The Ugly New Front In The Neverending Video Game Culture War

The Ugly New Front In The Neverending Video Game Culture War

Gaming’s culture war hasn’t ended. It’s still roiling, with new fights, new targets, new depths of ugliness, but also many of the same tactics. If you’ve witnessed this kind of “Chanterculture“/GamerGate drama before, you know the playbook: discredit, harass, shame, isolate, maybe find a skeleton in a person’s closet that calls their reputation into question. Today’s most visible target is a woman named Alison Rapp, a mid-level marketing person at Nintendo who has been accused of somehow being a driving force behind the supposed censorship of that company’s games.

She’s not the only target these days, but she’s the favoured one. Her enemies, an amorphous group of pissed off gamers, have been relentless. But their furious online petitions, taken down because they violated community guidelines, haven’t ruined her. Digging through her Amazon wish-list and finding links to an anime body pillow to shame her hasn’t worked either. Recently, they have been trying to destroy her using a university paper she wrote in 2011.

I’ve been covering the ongoing cultural skirmishes over purported “censorship” of imported Japanese games for the last couple of months. They’re a natural extension of the ongoing reactionary freakout about the influence of so-called social justice warriors, those caricatured feminists supposedly out to sanitize games of sexual content. In these instances, the games in question usually have been changed — outfits modified, controversial sexual content removed, along with more run-of-the-mill changes necessary when translating a full video game — and so in the eyes of the aggrieved, the perceived agents of social justice have had a demonstrable effect.

Some of the hysteria is eye-rolling, but some of it involves understandably distinct perspectives about how a creative work in one culture should be presented in another. Most recently, I spoke with a group of reasonable-sounding fans trying to produce a more authentic translation of that Fire Emblem game. They were heavily critical of the work done by the “Treehouse”, the group at Nintendo who localise Japanese games for an American audience. These fans’ efforts focused on producing a more “authentic” translation.

In researching that story and others, I kept encountering the darker side of this: the anger, the personal attacks, the departure from reason that leads to smears and character assassination. Here’s just a taste of the ridiculous backlash I got just for the great sin of reporting about the subject:

That’s tame, really. At first, the uglier actors in this drama could be brushed aside as fringe, but that’s changed swiftly and dramatically, particularly in regards to the campaign against Allison Rapp.

Who exactly is going after Rapp? The easy answer is GamerGate, the all-too-familiar amorphous group of gamers who organised in winter 2014 after game designer Zoe Quinn’s sex life was made public and eventually ended up at “ethics in games journalism”. Yet even those within such circles claim this particular incident has nothing to do with GamerGate, but a spin-off group called Revolt. (Confusingly, of course, saying “it wasn’t us” is one of GamerGate’s stock defences.)

Rapp is currently the target of a social media war attempting to get her fired by accusing her of defending paedophiles. You only need search her name on Twitter to get a taste of what’s been going on for days:

You could also read about it at the Daily Stormer, a Neo-Nazi and white supremacist website describing Rapp as “the next logical step in the liberal march… toward wherever these women and Jews think it’s marching toward,” the result of “the impact of Jews and feminism on our society”.

The top comment on the story contains the phone numbers and email addresses for a number of top executives at Nintendo. The comment was left by Andrew “weev” Auernheimer, the infamous jailed hacker who once proudly announced he was a “long-time critic of Judaism, black culture, immigration to Western nations, and the media’s constant stream of anti-white propaganda”. Auernheimer encouraged people to contact Nintendo with a very specific tone.

“When you contact these people be very respectful, act as a concerned parent,” he writes of the Nintendo employees he’s listed. “Link to the pro-pedo statements she’s made but obviously don’t link back to DS [Daily Stormer] or she’ll be able to dismiss it as a white supremacist conspiracy.”

Rapp doesn’t translate or localise games, but she has been outspoken on Twitter about online abuse against women in gaming. She’s been labelled an “SJW” and has received the requisite online blowback. Last October she Tweeted a list of abusive comments she said she’s received, people calling her “cancerous” and a “feminazi face piercings bitch”.

Over time, as it became obvious that Nintendo was removing some of the sexualised content from their games as they brought them to the West, angry gamers looked for someone to blame and started pointing fingers at Rapp. Those efforts intensified even more in recent weeks with the discovery of a university essay she wrote in 2011 while attending Augsburg College. It’s called “Speech We Hate: An Argument for the Cessation of International Pressure on Japan to Strengthen Its Anti-Child Pornography Laws”. It’s a provocative essay about a deeply sensitive subject and is more nuanced than its detractors portray. Rapp outlines a deep cultural divide between Japan and other countries, pointing out Japan’s traditions of sexualising young people and its free speech traditions while contrasting them with Western efforts against child porn and what she saw as imperialist pressure by the West to get Japan to change its child porn laws. Rapp, clearly a respectful fan of Japanese culture, distinguishes between exploiting real-life children and the creation of fictionalised sexual material. At no point does she defend or advocate for the abuse of children, and in fact argues for stronger laws against child exploitation.

Tweets she made around the same time that are related to the topic have also been part of the campaign against her, as is the norm when people are targeted as Rapp has been. There’s a vague one, for example, where she’s upset about the arrest of a man found with child pornography after burglars robbed him and tipped off police. The context isn’t entirely clear, but she directs people to her paper, which criticises the West’s disproportionate effort in tracking down exploitative media compared to identifying the systemic issues causing their creation.

Rapp’s essay isn’t perfect and her tweets suggest she was, at least years ago, someone more comfortable with the ideas of teens being seen as sex objects than the average American might be. But, no shit: it’s an essay written by a young university student who was very into Japanese culture, where societal standards are different. The basic premise of her essay says Japan should be allowed to define its own cultural boundaries and not bow to the pressures of outside forces. Ironically, while Rapp has become a symbol of the supposedly nefarious social justice warriors censoring Japanese games, she’s being attacked with an essay in which she argued that Japanese culture should stay Japanese.

By spending paragraphs explaining Rapp’s essay and pondering five-year-old Tweets, I’ve already fallen into her critics’ trap. I’ve already spent hundreds of words deconstructing a piece of writing that was weaponised for character assassination. It’s a familiar page from the playbook in today’s video game culture wars. It’s about finding a skeleton in someone’s closet — or something that can be construed as such — and using it to undermine them.

