Jump to content
Slate Blackcurrant Watermelon Strawberry Orange Banana Apple Emerald Chocolate Marble
Slate Blackcurrant Watermelon Strawberry Orange Banana Apple Emerald Chocolate Marble
sanahtlig

[Poll + Discussion] Censorship in Gaming: Is self-censorship actually censorship?

Is self-censorship in gaming actually censorship, and should it be opposed?  

58 members have voted

This poll is closed to new votes
  1. 1. Is self-censorship in gaming, especially localizations, actually censorship? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-censorship

  2. 2. Should self-censorship in gaming be opposed?



Recommended Posts

I had an extended discussion with Decay, writer for Fuwanovel's official blog, on the topic of self-censorship and whether anti-censorship activists are misusing the term or are perhaps "bullying developers" without a valid reason.  My own position is well-documented, but I thought it'd be interesting to explore an alternative viewpoint.  The discussion began with the following tweet.

A native Twitter thread of the exchange can be found here.  What follows is a re-formatted transcript of our discussion.

Quote

 

sanahtlig: How would you define self-censorship?

sanahtlig: Do you believe in definitions that inherently contain a value judgement (this is right/acceptable)?

Decay: I can tell you that whatever the definition is, it's not "change a character so they look less fucking stupid"

sanahtlig: So your definition includes a value judgement of whether the ultimate result appeals aesthetically to you?

Decay: No, my definition includes a value judgement of whether the ultimate result appeals aesthetically to the creators.

sanahtlig: How would you distinguish changes made to improve the result (e.g., editing) vs. those made to appeal to political sensibilities?

sanahtlig: And what about when 3rd parties are making or motivating the changes, as happens with translations?

Decay: 1) Those aren't the only two options, 2) I tend to give the developers the benefit of the doubt when changes seem sensible.

Decay: The large majority of the time those changes [made by localization companies] are approved or even requested by the developers.

sanahtlig: What relevant options or situations am I ignoring?

Decay: Making changes to better appeal to your target audience, for one.

sanahtlig: If a change is approved by or requested by the developer, does that automatically make it "not censorship"?

Decay: Uhhh, yes? Creators have the right to design their products in the way they see best and shouldn't be criticized for it.

Decay: Unless it's an extremely foolish decision, I mean. I'm talking about the creative process itself.

sanahtlig: So any change made to better appeal to the target audience, assuming that it's successful, would be considered "not censorship"?

sanahtlig: How would you view the activities of 4Kids?  They appear to have successfully appealed to their target audience. [Info on 4Kids for reference]

Decay: I don't know everything about their stuff but I have no problem with the liberal changes I've seen them make.

Decay: Appealing to American children is often a very different process from appealing to Japanese children, after all.

sanahtlig: This is more or less a dismissal that the broad category of "self-censorship" is undesirable. Certainly a controversial opinion.

Decay: Erm, I think you'd find in the wider world that your opinion is the far more controversial one.

Decay: People who complain about censorship all the time tend to be in the vocal minority.

Decay: They wish to bully developers into delivering an experience that fits their own vision of what games should be.

Decay: It's ironic how anti free speech the anti-censorship crowd really is.

sanahtlig: English consumers of foreign entertainment often want the "original experience", minus the language barrier.

sanahtlig: Another issue is that localization companies often aren't very transparent about the changes they make.

sanahtlig: They want the best of both worlds: appealing to their target audience AND avoiding criticism from those who want the original [experience].

sanahtlig: Those who care about censorship want to know which companies uphold their values. Yet companies try to withhold this info.

Decay: Eh, that's questionable [that English consumers want the original experience]. [Fire Emblem] Fates seemed to do rather well despite all the cries of censorship.

sanahtlig: What % of buyers do you think knew about the changes? And what % bought the game, despite the changes, due to no alternative?

Decay: Impossible to know, not sure how much it matters.

sanahtlig: It matters if you want [Fire Emblem] Fates sales to refute the observation that consumers often want the original [experience].

Decay: If consumers actually cared, they'd do research and find out. The fact that they are oblivious means it's unimportant to them.

 

Do you agree with Decay?

Those interested in exploring my viewpoint can browse my censorship coverage at the censorship tag on my blog.  I also have a project that documents censorship of English eroge.
Eroge with a censored official English release, a comprehensive list

This was posted here with Decay's consent.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 minutes ago, Decay said:

The first question is ridiculous. The question isn't whether self-censorship is censorship, the question is whether most of these practices are actually self censorship in the first place.

