Altering Content and Self-Censorship Pleases No-One

Yesterday, DRM-free digital distribution platform GOG.com posted a lengthy interview with localisation producer Tom Lipschultz and team leader Ken Berry from XSEED Games, whose most recent localisation project Zwei has recently been released on GOG’s storefront.

Lipschultz in particular has been known up until the time of writing as someone who claims to hold a “zero-tolerance” policy towards content edits made during localisation of Japanese titles for Western audiences, but a number of his comments throughout the interview gave a few people pause.

And it’s worth talking about those points in detail, because some of what Lipschultz says unfortunately appears to demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of where his priorities should be as part of a successful and prolific localisation company that has brought a number of beloved franchises to the West.

Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash

The core of many Japanese game fans’ concerns stems from this extract of the interview, a comment from Lipschultz:

“Recently, however, with all the news that’s come out about systemic sexual harassment and abuse in Hollywood and elsewhere, as well as the issues being faced by the LGBTQ community in this modern political climate, it’s become much harder to justify maintaining a zero-tolerance approach – and with a lot of Japanese games starting to really push the boundaries of “good taste” more and more, the looming threat of censorship has become much larger and more imposing than ever, and certainly more of a beast to fight on multiple levels. And it’s really not a battle I WANT to fight – I’d rather just localize games that everybody can enjoy!”

Ys Origin

The accusations of sexual abuse and harassment from Hollywood are big news at the time of writing, with Miramax founder and film producer Harvey Weinstein being public enemy number one in this regard. The Twitter hashtag campaign #MeToo has also encouraged victims of rape and sexual harassment to come forward and tell their stories without fear — although, as with any sort of social media campaign like this, it’s always difficult to verify whose stories are genuine and whose are accusations that have been exaggerated, embellished or even outright fabricated.

That these things are going on can’t be denied, but I can’t help but find myself thinking “what on earth does this have to do with video games?” It’s hard to know exactly what Lipschultz meant by games that “push the boundaries of ‘good taste'” because he refused to give specific examples on the grounds that he didn’t want to badmouth his competitors, but considering  what he said and attempting to relate it to events such as Weinstein’s debauchery and #MeToo only really leads to one conclusion: the fallacious assumption that exposure to content that “objectifies” or makes a joke out of fictional characters will, in turn, lead to the lessening of respect towards real-life equivalents of those characters. To put it more simply, the assumption that video games are inextricably tied with sexist and/or homophobic attitudes.

Mystery Chronicle: One Way Heroics

A commonly cited piece of research in supposed support of this claim at the time of writing is the Frontiers in Psychology study from 2017 by Laurent Bègue,  Elisa Sarda,  Douglas A. Gentile,  Clementine Bry and  Sebastian Roché. This study, which made use of a random, stratified sample of 13,250 11-19 year olds from Grenoble and Lyon in France, claimed that it “showed for the first time in a large representative sample that video game exposure was related to sexism, controlling for television exposure, religiosity, and other relevant factors. [The] results suggest that a traditional source of influence (religiosity) as well as new digital media may share some similar features on sexism.”

However, as Christopher Ferguson from Psychology Today points out, there are significant flaws in the study, most notably the fact that the measure of “sexism” was confined to a single question asking how much participants agreed with the statement that “a woman is made mainly for making and raising children”, and that the results of the survey were the subject of significant hyperbole rather than being genuinely statistically significant; in fact, the results for religious influences were more significant than those for video games, but this was not the aspect focused on.

Gal*Gun Double Peace

Ferguson also notes that journalists tend to make the problem worse, with headlines and articles implying causality (“video games cause sexism”) rather than correlation (“sexism is more common in those who play video games”) as well as exaggerating the actual results, which Ferguson describes in simple terms as “if you had to guess which teenagers were sexist, and the only thing you knew about them was their gaming habits, your chance of being right would be about 0.49 percent better than chance alone.”

In other words, there remains little in the way of convincing evidence that media such as video games “cause” sexism or even reinforce sexist attitudes, and in fact the claims of “objectification” are often greatly exaggerated by critics of certain games without considering the context of the content they are talking about, the intention of the original creators and who is actually consuming and enjoying this content.

Let’s take a few examples that we’ve previously covered here on MoeGamer to highlight this.

Dungeon Travelers 2

Many Western gamers only became aware of Sting and Atlus’ excellent Dungeon Travelers 2 after Phil Kollar of Polygon posted a judgemental news article/opinion piece claiming that “Atlus can do better than this creepy, porn-lite dungeon crawler”.