We’ve all probably said something on the internet that’s off-colour or offensive, or just not given proper context in the size of tweet. Many of us have held problematic views at different stages in our lives, particularly when engaging in intellectual exercises or writing academic papers. In the past, we’d generally expect to be given a chance to move on and leave our past selves behind. In today’s culture wars, that’s not the case. The past is present, especially when your words are only a Google search away.

It’s easy to rip lines from the essay and make Rapp look awful, which is how the anti-sex trafficking group The Wayne Foundation got involved. On March 1, co-founder Jamie Walton, herself a victim of sex trafficking, began tweeting about how Rapp should be fired from Nintendo.

Walton claimed she spoke with Nintendo of America’s “supervisory line” and reported Rapp. She then retweeted voices of support from people, many who publicly associate with GamerGate, while saying she was “not GG” or “AGG” [anti GamerGate]. She added that she didn’t “suggest to @NintendoAmerica supervisors that @alisonrapp be fired,” but she “absolutely” thinks she should.

It appears Walton is a genuine advocate, a victim of a horrifying crime who fights for others. She admitted to being hoodwinked by “third party trolling” in the past and said she’d recant Rapp’s information, were it to be proven untrue. Willingly or not, Walton’s given Rapp’s detractors what they were looking for: legitimacy from outsiders. It’s another weapon.

When I asked Walton how she heard about Rapp’s situation, she responded brusquely.

“I don’t have time for this, TBH,” she said over email. “I’ve been a counter trafficking survivor advocate since 2009. No one is interested in doing press about that for years, but suddenly Gamergate and anti Gamergate insert me into their dispute and the media wants to talk. All that does is break my heart. I want nothing to do with either side, and I find this entire encounter to be ludicrous.”

In the American version of Xenoblade Chronicles X, players could no longer change the bust size of their female character.

In the American version of Xenoblade Chronicles X, players could no longer change the bust size of their female character.

Nintendo did not comment for this story, nor did Rapp. The company is notorious for staying quiet and rarely allows employees to speak outside interviews about upcoming games. But it’s not as though Nintendo couldn’t find the essay involved in the latest attacks — it’s prominently on Rapp’s Linkedin page.

Rapp hasn’t ignored what’s going on. She jokingly calls herself a “conspirator in @NintendoAmerica Treehouse” on Twitter and has pushed back against the harassment.

“Aaaahhh, nothing quite like waking up to a bunch of GG-ers and white supremacists in my mentions, trying to ruin my life because video games,” she recently tweeted. “+1 awful thing: gg-ers bastardizing social justice language & feigning concern for at-risk groups so they can appear to be takin high ground.”

These tweets are interspersed with photos and comments about her vacation in Japan, where she’s currently on her honeymoon.

“btw thank you for your support today,” she wrote. “It’s good to hear from friends during this wacky time. Again, thank you for anything and everything you’re doing to keep my mentions from being 100% garby goober garbage.”

The way people talk about Rapp, you’d assume she was involved in the translation of Fire Emblem Fates, a key person behind removing things like the face petting mini-game. Except there’s no proof of this. Months ago, as similar groups raged over Xenoblade Chronicles X, Rapp told me she’s not involved with localisation. But in anti-progressive circles, there’s plenty of discussion regarding what she thinks about harassment and sexism. This made her a high-profile target, and the wagons circled. Which is how an essay from 2011 becomes relevant in 2016.

When it comes to Fire Emblem Fates, Rapp has not been the only person of interest. Nich Maragos, a former Atlus USA translator, now works at Nintendo. His first project at Treehouse was Fire Emblem Fates. In recent weeks, he’s been one of the people targeted by this group, in the search for a boogeyman. (I’ve cropped part of it out, but the whole image is here.) links? Check. A crappy photo of the person being profiled to make them look silly? Check. The only thing missing from this image is a bunch of red lines “connecting the dots”.

To give you a sense of the angle of these attacks, when one of Maragos’ critics compiled this information on the pro-GamerGate “Kotaku in Action” (no relation!) subreddit, they concluded by pointing out that Maragos is a “NeoFAG poster,” a reference to the popular gaming message board NeoGAF, which has been hostile to GamerGate and the kinds of things posted on KiA.

Maragos’ grand offence was calling out the sexually provocative Sengan Kagura games. He also financially supports two alternative game critics through Patreon. One of those critics makes a whopping $US90 ($121) per month. Would it shock you to learn the other was openly critical of the more literal-leaning fan translation of Fire Emblem Fates? Surely not. (Maragos declined comment for this story.)

Another target, Rich Amtower, who’s worked on previous Fire Emblem localisations at Nintendo, was forced to lock his Twitter account because people were combing for ammunition from as far back as 2009. What dark secrets did they find, buried in his ancient tweets? He doesn’t actually speak Japanese. (For what it’s worth, this isn’t altogether uncommon, based on the translators and localizers I’ve talked to.)

Since then, Amtower has deleted some old tweets and unlocked his account — for now.

“Twitter’s too ephemeral to want all of it hanging around forever,” he said. “I saw a lot of things I’d tweeted within a specific context, quoted outside of that context, and it made me sad. You can’t *really* delete your past, but you can acknowledge that past you, present you, and future you may all have very different thoughts.” Amtower did not respond to my request for comment.

Here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter whether it’s GamerGate, Revolt, or anyone else. The group is irrelevant; it’s that the tactics used to shame and victimize have become disturbingly normalized. When one attempts to assign a name to the group perpetuating the assault — be it GamerGate, Revolt, or whatever else — those groups’ supporters immediately respond by saying that the actions of individuals don’t represent the group. (Perhaps someone can tell that to the people vilifying individuals from a large group within Nintendo.)

In fact, the campaign against Rapp has demonstrated a fascinating collection of fractures within these hard-to-pin-down groups. There’s the alleged censoring of 4chan when it comes to discussion of Alison Rapp:

There’s Eron Gjoni, author of the relationship screed against Zoe Quinn that kicked off GamerGate, saying that “attempting to get people fired for holding problematic views is exactly the sort of thing you’re supposed to be against”.

