Rape games maybe not so nice afterall

I have written, quite a while back now, how Japan’s loose and fast obsession with nymphets is something that makes my skin crawl. The sexualisation, exploitation even, of extremely young girls, sometimes even prepubescent, may be a cultural phenomenon that I should try to accept in my attempts to integrate, but as a liberal lefty some things are beyond the pale. It is true that Japan generally has a laissez faire attitude towards personal proclivities; if you want to spend your Sundays dressed as a game character walking around Yoyogi park or spend all your money on “hug pillows” then, well, bless you. It is generally a great attitude, where people don’t necessarily get judged for being weird or wanting to do odd things, but it does sadly also include the more extreme behaviours.

Now Kotaku reports that the Ethics Organization of Computer Software, the EOCS, in Japan, have decided, in a non-legally binding or official way, to curb the creation of rape-type games. People with an eye for news of the weird may have heard of a little title called “Rapelay”, reviewed on SomethingAwful and sold, then banned from Amazon outside of Japan. In it the player takes control of a character that rapes three women, or rather a mother and her two young daughters, with all manner of features like pregnancy and forced abortions. You wouldn’t believe the furore this title caused in Japan upon its release: virtually none. Japan, purveyor of perverted pornography, pretty much provides anything to anybody, whatever ails you, you’ll find it, and things much more disturbing, for sale in Japan, though you may have to delve into the deeper backstreets of Akihabara for your own particular whims. And though I have never discussed titles like “Rapelay” with Japanese people (the title makes more sense, so to speak, in Japanese combining the last katakana of “re-pu”, rape, with the first of “pu-re-i”, play) and am pretty sure most people would be horrified at the idea, the attitude most prevailing regarding dubious issues seems to be one of “well, whatever turns people on” or “as long as they have fun” or some such.

The link between explicit titles, involving rape and paedophilia, and real-life crime are hard to prove in Japan, with so many of such crimes remaining unreported. Though personally I feel paedophilia having to be reined in by law should be an issue beyond discussion, it’s a little harder when it comes to sexual fantasies, especially between consenting adults. Ero-games are usually sold in specialty shops or special areas of bigger stores, and there are fairly decent protections in place to keep such games out of the hands of children, including a built-in morality sense where most kids seem to stay away from illegal activities and products until they are of age, like alcohol and tobacco. Rape fantasies are not unique to Japan, let’s face it. But I don’t think games are an Art, they are a product and as such have some responsibilities. That said, I’m also no great fan of censorship, and riling against sexuality explicit games, especially coming from a gun-porn and violence heavy culture, is rather hypocritical. This is why I am quite glad this is a voluntary move made by a body of developers and not a law passed by the government. Will it make any difference? Perhaps not in the short term. “Rapelay” was made quite a while ago and it is only now, amidst a mini-flood of negative press and outcry from the West, that the Japanese have sat down and said to themselves “hmm, maybe rape isn’t so nice”.

Earlier an American man was arrested for possessing paedophilic manga, importing it, as part of a much larger general manga collection, into the U.S. I am in no way an expert on this, often getting rather hot-cheeked and embarrassed at the idea of it all, but I have been told it is still legal to own explicit material with minors, like such Lolicon manga, but not to sell it? Distribute it? I’m unsure. The law in Japan is often pretty vague and useless and unenforceable. But other reports have said this issue too is being looked into.

With a crackdown, voluntarily or legally, on underage sexually explicit materials and rape-type games I am pretty sure these things will be pushed underground. No longer the banners in Akihabara shouting out the underagedness of the girls in question, but maybe under the counter approaches. In a country as happily perverted as Japan, where sexuality, and explicit sexuality, in sharp contrast to the existing censorship laws, is rather exuberant and accepted, people will always try to provide for the proclivities of the extremely perverted, as long as there’s a market. But it is good to see, though sadly only after rumblings in the West, that Japan generally is looking into these sticky issues and agreeing a more responsible approach might be required.


  1. The problem is that in the end, the argument still boils down to "this disturbs me, so I want it pushed underground". Which is all fine and well, except it assumes that everybody feels the same about what is and is not disturbing. So either way you spin it, it's still censorship.