However, Dungeon Travelers 2 proved to not only be an excellent game, but absolutely justified in its use of ecchi content. The provocative scenes that followed boss fights were used as a reflection of the player overcoming a challenge and understanding their foe — nudity is often used in a symbolic manner in Japanese work to demonstrate “exposing” oneself in a more metaphorical sense, in this case exposing one’s tactical and strategic weaknesses. Moreover, the bosses’ sexual comments towards the protagonist Fried were used as a means of reflecting that particular monster’s culture and attitudes towards mating rituals, which is relevant and interesting to the protagonist not as a hormonal teenager, but because he is a scientist; and the intimate scenes between the protagonist and the all-female cast were pretty self-explanatory — a way of demonstrating their developing and escalating relationships.

Senran Kagura Estival Versus

The Senran Kagura series is one that has often taken a beating at the hands of ill-informed Western journalists, many of whom are pretty up-front about the fact that they spend very little time with the game prior to branding it sexist trash, with some even going so far as to make horrific accusations about the fanbase, including, as former Vice writer Mike Diver did, the suggestion that if they weren’t playing these games they’d be “groping a stranger on the bus”.

However, as my numerous articles on Senran Kagura have repeatedly demonstrated, there is a lot more to this series than just tits and ass — and, moreover, it is a series regularly praised by straight and queer people alike for its inclusivity, sex-positivity and acceptance of homosexuality. Check out this wonderful essay for just one example of what the series means to a gay woman; I’ve shared this article a number of times in the past, but it’s still one of the best things on the subject I’ve read, so it deserves even more pairs of eyes on it.

Criminal Girls

And Criminal Girls, a game that will net you an instant ban from supposedly “progressive” gaming forum and NeoGAF replacement ResetEra for even mentioning, uses its BDSM-style content as one of many ways in which that game reflects its core theme of trust and understanding. The game as a whole also deals with the long-term psychological effects of mental, physical and sexual trauma, and does so in a fascinating, sensitive manner.

These three examples — and many others like them — are often accused by the mainstream press as being exploitative, titillating or pornographic, typically with the commentator in question demonstrating little to no awareness of the actual content of these games. Over the course of my lengthy explorations of each of them, it has become extremely apparent that the presence of their more provocative content is always justified in terms of creative intent. Not only that, many of them are enjoyed by women and the LGBT community as well as the great straight white male devil.

Nekopara

With all this in mind, these comments from Lipschultz were a bit of a concern:

“And if there’s any positive to be gained by doing so, it’s that the presence of offensive content in localized titles will spark much-needed discussion about those topics, and hopefully lead to a dialogue on the state of the industry in Japan, possibly even resulting in creators being a little more cognizant of people outside their tight-knit circle of acquaintances when designing new titles from here on out.”

This is a common argument among the more vocal “progressive” commentators who typically make the biggest fuss about this sort of material — the claim that they’re “starting a conversation” rather than trying to tear anything down or take things away. Here, Lipschultz appears to be arguing in favour of Japanese creators deliberately steering away from material that might prove controversial — removing the content at its “source”, as it were, rather than leaving it to localisers to make these decisions.

Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed

He later clarified that he was supposedly not arguing in favour of “self-censorship”, noting he believes “games are a reflection of society, and I think if society gets its act together, people will stop WANTING to stir the pot, so to speak” — but the fact is, as we’ve seen with the previously cited examples and many others like them, this content often isn’t there simply to “stir the pot”. It is, in many cases, trying to say something — or simply incorporating this content as part of its overall aesthetic, not to be provocative, but just because that was the creator’s vision.

Noting that there needs to be a “dialogue on the state of the industry in Japan” suggests that there is something wrong with what Japan is doing… but it’s not really our place here in the West to say whether or not that is the case, particularly when much of this sort of commentary on Japan completely ignores the existence of specialist markets such as those for otome games or BL titles as well as the inherent, unacknowledged progressiveness of many Japanese offerings in general… not to mention how well explicitly sexual content is used in titles like Grisaia, Ne no Kami and Nekopara to enhance the experience and narrative rather than just purely for titillation.

The Labyrinth of Grisaia

Lipschultz subsequently responded in more detail to the dismay from many members of the community in a separate post in an attempt to clarify his position:

“No matter how you may feel about controversial content in games, you have to admit that on occasion, content comes up that — if someone asks, “why is that in there?” — the only real explanation anyone can come up with is, “for the hell of it.” It doesn’t fit the mood or feel of the game in any way, and seems to have been included solely for the sake of stirring the pot.