This was enough for someone on 4chan to declare that “Eron is still an SJW feminist”.

Others were shaken in different ways. “This has always been THE most difficult part of being in GG for me,” wrote KiA poster Aurondarklord. “Finding that balance of being effective without becoming what we hate. In this case, to be fair, at least, unlike the SJWs, what we’re accusing Alison Rapp of is at least true and we have direct evidence of it. But WHY are we doing this? What has she done, specifically, that makes her deserve to be fired? Has she attacked us in some way? Breached an ethical obligation? Provably lied to the detriment of a person or a game? Done anything other than be an SJW and believe SJW things?”

You’re so close, Aurondarklord. So close.

Others held the line. “If we fail to exert social pressure against these people,” said poster Kaarous in the same thread, “we might as well just close the sub[reddit] right now. More importantly, if we turn the ‘you should be fired’ game against them, they might actually knock it the fuck off when it starts effecting [sic] them personally and financially.”

This is, of course, a muddled and disingenuous argument. “Them?” “These people?” Rapp doesn’t translate or localise games, and didn’t even work on Fire Emblem Fates. She’s just another person who works for a video game company and has publicly supported feminism and social justice. The campaign against her and her colleagues is a witch hunt, and just the latest of many. It won’t be the last.

Image Credit: Jim Cooke


  • The primary issue about people who complain about games being censored or edited is that they lack any and all perspective on the matter, both historically & culturally.
    It’s not some random individual declaring something offends them so therefore it has to go but rather outdated Western (primarily US-created) morality based upon Puritanical ideologies. Mainly such notions that anything sexual is wrong & that video games are primarily things for children, so anything that doesn’t fit within narrow moral guidelines is deviant.
    This is still the case with many films & occasionally books.
    Yet people don’t want to blame a system or try to fix things so they focus their impotent rage on individuals & destroy their lives in order to make themselves (the attackers) feel empowered & in control.

    • In some cases as well, little to no choice is given to a developer or localisation team. If they fail to comply with local laws about nudity, sexual content, violence, etc. then at best, the game will never be released. At worst, they could face incredible fines, or even be shut down.

      It’s not just the US either. China is a huge market now, and the Chinese government’s laundry list of banned content extends to much more than just nudity or sexual content. Countries like Malaysia are so twitchy that they’ve forced makeup companies to rename products to avoid even the tiniest sexual connotation. (I’m sure there’s plenty of examples from the UK and Europe as well.)

      • This is all true, but I very much doubt that there would have been any issue at all if, for example, Bravely Default had come out with its character models having slightly racier outfits, or Fire Emblem Awakening had shown a picture of a woman dressed in a swimsuit. It doesn’t exactly take a lot of research to find countless examples of vastly more explicit content in games both made in and localized for the US.

        EDIT: Also Chinese censorship is utterly irrelevant when discussing English localizations.

        • You’d think so, wouldn’t you?

          Well, I assume you’re aware of the way Fallout 3 was censored? Because of Australian censorship laws, the game was altered in every single release.
          It’s not beyond the bounds of credibility that a title intended for international release was affected by censorship laws that exist in only /one/ of the target audience countries, as opposed to all of them.

          • I’m not sure that changing the name of various real-world drugs like Morphine in the game to fictional versions before the game actually released counts as censorship, but if it does it’s a very minor type of it. It has zero impact on the gameplay, the story, the characterization or anything.

            You’re right that changes for one European / North American region may flow into changes for other regions. However it’s worth noting that none of the changes that were made to the games in question here were necessary. They wouldn’t have gotten censored or banned or anything without the changes happening.

            I stand by my assertion that Chinese government censorship is irrelevant in the case of English localizations. Nintendo of America and Nintendo of Europe have nothing to do with China. They don’t care what restrictions China may place on their games because they won’t release their version of the games there. The Chinese market is a huge opportunity for them now that the country is allowing actual console sales as of a couple of years ago, but if they release games there they Japanese branch would be doing a Japanese to Chinese localization and making the product comply with local laws. The fact is though, most of the time they don’t bother doing that. Games get localized into Chinese and released in East/South-East Asian locations like Hong Kong and Taiwan and then get imported into China through the grey market.

      • Before Australia had an R+ games rating we saw more than a few games banned for fairly suspect reasons (such as drug references) because they (the Oz gov censors) had an outdated view of games being strictly for children.
        We had a lot of games edited as well. & more than a few never released because companies didn’t think it worth submitting it to the ratings board because of lackluster sales in the US.

  • you know the playbook: discredit, harass, shame, isolate, maybe find a skeleton in a person’s closet that calls their reputation into question.

    So…. Everything that is included in this article in defence of Rapp and to “discredit, harass, shame, isolate” anyone with a descenting opinion of her or what she has publicly stated to others?

    That’s the biggest issue about these types of dramas. Everyone is using the same handbook and is more interested in “proving their side is the RIGHT side and how the other side is WRONG” than looking at the reason the issue exists.

    People are upset that content is being changed due to outside groups in the name of “progressiveness” in a manner that borders on or crosses into the realms of censorship or alteration of another person’s work. Rapp just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Her postings on Twitter are just as aggressive as those posting at her, so she becomes the target.

    • ^this 100%
      Also, alot of media sites like to cherry pick half of the story, and that pissees me off, even if I’m neutral in the argument.
      I shall stop here before i put my feet in my mouth.

      • Also, alot of media sites like to cherry pick half of the story, and that pissees me off, even if I’m neutral in the argument.

        I think that’s the driving force behind these ‘culture wars’. These websites fan the flames. They troll the most extreme members of each side and then report on it in a way that further trolls those groups. They find the most bigoted members of the group then act as if they represent the views of everyone involved. Then they parade those people around to whip the extremes on the other side into a frenzy. That in turn leads to the more level headed members of both sides getting dragged into the conflict.
        The frustrating part is that it’s really effective in pushing rational people towards those extremes. Actually scratch that, the truly frustrating part is that I don’t believe it’s any sort of mass media conspiracy. Websites like this gravitate towards traffic and views even when money isn’t in the equation so with the right feedback (ie, these articles are, on a spreadsheet, really successful) this is where it naturally ends up.

