The Gap Between Game And Movie Violence

The House of Blue Leaves fight scene in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol. 1 is one of the most gruesome scenes in the entire picture. When it was released in the U.S., the scene was in black and white to tone down violence. When it was released in Japan, the scene was in living colour featuring shots cut from the American release, under the assumption that Japanese audiences and censors could handle it.

They could. Yet, whenever a violent video game is released in Japan, it's slapped with the country's equivalent of Adults Only and will often have its violence toned down. This despite Japanese cinema, for decades, churning out bloody samurai, yakuza, and horror flicks.

Japanese cinema didn't become increasingly violent in a vacuum. As television gained more viewers during the 1950s and 1960s, Japanese movies tried to get people out of the living room and into theatres with wide-screen and things they couldn't see at home on TV, such as violence and nudity.

Violent low budget flicks like Versus and The Machine Girl are released, no biggies. The director of Versus went on to make Godzilla: Final Wars, while Noboru Iguchi, who started out in scat porn before moving onto gore flicks like The Machine Girl and Robo Geisha, is helming the feature film version of Denjin Zaborger. Both are talented, over-the-top filmmakers, but Japan has a much higher tolerance for movie gore, than it does for game gore. Take Carmageddon, which had red blood changed to green and people changed to zombies. Green blood isn't a Japan-only device, making family friendly appearances in Western games as well.

It has been traditionally assumed that the reason for this difference is that video games consoles are still for the most part sold in toy stores—or near the toy section of electronics shops. There are retailers that specialize in video games only, but historically, video games in Japan are associated with toys and toy stores.

Japan is not unique in this regard, as other countries, such as Australia and Germany, have vastly different standards for movie violence and video game violence. An Australian directed the gore porn flick Saw, which was released in theaters; meanwhile, Australia has banned violent titles like Manhunt and Postal 2. Other games, such as Silent Hill: Homecoming were toned down for release.

In years past, violent movies were blamed for societal ills and condemned. The world has largely moved on, and games have filled that role. But with the recent Supreme Court ruling in the U.S., perhaps other countries will also begin holding video games to the same standards that they hold movies.

(Top photo: Tokyo Gore Police | Spotted Productions via Andrew Marcec)


    Games are interactive you are a part of causing the violence, movies are not, watching a movie is a passive experience.

    THAT'S the difference, not which part of the store they're stacked in, you colossal idiot.

    Dear Kotaku Australia, is there any way I can get a RSS feed of this site that BLOCKS the constant stream of DRIVEL from Brian Ashcraft? it's really starting to get on my nerves.

    There is a big difference between watching someone commit an act of violence, and commanding someone to commit an act of violence.

    You like Japan a lot, don't you Brian?

      He kinda does live there.

      Boy, I wish people did more research before whining.

    I think one major problem that separates games and movies is that you can control what happens in games (well, you could, normally. MGS4 shows how wrong that can be). This seems to have an effect on things like Dead Space being released in Japan, since dismemberment, and grusesome ways to get the main character killed were prevalent, which is an especially big worry in Japan (at the same time, eroge and other content isn't quite a worry, although more negative focus has been centred on sexual abuse/violation in such semi-erotic to full blown hentai content). And I guess to some degree, they have a good point. Japan's historically been trying to get rid of the "suicide = honour/better way out" ideal. Rapid industrialisation and urbanisation has helped, but at the same time created some other problems too, like street violence etc. So for them, the idea that a video game allows you to practice/simulate all that is not good (erotica, well, no problems as far as they seem to be concerned - love and peace over death and suffering?).

    Of course, there's other, better ways to deal with these problems, which Japan has a small share of compared to other countries (minus suicide). The way modern social culture is focused around individualistic apathy is something to focus on instead of games IMHO.

    Bah, big comment. My bad.

    I did a submission for the classification review, and one of the questions asked about classifying content when it was "designed for children" (I'm quoting from memory, so the wording is probably different). I made the point in my submission that whether content was "designed for children" was a specification that had to be made by the creator of said content, not by some definition based on what the content is, ie, a video game is not inherently designed for children.

    Well no they won't Brian, because the US ruling is purely a constitutional question, whereas in other countries it's generally a question of perceived community standards applied to classification. Not to mention US != Other Countries.

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