Localiser Asks To Be Removed From Game's Credits After Developers Erase KKK Reference

Yesterday, a localiser for the publisher XSEED took a dramatic stance on what he saw as potential censorship, asking his company to remove his name from the credits of the upcoming JRPG Akiba's Beat after the developers removed a controversial phrase involving the KKK from the game.

Akiba's Beat

"I wanted to make a statement," localisation specialist Tom Lipschultz wrote in an email. "I don't think it's right to make any change, no matter how minor, for the purpose of 'sanitizing' a game."

Akiba's Beat, a JRPG developed by the Japanese studio Acquire, will be out in the West next month. XSEED is handling publishing and localisation in the West, which means they have a staff working to translate the game from Japanese to English, edit that text, and determine how best to present it to an English-speaking audience. That also means tweaking the game so some Japanese phrases or jokes aren't lost. For example, a character whose Japanese name is "Futoshi Futoi", or "Fatty McFat", is "Chunk Widebody" in the English version.

Localisation gets thorny when certain cultural themes don't make sense in other languages -- or, worse, when they're too controversial. Akiba's Beat's "most egregious change," Lipschultz wrote in an XSEED forum post, had to do with a parody of the Japanese light switch company NKK Switches. A sign in the original Japanese version of the game read "KKK witches", a play on the phrase. He wrote on XSEED's forum, "I personally felt 'KKK witches' was pretty funny for its shock value, but when I mentioned it to my coworkers, they... were not as amused." Lipschultz has long been an advocate against what he sees as censorship in localisation, and he says his priority is retaining as much of Akiba's Beat's original meaning as possible.

Akiba's Beat

XSEED (sans Lipschultz) e-mailed Acquire asking what originally inspired the sign. Ken Berry, XSEED's executive vice president, helped explain what the letters meant in the US. "Acquire immediately responded that they had no idea the sign could be taken that way in English," Berry told me in an email. Two weeks later, Acquire removed the phrase from Akiba's Beat, with no further conversation or discussion, replacing it with "ACQ witches".

Although this decision was made by the developer, Lipschultz decided to take a stand, asking XSEED to remove his name from the credits of Akiba's Beat. As a result, he won't appear in XSEED's credits again -- XSEED has a policy maintaining that "If someone is ashamed to be associated with one of our games, then they are ashamed to be associated with the company as a whole and won't be credited in future games either". Lipschultz says that, because "KKK witches" isn't being removed to "aid the player's comprehension" but to "avoid offending people and to avoid the possibility of retailers protesting", it infringes on the game's artistic value.

A year ago, Lipschultz protested when ages were removed from girls' profiles in Senran Kagura Burst, a game Kotaku's Brian Ashcraft reports was made because the developer wanted to put boobs in a 3DS game. Lipschultz almost quit. "Changing a 15-year-old to an 18-year-old would suddenly recontextualize a lot of character actions and motivations, turning characters who come across as 'well-meaning but young and inexperienced' into characters who simply come across as immature and misguided," he told former Kotaku reporter Patrick Klepek for a feature on video game "censorship".

Akiba's Beat

Lipschultz knows that the removal of "KKK witches" from Akiba's Beat is "insignificant", and truly, one might wonder whether this is really the place to take such a stand. But, he says, his dramatic gesture was inspired by the well-trod Evelyn Beatrice Hall quote, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

"When I first requested to have my name removed from the credits, I actually didn't know we'd never specifically asked Acquire to change this -- I assumed we had," said Lipschultz. "If I'd known that then, I might not have ever suggested removing my name from the credits. Then again, I still might've! And either way, because this is such a grey area, I don't entirely regret my request. If nothing else, it's bringing censorship back into public discussion, and I think that's important, since I feel it's a problem we -- as an industry -- really need to talk about. In my own backwards, awkward way, I'm hoping I've opened the topic wide enough that maybe some good will come of this in the future."


    This isnt even censorship, there was no intention to reference the kkk by the original artists. No art was compromised by this change.

    But enjoy that cross, by all means.