    • It is also very easy to wave away serious arguments and criticisms of what a person has said or done because they are “the target of a witch hunt”. For everyone who will engage in a reasoned discussion of what Rapp has written (amongst which she says possession of child pornography should not be criminalized) there are plenty who will accuse you of trolling/misogyny/harassment. Take Anita Sarkeesian as one of the most egregious examples. She won’t debate or engage in discussion about her views and even closes off comment sections on her youtube channel. She gets a free pass because there are some people who attack her personally.

      Rant incoming.

      A very real problem is that freedom is speech is severely curtailed when we as a society see it directed in ad hominem attacks on people we consider ‘vulnerable’ (most often women, LGBT or people of colour). The same curtailment of speech is not in evidence when the target is someone we consider capable of withstanding harassment (most often male political or business figures). This kind of discrimination is breeding a culture where those espousing fringe or progressive ideas believe they are entitled to special protection from criticism or from having their ideas challenged, but also feel free to attack people who hold more conservative ideas.

      It’s crazy when people challenging progressive ideas need the special protection of being gay (Milo Yiannopoulos) or female (Christina Hoff Sommers) to even have a chance at not being targeted because of who they are, not what they are saying.

      • Your comparison would be more fair if the attacks thrown at someone who is “capable of withstanding harassment” were of an equal measure and threats to those thrown at someone like Sarkeesian. I cannot believe I’m actually about defend Sarkeesian here (as I think her arguments are utterly awful), but here goes.

        Let’s take a white male political/business figure. Say… Donald Trump. When was the last time his social media pages were bombarded with comments from people who are threatening to hunt him down, torture him, rape him and kill him?

        And yes, the fact that someone is “capable” of dealing with the harassment does come into it. Trump can move to one of his many houses if one is considered unsafe. Trump can afford security guards. Trump already has a lot of his personal life and details plastered all over the Internet, so he’s not particularly vulnerable to doxxing.

        You can’t compare apples to oranges.

        • I disagree. Giving someone special treatment because their feelings are more easily hurt is not equality. It’s hot-housing which is unhelpful and reeks of double standards. Twitter’s trust and safety council is in theory a good idea – promoting better internet etiquette (at least on Twitter) for all – but it remains to be seen what practical effect it will have.

          What I believe would work is a massively enhanced police presence on the internet. It would need to be co-ordinated by an organization like Interpol. If someone makes a death threat (and not just an aspirational ‘I hope someone kills you’) then they need to be identified and charged, Nothing else will curtail human behaviour when the actor can hide behind a veil of anonymity. All the education in the world will not change this. Locking people into ‘gated communities’ on the internet is creating echo chambers where ideas cannot be challenged and progress is stunted.

          In short, real-life penalties for real threats but otherwise people just need to toughen up. This idea that you can go through life in a cocoon, not being challenged and not being offended, is as ridiculous as it is dangerous.

          And for the record, Donald Trump has received plenty of death threats on social media.

          • It’s not about giving someone special treatment. Someone who is 140cm tall and weighs 40kg threatening to rape someone who is 210cm and 160kg doesn’t really have the same impact as the reverse, does it?

            Trump has been threatened on social media, but nowhere near to the same degree or relative quantity of threats compared to someone like Sarkeesian. And he has a lot more resources to deal with any threat to his person he might face.

            Yes, echo chambers and collective idiots banding together with ease through the Internet has led to a wide number of negative things, including this kind of behaviour, and stuff like anti-vaxxers and the like sharing and reinforcing their dumb viewpoints absent of any fact.

    • Whether it covers half the story or not, I’m inclined to go along with this version, and agree with it. Why? Because ‘freedom of speech’, or whatever, doesn’t mean that you can simply abuse people, threaten them, humiliate them etc. Any person of sound mind knows that, if in an argument or a debate, as soon as one side/person starts to use threats and profanities, they have simply lost. They can no longer present an argument, idea, or criticism in a reasonable fashion.

      As we’ve seen at American universities, people are completely misunderstanding the whole notion of freedom, with many seeming to perceive it as “I can do whatever I please”. What a shame this is so prevalent in the gaming world….

  • Meanwhile the actual legitimate complaints around the approach that Nintendo and a few others have been taking with their localizations recently gets lost in the noise or just ignored now that it’s associated with this.

    • Out of curiosity, exactly what are these complaints? For the size of the article here, it didn’t mention one specific example.

      • The most recent Fire Emblem game has essentially been rewritten instead of translated, and has had content outright cut. The rewrites are lower in quality than the translations*. In some cases, they’ve removed references to romance, both homosexual and heterosexual**. I can’t remember if it’s FE or another recent Nintendo game, but there’s also a case of 4 endings in the original (a good, a bad, a neutral and a 4th) being reduced to 2 endings in the localised release (a good ending and a neutral ending. No “people die” endings because… well, make up your own reason).

        Basically, Nintendo of Europe – or whoever it is that is in charge of localising games, in the opinions of gamers on the internet – is butchering the translation of the Japanese games for no good reason. Here’s one example I found on short notice.

        *I am aware this is an opinion, not a fact.
        **I’m pretty sure this is the case, and not something I made up

        • Second example, with removal of story consequences, is an issue with Bravely Second and not Fire Emblem.

          And it’s Nintendo of America (the “Treehouse” group specifically) that seems to be behind the changes. When it comes to localizing JRPGs etc previously they’ve been apathetic at best. Nintendo of Europe were pretty good – they actually bothered to localize stuff like Xenoblade and The Last Story.

          There’s actually a lot of dislike of NoA/Treehouse that goes right back to the Xenoblade / Operation Rainfall stuff. They refused to bring Xenoblade over for ages, even though NoE had translated the whole thing, and then when they did they made Gamestop the sole distributor and made them in charge of production. Initial shipment sold out super fast and then Gamestop ‘found’ some ‘used’ copies which they sold at a 50% markup because the game was ‘rare’ (they controlled the supply, mind you, so they made it rare!) and it turned out these ‘used’ copies were actually brand new printings and the whole thing was a rort. Anger over that fed right back at NoA. But it’s better than The Last Story, which NoA were so disinterested in they couldn’t even be bothered bringing it over and XSeed – a third party company – had to license NIntendo’s own English localization from Nintendo of Europe and handle the release of it in the US because NoA couldn’t be bothered. I don’t think the third OpRainfall game (Pandora’s Tower) ever made it there, either, despite constant fan requests. So there’s a lot of historical anger directed at NoA. Now they’ve finally started doing JRPG localization in-house there, which seems to have started after those Wii games were all relatively huge sellers and Fire Emblem Awakening smashed sales records for the series (Awakening was translated by an outsourcing company in Japan, 8-4) they’ve been doing such a poor and tone-deaf job of it that that undercurrent of resentment toward them has flared up pretty badly.

