Opinion – Isn’t it time the Western gaming press started treating Japanese games with respect?

“Oh, no. Is this happening again? A sequel to the T-shirt-straining antics of Senran Kagura Burst? Must we dignify this filth with a preview?”

Really? Gah, fine then – Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson (ugh) is in development. For some reason. It’s a “game” about smuggling fleshy watermelons in your top and the only way to win the “game” is by making sure everyone’s seen your bum. That’s right. It’s that deep. There’s also some fighting, and we guess we should mention that, but really it all comes second to the massive amount of love and care the developers put into ensuring their jiggle physics were as ludicrous as possible. ‘Scuse us while we gouge our eyes out with rusty spoons.”

This, believe it or not, was a preview for Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson published in the now defunct Official Nintendo Magazine (UK) back in 2014. It was written by a supposed “professional games journalist”. Someone who, as a “professional”, should know better than to insult game developers by calling their product filth.

But that’s not the worst part of that tiny preview. Summing up the game as “smuggling fleshy watermelons in your top” is also insulting to the readership of that publication. It showed that the author didn’t even take a minute out of their day to read up on the Senran Kagura series.

As anyone who has actually taken the time to play a Senran Kagura game can tell you, there is far more to the series than bouncing boobies and flashing your bum. Even ignoring the brawler based gameplay, the varied female (and depending on the title, also male) characters all have well written characters that make each of them far more than their secondary sexual features.

Gun Gun Pixies

The message here is clear. The author didn’t have any interest in covering this game. And that is fine. Not every game will appeal to everyone. But instead of being professional, they chose to show the world their immaturity. They chose to imply the game was merely sexual objectification when this is far from the truth. In short, they chose to treat their readership as idiots.

I wish I could say that this was an isolated incident. Just one journalist forced to cover something they couldn’t give a shit about; using their coverage as a way to vent their annoyance at being given the task. It would still be unprofessional, and not really forgivable, but it would make sense. But it isn’t an isolated incident. Throughout the years you can find examples of similar unprofessional behaviour pretending to be coverage of Japanese games on a wide variety of sites that pose as the mainstream western gaming press.

July 7 saw the latest such example being posted by Jed Whitaker on Destructoid [Note: this is an archived link; it does not lead to the review itself]. And this example makes the one from Official Nintendo Magazine (UK) look like glowing praise in comparison. That said, it starts out the same way. Instead of calling the game in question filth though they opted for garbage.

That was just the start of the insulting blabbering which barely passes as the review of Valkyrie Drive -Bhikkhuni- on PC that it claims to be. Not content with dismissing the product of hard work as merely garbage, Jed also thought it clever to insinuate that anyone liking such games is a paedophile.

Idol Death Game TV

This indicates two things to me. One, he has no understanding of the game or of the Japanese game industry (which is definitely later proven) and two, he has no understanding of what a paedophile is. Nor of how stupid it is to claim people are committing such a criminal act without having proof to back up such claims.

Jed’s lack of understanding of the severity of sex crimes continues as he casually waters down the act of rape to imply it is no worse than having your clothes rip to show your undies:

“…sometimes their clothes rip while they look into the camera in horror, which is more than a bit rapey”

But I don’t want to focus on Jed’s lack of knowledge and tact in this respect right now. There’s far more to cover which focuses on his inability to function as a “professional games journalist”.

Nights of Azure

If you are aiming to review a game — especially when it’s a port from a previous system — the professional thing to do would be to play both versions (where possible) so that you can better identify issues with the port. We know Jed didn’t bother to play the PC version (which I’ll cover later) but it’s also clear he never bothered to look at the Vita one either.

“There are real-time conversations between the repetitive story’s stages, during which the girls’ boobs jiggle crazily every time they move; I mean these things look like water balloons floating in space, even fully clothed. It just looks awkward.”

Had he done so, Jed would have immediately noticed that something was indeed off with the “boob physics”. They do bounce more than they should in the PC version, as do the accessories. One possible reason being the switch to 60 frame per second. Something I tried to investigate for my own review but could not as the Vsync options served up 60 fps regardless of being set lower.