“Now, there may be a deeper reason for its inclusion, which is part of why I feel it’s necessary to always honor this content in localization. A lot of times, though, it’s there before the creator didn’t know any better — maybe he/she saw it somewhere once and thought it was neat-looking, so he/she included it in the game without any further research whatsoever as to the possible subtler meaning behind it.

“However, I believe more often than not, the real reason it’s there is because the creator simply wanted to see how much he/she could get away with.

Corpse Party

“In other words, it exists as a DIRECT CHALLENGE to censorship culture. It’s there because the creator knows all of his/her content is at risk of being altered or removed, and wants to see just how far he/she can push things before that happens.

“What I want to see is a world where there’s no need to test the waters like this; a world where creators know their content is never going to be altered or removed due to its offensive or salacious nature, so they no longer feel the need to add little things like that just to see if they can get away with them. Basically, I want a world where creators feel comfortable adding controversial content to their work whenever they feel it’s appropriate to do so, without worry.

“…And it would also be nice if creators educated themselves a bit more about stuff they don’t understand, so they stop throwing in symbology without knowing what it actually represents. That way, if they still choose to include it, they do so with full awareness of its meaning, and can effectively defend it should the decision to include it be challenged.”

Dungeon Travelers 2

The trouble with Lipschultz’s statements here is that it is not really the place of the localisers to question whether or not that content “should” be there, the reason for its inclusion or whether or not the original creator understands the symbolism they’ve used. As we’ve seen with the previous three examples I gave — some of the more controversial localised Japanese releases in recent memory — context is often ignored in favour of ill-informed kneejerk responses in an attempt to appear “progressive”. After all, it’s much easier to point at a game and say “this game has pretty girls, it is objectifying and exploitative” than to delve into the game in more detail, explore its narrative and understand its cultural context. And, unfortunately, this happens all too frequently; there’s no value to this sort of criticism as it doesn’t engage with or interrogate the work, it just brands it “offensive” and is done with it.

Lipschultz also pointedly doesn’t give any examples of what he believes to be content that is included “for the hell of it”. As previously noted, he says this is because he doesn’t want to badmouth his competitors — and moreover, he claims not to be talking about XSEED’s products, which is noteworthy primarily for the fact that XSEED has previously localised the Senran Kagura games to date — but it still doesn’t lend much weight to his argument.

Ne no Kami

Looking back on all the games I’ve covered on MoeGamer to date, it’s hard to point to any game with ecchi or explicit content that genuinely feels like said content was gratuitously added for no reason other than to be provocative or to push boundaries if you really think about it; nukige are another matter altogether, of course, but even games like that have a place in that they make no attempts to hide the fact that they are pornography, and in many cases make far more of an effort to contextualise their content in a narrative sense than Western pornography.

Ultimately what we should be pushing for is greater diversity of gaming experiences, and for games that treat their audience as adults who can make their own decisions. That means acknowledging, understanding and even revelling in the fact that sexuality is an important part of art — and of life in general. This, of course, doesn’t mean that all games need to include this sort of content — as Lipschultz notes, titles like Zwei, Brandish and PoPoLoCrois all provide great experiences without any sort of provocative content — but it’s nice for the option to indulge in this sort of thing to be there for those who do enjoy it.

Ys VI

Which is why I think Lipschultz needs to think very carefully about this statement he made, because it’s based on a flawed assumption:

“I do fully understand that from a business standpoint – and even from a moral standpoint – it’s always best to avoid upsetting your fans, because obviously, an upset fan is not going to remain a fan for very long, and signing off on upsetting or troublesome language or imagery is never something anyone wants to do!”

The issue here is that the fans of the sort of games Lipschultz is talking about here tend to have no problem with “upsetting or troublesome language or imagery” whatsoever; the people who complain the loudest about this sort of thing are emphatically not the ones who are buying and playing these games.

Criminal Girls

To give just one example of many possible, the reason I know the aforementioned ResetEra forum will ban you for mentioning Criminal Girls is because it happened to me; I brought up the game in good faith as an example of interesting female characters (which it has a substantial cast of) and yet my comment was regarded as a “joke post”, and ultimately tagged by moderators as “promoting child pornography” — a statement which probably strays into libel territory, given the fact the game is legally available and thus, by definition, is not illegal child pornography. In other words, the most vocal critics of that game aren’t interested in engaging with it or acknowledging its value at all — they just want it gone.

