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(A pre­vi­ous ver­sion of this ar­ti­cle was post­ed with sales num­bers from Dead or Alive Xtreme 1 at­trib­uted to Dead or Alive Xtreme 2. This has been cor­rect­ed, as well as cor­rect­ing a cou­ple of gram­mar er­rors.)

The year is 1985, the month August. A bi­par­ti­san, but pri­mar­i­ly left lean­ing, group called the Parents Music Resource Committee (PMRC) formed a year ear­li­er, lead by a group of con­cerned wives spear­head­ed by Tipper Gore. Leading up to this month was a ramp up in aware­ness of sup­posed “porn rock” which con­sist­ed of lyrics and im­agery of sex, drugs, BDSM, and sup­posed Satanism, cul­mi­nat­ing in the in­fa­mous Senate hear­ings on the is­sue of how to dis­cuss this “prob­lem” one fall day 30 years ago. An un­like­ly trio in Dee Snider, Frank Zappa, and John Denver teamed up to prof­fer their view that what was be­ing con­sid­ered was cen­sor­ship in prac­tice, and in re­gards to items that would have been gov­ern­ment backed, an at­tack on free speech.

So what was on the ta­ble back then that caused such up­roar, and be­got such a cre­ative al­liance to work to pro­tect what they could of cre­ator rights? Of the items brought forth as pri­ma­ry con­cerns, we had a rat­ings sys­tem akin to movies at the time (and video games cur­rent­ly) that most law­mak­ers said they would want to be vol­un­tary, but some folks look­ing to make a name want­ed as manda­to­ry. The re­sult of this was that we got the birth of the “Parental Warning: Explicit Lyrics” that you can see to­day on CDs (those who still lis­ten to phys­i­cal copies of mu­sic at least). This would seem be­nign at first un­til ma­jor re­tail­ers like Walmart, Sears, and JC Penny would stop stock­ing record­ings with PMRC record la­bel warn­ings on them due to pres­sure.

Don’t think for a sec­ond that this wasn’t the in­tent in the first place. A group of peo­ple want­ed these prod­ucts off the mar­ket for fear of the al­leged (and largly trumped up and mis­sas­soicat­ed) ac­tions we were be­ing told they caused. They used a multi‐front war plan to try and com­bat this through the me­dia, by work­ing to ma­nip­u­late the mar­ket into cen­sor­ship via team­ing up with in­ter­est groups to push their mes­sage on the con­sumer front, and by uti­liz­ing gov­ern­men­tal pro­ceed­ings to ap­ply pres­sure where they could. In an age when com­mer­cial in­ter­net was still bud­ding, this was a mas­sive win for late 20th cen­tu­ry cul­tur­al au­thor­i­tar­i­ans.

Eric Nuzum writes in his 2001 book Parental Advisory:

…small record stores also took con­tro­ver­sial al­bums off their shelves, not be­cause PMRC sym­pa­thiz­er groups had asked them to, but be­cause they feared an­tag­o­nism from such groups.”

Some mu­sic re­tail­ers rent­ing space in sub­ur­ban malls were warned that they would be evict­ed if con­ser­v­a­tive pro­test­ers picked their stores.”

This wouldn’t be the last time at­tempts at cen­sor­ship would be foist­ed on the mar­ket in the next 30 years, pushed by in­ter­est groups with the right con­nec­tions, and worked by peo­ple try­ing to cat­a­pult their pub­lic im­age by suck­ing on like a bar­na­cle to the “right” trend­ing caus­es.

I re­mem­ber vivid­ly be­ing called a Satanic Heathen for dar­ing to roll 20 sided dice and pre­tend I was grow­ing leg­end of a ranger in Dungeons & Dragons. This was an­oth­er con­tro­ver­sy de jour that grew dur­ing this time when folks who just can’t grasp ba­sic log­ic want­ed to sup­pos­ed­ly save peo­ple from them­selves against things these crit­ics just didn’t un­der­stand.

It seems re­dun­dant at this point to point out ear­li­er video game con­tro­ver­sies. The Mortal Kombats, the Manhunts, the Mass “Virtual Orgasmic Rape” Effects. But they stand as a his­to­ry of this at­tempt to strong‐arm cul­ture.