    It's illegal and unethical to torture people to death, and if you watch that stuff for entertainment, you may have a serious problem.. But does that give us the right to claim "Hostel and Saw should be illegal, underground"? Same with brutal rape vis-a-vis Irreversible. We know they're movies, it's not reality, so we accept these movies exist even though the real world activity they depict is appalling, even though we may frown upon people who "enjoy" these movies. But now throw in a child, and suddenly a ban is needed. It's just not very consistent and thus smacks of arbitrary censorship based on whoever currently gets to decide what is and isn't OK. I'd rather give everybody the right to depict anything, than worry if this or that kink or deviation from reality is currently the thought-crime du jour.

  2. I have to agree with Anonymous above.

    All sorts of crimes are used for entertainment fiction. Why should sex crimes be singled out?

    The only real problem would be if there was proof of causation of criminal behaviour from watching or playing games involving criminal activity. There is no research that shows such an effect.

  3. While I do agree censorship by law should only be a distant option at all time, I still think self-censoring of such objectionable contents should alwasy be exercised by each and every responsible citizen.

    While those entertainment products are fantasies, if you seriously enjoy watching, let alone playing, torture, rape, or any other perverted act as an "entertainment", I say you need some help.

    @RMilner: The comparison with violence in entertainment vs sex crimes is incorrect. Any given entertainments (well, most of them, at least) treat violence as a means to deliver a story, not an end in itself; they don't create fun around commiting violent acts.

    In contrast, most sexually explicit stuff depict perpetrating rape as something fun; they focus around the act of commiting it. Enjoying such is like fantasizing of raping girls. While not as bad as actually commiting the crime, it's still pretty despicable.

    Also on causation of crime, I think it can be argued in both ways. People may channel their guilty desire by these. Or, people may be encouraged to do such act by enjoying these.

    Personally, I think it goes both ways.

  4. And JC, as with the other post on lolicon, this post speaks my mind. I hope Japan starts to examine the questionable sides of their own culture and collectively put an effort to at least curb those.

    I think everyone can agree that in vast majority of Japan's entertainment products, there are sexually perverted aspects to them. They're pretty much inevitable, even. While I enjoy them, albeit not without guilt, I'd hate to see my kids enjoy them.

    Well, maybe except Pokemon.

  5. @Anonymous: I am no supporter of censorship, trust me. But at the same time I don't feel people can have the freedom to do whatever they want WITHOUT having to take responsibility for it. Like freedom of speech, yes, you can say what you want but that doesn't mean you don't have to take responsibility over what you say - people seem to conveniently forget that part.
    Therefore self-regulation seems the way to go. Lolicon and rape games ARE questionable, by any measure, and the fact software developers themselves are saying "hmm, maybe not" is a move in the right direction.
    I doubt the EOCS's decision will change much, or totally drive such games underground, but it is at the very least a realisation that these questionable games should be thought about a little more responsibly.

  6. I'm with the first commenter; I find these outcries against lolicon and other of the Japanese' more odd fetishes to be quite ridiculous. There is no scientific evidence whatsoever that this kind of "entertainment" produces real-life sexual predators. (Cue calls of "common sense says...") If there was such evidence, then yes, banning it would probably be a great idea, but until then, any and all calls for its censorship, voluntary or not, is nothing more than a silly attempt to force your opinions on others.

    @Peter Park: no matter how despicable you think someone's fantasies are, what gives you the right to force your morals on said person?

    Furthermore, the comparison with other entertainment is quite correct. Unless you'd argue that movies like Battle Royale or Ichi the killer, or games like Manhunt or Postal 2, are just using the violence to tell some other story? What about boxing or Pro Wrestling? Watching grown men batter each other for an hour seems pretty damn sick to me, yet I don't try to force that opinion on people who don't agree - if they like it, then let them watch it, as long as I don't have to.

    No matter the backstory, there is lots of mainstream entertainment where violence is the main attraction. Making a difference for rape or lolicon games just because you happen to find such content repulsive is pure hypocrisy.