The guy you retweeted seemed to think that censorship that wasn't required by the government wasn't censorship.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

From a pragmatic point of view, I see self-censorship a good way to appeal to a more generalized market without stirring up trouble and negative attention (both politically and socially). And in theory increase sales.

 

But from another point of view, self-censorship is like... a bullied child getting his wallet out and ready to hand over to the nearest bully, before being asked for it. (lazy and weird example, but seems apt atm. :P ) There has been so much noise made over the last few years about sexuality and gender, I seriously believe self-censorship is being done primarly to avoid rocking the boat.

Ultimately, it's the devs responsibility to not buckle, otherwise it turns into a domino effect - and no amount of consumer noise will matter.

So yes, self-censorship is censorship - not a design choice. Decay alludes the anti-censorship crowd as bullies, where as I see them as anti-bullies - against those that would have devs cowed even before the development process (design control OUT of the hands of the devs and instead in the hands of the intolerant).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Decay said:

Okay? Because obviously he doesn't see it as any form of censorship.

I also asked you this question specifically, and you responded as follows.

Quote

 

sanahtlig: If a change is approved by or requested by the developer, does that automatically make it "not censorship"?

Decay: Uhhh, yes? Creators have the right to design their products in the way they see best and shouldn't be criticized for it.

Decay: Unless it's an extremely foolish decision, I mean. I'm talking about the creative process itself.

 

I thought my title was an accurate condensation of the opposition viewpoint you appear to be endorsing.  Is that incorrect?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know how you extrapolated that meaning from what I said. I said it wasn't censorship. As in, any form of censorship, self-induced or otherwise. I'm not saying that self-censorship never happens or that we haven't seen it in the VN scene, just that most of what we see people getting their panties in a bunch over doesn't actually qualify and isn't worthy of criticism.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Decay said:

I don't know how you extrapolated that meaning from what I said. I said it wasn't censorship. As in, any form of censorship, self-induced or otherwise. I'm not saying that self-censorship never happens or that we haven't seen it in the VN scene, just that most of what we see people getting their panties in a bunch over doesn't actually qualify and isn't worthy of criticism.

Lets say someone beats you every time you talk - after awhile you learn to not talk, right?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Okay, Sanah asked me to compile what I wrote in a private message (which aren't at all long, they're all just the right size) into a forum post. But to be honest I tried and I just don't have the strength to do it right now, so I'll just post my messages. Have fun everybody, it's a mess. I write a lot more loosely in PMs than I do on forum posts.

Quote

Censorship is the suppression of harmful material. Adjusting material for different markets doesn’t have to be censorship. Covering a pair of breasts because a different market values different things and you’re aiming for sales isn’t censorship. It’s a business reality. Covering a pair of breasts because you don’t want to put out harmful material is censorship. The difference is subtle but important. A lot of the time I prefer female warriors in a non-eroge RPG fully armoured instead of having their breasts shown purely for in-world realism reasons, and I know quite a few people have the same opinion. Developers shifting for these reasons is only natural. Many people over-reach when talking about censorship. There are some serious censorship issues going on, but when people start talking about trivialities, as in I can’t believe some people think ‘Prince of Darkness’ is a censored name for ‘Satan’, when people start talking about trivial matters like that then it devalues the argument a little. Just my 2c. Because censorship refers to the meaning behind changes, and not just changes that have occurred, sometimes picking out censorship from what's not censorship is a bit tricky. It's like the difference between offensive and respectful, offense referring to the reaction of an observer and respect talking about the intent of the person performing an action. Again here, because respect refers to intent, sometimes it's actually quite difficult to know when someone is or isn't being respectful, but a lot of people will assume and assume incorrectly.

Zulia's chest being toned down COULD be censorship, but it could also be just responding to different markets. If I were playing an RPG, my first reaction to seeing armour like hers is "that's not very effective". Of course my reaction would be different if I were playing something like Raidy.

Censoring breasts that don’t have nipples shown is pointless. So my first reaction to Isabelle’s breasts being covered isn’t ‘censorship’.

Take Nier, for example. The company in question changed the main protagonist from a cute anime boy to a hulking behemoth for the Western release. They did this not for censorship reasons, but because of a localisation decision - they believed this is what the West wants. BUT! If that main protagonist had been a woman, I can guarantee you the initial design would have been sexualised. Then if they had applied the same localisation process, the Western version would be very UNSEXUALISED. People would have then screamed 'censorship', when in actuality that had little to do with it. This is part of the reason why the word 'censorship' is losing its meaning in the gaming community, and its importance. Because people are exaggerating how prevalent it is, and not applying the correct meaning, people are starting to roll their eyes and say 'for Heaven's sake' when it really is an issue worth talking about. The twitter Decay retweeted is a prime example of this. It's sad, TBH

As for localisations - you're not correct in that English fans want an 'original experience' minus the language barrier.