In the in­ter­ven­ing years, once time lawyer Jack Thompson staked his ca­reer on de­fend­ing the pub­lic from some imag­i­nary harm pre­sent­ed by video games; be­com­ing a never‐ending joke in the process. He was per­ma­nent­ly dis­barred by the Florida State Supreme court back in 2008 based on his egre­gious ac­tions in work­ing to push his cause.

For a time there was a much ex­pect­ed sigh of re­lief. Over two decades of video games con­tro­ver­sy be­ing pushed by disin­gen­u­ous per­son­al­i­ty cults had abat­ed. One of the biggest pro­po­nents of the in­creas­ing­ly mytho­log­i­cal “me­dia is harm­ful” claims was drummed out of le­git­i­ma­cy, and the peo­ple re­joiced.

755128729dc71b84baae08ed5c1c81f78e3c1a2c (1)Little did the gam­ing world know that an­oth­er gag­gle of moral au­thor­i­tar­i­ans was brew­ing, and not even 10 years af­ter Jack Thompson’s dis­bar­ment we would learn again that lib­er­al zealots can be just as con­trol­ling as their con­ser­v­a­tive coun­ter­parts. Except this time we wouldn’t have the “en­thu­si­ast” gam­ing press in our cor­ner like that by­gone time.

Before tran­si­tion­ing into present day “cul­ture war” era events, I want to point out a trend. Most know this, but I feel it’s im­por­tant for this to be laid out plain­ly. Certain fig­ures thought some­thing was in­her­ent­ly “prob­lem­at­ic,” and they worked with pub­lic and pri­vate in­sti­tu­tions to re­move these items from the cul­tur­al ver­nac­u­lar even though they were not the au­di­ence for, nor were they in­tend­ing on buy­ing, these cre­ations, And with­out the cre­ators and au­di­ence for those cre­ators stand­ing up against them… they might have won more ground than their mea­ger vic­to­ries al­lowed as it stands.

It’s of no sur­prise that the rise of, es­sen­tial­ly, “not giv­ing a fuck” about these moral grand­standers came about with in­creased sat­u­ra­tion of the in­ter­net. The large­ly un­fet­tered dis­tri­b­u­tion al­lowed by the in­ter­net was a huge equal­iz­er for spread­ing cul­ture, and al­low­ing those who en­joyed their part of it to meet oth­ers who share those views or pas­sions you do. It’s a lot eas­i­er for most of us to say “shove off” to oth­ers when they know they are not alone with their ideas.

Now I want to throw some de­f­i­n­i­tions out here. This isn’t to pa­tron­ize the read­er, I as­sure you. I’m fair­ly con­fi­dent that most who read our work un­der­stand this al­ready. But so‐called cul­ture war­riors who are now cham­pi­oning the trend­ing “plights” of Social Justice and PC is­sues just don’t seem to un­der­stand these con­cepts. So why not lay this out plain as a sun lit day be­fore pro­ceed­ing.

Censorship: “The sup­pres­sion or pro­hi­bi­tion of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are con­sid­ered ob­scene, po­lit­i­cal­ly un­ac­cept­able, or a threat to se­cu­ri­ty.”

Chilling ef­fect: “A dis­cour­ag­ing or de­ter­ring ef­fect on the be­hav­iour of an in­di­vid­ual or group, es­pe­cial­ly [but not lim­it­ed to] the in­hi­bi­tion of the ex­er­cise of a con­sti­tu­tion­al right, such as free­dom of speech, through fear of le­gal ac­tion.”

Market Censorship: “The cat­e­go­ry of overt mar­ket cen­sor­ship en­com­pass­es self‐censorship by writ­ers and artists who fear that their work will not be pub­lished, ex­hib­it­ed, or dis­trib­uted.”

Self‐Censorship: “The ex­er­cis­ing of con­trol over what one says and does, es­pe­cial­ly to avoid cas­ti­ga­tion (read: be­ing rep­ri­mand­ed)”

So let’s roll this all to­geth­er like the Jackson 5, be­cause this is as easy as 1 – 2‐3. Attempts at sup­pres­sion of “po­lit­i­cal­ly un­ac­cept­able” ideas or me­dia can cre­ate a chill­ing ef­fect on cre­ators, and overt at­tempts at that can cre­ate mar­ket cen­sor­ship in which cre­ators then self‐censor them­selves for fear of be­ing rep­ri­mand­ed or worse. Sound fa­mil­iar? Because if it doesn’t, then you haven’t been pay­ing at­ten­tion to this past year and a half.