  7. The arguments are beyond ridiculous. I agree with thatman and the others.

    "If you enjoy x, x, and x, you seriously need help". Wait a sec, so enjoying a game or a movie where, say, killing (and at quite a large scale sometimes) takes place automatically makes you in need of help or even worse, a criminal. Yet somehow, I see MANY, MANY, MANY people enjoying this kind of movie or game TO SOME extent. Maybe they're not gleefully waiting for someone to die, but they do enjoy the medium. So all those people need psychiatric assistance? All those people will commit or already have committed crimes of that sort or worse? Should we ban Looney Tunes and stuff like that cause there's animated violence MANY times (heavy and/or dangerous objects used, brawl fights, etc etc). Should anyone try ANY of the aforementioned, the results would be terrible, yet in this century, with all those series, kids hardly pick a knife and throw at their friend or hope to break a chair on their heads cause that's what they're showing on TV. Kids do tend to mimic, but 1. they're not as stupid as people make them and 2. there are parents that should be there to guide.

    No, that's not protecting anyone or using "common sense" and the "inherent condemnation of crime". That's retarded censorship without concrete reasoning, pure and simple. And just as easily as one argues that games like that create lolicons and encourage rape, I can argue that such games are just like any other games, a means of escapism. Like I never killed anyone even though I have watched violent cartoons (as I said, Looney and Tom & Jerry ARE violent -or is it the blood that annoys you?), played violent games, etc etc, I hardly believe that someone who plays rape games, etc, will automatically commit a crime. If at all, I'd argue that by using this route to his enjoyment, he is less likely to commit a crime (escapism, letting off steam, etc etc). Do we have any concrete results either way? No, SO your opinion is AS good as mine, sorry.

    And @Peter Park "While I enjoy them, albeit not without guilt, I'd hate to see my kids enjoy them." Oh, isn't that nicely hypocritical? Why don't you be a PARENT and give your kids a good example to follow, instead of doing what you wouldn't want them to do?

    Returning to kids, people will jump up and say "but kids do that!NOES!" Well, a rare case here, a rare case there, so? If I watch political news and I get a flash and go out in the neighborhood and shout people cause I've had enough of crappy politics, we're gonna ban political news because someone somewhere had a loose screw? Are we even serious? Unless there is concrete evidence that something is the cause of something, all of those "ban rape games/ban lolicon products/ban violent games -you may also want to look at a recent article about Germany talking about banning violent game production and such-, ban violent movies, etc etc" will be just another brick towards a fascistic regime where someone decides and enforces just because he thinks so. Yeah, good job there.

    Lastly, it's the parent's job to guide a child, it's the state's job to educate and protect people through its schools and universities, but the state cannot decide what game I'll play, what movie I'll watch and what book I'll read, unless it can prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that what I do is a crime (which unfortunately for all you pro-censorship people, it CANNOT do for any case of the media discussed so far.)

    Also, do note that the products on the banned-or-to-be list are mostly Adult Rated. So the state and some mentally challenged lobbies, in their infinite wisdom, prohibit me, an adult, who can sign contracts and vote, from getting supposedly "questionable" material, when there's not even a strong indication that the material leads to criminal activity. Ok, seriously, am I still an adult, or do I need parental supervision again?

  8. For the tl;dr people, in short, if you like being deprived of your freedom of choice for no other reason other than "some people say so therefore it must be done", have faith, if many of you gather and give up all your freedoms one by one, like you seem to be doing now, the Fourth Reich isn't that far away.

  9. In the history of this blog that is the very first time I've seen Godwin's Law used here in action.

  10. And by missing the point, you actually got the law wrong, too... What can I say... It's rather interesting being lectured by someone who supports a notion that science cannot prove in the slightest. Feel free to believe in that fallacy of yours.

  11. I largely agree that censorship in any form is a bad thing. What we're seeing here, though, is different balances between absolute views and subjective ones and the right to freely create.

    On the one hand, some of you argue that those who indulge in these types shouldn't be judged for their different tastes: their fetish for rape is as valid as someone elses for lingirie. Therefore, these types of games are as justified as others.

    Conversely, some argue that rape and child pornography is absolutely wrong and should be censored no matter what.

    I think both camps have a lot I agree with.

    In the former, I think that it is OK to leave such things up to self censorship. After all, the media is far less insidious than people make it out to be—playing a rape game won't turn someone into a rapist. They may just want to explore a preexisting fetish, which is OK. I mean, reading American Psycho didn't make me want to kill anyone.

    The latter argument has validity too, though. I mean, once we start leaving things to subjectivity, it's a sliding scale. After officially OK-ing (in a sense) this type of behaviout, what next? Will we be ignoring the plight of women in the Middle East or genital mutilation in Africa based on cultural subjectivities? I'd say not.