          It’s worth noting though that NoA have always weird about this. It’s why we end up having strange quotes in Final Fantasy 6 for example. Kefka’s famous “Son of a Submariner” line was probably originally intended to be “Son of a Bitch” based off the Japanese line and context, but guess which company had an issue with foul language in their games?

          • Wow, I’m out my league. You know what you’re talking about! I’m going to refer all questions to you.
            Keep up the good work!

      • Among other things, costume censorship/removal in Bravely Default, Bravely Second, Fatal Frame 5, Xenoblade X and others. Removal of the boob size slider character customization in Xenoblade X (yes, really – people were up in arms over this). Removal of Japanese audio options in Fire Emblem Fates, Xenoblade X. Removal of a mini-game from Fire Emblem. Huge changes to a bunch of characters in Fates, including removal of multiple lines of dialogue (replaced with “…”) and assigning weird tropes to characters that weren’t in the original text (eg. one of them now has a fetish for pickles). Some people also probably get antsy about the fact that a lot of the characters in Fire Emblem got name changes too.

        Bravely Second had an entire class, the Tomahawk, changed to look like a Cowboy instead of an American Indian and has had just about every costume changed to remove any exposed skin with the addition of fabric and zippers and the like, and they even went to the trouble of editing the designs in the collector’s edition’s included artbook to match. Apparently it also has had some major sidequest changes – in the Japanese edition you could make choices in a few spots to take certain sides and later on there might be bad consequences to that choice, but the consequences have been edited out and the results are always the ‘good’ outcome. This was Square Enix’s localization rather than Nintendo’s, but Squenix never do this sort of thing and Nintendo have made it a marquee title so the suspicion naturally falls back to them (they dictated some costume changes to the first game too).

        It ends up giving the impression that Nintendo is trying to target a younger audience or trying to keep especially their published 3DS lineup as ‘kid friendly’ as possible. It ends up raising the specter of awful 80s and 90s localizations though (both games and anime), something which it felt like had been largely moved past. Most of the time Japanese stuff gets translated, not localized. It comes through as intact as possible and if there’s any changes it’s to irrelevant stuff like characters stated ages. Nintendo feels suddenly very regressive.

        It’s all minor stuff overall but it stands out because this is the sort of stuff that no one else does. Additionally, there’s a swelling of discontent because these were all highly anticipated games and the changes weren’t found out about until right before or during the release, which had a pretty negative impact on people’s excitement. Plus with Nintendo being the only one out there doing this a lot and most critics not even mentioning it, or those that do dismissing it out of hand (I’ve seen quite a lot of “go learn Japanese and import the game yourself if you don’t like it” comments) it was feeling like Nintendo gets a free pass because they’re Nintendo and can do no wrong. That added fuel to the fire.

        For me personally, I don’t hugely care about costume changes though I think they changes are utterly unnecessary and kind of silly. Minor text changes aren’t the end of the world, and should be expected as part of the translation process, provided they’re not actually changing the original meaning or intent of the text or the like. A lot of the time, name changes are improvements (a very old example: Tales of Symphonia renamed its characters Genius and Refill to Genus and Raine because seriously?). Losing dual audio options is a huge blow and I wish they’d let people know more than a week or two before the game comes out if they’re doing it, but usually there’s a technical or licensing reason for making a change like that. However making major changes to text or removing big chunks of content or modifying the story are close to showstoppers for me.

        The’re issues that only matter to a small group, but that group is often pretty passionate about it and for JRPGs can be a good chunk of the the core of the fanbase as well. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with pointing out Nintendo or others making unnecessary changes, complaining about the removal of content and demanding a higher standard.

        WIth this now being commandeered by the gurmergoobler crowd though it just gives everyone even more reason to filter it out, and also has a general chilling effect on any actual discussion of it – I don’t want to be associated with white supremacists or mens rights activists or whoever else has declared this their latest battleground. 🙁

        • “It ends up giving the impression that Nintendo is trying to target a younger audience or trying to keep especially their published 3DS lineup as ‘kid friendly’ as possible.”

          Alternatively, it could be that they have realised that the Western market is not as mature as the Asian one, and have become tired of the self righteous horror of concerned parents, and the resulting manufactured outrage by the media .
          If that was the case, it makes for an interesting counterpoint as to who really is to blame.

          • True, though when was the last time we actually saw any concerned parents controversy like that? It’s not like Japanese games aren’t coming over largely untouched most of the time. Doesn’t take much research to turn up stuff that’s a whole lot more objectionable than the stuff Nintendo’s been cutting out.

          • Well, to be honest, I was thinking more of the US market than the gamers here in Australia.
            We tend to not get so worked up about it but even if we did, Nintendo are unlikely to change the content, no matter how much outrage is generated by misguided parents and the ACL.
            The US, however is a massive market for them and large enough to customise their product to suit local taste.
            The article seemed to be more US centric, than Aus gamers.

          • I agree. It’s more the spectre of western media beatups. Our friends here at Kotaku and elsewhere are known for virtue signalling through articles that pander to the ‘morally outraged left’. It’s a problem that goes back to the sandwich board sensationalism of British tabloids. I’d venture to opine that Nintendo has more to worry about from social media-savvy ‘concerned subset of feminists’ than ‘concerned parents’.

      • With Fire Emblem Fates, the vast majority of the complaints involve the butchering of the script. There are those that are angry at the loss of the petting mini-game and swimsuits removed, but when you alter characters you poke the beehive.
        The main infractions involve Hisame changed from someone who had a fondness for pickles, into what has been dubbed “Pickle-man”.
        Japanese translation:
        Localization: (Video)
        Then there’s the Saizou x Belka C-Support that was completely removed to fit a joke, yet the characters refer back to the conversation in subsequent supports, confusing US players:
        Elfie changed from a shy & gentle giant into Sully 2.0:
        There are so many more, from dialogue changed to meme references, to spelling errors, etc. But to link it all individually would take too long. The ‘Know-your-meme’ page has a heap of examples in the image section of this page:

        • Shussh. You’re ruining the “protesters-are-perverted-deviants” angle that Kotaku was going for.