The fan-translation community would love an original experience, but they're 'weeaboo' up the wazoo

4kids localise the shit out of their stuff, and they sell marvelously well. The fan community gets up in arms but they're a very vocal minority compared to the number of people 4kids reach.

And it goes both ways as well. Are you familiar with 'Frozen'?

As in Disney's Frozen?

2 versions of the song 'Let it go' topped the charts in Japan. But have you compared the 2 versions?

While the overall meaning was the same, it was completely different. They even eradicated all reference to 'passing gas' in the song, presumably because that's not something princesses would sing about. Which meant the animation and the lyrics didn't match in certain places. Did it matter? Nup. 2 versions topped the charts.

Funimation and Dragonball Z, now that's a show that was censored and changed quite dramatically. The result? Massive hit in the West. Once again, the SMALL fan community were up in arms about the changes, but the larger consumer community were quite happy with the product.

And Fire Emblem Fates, while people are (once again) up in arms over changes, Conjueror was quite outspoken when he said the English version is better than the Japanese version. If this is the case, then who (other than fans of the original version or the Japanese community) would mind that it's changed? If people are getting a BETTER product, then why would the larger community be up in arms?

This censorship and localisation thing is quite complex, TBH. That's why it's best when there are MULTIPLE translations or localisations of a product so the fans can choose which one suits them best. Of course that's impractical

Applying it back to the topic: 

Q1 - Is self-censorship actually censorship? 
A - Yes

Q2 - Should self-censorship in gaming be opposed?
A - No. It depends on context.

Additional question - Is everything the community think is censorship always censorship? 
A - No. Care is needed here.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
22 minutes ago, Decay said:

I don't know how you extrapolated that meaning from what I said. I said it wasn't censorship. As in, any form of censorship, self-induced or otherwise. I'm not saying that self-censorship never happens or that we haven't seen it in the VN scene, just that most of what we see people getting their panties in a bunch over doesn't actually qualify and isn't worthy of criticism.

Your response seems to imply--no, argue--that what I and others would term "self-censorship" in gaming isn't actually censorship.  Any change approved or consented to can't be censorship, and they're almost always approved.

The 4Kids situation is a classic example of what anti-censorship advocates rail against as "self-censorship".  You seemed to imply that this wasn't censorship, in your view.  We can argue terminology here, but we seem to fundamentally disagree on what censorship is, and particularly whether it's undesirable.  My title and poll questions don't judge that.  I'm simply trying to gauge the beliefs of spectators.  That includes their beliefs about what words mean, to some extent.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Just now, sanahtlig said:

Your response seems to imply--no, argue--that what I and others would term "self-censorship" in gaming isn't actually censorship.  An change approved or consented to can't be censorship, and they're almost always approved.

The 4Kids situation is a classic example of what anti-censorship advocates rail against as "self-censorship".  You seemed to imply that this wasn't censorship, in your view.  We can argue terminology here, but we seem to fundamentally disagree on what censorship is, and particularly whether it's undesirable.  My title and poll questions don't judge that.  I'm simply trying to gauge the beliefs of spectators.  That includes their beliefs about what words mean, to some extent.

The problem with this is that obviously all forms of self censorship are censorship. Even I agree with this. The poll is worthless.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, Decay said:

 

The problem with this is that obviously all forms of self censorship are censorship. Even I agree with this. The poll is worthless.

*shrug* I could've asked asked a question about 4Kids I suppose.  That's what I think the question implies, at least, to anyone who's read the Twitter conversation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I honestly am not fully aware of what changes 4kids have made to all of their shows or even all the shows they've licensed. They license stuff to air in the morning on american broadcast TV stations, right?

My thoughts on 4kids are incomplete and uninformed. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Decay said:

I honestly am not fully aware of what changes 4kids have made to all of their shows or even all the shows they've licensed. They license stuff to air on mornings on american broadcast TV stations, right? 