As such, we can extrapolate the fact that the real fans of games like this — the ones Lipschultz doesn’t want to “upset” — are the ones who are playing these games, enjoying them and wanting the experience to be as true to the original Japanese as possible. The ones who don’t want “troublesome language or imagery” to be removed, because they believe doing so compromises the artistic integrity of the original and represents localisers stepping over a line that it is not their place to cross.

Those are the fans Lipschultz and his team should be prioritising the happiness of — and if they are unwilling to do that, they should refuse the license of the game in question and allow someone else to localise it. An upset fan will not remain a fan for very long, after all; he said it himself — and to be fair to him, he did also note just as it wouldn’t feel right to me if someone painted over offensive material in a painting, edited out offensive material in a book, or cut offensive material from a film, I don’t want to see anyone (least of all [XSEED]) editing out offensive material in games. My thought is, if it’s that offensive, then we probably shouldn’t be releasing the game at all – though that’s obviously not always a realistic option.”

Rance 5D: The Lonely Girl

To clarify, because it’s unfortunately necessary these days, the people who want uncut “troublesome language and imagery” in their games (assuming they were there in the original Japanese version) are not in favour of those things happening in reality. Gaming is an escape from reality and a safe way to explore fantasies, and depiction is not the same as endorsement, after all — I loved the shit out of the Rance series but I would be absolutely horrified if I saw anything depicted in those games unfolding in reality, to give just one example.

Likewise, someone enjoying a game involving pretty girls with big boobs in no way precludes them from treating real women with appropriate respect (to say nothing of the fact that a game having pretty girls with big boobs in it doesn’t mean its creators don’t love and respect those characters). Many fans joke about their love of “anime tiddies” and “thicc anime thighs”, but this does not mean they would behave inappropriately towards a real person; clear lines are drawn between fantasy and reality (or, if you prefer, “2D” and “3D”) for most people, after all, and in the cases where they aren’t, there are usually deeper issues at play prior to any input from the media.

Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online

Rather, the gamers who enjoy this content want to be treated as adults who are willing and able to pick and choose the content they want to consume and to engage with — and even for that content to sometimes make them feel uncomfortable or challenge them. Over time, we all develop our own tastes and understanding of what we do and do not enjoy; it’s very easy indeed to simply avoid that which you don’t like given how broad today’s sprawling medium of “video games” really is, and sometimes it’s even enjoyable and desirable to step out of your comfort zone a little.

I’m not saying localisers shouldn’t make changes where it becomes necessary to do so, either due to legal issues or when you know you’ll be dealing with a broad audience that, for example, isn’t au fait with certain aspects of Japanese culture. (That said, there is great value in leaving aspects like this intact.)

But when it comes to content that some might find “offensive”, cutting content or making changes in an attempt to “fix” the work (as former Aksys editor Ben Bateman once described his job) pleases no-one, and achieves very little. It stifles the creativity of the original creators, it upsets fans who want localised experiences that are as true as possible to the original Japanese, and it does nothing to placate those who are already offended; the latter of whom are a group who, more often than not, simply want experiences that they dislike gone, not simply sanitised.

Fate/stay night

While I understand that there are sometimes valid or legally enforceable reasons for content to be modified or removed, I would encourage localisers such as Lipschultz not to fall into the trap of assuming that the oft-cited but amorphous and ill-defined concept of “the current political climate” means that there is no demand for content that is provocative or even offensive to some.

“An upset fan will not remain a fan for long.” I think those are the most important words in this whole discussion, and they are ones that I feel localisers would do well to bear in mind — along with who those “fans” really are… and what they have always wanted from the games they enjoy.


More about Dungeon Travelers 2
More about Senran Kagura
More about Criminal Girls
More about Rance

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18 thoughts on “Altering Content and Self-Censorship Pleases No-One”

  1. What a friggin asshole is that dude then: “Oh hey me progressive white sjw will save you poor japs from offending people… how dare you not conform to our shitty one world one way of doing things , how we think the world shoud be ignorant small mined non sjw white folk who needs saving from disgrace”. Sorry for this fuck that dude and Im never buying anything he works on , fine dont bring anything then. God damn it. Its another culture that is the friggin point!!!!! Also so what if another person wants to include something for the sake of it? In where is that a legal crime? Im sick im tired of ” we have to include evryone” mantra of the western , or rather self centered US/UK/EU point of view.

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  2. >the fallacious assumption that exposure to content that “objectifies” or makes a joke out of fictional characters will, in turn, lead to the lessening of respect towards real-life equivalents of those characters. To put it more simply, the assumption that video games are inextricably tied with sexist and/or homophobic attitudes.