No. Instead of taking time to do his job properly, Jed Whitaker just dismisses this real issue as a way to reinforce his claim that Valkyrie Drive is “just another shitty port of a Vita booby game”.

Mary Skelter: Nightmares

“I didn’t take in much of the story, mostly because I’ve never played a game with so much dialogue that does little to nothing but artificially extends a game… [snip] After around two levels worth of these scenes, I started to skip them all but the very end. No regrets.”

And there we have it. Reading is apparently too difficult so Jed would rather not do his job. He’ll just claim that the game has too much dialogue that does nothing without actually reading it to prove that it does indeed do nothing. Let’s just dismiss the character building. Let’s fail to understand the fan service. It’s so much easier to randomly put words together.

Jed attempts to claim that the PC port is an unstable mess, but fails to provide any real examples asides from issues with his controller. And these issues are actively being worked on by Marvelous. I have no idea how long Jed played Valkyrie Drive, a game he openly admits he loathed. But I can state that in just over 7 and half hours of play I experienced one issue with launching the game. And that was caused by Steam, not Valkyrie Drive itself.

Jed ends his ranting with claiming that Valkyrie Drive “offers nothing of value whatsoever”. But how can Jed realistically state this when he already made it clear that he skipped huge portions of the game, including all the online modes? Surely you actually need to experience all content a game has to offer if you plan to make any statements relating to that content — or its lack thereof.

NieR: Automata

But I’ve saved this gem for last:

“Spoilers: You never get to see tits because I guess Japanese developers like teasing or at the very least frown upon child nudity; can’t blame them, most people do.”

Pro-tip Jed, if you are going to attempt to comment on why a Japanese developer chooses to do something, take the time to examine the Japanese gaming market and Japanese laws in general.

Had you done that you’d discover that censorship of nudity is far more severe in Japan and has been for decades. Since before the Second World War — and even more so following it — it has been illegal in Japan to show genitalia. This has nothing to do with the age of the characters. It applies to all depictions of adult men and women too. The only exceptions being classical art and certain text books.

Recent years have seen crackdowns in Tokyo directly affecting games, manga, and anime, even those rated for adults only, to ensure that not even nipples are shown (and what happens in Tokyo effectively gets applied nationwide). It is these laws that result in the specific forms of fan service you find throughout many Japanese games in place of actual sex (especially on home consoles).

Returning to ages, one common thread running throughout mainstream western gaming sites is the insistence on implying that all characters depicted in Japanese games are “underage”. This certainly isn’t helped by certain western rating boards which at one point insisted on ages being removed from similar games.

Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash

Had the ages been kept in the English build of Valkyrie Drive we’d know that four of the main characters range in age from 14 to 17. There is common misconception that the age of consent in Japan is 13. And while this is indeed listed in the outdated Japanese Penal Code, it has long since been superseded by an age of 18. A result in fact, of Enjo Kosai (compensated dating) which became a concern in the late 1990s.

In that respect then yes, these characters would technically be underage for giving consent to sexual acts, but ignoring the fact that they are fictional characters in a fictional universe (and thus it’s silly to try and impose real world laws on it), there is no actual sex in Valkyrie Drive; and this is true of many similar games.

But if we were to insist that age of consent in applicable regions be taken into account then surely it would be wrong to not point out that the ages of consent across Europe range from 14 to 18, with 15 being the most common (for the record, age of consent in the UK is 16). Where as for the US, it currently ranges from 16 to 18 (with 16 being most common) and some states apparently are trying to have this lowered. Thus it is safe to say that the current age of consent in Japan is equivalent or higher than most regions the western gaming press cover.

If people are going to start raising that outdated notion again that the age of consent in Japan is 13, they should probably also look a little deeper at the history of the age of consent in their own region first. Taking the US as an example it once used to be as low as 10 to 12, and in the case of Delaware it was lower still at age 7! Ages of consent across the US didn’t reach as high as 16 to 18 until around 1920. It wasn’t until 2015 that the age of consent was applied fairly to same sex couples.