In a flash back to the 1990’s, we saw the con­tro­ver­sy with Destructive Creations game Hatred. The day it launched on Steam’s Greenlight pro­gram it got prompt­ly pulled down by Valve be­cause “[Valve] found the con­tent so dis­taste­ful that it wouldn’t want to dis­trib­ute it.” It was re­in­stat­ed short­ly af­ter when Valve co‐founder Gabe Newell caught wind of the in­ci­dent, apol­o­giz­ing to the team for what “wasn’t a good de­ci­sion.”

Xenoblade Chronicles X couldn’t avoid land­ing in the con­tro­ver­sy trap again and again. While some choic­es can be more un­der­stand­able, a la the de­ci­sion to put a bit more clothes on the char­ac­ter Lin (age 13 in the orig­i­nal re­lease, age 15 in the west) for the Western re­lease. Others choic­es, like the re­moval of the breast slid­er or ex­tra cov­er­age of un­der­wear for men and women, can seem ar­bi­trary to peo­ple who are ac­tu­al­ly the au­di­ence for this game, and who are be­com­ing in­creas­ing­ly in­censed at be­ing treat­ed like chil­dren. It should be not­ed that Xenoblade Chronicles X is rat­ed Teen by the ESRB, and if you feel that some­one 13 and above can­not han­dle a bit of cleav­age or a dude in tighty whities then I im­plore you to make sure they don’t view any TV com­mer­cials or the mag­a­zine rack at your lo­cal gro­cery store check‐out aisle. The hor­ror.

In a re­cent in­ter­view, XSEED Games Vice President Ken Barry touched on how hard it can be for Japanese de­vel­op­ers and pub­lish­ers to walk a line be­tween re­leas­ing a prod­uct for the peo­ple ac­tu­al­ly buy­ing said prod­ucts, and those who are pick­et­ing it yet not ac­tu­al­ly con­sumers of their prod­uct.

When asked about cen­sor­ing a game for lo­cal­iza­tion, he stat­ed:

That would be plac­ing us in a very, very dif­fi­cult po­si­tion be­cause cen­sor­ing it would alien­ate the very au­di­ence that we are try­ing to bring the game for, while not re­al­ly ap­peas­ing any of the crit­ics that had no pur­chase in­tent in the first place. So we’d be do­ing a lot of ex­tra work and go­ing through a lot of ex­tra trou­ble and pleas­ing no­body. So hope­ful­ly, we’re nev­er in that po­si­tion.”

Xenoblade wasn’t the only Nintendo bound prop­er­ty that got a toned down Western treat­ment. The Mature rat­ed Wii U ti­tle Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water suf­fered some cen­sor­ship in it’s west­ern re­lease as well. This time it hits a bit clos­er to the sto­ry in­tegri­ty mark than the Xenoblade ex­am­ples. This time a pro­tag­o­nist, Miu Hinasaki, is not shown in her gravure biki­ni in a flash­back scene. On the sur­face this may seem in­con­se­quen­tial, un­til you learn that Miu Hinasaki’s for­mer pro­fes­sion is a Japanese Idol. The biki­ni was an out­fit she was wear­ing as such, and the flash­back cen­tered on her feel­ing emp­ty and used, and to fans the im­pact of this scene was less­ened by the out­fit change.

Just last month Koei Tecmo an­nounced that the lat­est volleyball/BFF sim­u­la­tor spin‐off of the Dead or Alive fight­ing game se­ries was not go­ing to be re­leased for a Western au­di­ence. Despite the pro­duc­er of Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 stat­ing, “If de­mand calls for it, they may re­lease a ver­sion of the game ad­just­ed for North America” in Famitsu. It’s also of note that DoA Xtreme 1 2 sold more units in North America (360k units sold) than all oth­er ter­ri­to­ries com­bined (240k units sold).


This now delet­ed Facebook post pro­vides some in­sight as to the de­ci­sion to not re­lease this ti­tle for a Western au­di­ence, and this was clar­i­fied lat­er by Koei Tecmo of­fi­cial­ly.

One Asian games im­porter, Play‐Asia, de­cid­ed to cap­i­tal­ize on this sit­u­a­tion by let­ting fans know they could still get the re­gion free English ver­sion of the game via their store­front. This in­cit­ed the nor­mal in­ter­net furor raised by the per­pet­u­al­ly out­raged, and start­ed one of the most laugh­able fail­ures of a boy­cott this au­thor has had the plea­sure of see­ing.