From my wiki link provided as a reference inside the discussion transcript (obviously you didn't have this at the time):

Quote

 

The management of 4Kids Entertainment has stated that it seeks to "localize anime so children in English-speaking countries will understand it...",[67] judging that localization is necessary in order for these titles to be profitable.[67] For most titles, the editing 4Kids performs falls into a few broad categories – 4Kids may seek to "Americanize" a program by changing character names, dialog, music, food, or stereotypes which would be unfamiliar or even offensive to an American audience, as in the Pokémon series, where rice balls are changed into American food such as jelly doughnuts or submarine sandwiches. The company also tends to replace materially suggestive objects such as cigarettes with lollipops, guns with water guns, and may edit religious symbols such as crosses. Content may otherwise be deemed too violent or suggestive for American children. In an interview with Al Kahn, former CEO of 4Kids, when asked to respond to critics of how they edit anime, his reply was, "..if [anime fans] want this programming to come to the United States, then they're going to have to accept the fact that it's going to be available in two styles."[67] While this was true for a short while, as the first several episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh! were released on home video in an uncut format, the company has generally only released edited versions of its programs.

A March 2006 study by the Parents Television Council on violence in children's television programs claimed that the 4Kids dub of Shaman King was still too violent for children.[72] L. Brent Bozell also pointed out the 4Kids-dubbed Shaman King in one of his weekly column as an example of children's media he perceived as having undue "cultural landmines".[73]

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
50 minutes ago, Suzu Fanatic said:

From a pragmatic point of view, I see self-censorship a good way to appeal to a more generalized market without stirring up trouble and negative attention (both politically and socially). And in theory increase sales.
But from another point of view, self-censorship is like... a bullied child getting his wallet out and ready to hand over to the nearest bully, before being asked for it. (lazy and weird example, but seems apt atm. :P ) There has been so much noise made over the last few years about sexuality and gender, I seriously believe self-censorship is being done primarly to avoid rocking the boat.
Ultimately, it's the devs responsibility to not buckle, otherwise it turns into a domino effect - and no amount of consumer noise will matter.
So yes, self-censorship is censorship - not a design choice. Decay alludes the anti-censorship crowd as bullies, where as I see them as anti-bullies - against those that would have devs cowed even before the development process (design control OUT of the hands of the devs and instead in the hands of the intolerant).

...Agree. And Disagree.

Self censorship is really like that, like handing the wallet before anybody asked for that.
But self censorship is really rooted in our culture.

You can't write f.e. racist, or hardcore sexist stuff. Or attack anybody personally, or things like that. Even if you want to, you self censore yourself to 'fit the norms' and not to offend anybody.

Is it bad? Kinda. Is it avoidable? No way. Wat do? Get over it.

Nothing we can do. Self censorship is a thing and it will be growing.


On the other hand, with self censorship we can get much better VNs - sexless. So more money for interesting CGs, as opposed to ero ones, no moodbreaking, cringy explicit alien sex descriptions, and overall much better experiences. So self censorship can have a positive results.
EDIT: and like in the first tweet - no fan servicey pointless boobs. New version, while censored, is much better.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

tl;dr only looks at the picture in a twitter link in OP. if that is called "self censorship" then i dont mind that it would be censored (but i can revert the changes at any point of time for some reasons)

i want to play, not have a fanservice!!!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 minutes ago, WinterfuryZX said:

I don't mind minor aestethical changes but I'm completely against structural script changes like Ace Attorney or Banshee Last Cry. I voted without thinking too much about it...

Man, I LOVE the job the translators did with Ace Attorney. Sure, they might have taken the localisation too far with the 'set in America' thing, and a few jokes were censored, but the degree of talent it took to properly relay the quirky feeling of the Japanese version to the English audience is pretty special. Because of this, I'll forgive them some of the problems they introduced.

I played the fan-translation of Investigations and it's not as good as the official localisations of the rest of the series.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
25 minutes ago, Vorathiel said:

...Agree. And Disagree.

Self censorship is really like that, like handing the wallet before anybody asked for that.
But self censorship is really rooted in our culture.

You can't write f.e. racist, or hardcore sexist stuff. Or attack anybody personally, or things like that. Even if you want to, you self censore yourself to 'fit the norms' and not to offend anybody.

Is it bad? Kinda. Is it avoidable? No way. Wat do? Get over it.

Nothing we can do. Self censorship is a thing and it will be growing.


On the other hand, with self censorship we can get much better VNs - sexless. So more money for interesting CGs, as opposed to ero ones, no moodbreaking, cringy explicit alien sex descriptions, and overall much better experiences. So self censorship can have a positive results.