  • Kool bunch of angry nerds attacking people because they lost their boob-slider mechanic while championing “free speech” and being anti-censorship.

    • tbh if a game was promised a boob-slider mechanic and it was removed i would be kinda bummed. But not enough to post death treats upon people on twitter.

      • Exactly. As Australians we know game censorship all too well. We’ve always handled it pretty normally.

        Hell hath no fury like a white man finally feeling oppressed.

    • I’m not the most knowledgeable person when it comes to GG-type stories, but even I can tell your conclusion is a gross over-simplification.

      As usual, I suspect the truth is somewhere between. Neither side is right. Neither side is wrong. Just a whole bunch of black-and-white mixed together to form a grey glop.

      What I wonder is, if someone can get so riled up about censorship in games, why can’t they expend their energy on learning Japanese, and then importing the title. Even I realise that different cultures can have aspects which clash, and it can be necessary to modify those aspects when importing media from one to the other.

      • “why can’t they expend their energy on learning Japanese, and then importing the title.”

        This has to be the biggest pet peeve I have with this whole debate. No shortage of people suggesting this. Not meaning to single you out or anything – it’s something that I keep on seeing and you’re just the first to mention it. 🙂

        If English is your first and only language, getting to the level of Japanese proficiency needed to be able to follow the story of a game with the text complexity of a modern JRPG is literally years of solid study. Even to get to the point where you can sit there and look up words in a dictionary as you go involves a significant amount of study (you can’t even use a Japanese dictionary without a decent grounding in the writing system), and trust me, that’s not a remotely enjoyable way to experience a game like that. It’s probably a good way to study but it really sucks the life out of what you’re doing. Fine for simple games but not for RPGs.

        The issue here isn’t stuff that’s changed because it doesn’t make sense in English, it’s wholesale changes that deviate significantly from the original text. This is a bit hyperbolic, but it’s like if I was to translate Hamlet to Japanese, but decided to add an additional detail: Hamlet really loves pickles and every scene he appears in, I add a line to his dialogue or a pun about them, or he’s holding one or eating one or something. In the famous ‘poor Yorick’ speech instead of a skull, it’s a jar of pickles. While highly amusing, I think that people reading the translation would be within their rights to complain about the accuracy, right?

        I don’t see why people should have to be forced to learn an entire language and go back to the original text just to get an accurate translation, rather than just demand the translation be accurate to begin with.

        • Absolutely. Why learn Japanese when the company will spend its time and money to release English version just like I wanted? The issue is that once they do they still have to do their song and dance to convince us to buy and if they fail the expectations of the fans then they’ll get no sale from them.

          Just because they tried doesn’t make them immune to criticism.

        • You make an excellent argument, sir. I believe I have been swayed to your point of view.

        • I’m sorry, but this is the whole point of localisation. Anyone who doesn’t get this is in fact missing half the point of localisation and clearly doesn’t understand why language translation is difficult. From your posts you seem to be an intelligent person, so therefore I would expect you to know that literal translations DO NOT WORK.

          Moreover, the people attacking the people who are doing the localisation are attacking the very people who have spent years of effort learning two languages and the ability to translate between them while being able to consider social and cultural context to make it make sense. To throw such violent and vehement criticism of localisation staff without even a shred of talent in or understanding of their field is both disgraceful and disrespectful. You don’t have to be a filmmaker to be a film critic, but you better damn well put some effort in and understand the field. And under no circumstances do you accuse the filmmaker of being a pedophile just because you didn’t like their last film.

          The localisation staff involved have to make a call on how to translate individual scenes, sentences, etc. The parent company will also likely provide direction on what is acceptable/unacceptable based upon the demographics of the people that are buying the games. If the majority of the audience is younger, then they’re going to remove content that would be considered “adult” content in the US, even if that same content would not have the same cultural/sexual/adult implications by Japanese players.

          The fact that some of these people are choosing to directly attack people involved in the localisation process – and some that have absolutely nothing to do with it or any of the decision making involved – just highlights their inability to form a coherent argument or raise their complaints in a reasonable manner.

          People can complain to the community managers or the coal face of the company – but they should not go digging up 5 year old posts or papers just to do character assassination because they didn’t respond nicely to your hate mail. There is seriously no excuse for this kind of behaviour and the fact that it is happening more frequently in the gaming industry is an extremely sad reflection of the kinds of personalities and stereotypes that the gaming community at large should detest and being trying to grow up and move away from.

          The people that are so violently and vehemently attacking staff of these companies would be much better off spending their time more productively and in less hateful activities.

          I understand why people aren’t happy about certain things, but translators taking some liberties with characters, events and personalities has been occurring for as long as translation has existed. If the complaints were raised in a rational and considered manner, then this story wouldn’t exist.

          You’ve raised your arguments here in a reasoned and clear manner without any vitriol or hatred. If only everyone could follow the example you have set, there wouldn’t be another controversy marring the gaming community, and there might actually be a better chance of effecting a real change in future localisation efforts of Japanese games. All the behaviour of these people is going to do is either make companies not want to take on the task of doing localisation, or make Nintendo can it completely.

          • There is a vast gap between changing things to actually make sense in English, and changing things because you think a certain character would be more interesting if they have a sudden unexplained fetish for pickles. There are things in Japanese which simply don’t translate directly to English. Idioms, for example. There’s also terms in the language which are commonplace to most Japanese people, but an average English speaker is probably not going to understand the reference. Those are cases where you need to rewrite. Japanese is also much more indirect than English at times, because it can be impolite to be direct (for example, instead of telling someone to go home, it’s more polite to tell them to not be where they are). No one is complaining about changing this sort of thing, or at least they shouldn’t be if they’ve got a modicum of sense.