Dead or Alive Extreme 3 Fortune

For the UK, the original age of consent was as low as 12 back in 1275. It wasn’t until 1917 that it reached the age of 16 we see today. And not until 2000 that this became the accepted age of consent regardless of sexual orientation. Important to note given that Valkyrie Drive is about lesbians.

The ultimate point here is that if you insist on implying that characters are “underage” then you should really ensure that they are, indeed, underage and that for this to even make any sense, that the game they appear in features actual sex and is set in a specific real-world region. Unless of course, you want to go down the route of George Orwell’s 1984 and start prosecuting people for their thoughts and fantasies focusing on fictional characters.

This consistent implication of “underage” characters also implies that fantasising about fictional characters is bad. That sexually objectifying a character is not cool. Now I can’t speak for Jed or others like him who get all worked up about Japanese games featuring cute bouncy girls, but I can say that as a healthy adult male I do indeed objectify women in a sexual sense, and I’m not ashamed to do so.

I make no apologies either. I like having sex. I like having sex with women. And being an intelligent human being, I am comfortable with the fact that I have sexual desires that focus on having passionate sex with women. I’m turned on by the thought of lesbians (and by other forms of sex too), as many men are. My wife, too, is turned on by Yaoi (depictions of sex between men). It doesn’t mean we’re going to act on our those base sexual desires. It just means we have healthy approaches to the idea of sex.

Final Fantasy XV

To deny that people do not objectify their preferred sexual genders is simply being out right naive. If we didn’t, the human race would have gone extinct thousands of years ago. At the very least we need sex to survive; it’s also great stress relief, a chance to bond and feel close, and many other things too. As such, the majority of us are driven to have sexual desires. Driven to objectify those we wish to fantasise about having sex with – regardless of what our genders are.

It is about time that the western gaming press stopped pretending that humans do not have sex. And that is the difference between Japanese and western culture. Where the west wishes to make sex seem sinful and evil, Japan does not. Where the west all but worships the idea of violence, death, and destruction, Japan does not. Where the west focuses on killing and slaughtering for its big name games, Japan chooses to focus on love and sex appeal instead. Which of these is really more damaging to impressionable people?

Returning to Jed Whitaker’s claim that Valkyrie Drive is “Dynasty Warriors for paedophiles” (later changed to “Dynasty Warriors for aspiring paedobears” after several edits), it is hard to even apply that label to the game, or its audience and not come across as ill-informed or poorly educated.

Both the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013) and The ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders Diagnostic criteria for research (World Health Organization/ICD-10, 1993) both assert that a paedophile is someone who has a “persistent or a predominant preference for sexual activity with a prepubescent child”.

Idol Master Platinum Stars

Prepubescent being the key word here. Which the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013) apparently states  the cut-off point thereof being age 13 in girls (as quoted on the relevant Wikipedia page; the actual publication being behind a pay-wall). The point here being, that most of the characters (and one could argue even the 14 year old) are no longer considered the target of paedophilia. Simply put they are too old.

Given this, it is disappointing to see that instead of immediately identifying an issue with Jed’s “review”, the editors for Destructoid simply ran with it. Had this been a similarly stupid article aimed at the violence in Call of Duty, I wonder if they would have handled it the same way? I’m guessing not.

At the same time, it would be silly of me to think that anything will change without the cooperation of the publishers that this, and similar, rubbish is aimed at. It is time for publishers of Japanese content to actively take issue with blatant abuse of journalistic responsibility.

I ask those publishers to please stop sending review copies to sites that only intend to treat their games with hostility. Certainly don’t act as if it is a big joke. Negative press like that helps no one. It may sell a few copies but at the end of the day it also has the potential to damage the growing spread of Japanese games in the west. The very thing you rely on for your continued existence as a publisher.

We’ve already seen Japanese publishers refuse to release games outside of Japan because of the stupidity of the western press. Don’t reward those sites that continue to act so immaturely by still supporting them. You deserve better. Your customers deserve better. Japanese games deserve better.

Persona 5

Screenshots were taken by the author.

  • Migui Goryu Rossy

    Agreed on all of it. Great article.

  • Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

  • DOUGHNUTS ARE AMAZING

    Glad I’m not alone on the call for publishers to blacklist sites like Destructoid! Thanks for speaking out! 🙂

  • You most certainly are not alone in thinking something needs to be done. Thanks for taking the time to read!

  • Dark_Tzitzimine

    Fantastic article just a small correction, it says Destructoid review went online in June 7 when it was actually July 7

  • Nice catch. I’ve edited it to the right month. Thank you for pointing that out to me.

  • Lishe

    Thank you so much for writing this, I’ll definitely be saving it and sharing it with people.

    The whole notion that Japan and their culture need to be made fun of and treated as little goes quite a ways back, we never quite got professional localizations without the people working in it taking massive liberties and making a joke out of the thing they’re working on, injecting humor and treating it with no respect whatsoever, rewriting whatever they see fit, sometimes going as far as eliminating all references to anything Japanese, see: the first release of the Cherry High Comedy Club. A lot of it probably comes from immature, braindead and overly-nationalistic people, as farfetched as it sounds it’s not rare to hear “should’ve nuked them more” as a joke that’s in very poor taste, but excessive violence is okay right?

    These days it’s hard to get away from the word “weeb”, “weeaboo”, etc for more than a few hours, and at this point, it’s a dead horse that has been ground into dust a long time ago. As a streamer the funny thing to do is to ironically play Japanese games (mostly VNs like nekopara) while jokingly questioning yourself and your choices. Even as someone who originally didn’t really care about the whole thing and always played it off as “sure I’m a weeb whatever”, I’ve started to get quite tired of it, it honestly makes me cringe and physically ill.
    It’d be nice if the west could show a bit less insecurity and more respect and open-mindedness to the likes of others and other cultures, this need to assert superiority and constantly demean or make fun of someone or something we don’t like is quite childish, and really gets quite old…

    Sorry for the wall, this just seems to be a neverending issue that pops up incessantly, and it’s like someone banging at your door nonstop everyday. I really like Japanese games, anime, music and general culture (history, cuisine, etc.) and I’m not a weeaboo, a pedophile or a sexual deviant, and reality isn’t the same as fiction, people need to grow up and deal with it.

  • Mildra

    Great article, and I agree wholeheartedly. Every time I read on of destructoid’s articles on japanese games, two words come to mind: “spooky language”. The kind of spooky language you’d see in Red Scare propaganda. Because all the ‘review’ is doing is browbeating you with the same point: this different thing is wrong because its different, and that’s wrong. Not too far removed from highschool cliques imo.

  • Lishe

    My comment was considered spam by disqus, for some reason, so I’ll take a screenshot of it:
    https://puu.sh/wKDuP.png

    Also, for added comical value, you should look at Jed’s handle at the bottom of his article:
    https://puu.sh/wKnCL.png
    Really makes you think, huh?

  • Sorry Disqus thought that was spam =/ But yes, you’re right it does go far deeper than just games at times. There does seem to be some deep lingering hatred rooted in WW2 that just refuses to go away. I see this most often whenever a Japanese sports team goes up against a US one. All the nuke comments come out in force then. It’s sad to say the least.

    And yeah, Jed was laughing about enjoying a game where you force sheep to have sex the other day. He’s beyond help. He’ll never understand what he did wrong.

  • It’s common theme among the large gaming sites. “Lol Japan”. It gets boring real fast. I do wonder how they’d react if Japanese media started doing the same for every US developed blood gore shooter head shot fest that came out. I’m sure the likes of Kotaku will be quick to spin it as some form of racism.

  • Lishe

    Double standards are incredible, and people with such strong, problematic stances usually have something along these lines.
    I wish people would move on from the hatred from WW2, blaming an entire nation for the decisions of a few that are most likely long gone by now is questionable, it’s certainly not a torch I’d be proud to carry or pass on, but I’m not American so this is just my stance as an outsider.
    We could go on with this topic but it will most likely not end anytime soon. Other than that, thanks again for the great article, I will be sharing and quoting it very often I believe 🙂