave Leia” merchandise, which garnered the near-universal reaction of “they’re still making slave Leia merchandise”?

Now this one is interesting because people have actually been criticizing slave Leia stuff for decades. The problem is that Disney’s decision almost certainly has nothing to do with that and everything to do with money.

In their quest to make the new Star Wars movies an unstoppable marketing juggernaut they’re clearly trying to appeal to as many people as possible, including, unusually for a movie like this, girls and women. Early reports indicate that this is working exactly as intended. Disney (which you may be aware has a certain family-friendly image they’re just a wee bit obsessed with maintaining) probably didn’t want to deal with parents of newly-minted young Star Wars fans doing some Christmas shopping and running across what appears to be softcore porn from the 70s.

(Although don’t get me wrong, I am glad that Disney is taking this move, as the whole slave Leia thing has become a creepy fixation for dudes who treat their boner over the character twenty five years ago as some sort of important formative experience)

The next one is about the Dead or Alive thing I already explained, although check out the hi-larious trigger warning joke if you feel like it.

Street Fighter V

In 2015 R. Mika’s butt slap taunt, jiggle physics and more sexual fighting tactics were removed from the game to please our mighty Matriarchy Overlords.

I actually had to go look this one up because I had no idea what the fuck it was referring to. After jogging my memory I do vaguely recall some people who played the Street Fighter V beta criticizing the character in questions (although a lot of people also seemed to find the whole thing hilarious), so I guess the thesis here is that a few disgruntled comments on twitter is enough to make a large developer change their game.

Yohjo Simulator

In 2015 feminists successfully Yohjo Simulator from Steam a day after its release, despite having “overwhelmingly positive” reviews. Feminists criticized the girl’s gym shorts, which were modeled after real life gym attire commonly worn by girls of all ages in Japanese public schools.

At this point the author of this thing just starts making shit up, having apparently scraped the bottom of the barrel.

Yohjo Simulator (an unfunny joke game making a belated attempt to capitalize on the popularity of Goat Simulator) was indeed pulled from Steam and anonymous feminists might well have criticized the character’s clothes, but that’s not why it was pulled. It was pulled because players found a cut-scene (that apparently the publisher wasn’t aware of) that featured implied rape.

Xenoblade Chronicles X

In 2015 feminists successfully intimidated Nintendo of America into censoring and removing a “breast slider” from the character creation editor in Xenoblade Chronicles X, because large breasts shouldn’t exist in the realm of fiction.

The actual reason the breast editing was removed (along with skimpy outfits) is because one of the characters they could be applied to is 13 and that shit wasn’t going to fly in the US.

I find this example the most interesting because of the language used: feminists “intimidated” Nintendo into changing their game. If you go back and carefully examine the talk around all of these incidents I’m sure you will indeed find that some people criticized or complained about the content, or expressed the opinion that they weren’t going to buy the games in question, or even called for the companies involved to take action.

The logical leap being made is to equate the opinions of individuals with mass boycotts and unfair bullying. It’s a spurious belief that huge multinational corporations who make billions of dollars can be “intimidated” by negative opinions on twitter.

And even if feminists were calling for people’s jobs or organizing boycotts over this stuff, those are the exact same tactics used by Gamergate itself. The GG horde’s earliest and so far only success was to get advertisers to temporarily pull support from a number of gaming media outlets for publishing the wrong opinions, action that was taken with the express purpose of closing those sites down and getting the writers involved fired.

I recently got into a debate on Twitter with a fellow who felt quite strongly that the Dead or Alive nontroversy was infringing his rights as a consumer. I don’t normally argue with people online any more (instead I post to my blog where I can delete comments I don’t like), but I took the plunge because the guy wasn’t being abusive and he seemed more misguided than anything else.

What struck me most was that he obviously understood and accepted the idea of consumers applying pressure to companies to alter their actions. But he championed the “consumer activism” that Gamergate claims to be devoted to while declaring that the exact same activism on the part of progressives was inherently unfair and an example of censorship and the stifling of creativity. He reminded me of the liberals who latched onto conspiracy theories during George W. Bush’s presidency or the far-right Republicans who lost their minds after the re-relection of Obama and started calling for cessation and overthrowing the government, the people who were theoretically all for democracy but only on the condition that the vote always went their way. To them the system isn’t a push-and-pull struggle of public opinion where anyone can be influential if they manage to win enough support; instead it exists as a framework to transform their personal views into tangible reality. If anyone else tries to do the same thing they’re unfairly highjacking the system and need to be shouted down and expelled.