            Removing content, significantly changing story content or modifying major things on a whim is not localization in the modern sense. It’s localization in the late-80s bowdlerize anime for American TV sense. This stuff has been a huge sore point for people into the medium for years. Additionally, just because it’s ‘always been this way’ doesn’t mean that it should be that way! “We’ve always done it this way” is one of the biggest impediments to forward progress in any human endeavor. If it was a truly valid argument then humans would still be sitting around in caves and communicating with a series of grunts while banging stones together.

            I agree with your overall point though, which I think is that these people are going way beyond what is acceptable in their complaints. But see, I don’t actually think that the people doing that are the same people that were originally upset at the localization approach. The argument’s been co-opted by a highly toxic group of people that want to use it as their next battleground in a cultural war that they will lose. The issue is that their toxic behavior ends up poisoning the original argument itself, and that’s not a good thing because there is some actual legitimacy to the argument.

          • I don’t disagree, but if this keeps happening on a regular basis, then one must start to ask *why* this is occurring? I mean, surely the localisation teams aren’t just going “man, this is really going to rile up those people who want a pure translation, and I can’t wait to taste their salty, salty tears through the Internet.”

            Have they found that the majority of people do actually like these kinds of changes? Have games that have not undergone these kinds of modifications performed worse in terms of sales than those that have?

            To be perfectly honest, I’m on-side with you in that I would also rather have a purer translation than compared to one with the kinds of modifications that you have mentioned. But surely there is some rationale behind it, else surely it would have stopped by now?

            Either way, an ongoing civil discussion and discourse with the developers/localisation teams is indeed warranted and quite possibly valuable to both sides. Vile hate speech and personal attacks, on the other hand, can just go away and never come back – and preferably the trolls responsible will just go away, or gain some maturity and intelligence and realise how disgracefully they have behaved.

          • It doesn’t happen that often. That’s the thing. XSEED, Atlus, Aksys, IFI even NISA generally are able to bring games over without having to fiddle with much. NISA used to do it periodically but it was usually incompetence (straight up wrong translation in Ar Tonelico II was their low point) or stupidity (hurr let’s change her name from Esty Erhard to Esty Dee and make a dub STD joke) and they’ve stopped doing that after a lot of backlash. If stuff from them gets censored, it’s because it needs to be censored to meet ESRB ratings. XSeed’s stance is generally if they have to censor it it’s not something they’ll even consider touching.

            It’s really just Nintendo doing this stuff (I’m assuming that the changes to the Bravely games were at Nintendo’s request because Squenix doesn’t normally do it – they’re the company that publishes Yoko Taro’s weird shit like Nier and Drakengard, for example).

            There’s definitely some kind of rationale behind what Nintendo’s doing, but that doesn’t mean their reasoning is justified or correct. My suspicion is that they’ve decided the market for the 3DS is primarily children, and they don’t want anything they publish or co-market with their name on it on 3DS to have any content in it that might ‘scar Little Jimmy’s fragile 12 year old mind’. This is the same system that has site filtering enabled in the built-in web browser in case Little Jimmy tries to look at pornography on it.

    • I wouldn’t be so dismissive.

      Some people might be attacking people but most people are content to engage in discussion of issues.

      Some people might be outraged at the loss of a boob-slider but many more are upset at story changes.

      The headline “People upset at Nintendo engage in civilised argument” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it?

  • It’s only going to get worse. The Internet gives everyone a voice (and rightly so) but this comes along with it. It doesn’t matter what ‘side’ someone is on because membership is just a Twitter account and an opinion.

  • Social media sux, and has created this problem. Turn it off, problem solved. People would be far less inclined to raise bullshit issues like this one if they had to have an actual interaction with a real human.

    • Nice idea, but it’s essentially curing the symptom, not the problem. The real problem, I think, is that people react with assumed knowledge. Social media just exacerbates that problem. People will raise bullshit issues regardless of the medium. Just have a look at talkback radio.

      • What’s more, they seek out “evidence” that supports their view and dismiss anything that doesn’t as biased. It just makes them more likely to hold onto bullshit issues no matter what.

  • Good to see Kotaku as usual opting to remain unbiased as to not make matters worse. /sarcasm

    I suppose cherry picking and adding fuel to the fire is the way to generate those clicks though.

    Personally I couldn’t care less for either side of the GG/anti-GG ‘conflict’ these days. Because they’ve BOTH got groups of cretins doing awful shit and making anyone remotely associated with their side look just as guilty.

    It’s a no-win situation even if you’re not one of the assholes making death threats, etc.

  • It doesn’t matter what your argument is, the minute you start calling someone a “pedophile enthusiast” as an insult then you have lost.

    • Funny how it doesn’t also work when you call someone a misogynist. Then people congratulate you for ‘standing up to the patriarchy’.

  • “Digging through her Amazon wish-list and finding links to an anime body pillow to shame her hasn’t worked either. ”

    GG-ers/Revolt-ers/whatever you want to call them shaming someone for having an anime body pillow. Please tell me I’m not the only one that sees how funny this is.

    • Wouldn’t be a GG witch hunt if there weren’t some egregious cases of double standards being applied.

      • Ha ha, nice comment. I chose to read that a little differently to the way in which you might have meant it. Then again, I might be selling you short 🙂

    • The humour of it for me is that I simply don’t even see how it was supposed to be shameful in the first place.

      It’s an anime body pillow… For a skeleton in the closet that is so tame it is ridiculous.

  • deeply sensitive subject and is more nuanced than its detractors portray

    The same could be said about the censorship issue and the people that raised it. You know the same people who you just spent an entire article “sham[ing] and victimis[ing]” by painting them as “caricatured” Neanderthals. Can’t you see that by cherry-picking the worst comments made by the worst members of the GG group you’re no better than them?

    I don’t agree with most of GG, nor do I feel particularly strongly about the censorship issue at hand, but if anyone is using “muddled and disingenuous” arguments here, it’s you. Start being respectable journalists, drop the painfully obvious biases, cover both sides of issue and leave the “witch hunts” to the GGers you so obviously despise.

    • The article’s about her getting flamed and harassed – I’m not sure how to quote trolls while avoiding the “lol, neoFAG!… get it?! ” nature of their comments.