    Somehow I doubt Weinstein or any other of the Hollywood rapists/abusers played many ‘sexy’ games, of the anime tiddy variety or otherwise. These creeps are gonna creep regardless of videogame media, it’s as silly as saying that violent games cause violent behavior in people.

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  3. I am in definite agreement with this article in regards to “objectification” given how frivolous accusations of it are and how said frivolous accusations are often deeply misogynistic in and of themselves. That being said, I don’t think objectification is the only reason that may be a concern.

    The LGBTQ community was also mentioned, and cultural views on LGBT people does differ a bit between western and Japanese culture. Japan, from what I have gathered, seems to be less hostile towards LGBT people but also takes them a lot less seriously. This will lead to more jokes included in Japanese games at the expense of LGBT people. For instance, as much as I love Persona 3, that bit with the trans girl on the beach legitimately deters me from wanting to play it again. If an updated version got made and that scene was changed, I would be thrilled with it, but it would also send a lot of the gamer crowd into a frenzy since most of them just want to spite SJWs. And yes, I would be turned off from playing an entire game based on if there is transphobia involved, Catherine in particular kinda worries me.

    On the other hand, I am aware that a certain style of finese is required and that one shouldn’t just edit out any bit that may potentially be “problematic” without regard to context, but at the same time, I feel it should be an option and that not every instance of the removal of offensive content should be treated as if one is altering Shakespeare, but nonetheless it requires much more nuance than a lot of people on either side are willing to acknowledge.

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    1. My personal stance on this issue is to simply not buy things that offend you if they really do offend you (vote with your wallet, as it were), or perhaps make a fan made patch that removes the objectionable material. It should not be the job of the localizer to remove objectionable material just because it is objectionable even if it has no particular meaning in the original work. If the game will sell better because it is censored, only then it is arguably the localizer’s job to censor it then. Such is the cruelty of capitalism. If that ever became the case, I would abstain buying in hopes of turning the tide. Right now, if you really think games should be censored for the sake of societal sensibilities, it’s your job to boycott until you get what you want. I would do the same in your position.

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      1. ” It should not be the job of the localizer to remove objectionable material just because it is objectionable even if it has no particular meaning in the original work. ”

        Then don’t do it in your localizations. Localization teams have the right to approach a localization however they feel is the best for their product, while consumers have the right to not support a company whose method of localization they do not support.

        And no, I don’t think offensive material should be altered in localizations because “it would sell better,” I think content should be altered to create a better game that is less alienating to people of certain groups. A localization is never just a straight up translation; things are altered to compensate for the innate differences in Japanese and western language and culture. There are always going to be some changes to be more accommodating to a western audience. If you want to see what a localization looks like with no changes, watch the Dub of Garzey’s Wing. It is as true to the original Japanese as a translation could get, and it is also widely considered one of the worst anime ever released. That’s not a coincidence. The reason that scripts are altered in localizations is NOT to be a direct translation with no changes; it is to capture the intended feeling of the work with a script readable by a new audience. But by your logic, it should not be a localizers’s place to decide what makes the product best for the general public, and game’s should be released with a Garzey’s Wing translation, or even better, just release it in Japanese, and don’t even think about fixing any bugs or glitches; who are they to decide what is best for the game?

        Ah yes, but none of that was what you actually meant to say. What you meant to say was roughly “who gives a fuck about those SJW snowflakes, it’s their problem if their offended anyway. And don’t you dare think about trying to be more accommodating to your LGBT fans, because then I will boycott the fuck out of your products!” That is not what you directly said, but that’s certainly how it comes across; that even if changing this scene objectively improves the game and makes it more comfortable for a certain set of gamers, you will still boycott it anyway just because they changed it. I highly doubt that you want a Garzey’s Wing translation for games so the only logical conclusion that one would draw is that you just flat out don’t give a shit about anyone who should be made to feel uncomfortable, or are even hostile towards them; as if anyone who takes any offense or criticizes any moral aspect of a game is just an angry social justice warrior who wants to take your games away, and that letting even one thing get changed to be more accommodating to them will lead to a slippery slope where EVERYTHING gets changed.

        Again, I doubt that is what you intended to communicate, but I’ve been with and talked to enough people to know how this goes. Although I will admit it is very well possible I could have misinterpreted what you said, so if you feel this was an incorrect assessment then feel free to correct me.