      "KKK witches" isn't being removed to "aid the player's comprehension" but to "avoid offending people and to avoid the possibility of retailers protesting"

      the suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security.

      Sounds like censorship to me.

        I mean sure, if you want to claim that the removal of all the original Japanese text in favour of an English translation is censorship, go right ahead.
        But choosing not to add in a KKK reference during localisation that wasn't present in the original is absolutely not the same as removing an intentional reference that was present in the source.

          Edit. misread your sentence. It was a little confusing how you've worded it

          Last edited 27/04/17 12:35 pm

            Wow downvoted by an idiot 1 hour after I edited my post - I bet you don't even know what I wrote in the first place... stay classy Kotaku

        Unless I misread the article, the original devs decided to change it - it's just one localiser who's still throwing a tantrum.
        I don't see how an intentional development decision counts as "suppression or prohibition."

        Last edited 27/04/17 12:23 pm

        You're completely ignoring the point of censorship. The message/intent of the artist was not compromised by the edit.

        This reductionist, broad-strokes approach shows that you have little understanding of a very real problem.

        Yes, Naturally you would love any refrence to the KKK, They are your ideal group after all :)

        If it's by the people in charge, it's not censorship but common sense in trying to market their product to a wide audience instead of a niche market of KKK fans.

      Exactly. Yes. It's not censorship. As the article explains, the Japanese developers had simply done a spoof of an existing company, NKK, by changing the name to KKK. And this would avoid trademark infringement as well. The developers explained that they had no idea of the meaning of those three letters in a Western, particularly American context. Thus, changing it for the English release to something else, e.g. MKK, is not censorship because no meaning from the original has been lost or changed. It would be like latching onto a coincidental similarity between languages which to the outside observer appears meaningful but to the original speaker, it is meaningless and likely, they are not even aware.

      Thus, not changing this string of Ks would be an act of modifying the message of the original artwork, i.e. putting words in the artist's mouth by inserting racial commentary where originally there was none. This localiser should know this, yet he wants to preserve an unintentional reference to a phenomenon that is culturally irrelevant to the cultural context of the artwork. Perhaps the studio should remove his name because in actual fact, he is a poor localiser. I wonder if he has a particular horse in this race?

    This guy is an idiot didn't he realise that the KKK are a white supremacist group. This should be censored as many black people were killed by the KKK

      Down votes from a stooge.

        I am not a stooge. the KKK are a white supremacist organisation who have killed black people. This would cause offence from many black people.

          This is not about the klan though, you are acting like they own three letters in sequence. It quite literally is how they had it in Japanese, you are just acting like it means something else.

          "Hammo to me reminds me of every white boy that ever laughed at my nan's heritage, it is offensive and I think you should change your name."

          See how stupid that is? You give them power and "street cred" every time you try to strike them out of history, like Voldemort you just can't get the fuck over it and have to speak their name in tongues.

          Worse yet, nobody ever erased Nazi's out of games or movies because the jews could have been offended. Your hard bias is laughably built on some white guilt you feel, my nan didn't ultimately hate your people for coming to her land, maybe you should stop hating yourself for the actions of others.

          Kkk are also the largest zipper manufacturer in the world or were. Issues like these they are now ykk

    *Looks at above comments*
    "Where my social warriors crying at?"

    He has every right to do whatever he wants, not like anyone will remember him for it anyway. Even as a pro free speech advocate, this is a non issue.

      You call yourself an advocate for free speech but call us stupid names that only mean anything in environments such as this.


        Citations plz.

        "Where my social warriors crying at?" Where in little joke do I call you "stupid names"? I called you a social warrior, which I am pretty sure is the going term for people in your group, heck it wasn't even the usual "SJW" sleight.

        I think this article is a non issue, that is only being made out to be an issue by people in both the far left and right. This is quite literally a bait article to cause fights and have people keep coming back to it.

          Hahahah how very hypocrite. You say that the article is bait to cause fights and you yourself make a belligerent comment generally targeted at a "group" to cause a fight. Little wannabe troll who doesn't even know that no trolling is achieved when the intention is so transparent.