      • It seems there are two connected stories here; the censorship story with its mix of reasonable and unreasonable advocates, and the harassment story that naturally only encompasses the unreasonable ones. If the article were solely about the harassment then focusing on the harassers seems like it’d be a pretty reasonable thing, but it mixes in just enough of the censorship story and then spends so little time on the reasonable arguments related to it that it seems to have an underlying tone of dismissal to both.

        Kotaku did a similar thing with the ethics/GamerGate issue. There were some reasonable people trying to raise genuine ethical concerns (not the stuff directed at Zoe Quinn etc.) but their voices got drowned out because lunatics took over the narrative and the media fixated on the lunatics. Here it seems there are reasonable people trying to raise genuine censorship concerns, while lunatics are again trying to take over the narrative and, in this article at least, the focus seems to be on the lunatics again.

        Small rant time, feel free to skip:

        Any criminal psychologist worth their salt will tell you that the worst thing the media can do after a serial killing is to fixate on the killer, delve into their past, publicise their motives, because all it does is show to others who might think about doing the same that they can buy fame and publicity and a soapbox to get their message to the world by doing something terrible. Experts instead say that serial killings should be reported neutrally, what happened and where, don’t mention the killer’s name or reasons, don’t moralise or in any way hype the tragedy of the event, and give the story no further coverage. The kinds of people who hijack causes and turn them into platforms to vent their hatred at all and sundry are no different, and the way the media (including Kotaku) should be treating them is by reporting that it happened, once and neutrally, then not feeding any more into it.

        Of course they don’t do that because there’s less revenue to be had that way, but the side effect is it ends up feeding the very thing they’re criticising, gives it more power and prolongs its life.

        • Feeding or not feeding, there’s always going to .be loud idiots on the internet. Frankly, explaining why this section’s buzzword is “paedophile enthusiast” more than gave the ‘equal to both sides’ people are complaining about.

          An inflammatory article would have pointed out these paedo-scare wingnuts are also the ones who whine if lolicon content gets snipped in the West.

          • Of course there’s always going to be loud idiots on the internet. Feeding them is free advertising, it emboldens them and attracts numbers to their nonsense. It’s common sense that you don’t publicise jackasses unless you want them to thrive.

    • Well put. Not presenting a fair or balanced view is a failing that is unfortunately common amongst the ‘enthusiast press’.

  • As a supporter of anti censorship, it concerns me that Kotaku allows people to censor the speech of others by downvoting.

    People, don’t do this. Upvote opinions you disagree with in order to show solidarity!

    • I forget whether Kotaku actually hides comments that are downvoted enough. I know Eurogamer does.

      • It doesn’t but if you get downvoted a bit then your comments go to moderation and there’s no rolling window on it, you have to be manually removed from auto-moderation.

        Which is very annoying in threads like this were people think that it’s okay to downvote something they disagree with.

      • 90% of my posts don’t make it to the comments- they’re definitely crafting the experience.

  • It’s quite simple. There are a growing element of disenfranchised man-children who have a chip on their shoulders because they feel marginalised due to their negative or non existent relations with women. These guys lash out and project their insecurities upon women involved in the gaming industry as a surrogate for all the times women have hurt them. This is excrutiatingly obvious in gamergate discussions and all the branches of misogyny that flow from that. These attitudes are then merged with typical opposition to authority rhetoric and we have a toxic recipe fit for internet message boards.
    What I think is worth exploring is why and how so many men end up in a place ruled by gender wars and hostility. And whether or not they have the ability to be introspective about the situation.

    • Your conclusion is a reduction fallacy. The issue evidently isn’t that simple, not least because there are many women who identify with GamerGate. The problem with reduction fallacies is you tend to stop investigating additional causes once you’ve settled on a particular one because of the false dilemma that there’s only one answer. The reality of this situation is much more likely to be the result of complex interactions between many causal factors.

      • I’ll concede it’s not the only factor, I was being slightly facetious.
        You could argue that any argument has reductionist factors.
        But I’m positive a large percentage of what is going on is exactly what I decribed and I think it is worth exploring why so many young men behave this way. The anecdotal evidence is overwhelming

      • The women who identify with gamer gate certainly do not conduct themselves in the same fashion as the guys, in terms of raw hate and vitriol.

    • Accusing GGers of being sexually-repressed deviants is as intellectually dishonest as the GGers calling feminists man-hating lesbians. People need to stop criticising people and start criticising arguments. Because there’s plenty to criticise on both sides of the fence.

      This is excrutiatingly obvious in gamergate discussions and all the branches of misogyny that flow from that

      It’s obvious if that’s what you’re assuming to be true.

      • I never said they were deviants or sexually repressed. My argument is around the ferocious anger which comes almost exclusively from young males, towards women in video games industry and female gamers. This is a recurring pattern.. It’s very much about gender and misplaced anger and I think that anger comes from sexual naïveté, loneliness and frustration in their personal lives. It’s written all over their comments at least subtextualy. This should be studied on a psychological and social level.

  • I don’t like censorship in any form. Violence, sexisim, opposing views of the world.

  • Isn’t this a symptom on the internet in general? Part of what makes the internet a powerful tool is anonymity, for good and evil. One of the evil parts being the harassment. It isn’t unique to any one side. For every person calling for the firing of the woman in this article there is one calling for the firing of someone on the opposing side. For every death threat there is a counter death threat. Anti GG attacks GG, GG attacks anti-GG, etc.

    Whenever I read an article similar to this on either side of the spectrum there is always the “They have terrible people but when you call them on it they say they don’t represent us” argument. Gamergate has followers that really believe in the cause and others who are vile human beings. Modern feminism has people doing vital work towards the betterment of so many and others who just want to tear others down. Every movement, ideology or whatever has shitty people. Honestly the trick is if you wish to be involved in these debates, then say with each interaction either this persons legit in what they are trying to convey or a ****wit. And if they are legitimate then try understand why they think the way they do even if you disagree. If not then ignore them.

  • If this isn’t the final piece of evidence to prove that GG is only followed by crazy whingers with a mental age of 8, then I don’t know what it will take.

  • Honestly.. There are so many other issues worth fighting for. I mean, for real? I love games more than most, for sure, but shit… Haven’t people got better things to do with their time?

    we might as well just close the sub[reddit] right now.
    Yes, please.

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