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    2. Catherine’s “transphobia” is a lot less ridiculous than the press have made it out to be — who’d have thought. To be honest, I didn’t even remember it was a thing until it was brought up recently, though it has been a long time since I played it.

      It’s interesting in that it explores — quite well, in retrospect, reminding myself of the details — the questions people almost certainly ask themselves when engaging in relationships with people from communities that they’re not familiar with, or who they perceive as “different”.

      Persona 5 has some aggressive gay characters, but they are “negative” depictions because they’re aggressive douchebags, not because they’re gay. Elsewhere, drag queen Lala Escargot is a wonderfully enjoyable character to hang out with, and isn’t ridiculed at all.

      What’s important to remember is that any “negative” reactions the characters might have are not necessarily an endorsement of those viewpoints. In fact, in order to tackle social issues it’s often important to show those negative attitudes or actions and how they affect people. This is why editing out “offensive” content is, to me, counter-productive — those calling for stuff to be cut are also the same people who believe we should be “starting conversations” about these issues.

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      1. I will have to decide for myself when I play Catherine or Persona 5 so I don’t really have much to comment on. And yes, it is not an endorsement to simply have a character react a certain way, but rather it is more so based around how it is presented by the game itself. Furthermore, such a thing about negative attitudes I can understand in regards to updated versions of older works, but we already in a climate where most are well aware of these social issues, and leaving them in will likely be seen as ignoring the recent advances and/or supporting those who hold those attitudes.

        Nonetheless, there are hundreds of different ways these things could be interpreted or how they can be handled, and saying to never change anything regardless of context is not much less shallow minded of a perspective than to do a complete 4kids style whitewashing. Most of the people saying to be “completely true to the original” don’t know just how much thought needs to go into how to write something in a way that carries the same meaning as the original Japanese, and that the inverse to a complete 4Kids Whitewashing would either be a Garzey’s Wing style non-localization, or would just be the original Japanese text with no changes. Furthermore, they forget how much was changed in many of Working Design’s Localizations that seem to be very well liked, and especially in most localizations by Ted Woolsey.

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      2. The thing with Working Designs stuff, which I’ve always been a big fan of personally, is that no-one knew any better! There was no easy way of comparing the original Japanese to the localised version short of playing the two side by side… And the Internet, where anyone insane enough to do that (there’s always someone) was in its infancy in those days too, so word didn’t spread as fast as it does these days. Even when it did, “we got something different to what Japan did” tended to be relegated to a short “and finally…” news story in a games magazine rather than made a big deal of.

        These days, however, we have a lot of games shipping with dual audio or JP only voice tracks, making the comparison process a lot easier, and quite jarring if you have any knowledge of Japanese! Xenoblade 2 is the most recent example of this; the vast number of name changes throughout are quite distracting, though ultimately it doesn’t spoil an otherwise great game — it’s just very noticeable.

        I think the main issue I have with overzealous localisation these days — and I’m a lot more tolerant of it than most, I find people crying “censorship” over very minor changes rather tiresome — is that it’s not necessarily done for the right reasons. There’s no point trying to appease the retards on ResetEra or those who write for Polygon because they’ve proven time after time to not engage with these games in good faith. As such it makes more sense, where no convincing legal, linguistic or, at a push, cultural reason exists to change something, to keep things as intact as possible. Those are the fans localisation companies should be courting, because those are the ones willing to spend the big bucks on fancy LEs of that obscure JRPG they never thought would come West. Those are the fans keen to vicariously experience another culture through its media. Those are the people who want to be trusted to make their own decisions about what media they consume and what to think of it.

        People asking for “literal” translations ironically don’t tend to mean that literally. They do want as much of that original Japanese flavour to remain, though, particularly in cases where the JP audio is right there and easy to compare to the subs. Personally speaking, for example, I like it when things like honorifics are kept in, because they’re part of the context and meaning of the original text, though I only really miss them in games where “Japaneseness” is a key part of the experience. And I definitely prefer it when names are left as they were in the original! Given how often they say “Homura” in the Xenoblade 2 audio track, I cannot cannot cannot think of her as “Pyra”!