            Being a centrist is trolling? I see the validity of why they changed the name, I can also fundamentally understand why he took issue with changing content, but I also don't think there is any issue to be had here. Both parties are fine morally speaking to do what they have done, the only reason you would have to take issue is if you were far left or right and didn't have the capability to see things from a different perspective.

            So yeah keep calling me a troll just because I made a joke, must be great in that echo chamber.

              Do note that I was not criticising your position regarding the article's topic (as mine is more similar to it than not). I was criticising your calling it baiting, when your comment was even more baiting so.

              Your comment noted that it was a fruit of reading the above comments, but of them only one seems an emotional overreaction. The others simply point the inconsistency in calling the removal "censorship of the original material" when it was about something that he himself introduced, which is a reasonable argument. So either you were trolling and baiting, or overreacting to an almost nonexistent thing.

          This is quite literally a bait article to cause fights and have people keep coming back to it.
          Sooo... Job done then?

            For better or worse.

              If it's any consolation, I got your joke and had a giggle.

              Then I was surprised there was people who would actually identify as a social justice warriors. (The name does sound kinda cool)
              I gotta say, that's a new one for the paradigm.

    "KKK witches" isn't being removed to "aid the player's comprehension" but to "avoid offending people and to avoid the possibility of retailers protesting"

    the suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security.

    This is textbook censorship.

      Where's the suppression or prohibition in this case? If the government prevents you from saying something, that's censorship. If the company prevents employees discussing certain issues, that's censorship. A company going "holy shit, KKK means something significant in one of our markets, let's write something else in there that's not going to upset people for no good reason" is NOT censorship, it's editing.

        There are people on reddit that think that removing off topic comments is censorship. You are NEVER going to get through to those sorts of people.

        the suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable

          Where's the suppression or prohibition in this case?

          If the government prevents you from saying something, that's censorship. If the company prevents employees discussing certain issues, that's censorship.

          A company going "holy shit, KKK means something significant in one of our markets, let's write something else in there that's not going to upset people for no good reason" is NOT censorship, it's editing.

          EDITING. Not censorship.

          Me not swearing in front of my gran is not censorship. The Athens Olympic coverageusing Pippa Funnell's full name Philippa in all coverage because "pippa" is an obscene word in Greek is not censorship. My company using three letter logins but not using PEE even though that was the staff member's actual initials (this really happened!) is not censorship.

          And this company choosing not to use KKK in an English language localisation is not censorship for the simple reason that it's not suppression or prohibition. It's avoiding upsetting people. It's catering to the intended audience.

          So are you going to simply keep quoting from a dictionary, one of the most tedious forms of rhetoric, or are you going to explain how the company was actually censored and who by?

            They removed the KKK Witches sign and replaced it with something else. That falls under suppression or prohibition. The reason it was done was, as you say, to avoid upsetting people. So, if a part of the work was suppressed or prohibited and it was done to avoid controversy or causing offence, then that is censorship. It's pretty simple.

              It's pretty simple, but wrong. You've come up with the lowest bar for suppression I've ever seen.

        You see, When its hardline right wing ideas that are supressed. Its highly offensive to people like thehasbrogamer. But if its anything left wing its perfectly fine to them.

          It's all about 18C.

          Or is it ethics in games journalism? I forget.

          Or you could not misrepresent my views. I'm against all censorship. I believe that if I let other be censored, then that's just setting a precedent for me to be censored.

      not having or showing awareness or understanding of the facts.
      "uninformed criticism of conservation projects"

    It's just kind of like... maybe find something more important to fight for?

    There's a difference between censorship (a government supressing it's people's right to criticize for instance) vs "censorship" (petty complaining about something that... lets be real, means nothing.)

    Japanese company accidentally makes reference to controversial hate group. Edits to correct.
    Man who really wants KKK references when it was never intended gets upset and removes himself from the credits for some reason.