It's really a subjective matter - and really is dependent on the situation. Preventing negatives is reasonable (harm, harassment, and impedance of others), but when "fitting the norms" start to stretch out further and further - over matters that are very subjective - it turns more into a tool, and less of a shield.

Though I agree it's unavoidable - but as a addendum, I'll add it will eventually reach a unhealthy level at some point in time if left unchallenged.

And true, it can produce many positive results - but some of those are backhanded, and we should be careful not to be too grateful (or get to used to) for receiving scraps of food, instead of nothing at all :makina: (another weird example, but meh)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
27 minutes ago, Decay said:

I honestly am not fully aware of what changes 4kids have made to all of their shows or even all the shows they've licensed. They license stuff to air in the morning on american broadcast TV stations, right?

My thoughts on 4kids are incomplete and uninformed. 

Here's some examples of them removing guns from YuGiOh!:

Spoiler

 

Aaaand then there's shit like what they did to One Piece

Spoiler

Spoilers

Spoiler

 

Aaaand...these

402pxonepieceedit_thumb1.jpg?w=326&h=484

sd_helmeppo_thumb1.jpg?w=458&h=175

60sd_lollipop11.jpg


4Kids is fucking terrible.  I don't know why they couldn't just license anime that didn't already need to be censored in order to make it onto western TV channels for kids.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

IMO if any changes are done to a game to make it less objectionable by whatever audience it's being adapted for, it's censorship. However, not all changes done to an adaption are for the purpose of making it less objectionable; some are done just to fit the audience better - and that may or may not include censoring.

It's hard to determine without directly asking the persons involved in the making of an adaption whether a change was made for censorship reasons or to fit the audience better. For example, some fighter girl's armor might have looked pretty revealing in the original game but was replaced with armor that covers the body better in an adaption for the Western market. This could be due to censorship, or it could be simply because the people making the adaption thought Westerners would prefer the characters to have more practical armor that actually looks like it protects them, instead of leaving them exposed. 

I'd say it depends, sometimes the changes can obvious enough to determine that they were made due to censorship reasons. If an adaptation removes or totally changes many morally-questionable scenes it can be reasonably ascertained that this was done for censorship reasons. But if they do a few tweaks here and there like changing some characters' armor to be less revealing to better fit the audience, I'm not gonna hang them for it.

Personally, though, I generally prefer adaptations to be as close to the original as possible. Thus, whether it's censorship or changing the game to fit the market better, I would likely still favor a more faithful adaptation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Answered yes and yes.

I also would like to add that while censoring a game might achieve better sales on consoles (not sure). That sure isnt the case for PC Visual Novels and japanese games in general.

 

Every.Single.One of them had abysmal sales when compared to uncensored/untouched VNs.

"But br4zil, how can you compare that?"

For games in series, its rather easy.

Agarest 2 had abysmal sales:

50k from Agarest 2 versus 70k from Agarest Zero (the one game considered to be the worst out of the 3) and the almost 200k from Agarest 1, it also doesnt help that Agarest 2 has a 600+ posts topic about the censorship as the top topic on its forum.

Both Mugen Souls sold poorly (less than 20k sales in 2 years for the first game) and now Mugen Souls Z is barely reaching 1000 sales on release day.

I suppose getting review bombed because of censorship really doesnt help selling the game well on steam.

Meanwhile, even games like Conception 2 and other "unknown" are getting 10k+ sales easily on release day.

But on the topic of self censorship, we have the most famoust case of If My Heart Had Wings and i suppose everyone knows about that colossal mess.

As for the rest, we every VN under the sun having a uncensor patch, alot of cases being made officially by the company. I think thats the best way to handle these things if the game/vn cant be released 100% uncensored because of adult material.

 

Anyway, all of these numbers might be just some huge coicidence, but having every game/vn that gets majorly censored not selling well cant be that much of a coicidence.

 

Heck, there are people who now preemptively ask if X game/vn will be censored on steam and curators doing just that, its specially true for the censorhappy Ghostlight published games.

 

On Anime front i cant comment much about it, as here in brazil we never got to have (as far as i am aware) the "4kids" treatment.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 minutes ago, br4zil said:

But on the topic of self censorship, we have the most famoust case of If My Heart Had Wings and i suppose everyone knows about that colossal mess.

I do remember how for a good year it was the best selling VN ever in the west until Steins;Gate toppled it (pre-steam), and it's still a strong contender on Steam.

How many bundles has Agarest 1 been in compared to the sequels? Also, this is purely personal opinion, but I thought Agarest was boring, poorly designed trash and skipped the sequels after playing the first and coming to hate it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...