        I often find myself wondering if people translating books and movies run into as many issues as we do with games…

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      3. I am fully aware of what the standards of localizations were back in the day and why people were okay with it then, but the point was not that people tolerated those games back then, but that their localizations have made them arguably better games as a result. Final Fantasy VI just wouldn’t be the same without its various Woolseyisms. Final Fantasy VI is one of Japan’s least favorite entries in the series iirc. Additionally,the Lunar series has also fallen out of favor in Japan to the point where the PSP remake sold poorly over there. Compare that to the series’s western fanbase who holds the first two up as some of the greatest JRPGs ever created, while also comparing their reactions to the fan translation of the GameGear title Walking School and Dragon Song on the DS (a game that I imagine more people would have been willing to tolerate if it had a Working Designs localization even if every other flaw were left in tact), it is easy to draw a conclusion that it IS in fact possible for a localization to improve upon the original. Of course, in order for that to happen, it requires a certain amount of finese and that the localization team doesn’t go overboard (unless it is like the Ghost Stories dub where they just go absurdly over the top with it, and even then such a thing only works if the original script was dull AF and there is nothing else one can do with it). Yes, the games I mentioned were exceptions to the general rule, and thus there are relatively few instances where such a thing should be necessary, and thus I take issue with those that want something that serves no purpose other than to offend people (and by people I mean the actual playerbase, not those gibbering puritanical Zealots over on Resetera or Polygon) and that add nothing of value to the overall experience and can only assume that they are using “censorship” as an excuse when they just want to see SJW salt and that their category for “SJW” is “anyone who is ever offended by anything at all or has remotely left leaning politics.” That is why I was so snappish at those other two people who replied; they think that anything being removed for the sake of anyone will lead to a slippery slope to an Orwellian Nightmare. Hell I kinda wrote a piece about something similar back when I was with Oprainfall. A few of my thoughts changed slightly (specifically my thoughts on that aforementioned scene in Persona 3) but overall I think the sentiment is similar.

        http://operationrainfall.com/2015/04/06/opinion-pillars-of-eternity-joke/

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    3. Sorry, but absolutely not.

      Who defines what kind of content should be changed? You talk about finese, but what if the person in charge with so much finese was a christian conservative, white identitarian, pro west or a person with values close to the ones who produced “Persona 3”? Better yet, islamic salaphites?You probably wouldn’t agree with them in what constitutes “offensive” content.

      Thing is, you either have free course of creations, and you go for the things you want and do not engage the ones you don’t or there is a free for all for the reins of censorship.I am a right winger and advocate for free speech. I also believe in reciprocity so if the left wants to censor the right, well,the right may censor the left.
      Or, don’t you remember how Sailor Uranus and Neptune went from girlfriends to cousins to not offend western sensibilities?

      “The reason that scripts are altered in localizations is NOT to be a direct translation with no changes; it is to capture the intended feeling of the work with a script readable by a new audience. ”
      What if the feeling of the work inevitably clashes with a new audience? Remove it and make it to your liking while keeping the author name? An author goes from being pro/anti X to its oposite? That is some big falsehood.

      Look, I know it is unconfortable, and many times enraging, but the best system is still free market of ideas. The other options are censorship control by ideological purists or bland crap afraid to offend. Can’t satisfy both greeks and trojans. You will have to deal with this sexist japanese stuff and I will have to deal with the utter degeneracy of Netflix.

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      1. You act as if all localizations are either “be exactly the same as the original Japanese with not attempts at improvement” or “change everything.” Like it is only one extreme or the other. Also I never said anything about “sexist” Japanese stuff. Did you even read my original post? There is a pretty clear difference between altering a line that mocks gay or trans people and say, removing fanservice because they deem it offensive, or even worse, censoring portrayals of LGBT characters such as was the case with Paper Mario 2 and the first NieR title. Yes, my own opinion of what is offensive is not in agreement with a conservative Christian. Morality and politics are very subjective values, but there are some things that will universally be considered more acceptable than others. Most of the gaming community is against slipshod censorship and whitewashing of the original product. The fact that you have to take slightly altering the text or graphics in a single scene and equate it to changing the entire tone of something only demonstrates that you have no argument against the former and need to resort to a shallow strawman in order to make your point.

        Situations like these are NEVER “one extreme or the other.” There is no law that states that something has to remain 100% identical to the original or get hacked to bits 4Kids style. Hell, in a majority of cases, I’m completely oppossed to any sort of censorship. By all means, if a company was localizing about torturing gay people until they become straight (a hypothetical example) then leave it uncensored. NOTHING should ever be changed to the point of unrecognizability, and even in cases where it is a small problematic element in one scene, there should still be some serious caution taken. If I were to localize something with a scene like the one in Persona 3, I’d be hesitant to remove it myself despite being trans, and generally, so are most niche localization teams like XSeed, but particular case has its own individual context to consider and has possibly hundreds of different ways it can be dealt with. It’s never as black and white as you make it sound, and the idea that it is demonstrates a very shallow and narrow minded view of things.

