Japan-Themed Sims 4 Expansion Changed Out Of Respect For Koreans, Says Producer

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Japan-Themed Sims 4 Expansion Changed Out Of Respect For Koreans, Says Producer
Screenshot: EA/YouTube

The Japan-themed Sims 4 Snowy Escape expansion pack lets folks enjoy a hot springs mountain resort. The debut trailer shows a Japanese-themed world to be enjoyed, but two parts in particular caused enough of a backlash to be removed before the November 13th release.

A revamped trailer can be seen below.

Why was the trailer changed? As Sims Community points out, a number of South Korean players complained about the imagery they found offensive in the trailer, namely that in the original trailer, a Sim was shown bowing in front of a small shrine.

You can see the original footage still on YouTuber EnglishSimmer’s trailer reaction that was posted last week (check out her channel here). One Sim bows in front of a small shrine, while another snaps a photo. The original clip is also still in reacts videos on other Sims Youtuber channels.

Elsewhere in the original trailer, another Sim wore a yukata sporting what could be confused with a sun-like pattern.

This image can still be seen in YouTuber James Turner’s reacts clip (check out his YouTube channel right here). The design does look vaguely sun-like, yes, but it’s not the red and white Rising Sun flag motif, which is controversial throughout Asia. The design could be a Japanese folding fan, which is called a suehiro — which can symbolise prosperity. It’s hard to tell.

“This is the result of Orientalism,” wrote one Korean commenter on YouTube (via Sims Community). “I know that EA likes Japanese culture. But this is too much. Korea had been forced by Japan. They forced Koreans to greet their religious buildings. Koreans had to be tortured or killed if they didn’t do what Japan wanted. Surprisingly, the religious building appears in the game.”

Other YouTube comments written in Korean called for a boycott, telling EA to study history.

Sims producer Graham Nardone issued a series of tweets, writing, “We modified the reveal trailer for The Sims 4 Snowy Escape and have made changes to the pack to respect our Korean players. I want you to know that those changes will be in-game when Snowy Escape launches.”

“Specifically,” he continued, “we will not have Sims bow in front of shrines in the world of Mt. Komorebi. Further, we’ve adjusted some patterns on clothing and objects within Snowy Escape that unintentionally evoked imagery with painful historic meaning.”

“We aim to be inclusive,” he concluded. “We involve others both within and outside of our team, and we listen to them as representatives of the cultures that we draw inspiration from. We’re unwavering in our commitment to representing more of our player’s lives in an authentic and respectful way.”

Being inclusive is good! And not all the changes are bad, mind you.

The clothing fix is actually an improvement, I think. The Sim is wearing a nice kimono. It works.

But let’s think exactly what EA is doing. The company — an American company, at that — is appropriating Japanese culture and Japanese motifs to sell in its expansion pack.

Bowing is an intricate part of Japanese culture. It’s a sign of respect. While the trailer never fully explained how the shrine visits and bowing would work (I guess it would be optional?), bowing has been removed. The shrine, however, remains. So now, the new footage shows a Sim standing in front of the small shrine, puzzled. The shrine is now seen as something baffling. It’s weird. It’s different.

Screenshot: EA/YouTube Screenshot: EA/YouTube

This seems disrespectful, no? Let’s take a photo while you figure out what the hell is going on!

Aside from how EA seems to confuse Shintoism with State Shinto, the religion goes back before written history in Japan — before there was even a word for it. Shintoism predates the advent of using actual human-built shrines, something that started in the centuries that followed after Korea introduced Buddhism to Japan in the mid-6th century. Shintoism is the country’s indigenous religion. There is no main text like the Bible, and yet, Shintoism continues to course through Japanese society. The vast majority of babies are taken to Shinto shrines as a rite of passage. Children and adults alike carry Shinto talisman for good luck. People get their cars blessed by Shinto priests to protect the driver. At new construction sites, Shinto rituals are also performed. Sake, Japan’s national drink, is intimately connected to the religion as is sumo. This is Japanese culture.

