Translation: There’s No Future in the Current Environment Where Criticism is Swallowed Down Without Any Skepticism, The Game Industry Has Started to Fall Down the Path to Hell


Damonge, another Japanese gaming site which tends to have some strong focus on international news, recently published an editorial about one of the many controversies to rock the gaming world about female characters, specifically the Blizzard issue with Tracer and Overwatch. I’ve translated the article in full below:

There’s No Future in the Current Environment Where Criticism is Swallowed Down Without Any Skepticism, The Game Industry Has Started to Fall Down the Path to Hell

The Dangerous Censorship of Expression Seen in Blizzard’s Response.

By BIG MON on April 3rd, 2016

The Social Justice Voices Swallowing the Game Industry

These days, voices are shouting their opinions from on high to attack the portrayal of female characters in games and as they put pressure on game creators, throughout the world people involved in games are being swallowed into it.

Maybe it’s announcing the policy decision that Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 European and North American releases would be canceled, or Street Fighter V making changes on its expressions due to bashing. All of these are companies’ responses related to the radical feminism (third-wave feminism) that is stirring up a whirlwind in Europe and North America.

This movement claims that “games spread misogynistic attitudes toward women,” and it has progressed on this basis, to the point that not even now huge worldwide corporations can’t ignore its voice. One incident that symbolizes that is probably the example of Blizzard.

Bringing the Influence Over Even Worldwide Corporations

In March Blizzard announced a decision to delete and change a pose from its new game Overwatch, receiving criticism that “a pose that unnecessarily emphasizes female sexuality” existed in the game.

Blizzard is a game company under the helm of Activision Blizzard, and according to a market report done in 2015, they are an elite company ranked 5th among the world’s game corporations. Even that type of corporation, if they receive one driblet of criticism about the portrayal of female character, will be forced into changing things as a response.

Of course, the act of making changes to expressions in general is not a bad thing. If there’s a bigoted portrayal going on, that should probably be corrected, but I cannot bring myself to think that in this case with Blizzard that there was any problem at all with the portrayal.

I want to precede this by saying that I feel a sense of crisis in this current climate that whenever anyone screams, “there’s a problem,” that’s all it takes for a strong and forceful guilty verdict creating pressure to change it.

When you look at the current situation in which famous huge corporations are one after the other getting weak-kneed and running around like chickens with their heads cut off to put out the flames, all that’s waiting for a game industry that continues to drink down the criticism without skepticism is death. Right now the game industry has begun to turn a ship’s wheel that will guide it on a slow and drawn out suicide.

There’s No Future in a Game Industry That Continues to Swalllow Criticism WIthout Skepticism

In Overwatch, if you ask what guided Blizzard to the point they decided to change things, it was due to the criticism that claimed a pose that gave off an impression of bright activity for one female character to those who saw it, was actually emphasizing women’s sexuality.

It’s a situation where the first user who criticized the pose claimed it did not fit the character and said, “It’s an unnecessary sexual appeal,” and Blizzard unquestioningly accepted that claim. The Overwatch director is apologizing to people for making them feel uncomfortable.

If you ask what the problem is to this response, it is that a huge worldwide corporation is affirming that if it is shouted and screamed that a character takes actions that don’t suit them, they should be changed.

It was written in the post of the person who brought forth the criticism that it’s a problem that a bright and active character takes a sexual pose, and that they had no plan on touching on the poses of characters who are sexy and voluptuous.

If there was a policy that if all of the characters appearing in the game showed even a slightly sexual pose that it would be removed, I couldn’t accept it, but I would understand the consistency. But nothing was said of characters who originally were positioned to emphasize their voluptuousness.

This is equal to saying that any speech or action taken by a character that does not fit them is a sin.

The Claims That Will Allow Only One-Sided Portrayals

If Blizzard is going to remove speech and action that don’t fit characters in response and affirm these opinions, then the final resting place is going to be a world where only one side is ever allowed to be portrayed.

For instance, if there is a character who is “full bright and active energy,” then it is not to be allowed to have anything but that image, and all other images they could have would need to be changed and removed. Tracer (the criticized character in this instance) is boyish, bright and active, if she shows even the slightest bit of eroticism in a pose, it becomes a taboo image that instantly criticized.

So if a character comes to be seen in one way, any other way of looking that character becomes unforgivable. What an unimaginable hell!

A Plan to Destroy Bigotry is in the Process Becoming Bigotry Itself

So one character who houses a personality with contradictions, who surprises with their dynamism, which is said to be, in somewhat otaku vocabulary, “gap moe,” someone like “a character who gave off a gruff and mean impression, but actually also had a more gentle side” is not to be allowed.

And in this construction, are they not becoming the very stereotypes that feminists claim to be aiming for when they try to break down the long-ingrained thoughts of “like a guy/like a girl?” This character is only allowed these actions and words, pushing that view, pushing a stereotype onto the image of others is the very definition of racism itself.

Right now, the game industry is regressing back to an age where the world thought “black people = slaves.”

If diversity and dynamism is lost and only a one-sided portrayal is allowed, one day it will probably be visited upon us, a day in which the entertainment born from a storm of inexplicable criticism and shrieking will lose the charm it had and disappear.

Stand up for the criticism you should accept, but running around like a chicken with your head cut off to extinguish flames without distinguishing the validity of criticism will lead at last to a crushed and pulverized game culture.