SuperNerdLand con­trib­u­tor Toal Fact blunt­ly sum­ma­rizes the events as such:

Recently the lo­cal­iza­tion site Play‐Asia has ver­bal­ized its dis­dain for the DoAX3 sit­u­a­tion, pic­tured here:

As a re­sult this has, of course, caused a ma­jor shit­storm on­line. The ac­count has since been mobbed by wail­ing crit­ics — whom seem to be mad be­cause they were called by a ti­tle they tried to jok­ing­ly ap­ply to them­selves in the first place.

One of the more out­ra­geous parts about this en­tire af­fair was when a for­mer IGN and USAToday writer, as well as for­mer Bethesda, Bioware, and Ubisoft em­ploy­ee Carolyn [Last Name Withheld] seem­ing­ly threat­ened to use her con­tacts to pun­ish a Play-Asia’s PR em­ploy­ee. She lat­er backpedaled on her state­ments, in­sist­ing she was us­ing her words ex­treme­ly poor, and apol­o­gized lat­er in a twit­longer.

On the oth­er hand we have less re­pen­tant com­menters such as CitizenNapoleon, who has gone on the de­fense for the au­thor­i­tar­i­an crit­ics. He in­sists again, and again, that there is not a mar­ket for this game, de­spite the ev­i­dence to the con­trary in wide­ly avail­able sales num­bers. In his video, he is ac­cus­ing Play‐Asia PR of ly­ing about Koei Tecmo’s fear of con­tro­ver­sy in America’s po­lit­i­cal­ly cor­rect cli­mate. Also de­spite a re­cent opin­ion piece in Japan re­veal­ing they see the same is­sues, as well as state­ments made by this ron­in­works piece trans­lat­ed by Twitter user mom­bot that it was specif­i­cal­ly char­ac­ter Rose Marie that gave Koei Tecmo cold feet on a Western re­lease.

It is iron­ic, see­ing how the moral ma­jor­i­ty types are now at­tempt­ing to nor­mal­ize peo­ple who ad­mit to be­ing pe­dophiles, as ex­am­pled with Salon. But I di­gress.

Just look at Grand theft Auto 5 get­ting banned in Australia af­ter fem­i­nists protest­ed the ti­tle. Or the con­tro­ver­sy sur­round­ing Hatred’s re­lease in re­gards to at­tempts to re­move the game from Steam. Inferring that there isn’t back­lash is de­nial. Another bla­tant ex­am­ple is with the MMO Blade and Soul, and their re­moval of adult themes from a quest in an M rat­ed game. So for­give me if you are very poor­ly con­vinc­ing me there is no is­sue with cen­sor­ship at­tempts.

In what can be called the worst boy­cott ever, Play-Asia’s Twitter ac­count more than dou­bled their fol­low­er count since these events, which cur­rent­ly sits at 25.8k fol­low­ers. I know this doesn’t all equate to sales, but that is a damn good jump in mar­ket­ing pres­ence.

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Wouldn’t you know, just af­ter the Dead or Alive Xtreme 3/Play‐Asia con­tro­ver­sy, we have a con­fir­ma­tion from Street Fighter V pro­duc­er Yoshinori Ono that Japanese de­vel­op­ers are try­ing to tip‐toe around sup­posed Western sen­si­bil­i­ties when re­spond­ing to ques­tions about the self‐censorship of as­pects of the char­ac­ter Rainbow Mika.

Our ob­jec­tive with Street Fighter ’ is to start over from zero[…] We want the pro­fes­sion­al play­ers and the ca­su­al fans of the se­ries to re­turn, but we also want to reach those who have nev­er even touched a fight­ing game. So we can’t have some­thing in the game that makes peo­ple think, “This is not ac­cept­able.”

We didn’t make any change be­cause of ex­ter­nal influences[…]Those changes came up in­ter­nal­ly. We de­cid­ed to re­move that be­cause we want the biggest pos­si­ble num­ber of peo­ple to play, and we don’t want to have some­thing in the game that might make some­one un­com­fort­able.”