Screenshot: EA/YouTube Screenshot: EA/YouTube

The shrine represents something people believe. The beliefs have a long history and a collective memory within Japan. Shrines are places people go to pray and reflect. Shrines are places that protect. This isn’t just something to be included in a game because it looks “neat” or “cool.” This is a country’s culture that is being borrowed for financial gain and then tossed aside in the name of inclusivity.

Players in Japan don’t seem happy with the situation. Here is a cross-section of comments on My Game News Flash and Hachima Kikou, two of Japan’s most popular game blogs:

“EA is trash.”

“If you are going to twist Japanese culture, then don’t put Japanese culture [in your game] in the first place.”

“This makes me really uncomfortable.”

“They put out Japanese content with no consideration for Japan.”

“Not gonna buy The Sims.”

“I’m never going to buy The Sims again.”

“If you cannot pay homage at a shrine, they what’s the purpose of making a shrine?”

“Not many Japanese people play The Sims, so this is unavoidable.”

“I’ll never play The Sims.”

“The plan is the erase Japanese culture after a complaint about Japanese culture.”

“EA is anti-Japanese.”

“If you are going to discriminate against Japanese people, then don’t release this DLC.”

“I thought tourists who come to Japan do visit real shrines, right?”

“What a letdown. I’m never buying an EA game again.”

“If lots of Japanese people don’t play The Sims, then why did they take Japanese culture?”

“EA is a shit game maker.”

“Visiting a shrine is now a problem? Bit by bit, their target is getting larger.”

“Does this mean EA doesn’t respect Japanese players?”

“EA is so stupid.”

“If you’re not going to respect Japanese culture and if you don’t feel like learning about it, then don’t release Japan-themed content.”

“This can’t be helped. Wanna play Ghost of Tsushima?”

Comments

  • Why is it always “cultural appropriation” and never “celebrating another culture”?
    A lot of video games would be boring if developers stuck with what they knew.
    Perish the thought of what Mists of Pandaria would have been without the “cultural appropriation” of China.

    • Because that’s literally the term that describes elements of one culture being used by another, in this case a game expansion.

      The problem is the term encompasses both the positive and negative uses but has become recognisable for the latter.

    • Because a whole generation of people on the internet got super-sensitive and began taking everything as an insult to other people/cultures on their behalf. Thus what was once “celebrating a culture” has become “culture appropriation”

    • Aight. so this is a concept that tends to be misunderstood both by the general public, and unfortunately a lot of folks who try and use the concept.

      Cultural appropriation per se isn’t always bad. Theres absolutely nothing wrong with going to your local Japanese resturant for a big ol’ steaming bowl of ramen, or kicking back to some Ska music (a form that was appropriated into british culture *BY* Jamaican immigrants with the express intention of creating mixed race bands) or whatever.

      Where it becomes a problem is when it repurposes things that particular cultures hold dear as symbolic of their own people and then mutated into something harmful. The classic example being the war bonnet, which many indigenous american hold as a sacred part of their tribal heirachy (not every indian gets to wear those feathers!) then taken and turned into shitty hipster fashion that gets its power as a cheap immitation of bad stereotypes. Same goes with ponchos, black face , utilizing other religions religious symbols for crass commercialization, cheaping the value of those symbols, and so on.

      Really the litmus test is simple. Imagine yourself as a person of that minority and ask yourself “How would I feel about this being used that way?”. If you get a bad feeling, its probably the bad sort of appropriation. Or even better ASK someone from that culture!

      If you do your due diligent and some tumblr teen tries to call you on it, show em the reciepts.

      • I agree with basically everything you said… Except for the “litmus test” part.

        I don’t think certain people (wokesters for example)… Are able to put themselves in the shoes of other people and disregard their own “white guilt”.

        It’s half the reason why they disregard such people, from those cultures, who are ok with such a things, or don’t think how they “should think” about such things.

  • The nerve of Kotaku, or basically any other major gaming news site for that matter, to complain about them removing something in the name of inclusivity is really quite astonishing.

    Like fuck me, how many articles have you lot written condemning publishers/developers because they weren’t being inclusive or such according to your own personal set of criteria?