It’s quite a strongly-worded article, don’t you think?

Report: Osaka’s Sakai City Adopts New Rule for Covering Up Adult Material in Stores, Publishers Protest

Photo by Nikkan Sports

Photo by Nikkan Sports

It has recently been reported that Sakai City of the larger Osaka metropolis in Western Japan is taking a further step in the restriction and regulation of adult material in convenience stores, prompting magazine makers to revolt and claim it is a breach of free speech rights. What follows is a translation from what I think is the best of the articles on the issue from Sankei’s livedoor NEWS site:

To sum up briefly:

  • Sakai City’s initiative to put covers over adult magazines has lead to the industry raising its voice in opposition.
  • The Japanese Magazine Publisher Association  and The Japanese Book Publishers Association have announced a protest seeking the halt of the practice.
  • The Associations claim, “It is an extreme form of censorship. It’s obvious this is deviating from the act.”

Sakai City’s idea! Publisher and magazine associations bite into the putting on of “blindfolds” on adult magazines, announce a call to halt it

April 1st, 8:17 PM 2016, Sankei Newspaper

In regards to an initiative to reduce the amount of children who see adult magazines lined up in convenience stores wherein Sakai City and Family Mart have started putting vinyl sheets on the pictures of magazine covers in order to hide them, the Japanese Magazine Publishers Association and the Japan Book Publishers Association decided to announced a call to seek the cancellation of the practice on April 1st.

At the beginning of the week, it will be displayed on both associations’ home pages and sent to the city. [Translator’s note: you can find the  announcement here in a PDF file. While I link to the Japan Book Publisher’s Association, the file is the same on both sites.]

The city and Family Mart reached an agreement on March 16th for an initiative wherein the middle portion of an adult magazine’s pictures and other things would be covered to hide it by a dark green sheet (12 centimeters tall) and it started in one store in that same city. By the next day on the 17th, it had expanded to 10 other stores within the city. The targets are the magazines in the separated section designated as “harmful publications” under Osaka’s Act for the Healthy Growth of Children and Teens.

Hearing of the initiative, the two associations sent an open letter of question to Mayor Osami Takeyama. It stated, “Covers are an important trait in deciding whether or not to buy,” and continued with eight questions such as, “Does this not touch on our right to freedom of expression?” They also asked, “Does this not deviate from the act?” because  in the same act, there is no provision for not letting people see covers.

In regards to this, Mayor Takeyama responded on 30th of the same month. “Whether to join in on the agreement or not is left up to each convenience store. As it is at in its character an agreement [between industry people and the city], it does deviate from the prefecture’s act,” he claimed and went on to say, “This does not count as a violation of freedom of speech.”

The Japan Magazine Publisher’s Association claims, “The vinyl covers are provided with public funds and it amounts to an extreme form of censorship. It is obviously deviates from the act,” and seeks to terminate the agreement between Family Mart and the city in its statement. On the other hand, the Division of the Citizens’ Activism and Cooperation says, “We want to think of a way to handle this once we’ve seen the statement.”

The Japan Magazine Publishers Association represents 88 publishers who publish magazines, while the Japan Book Publishers Association represents 423 publishers.

If you want to see in detail what it looks like, MBS News has a video on their site. MBS News also reports that in response to the associations’ statements, Mayor Takeyama said, “I’ve got the agreement of women and people who have children. I want to continue this from now on.”

Nikkan Sports also offered some quite relevant quotes. In summing up some of the reaction from the average citizen, they offered this paragraph:

A 36-year-old business man who came to the store with his fifth grade son in tow said, “I’ve been troubled when my children stare at the covers with interest,” agreeing with the initiative.  A 52-year-old man who owns his own business took one of the “blind-folded” magazines off the rack and tilted his head to the side, saying, “I think children grow by seeing these types of things here and there. I wonder if this isn’t a little ‘overprotective.'”

Nikkan also quoted an anonymous editor from an entertainment information magazine based in Tokyo who expressed a sense of crisis, saying, “A magazine’s cover is its life. If it were to spread nationwide, we’d have to think of a layout where we’d have to put catchy information on the bottom or the top that is not hidden.” It’s not stated in the article of course, but my speculation is that this one of the many entertainment/lifestyle/fashion magazines which usually don’t have adult content, but can from time to time feature sensational sex issues with famous stars posing nude or semi-nude on the covers.

Nikkan also gave some context for other cities’ regulations concerning adult magazines: “Kanagawa Prefecture has limitations for presentation among several methods, including separation, display behind the register or on the inside of the register, and the placement of a 10-inch partition. Kagawa Prefecture’s law enforces a display method that separates materials so that they are not easily seen by children and teens, and enacts visiting inspections and guidance regularly. Sakai City’s wrapping initiative is rare among the nation.”

Some Japanese government officials, such Taro Yamada of the Parliament, and Shun Otokita of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, have recently come out to protest the government deciding which publications are “harmful publications,” contending that it will eventually lead to more heavy curtailments of free speech. The same acts for the “healthy growth of teens and children” that designated what “harmful publications” are, have also been seen as the primary motivation behind the formation of gaming industry self-regulations boards such as Sofurin and CERO due to sometimes scandalous court cases involving adult material being purchased by minors.