Probably we won’t be able to re­move every­thing that could of­fend some­one. But our goal is, at least, to re­duce that num­ber as much as pos­si­ble so that they think ‘Ok, there is this is­sue here, but it is with­in the lim­its’. We want that every­one can play and en­joy with­out wor­ry­ing about any­thing else.”

While the idea of ex­pand­ing the au­di­ence of a giv­en game or genre is an ad­mirable one, he states in his re­sponse the num­ber one rea­son cre­ators should just stick to their vi­sion in­stead of try­ing to bow to peo­ple cash­ing in on trendy “is­sues.”

Probably we won’t be able to re­move every­thing that could of­fend some­one. …We want that every­one can play and en­joy with­out wor­ry­ing about any­thing else.”

That hits the nail on the head. And when it comes to it, fans of the game — male and fe­male — have no is­sue with a char­ac­ter smack­ing her buttcheeks. In fact, that Capcom would change just this as­pect seems to re­veal that Japanese devs don’t even know what the is­sue pre­sent­ed by fem­i­nists is ex­act­ly about, as the fol­low­ers of Anita Sarkeesian’s per­son­al­i­ty cult look to have a prob­lem with about every de­pic­tion of women in games, not just a sin­gle taunt­ing smack of the ass.

So why care about all this? Why should we care if wrestling char­ac­ter can’t smack her ass with­out it be­ing op­press­ing to women, or about a mu­si­cian writ­ing on pos­si­bly taboo sub­jects? Why should we care to fight for the Fatalities, the bikini’s, and the breast slid­ers?

Because out­rages of this kind of are a soup of the day. As quick­ly as one con­tro­ver­sy wanes, an­oth­er one wax­es. It’s a cy­cle of con­cerned hang wring­ing that op­por­tunists use to prof­it, build ac­claim, and to place them­selves in a po­si­tion to dic­tate what is and is not ac­cept­able cul­ture. If cre­ators and fans of those cre­ations don’t stand up then they ac­tive­ly cede pow­er to moral au­thor­i­tar­i­ans who want to tell you what is dam­ag­ing you, when in fact they are just be­ing pre­sent­ed with ideas or con­cepts they dis­agree with, or feel un­com­fort­able around — all with nary a vi­able piece of ev­i­dence to back up their out­ra­geous claims.

If you do not stand up to these types of peo­ple then it could very well be some­thing you en­joy next. The fick­le dice of out­rage could term your fan­dom a prob­lem next. It doesn’t mat­ter if you land a frag­ile piece of elec­tron­ics on a damn comet, if you wear the wrong shirt (that was gift­ed to him by a fe­male friend, FWIW). As gamers found out in August 2014… any group can be tar­get­ed next.

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What can be done about all this? Well, be­sides just stand­ing up to the cul­tur­al bul­lies, and say­ing “NO”? Reach out to the com­pa­nies you love. Let them know you love their prod­uct as is, that your mon­ey wants to go to their cre­ations how they want to cre­ate them, and not how peo­ple who don’t plan on play­ing the game first place want them.

E‐mails are great in this as­pect. Even Twitter and Facebook en­gage­ment can let a com­pa­ny know that their fan­base ap­pre­ci­ates what they are do­ing.

Some gamers are try­ing to go a step far­ther with the cre­ation of the “1 Million Gamers Strong For Japanese Gaming” pe­ti­tion. Their aim is to let these Japanese de­vel­op­ers know that the ac­tu­al con­sumers of their prod­ucts don’t want these prod­ucts changed for some er­ro­neous con­cept of go­ing against “Western sen­si­bil­i­ties.” While I think the “1 Million” mark may be try­ing to over­shoot a rea­son­able goal, I still ap­plaud the idea be­hind the pe­ti­tion and the at­tempt to let Japanese devs know we love them just the way they are.

So what is the moral of our sto­ry here to­day? Just say no. When some­one tells you that you are a hor­ri­ble per­son for en­joy­ing a cer­tain form me­dia, just stand up and say no. As we’ve seen, the cur­rent “cul­ture war” isn’t the first time we’ve seen moral ar­biters try to dic­tate what we should con­sume, and it sure as hell won’t be the last.


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Josh Bray
Josh has worked in IT for over 15 years. Graduated Broadcasting school in 2012 with a fo­cus on A/V pro­duc­tion. Amateur pho­tog­ra­ph­er with a pas­sion to make things work… by any means nec­es­sary. Editor‐in‐Chief and do‐er of tech things at SuperNerdLand