    These arguments are broad and I do strongly lean toward the non-censorship/subjectivity camp. But that's not to say there's great merit to the opposing. I do believe there are absolute rights and wrongs, but they are hard to balance with ideas about censorship.

    I might flesh this out further in an article at the game-criticism blog Touche, Bitches! (http://www.touchebitches.com/). Do check it out.

  12. The basis for freedom is to be able to say everything and hear everything as long as it does not thread on your counterparts' own freedom.

    Video games are a private thing. Most of them can be played alone. They are a part of privacy, and any effort to censor games is an effort against free thinking, no matter how you look at it.

    While people are playing, are they actually training themselves to commit crimes and become serial rapists, serial killers and so on ? There are no statistics proving so, therefore we should assume games are harmless unless proven otherwise.

    If you dont like one type of games, nobody forces you to buy it correct? Why should you feel concerned for other's people mental health, as long as they are harmless to society ?

    Those who start with "i am usually not in favor of censorship... but..." are just using the classical dialectic language to provide an "exception" to exercise censorship. It's a pathetic attempt to convince people.

  13. To Peter Park who wrote :
    I hope Japan starts to examine the questionable sides of their own culture and collectively put an effort to at least curb those.

    What kind of rightfulness do you have to wish/impose censorship in a culture that is not even yours ? Any we-bring-civilisation-to-the-world colon genes left in your DNA maybe ?

    Those games are not even distributed in other countries, please let Japan be the way they like and stop trying to control everything. You'll feel a lot better once you trying stopping fixing everything.

  14. I have to agree with Ekianjo, this is an issue strictly for Japanese society to deal with. From what I know Japan has far lower crime & rape statistics than most other countries where these tyes of games are not even available.

    It would be pretty rich of us to try and impose any form of code of conduct on a country, which for the most part it's citizens behave a lot better than in many other countries. We're all aware of the peculiar tastes a segment of Japanese society has but as long as most of them don't hurt those around them I don't see any reason for us to get hot & bothered about this.

  15. Has anyone read the response to this at Touche, Bitches (http://www.touchebitches.com/2009/06/lets-do-pomo-again-rape-games.html) yet? I tend to agree with their analysis. We can analyse these games to say they are OK, but only with a "but" at the end—this can't extend beyond games.

    Plus, why and how does art come in to this? Sure this makes it more complex?

  16. "In the history of this blog that is the very first time I've seen Godwin's Law used here in action."

    Well aren't you clever, JC. Here I was, thinking that the commenters on this page might actually have a point...

    Glad you could put this topic to rest with such rhetorical finesse.

  17. (after a 30-second cooldown from posting the above)

    But seriously, it would be nice of you to address the more cogent arguments here rather than just dismissing the weaker ones out of hand. Maybe defend some of the perceived flaws in your own stance?

    If my previous comment seemed mean-spirited, you must realize that there is something equally mean-spirited about ignoring all but a sentence in a post that may have been a bit rambling but seemed no less thought out than your own.

  18. To be honest, I've laid out my viewpoints in the post and a comment, and am glad people are discussing this further, from different view points. It was never my intention to convince anybody here, really. People obviously seem to get hot under the collar on this subject, but still, I'm not here to change anybody's opinion. I'm certainly not lecturing anybody, as some seem to think. Apologies if it sounded as such.
    But it does amuse me that a voluntary curb on rape games is somehow linked to the "fourth Reich", which, no matter how emotive the subject, is possibly a little overstated, no? :)

  19. To be fair, comrade JC, it is the unspoken rule of the net that when anyone below a certain intelligence rants beyond a certain amount of time on anything related vaguely to censorship, the Nazis will make a cameo appearance... I sympathise.

  20. I really think that these games should be moderated. However, it's not that easy since the culture in Japan does not really stress hard prohibition of such games.

  21. A different anonymousThursday, May 13, 2010

    Well, let's take the Godwin in a different direction.

    Let's say you make a FPS game, which is about killing Jews as a neo-Nazi, which actively rewards the player for "defending the Aryan race against Jews".

    Such a game would not just be reprehensible, but ACTUALLY illegal in Germany.

    Is it better that such laws exist? Keep in mind there are actual neo-Nazis as well as child rapists.

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