    • Yeah, it’s a bit trite – I would have preferred to have the article dig deeper into the unwinnable situation EA found themselves in. Although I understand that would be a much more expensive article to produce

    • You’re completely missing the point. The history of Japan’s interaction with Korea is complicated and somewhat awful. I’m not saying people should be outraged and behave badly but there is a very valid reason for why Koreans might not not be happy here.
      It’s about respecting cultural boundaries. The Germans don’t have Nazi imagery in their games (historically) because it’s not very appropriate. Game developers would also think twice about putting Nazi concentration camps in games because it’s quite offensive to Jews. These are obvious examples. The Japan/Korea relations are perhaps less known or less obvious to westerners but it doesn’t make it less important.
      Kotaku writers talk about being inclusive in terms of sexual preferences and gender because those are universal things which make the world a better place.
      International relations are a different thing.

      • Sorry – it would seem you might be missing the point. Shintoism isn’t Nazism – it was appropriated by the ultra-right and formed into something it wasn’t (aka propaganda) – so there is an association, but not a causal one. The same could be said for katana’s, or martial arts, hell – even manga. The issue here is that this is also white-washing out cultural references. Yes, the history between Korea and Japan is a long and painful one (and one that rightfully has created many scars). Your feeling that this is inclusive is fine – but misses the point – if you may be easily triggered from Japanese references in games, then my best suggestion is don’t buy the game. Inclusion works both ways – it also means being accepting of other cultures.

    • The fact that if this was a Nazi flag, you’d be celebrating the removal of it, shows that you have a very limited understanding of things that aren’t thrust into your face. Perhaps do some reading on why different peoples find the Rising Sun flag as despicable as the Nazi flag.

      Once you’ve done that, come back here and apologise to those people for being so ignorant

      • nuffman, I think you may be projecting a little. This was not the Rising Sun emblem – yes, it had some similarities, and for that reason common sense dictates it’s a good thing to replace it. And yes – the Rising Sun has much historical and cultural baggage associated with it. However, people also need to be slow down on trying to find the evil in everything… including random yukata prints (unless you truly believe this was subliminal right-wing dog-whistling). You need to be careful of calling people ignorant without knowing anything about them as it might be – dare I say it – the definition of ignorance. Expressing our views in a constructive way benefits all (that IS inclusiveness).

        • correct me if I’m wrong, but the article states that such things were removed due to similarities to that of the Rising Sun.

          I don’t think it it was subliminal anything, I think it was a poor choice. Pure and simple.

          EA stuffed up (again). There are MANY different images, prints, etc for them to use and they used one that, especially to people that it effects, looks like something quite bad.

          My point being.. If you don’t/can’t understand why the Rising Sun motif is a kick in the nuts for a lot of people, then you can’t complain about such things as the Nazi flag, the Confederate flag or other such symbols, because whatever you want to believe, there was good associated with those (obviously context and situation needed, and hidden very deep within)

    • Though I’m trying my hardest, I just can’t overlook the cognitive dissonance of people in the comment sections.

      We have people who oppose cancel culture and repeatedly take issue with Kotaku staff’s progressive politics now complaining that Kotaku is being hypocritical for not taking the expected progressive stance, as if they wouldn’t take issue with a progressive call-out piece. Kotaku is quite literally damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

      Also remember, Kotaku essentially publishes opinion pieces. Brian Ashcraft does not have to align with Nathan Grayson’s politics, for example.

      • The Rising Sun flag is offensive in the same vein as how the Nazi flag is offensive. It’s not a national flag, it’s a symbol. And for more than a few people, it’s a symbol of horror. It’s a flag of war. Things such as the “Maruta” program, the “Rape of Nanjing” were done under this symbol, and happened alongside the Nazi regime.

        This isn’t a case of “I disagree with the notion than men can have periods” or, “I don’t think a 4 yr old kid should have hormone injections/suppressants and make life changing decisions based on a feeling, especially when yesterday they said they wanted to be a crab when they grow up.”

        One would assume you would have issue with the Nazi flag being used in an innocent and positive light, so why would this be any different?