(The parallels between gaming’s reactionary right wing and its counterpart in politics is particularly compelling when you consider the original GG claim was that the gaming press was unfairly biased against them)

The hashtag’s critics are frequently depicted as shrill, screaming babies who fly into a lather at the drop of a hat, but exactly that kind of knee-jerk outrage is all Gamergate is or ever was. Outrage over the “gamers are dead” article (they still haven’t gotten over that one more than a year later), outrage over Tauriq Moosa’s excellent piece on race in games, outrage over gay and trans characters in games, outrage over cross-regional edits, outrage over other people’s outrage whether or not that outrage ever actually existed in the first place.

Meanwhile, even as gamergate sheds members and shrinks into an ever-smaller bubble of unreality and far-right ideology the harassment of their designated targets continues apace, which is the only part of this whole stupid fiasco that’s really outrageous.

 

 

 

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17 thoughts on “Let’s Bloviate: Censorship, Gamergate and Nontroversies

  1. JM

    This movement is still alive? I thought the main issue died down when FTC added a stipulation for bloggers/reviewers to disclose their financial relationship with the author/product or ethical consideration by other blooger sites. It seems the outliers are really clinging into this movement. To be honest, I was one of those active GGers when it was at its peak — around late 2014 I believe when I saw articles coming in which made me think about reviewers in a negative light — but I retreated back when I saw it becoming something else.

    Reply
    1. ronanwills Post author

      The inner core of gamergate didn’t care (and still doesn’t) about ethical issues like that. Their real beef was always “SJWs” supposedly invading games; they just became more explicit about it as their mainstream support fell off.

      Reply
  2. Aaron Adamec-Ostlund (@AaronAO)

    It’s funny how all of this “censorship” is happening when Japanese games come to America, where social conservatism is often a more powerful force than progressivism. If one weren’t determined to make an ideological mountain out of a molehill they would see that all the changes that actually happened seemed to be done to make the games easier to market to younger audiences. But of course that doesn’t matter since merely complaining about something is censorship. Unless it’s GG doing the complaining.

    Reply
  3. blogarithmicfunction

    Hi Ronan long time listener first time caller. Because I’m a huge Xenoblade X fan, and I feel irrationally responsible for the big wave of non-news about the breast size slider (I spoke to a journalist about it and the next day there were five thousand articles all over the place, cause and effect), I just wanted to lay out some facts.

    The thirteen year old you’re referring to, Lin, has a fixed character design. You can only alter the appearance of your player avatar, so it wasn’t removed because of that. Rather, I think it was removed for a more extended reason.

    There are a lot of costume items in X, ranging from heavy duty space armour and giant robot pilot suits to street wear and swimsuits. A number of the skimpier costumes were altered in the western release so that when equipped to Lin they’d be less revealing.

    The following is speculative: because the player character has the same costuming as the other adult characters, and because you can alter height and get some pretty anime looking faces, I think the decision was made to remove the slider so people wouldn’t take screen caps of their home-made lolita in beachwear. That kind of thing doesn’t really fit Nintendo’s carefully crafted international image.

    As with Lin’s costuming nobody was talking about this until after it happened, so attributing it to the dastardly shadow cabal of feminists is fanciful. I actually do think it’s a little unfortunate that the option was taken out, because maybe women would actually like to be able to decide what their avatar’s chest looks like, but it is what it is.

    The kind of funny thing here is that one of the changes that had been reported was that Lin would be aged up from 13 to 15. This happened to the protagonists of Bravely Default, who went from a spectrum of high school ages to a spectrum of university ages. In the end they stuck with her at age 13, but I think they’re having a laugh with some of the localisation changes, because her dialogue is often more suggestive in English compared to in Japanese.

    Anyway, that’s your silly trivia for the day. Great blog, been following you since you were ragging on Rothfuss.

    Reply
  4. Ian

    I read that article you linked (on lack of racial diversity in Witcher 3, etc.) and then clicked through a bunch more for a few hours and basically just relived the Gamergate debacle, but this time kind of with the benefit of perfect knowledge/hindsight. It seems a lot clearer now what a core issue motivating the ‘Gamergaters’ was: the dawning realization that they (white, young, male, etc.) are no longer the sole target market for content creators. They may still be the most profitable/largest consumer group (idk the stats), but going forward developer efforts are going to be focused more and more on engaging and including other demographics.