        And don’t lecture me about what I will “just have to deal” with. You are not my doctor.

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    4. “but we already in a climate where most are well aware of these social issues, and leaving them in will likely be seen as ignoring the recent advances and/or supporting those who hold those attitudes.”
      Yes, because the author ignored said advances or supported those attitudes. Alter that and you alter what the author has said.

      “Most of the people saying to be “completely true to the original” don’t know just how much thought needs to go into how to write something in a way that carries the same meaning as the original Japanese”
      We do know that is hard. But since the japanese perspective is what we wished for we want it to be faithful, warts and all. If I wanted west I would have bought something from the west.

      “There is a pretty clear difference between altering a line that mocks gay or trans people and say, removing fanservice because they deem it offensive, or even worse, censoring portrayals of LGBT characters such as was the case with Paper Mario 2 and the first NieR title. ”
      All of these are altering the original content. But you agree with some and disagree with others.

      ” Morality and politics are very subjective values, but there are some things that will universally be considered more acceptable than others. ”
      More universally acceptable… So if a MAJORITY of the world finds something acceptable they should overcome the minority?

      “For instance, as much as I love Persona 3, that bit with the trans girl on the beach legitimately deters me from wanting to play it again. If an updated version got made and that scene was changed, I would be thrilled with it,but it would also send a lot of the gamer crowd into a frenzy since most of them just want to spite SJWs.”
      “If I were to localize something with a scene like the one in Persona 3, I’d be hesitant to remove it myself despite being trans,’
      Which is it? And seems like a lot of the gamer crowd likes faithful localizations just fine.

      “And don’t lecture me about what I will “just have to deal” with. You are not my doctor.”
      True. And you are not my doctor to say that I have to deal with localization that is friendly to your favorite group.

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  4. I don’t feel like I have much to add after reading through your wonderful and thorough article other than noting that you were very logical and calm compared to Lipschultz and these close-minded individuals mentioned here.

    Keep up the amazing work.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sup man, it’s me, Atma (and to anyone seeing this I’m the one who wrote the article listed under the SenKags section). I’m not surprised to see it’s Tom doing this and saying these things; I used to staff/mod for HG101 for a long while back in the day and he was always able to grate everyone regardless of if we agreed with him or not and was always talked about in mod forums and such as to how to deal with him when he’s not breaking any rules. It’s embarrassing and in bad taste to see him do something like somehow conflate this with the #metoo movement, but par for the course for him. He’s got a pretty permanent case of foot in mouth syndrome without being aware of it. “Unaware” is a good word for him. If I remember right, he only got in Xseed when it was new enough because he knew a lot about Ys, which sadly, to this day I know people who won’t try it solely because he’s involved.

    My girl Annie up there’s already touched on my other feelings on this subject pretty spot on, tho. So I’ll mostly leave you all with the knowledge that yeah, that’s a pretty damn Tom thing to say/do.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oi oi, Atma-nee, thanks for stopping by.

      Interesting to hear you talk about Tom on the HCG101 forums, and also to discover that this is (presumably?) how you know @JoeStarSan on Twitter.

      I’ve not had much direct contact with Tom previously; back in my USG days I had a good conversation about these topics with Brittany “Hatsuu” Avery and she seemed to have her head screwed on fairly well. http://archive.is/HTPyk (archive link ’cause USG have started doing that obnoxious “WE SEE YOU’RE USING AN AD BLOCKER” shit)

      She’s actually one of the reasons I became aware of Senran Kagura in the first place after she stood up for the series against a seriously obnoxious article from the UK’s official Nintendo magazine. Thankfully that article is no longer online, but the fact it got OK’d for publication in the first place is… well, sort of par for the course these days, really.

      As for Tom… well, I’m not really sure what to make of him. As I say, I’ve had little direct contact with him, but his comments in this interview didn’t get whatever point he was trying to make across very well.

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  6. Hello folks! Thanks for all your contributions and shares on this. I’m closing comments on this post for now because the tone is getting a bit confrontational and aggressive in a few places, and that’s not what MoeGamer is about.

    This isn’t the “fault” of anyone in particular, I hasten to add, I just don’t want my site to become the sort of place where people argue over political viewpoints only tangentially related to games. This is, and always has been, a place to appreciate and enjoy gaming first and foremost, and should be a safe haven from politicised discussions. I’m not frickin’ Polygon, thank fuck.

    Thanks for your understanding, and for the discussion!

    Liked by 1 person

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