In spring 2009, the Western media caused a brouhaha over computer game Rapelay. The game was released in 2006, and CNN is now covering the controversy. Why?
To bring everyone up to speed, Rapelay allows the player to have his way with the game's three female characters. The title is out of print and after the game started to get flak, Illusion, the company that created Rapelay, pulled the title from its website.
"We are simply bewildered by the move," said Illusion spokesman Makoto Nakaoka. "We make the games for the domestic market and abide by laws here. We cannot possibly comment on (the campaign) because we don't sell them overseas." New York-based Equality Now kicked off a campaign in May 2009 "against rape simulator games and the normalization of sexual violence in Japan".
To be clear, the game company legally released the game in Japan in 2006. And in 2009, the West discovered it and got upset.
Japanese politicians in the New Komeito Party, pinning erotic games as a cause for Japanese sex crime, said, "There is a very good chance that the influence of violent sex games far exceeds that of regular pornography." Japan has one of the lowest rates of reported rate:
UN Rape Rates per 100,000
S. Korea: 12.98
While these game makers broke no Japanese laws, the country's Ethics organisation of Computer Software held an emergency meeting in June 2009 in which nearly 100 representatives from various erotic game companies concluded that the manufacturer and sale of rape-type games should cease. This was not a government decision or even a legal one, but instead a self-policing policy on the part of the EOCS.
Thus, erotic game makers decided not to make any more rape games. What's more, game makers began giving their titles "cleaner" titles for adult games that were already scheduled to come out in the wake of the controversy. For example, "Slave Maiden's Rape Hell" became "Young Girl's Prison". Japanese adult video game makers retreated, some erotic game company websites even blocked foreign access. Retailers began renaming the "rape" genre category, and Kyoto cops arrested one Japanese man for illegally sharing the game on the internet. (One Japanese erotic game company dealt with the entire situation tongue planted firmly in cheek with this title screen.)
Yet, CNN still felt the topic deserved merit. The angle? Japan needs to deal with erotic game makers in a far stricter way because these video games can be leaked onto the internet and then foreign people can download them. Um, yeah. Think of all the things on the internet right now — all the horrible, disagreeable things, and people are upset about an out of print computer game. (The other game that CNN features is "Chain Trap", a computer rape game from 2004.) Concentrating on games that are years old is a bit like getting upset right now about Cannibal Ferox and then condemning all horror games based on that title.
In the U.S., pornography featuring staged rape is legal, because both actors are consenting adults. Granted, there are obscenity laws that exist in the U.S., but these niche videos exist in America. They also exist in Japanese pornography; however, unlike their Western counterparts, the genitalia of the Japanese performers are censored. Contrary to what the CNN piece leads viewers to believe, there are obscenity laws in Japan. Going by CNN's angle that these games should been policed even more because they are being leaked online, one could argue for the censorship of genitalia of Western adult video actors due to the difference in censorship laws!
Taina Bien-Aime of women's rights organisation Equality Now wants the Japanese government "to ban all games that promote and simulate sexual violence, sexual torture, stalking and rape against women and girls." But shouldn't she be more focused on the high number of reported rape in Canada, Australia and the U.S.A.? Many rapes go unreported, which would mean the number of actual rapes in, say, the United States is actually higher. Same for Japan. But the difference is that America has a tremendous head start.
The real peg for the CNN story is the virtual child porn bill that was proposed by the Tokyo Municipal Government, which would amend the Metropolitan Tokyo youth welfare law on child pornography and limit the manner in which "nonexistent youths" are represented as well as clauses that call for the filtering of images of minors online and via mobile phone. The "visual depictions" are understood to encompass underage characters in manga, anime, computer games and video games - i.e., virtual characters. Some of Japan's most beloved anime and manga creators stood up to this bill, stating that it impedes on freedom of expression. The bill has since been delayed.
Instead of discussing this bill in any sort of depth, the Western media's favourite Japan-is-so-messed-up punching bag, Rapelay, has been dragged out for another round of those in glass houses to toss stones. The U.S. has problems, many, many problems and much more pressing problems than out-of-print, niche computer games in Japan.