    I'm not sure I even want to comment considering how the above seems to have gone. But I will anyway because I'm a sucker for argument I guess.

    People who have been around here a while probably know I'm staunchly anti-censorship, even if that means some pretty horrible material gets to exist. This story above is not an example of censorship, but the reason why isn't as obvious as some other cases so I'm not going to get mad at people who think it is.

    Censorship doesn't have to be forced on someone from an outside power, self-censorship is the choice of an author to change their own work in deference to someone else's sensibilities. In this case while it was outside factors that brought the issue to the attention of the publisher/developer, the decision to change it seems to have come from the developers' own sensibilities, not someone else's.

    It's a subtle but important difference. If the developer didn't feel a need to change it but did anyway because a foreign market would have objected, that would be self-censorship. But in this case it seems that the developer was simply unaware and when it was brought to their attention they decided (using their own standards) that it wasn't appropriate.

    There's no sin here. They weren't pressured to make a change contrary to their own sensibilities, they just didn't know what the letters meant in western culture. It's great to see people defending artistic freedom and opposing censorship and I'd never want to discourage that, this is just a story where it wasn't censorship even though it might have looked like it at first glance.

      I don't think you'll get any arguments about your statement. Well rational ones atleast. Nail on the head, bad translation that's all really.

        Its no suprise really the usuall few on here are defending the mention of a hardline right wing racist group.

      Really like your post here and pretty much agree with all of it, with one minor difference between us...

      Even if they self-censored for commercial reasons, that's still not really censorship, it's knowing your market. While censorship doesn't have to be forced, that's by far the most common mode and it's what's generally meant. But we're mostly in furious agreement here. :)

        Yeah, I don't expect everyone to subscribe to my standards on censorship, I know I have fairly strong views. Whether the change was to conform to their own standards vs someone else's is a distinction I consider essential and the latter would pretty much always fall under self-censorship to my mind.

        That's not to say it's necessarily bad - making sure you don't swear in front of grandma even though you would otherwise is perfectly reasonable self-censorship in my view, but when it comes to changes to artistic works I feel a little disquieted because I hold artistic integrity as inviolable and it can be a very slippery slope when an artist compromises that for the sake of others.

        Which of course isn't the case here, so it's all good regardless!

          Yeah I think you've nailed my point.

          Anyway. I'm off to suppress some soup, prohibit a can of pop and censor a yoghurt as it's lunchtime and my stomach's a fascist. :)

    This clearly isn't censorship, it's literally just coming up with the most accurate translation. No, translation isn't as simple as "Translate word for word and call it a day", that's how you get shit translations. It means trying to retain the meaning and nuance of the original message.

    For example, in Dutch you say "Ik heet Gareth" which (if translated literally) means "I am called Gareth", but that would just be stiff English. You'd say "I am Gareth". "I am Gareth" in Dutch would be "Ik ben Gareth", which wouldn't make sense.

    In Japanese, the correct way to introduce yourself might be "私は、ガレト言います", which literally translates to "About me, You say Gareto", where multiple parts of that sentence are optional. Would that make sense in English? Not really.

    Or for a more nuanced version, take how you say one thing is conditional on another. You can say "友達に会えれ、買い物に行きます" or "友達に会えたら、買い物に行きます". I've highlighted the only differences, which is what you use for if in this circumstance. They both mean literally "If we meet with my friend, we will go shopping". The difference is that たら holds the nuance of focusing more on the the result of the condition. A more accurate translation to actually reflect the difference would be "We can go shopping if I can meet with my friend" versus "If I can meet with my friend, then we will go shopping".

    So, looping back to the original point, the original business didn't come with the implication of sharing the name with a white supremacist group. Having them share a name with a white supremacist group in American localisations would be adding meaning where there is none, changing what the original nuance was and basically just shit translation.

      Well done. The smartest person in this whole thread, right here.

    And nothing about removing the boxing kangaroo from tekken because if complaints from Peta?
    Yeah this article is just to get a rise out of people and authors to boast about number of comments their in depth emotional peice of journalism got.

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