    In one of your Gone Home articles a while back you represented a vocal, angry group as having been mortally offended that they’d been ‘tricked’ into playing the game by reviewers (or whatever, they were kind of shrill). It baffled me that anyone would have such a violent response to the situation, but it now looks like it was at its core motivated by ‘traditional’ gamers (Madden, COD) being blindsided by the existence of a top-tier game that was ultimately never really intended for them. It’s kind of like an only child’s mentality when a newborn is introduced to the family mix…it takes time for people to get used to the idea of sharing, I guess.

    Reply
    1. ronanwills Post author

      Pretty much, yeah. A certain contingent of gamers have been insecure and angry ever since the rise of mobile games and things like the Wii bringing in “casuals” to the scene; a key moment in Gamergate’s formation was when those people jumped on the bandwagon.

      The other big grievance was long-standing mistrust and resentment of the gaming press; the people mad about that and the people described above overlap heavily, and also have varying degrees of sympathy with the anti-progressive, racist and feminist viewpoints that the core of the “movement” was built around. It was a perfect storm.

      Reply
  5. reveen

    Lol is that picture trying to make fun of Gamergators or something? I wouldn’t be surprised. But I also won’t be surprised if Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball 3 is the hill the idiots want to die on either.

    Also, gamers are complaining about creepy fan service outfits being replaced by video game character costumes? Seriously?

    Reply
  6. A. Noyd

    Feminists criticized the girl’s gym shorts, which were modeled after real life gym attire commonly worn by girls of all ages in Japanese public schools.

    The spanky pants style of gym shorts used to be a real thing—I had a friend who had to wear them—but I don’t know if they’re used outside of fetish porn or anime and games catering to misogynist losers anymore. They’re certainly not used in any of the Japanese public schools I work in. Nor anywhere else in this city that I’ve seen.

    Instead, the girls wear the same style of gym shorts the boys do, which go down to their knees. The middle school girls wear them under their uniform skirts so they don’t waste time or need locker rooms to change, and sometimes they have to roll the shorts up to keep them from showing under the hem of the skirt, that’s how long they are. They also have long pants they can wear (over the shorts) in winter.

    Here is an example of a typical gym uniform for middle or high schoolers. And here is an example for elementary schoolers. The appearance of the girl in Yohjo Simulator has nothing to do with accuracy and everything to do with pleasing pedophiles (even if the game itself was supposed to be a joke).

    Reply
  7. maverynthia

    Actually the Youjo Simulator was a bit worse as it was an implied rape of a little girl that otaku want to make a non-issue out of. I think the scene was supposed to convey the fact that “otaku are child rapists” based on the slew of moe/lolicon anime and games that have come out. Basically sexualized little girls aimed at an adult male 18+ crowd. However it becomes ironic, because of it’s implication, it’s pulled from Steam. The only people I see getting mad over this are of course…. those very fans it sought to point out. So it’s like a self fulfilling prophesy.

    Mind you I’m glad it’s gone, poking fun at otaku or not… still gross.

    Reply
  8. braak

    To be fair to a lot of those liberals during the first GWB presidency, that guy definitely lost the popular vote, and won the electoral vote after a manual recount was halted in the state where his brother was the governor.

    I mean…I guess there are a bunch of other terrible liberal conspiracies; I think there are a lot more liberals who think that 9/11 was an inside job, but GWB’s first election was an actual perversion of democracy.

    Reply
    1. ronanwills Post author

      I was referring mainly to people who seemed to be convinced (or pretended to be) that Bush was going to try to extend his term a third time or similar in order to eventually become a dictator.

      Reply
        1. ronanwills Post author

          I was on political forums at the time and there was some buuuullshit going around. Not to the same extent and scale as the right wing are now to be fair, but still totally loopy.

          Reply
      1. braak

        Yeah, I mean, it’s pretty hard to imagine that G. W. would try to steal a third term when the plan has been forever to just run his brother with all the same advisors.

        (hahaha, back in the early days when Jeb! Bush actually seemed like a viable political candidate, hahahah, ohh but we were young, then)

        Reply

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