        • I didn’t offer any of my thoughts on the article, only what I perceived to be bad faith gotcha comments from people here.

          As far as my thoughts, if you care to know, I think the argument about the rising sun motif is fair enough but I think the fact that someone praying at a shrine was seen as offensive was a bit daft. If you look back on the article you’ll see that, while it questions how similar the design is to the rising sun motif, it points out the historical context and concludes that the changes it ultimately an appropriate and positive one:

          “The clothing fix is actually an improvement, I think. The Sim is wearing a nice kimono. It works.”

          There was nothing in this article that defends Japanese imperialism.

          • Within the article: ““This is the result of Orientalism,” wrote one Korean commenter on YouTube (via Sims Community). “I know that EA likes Japanese culture. But this is too much. Korea had been forced by Japan. They forced Koreans to greet their religious buildings. Koreans had to be tortured or killed if they didn’t do what Japan wanted. Surprisingly, the religious building appears in the game.””

            But yes, my comment was directed towards you because of this: “We have people who oppose cancel culture and repeatedly take issue with Kotaku staff’s progressive politics now complaining that Kotaku is being hypocritical for not taking the expected progressive stance, as if they wouldn’t take issue with a progressive call-out piece. Kotaku is quite literally damned if they do and damned if they don’t.”

            Comparing something (even it is just a similarity), that, for millions of people represented genocide, torture, rape, etc, to something like “women can have penises too”. When speaking of “inclusivity” is… well.. it’s wrong.

          • I mean, you just quoted a quote out of the article, not part of the editorial. That wasn’t supposed to represent Ashcraft’s opinion, it was illustrating one such argument against the content.

            And you keep misrepresenting my argument. I never said that people shouldn’t be critical over the rising sun imagery. I wasn’t even specifically referring to your points, moreso Kasterix and Ashekar. My initial reply wasn’t even in a reply to you and your comments about Japanese imperialism, just look at the comment nesting.

        • Well then the American flag should be offensive since they nuked two major Japanese cities full of innocent people. You can’t pick and choose what you get offended at or you’re a hypocrite. It’s just a bloody flag get over it and move on, stop living in the past.

          • Maybe it is *shrug*.

            But have you ever heard of any large scale international outcry from Japan (or any other country) about the American flag? (And no, their own idiotic citizens don’t count).

            Tell me, do you go around happily waving the Nazi flag? Do you wear Nazi paraphernalia? Why/why not? Actually I don’t care.

            Do me a favour, go down the street, find a random Jewish/gay/Romani/disabled person and tell them to get over it, it’s “just a flag”.

            Maybe in 200 yrs time, you can tell people to “stop living in the past”. But people, who were directly effected by these things are still living today.

            Also, I suggest you hop on over to Poland, take a trip to Auschwitz, specifically Auschwitz 1, take a tour, it’s free if you don’t have a guided one.

            I don’t know any of the ones that operated under the Japanese Imperial Army, but I’m sure they are still around so idiots like you can learn some respect.

  • “If you are going to twist Japanese culture, then don’t put Japanese culture [in your game] in the first place.”

    I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s headline that all SMT and Persona games have been cancelled out of respect for all the cultures around the world (including Western cultures) whose culture, religion and beliefs have been appropriated and twisted.

  • How many actual Koreans were offended by these designs and how many non-Koreans were commenting on their behalf? I know there’s a lot of sensitivity in the area, but it feels like these articles are always overblown compared to the concerns of the people who are meant to be offended.

    That being said, I didn’t even know there was a new Japan themed expac. Thanks Kotaku!

    • I know a handful of Koreans that would most definitely be offended. Although 7/9 of them are North Korean defectors who fled to South Korea. So I don’t know if that would influence.

      As for the prospect of non-Koreans commenting, there would be a copious amount. Have a look at all the BLM “protests”, majority of those there are white. I mean… Someone has to white knight for them lol

      • It’s all the usual then. I’m sure EA sees more reliable stats in regional sales and any feedback left in the relevant local languages. Not that they’re likely to tell the public that for the obvious reasons.

      • As fun as a good zing is I don’t think that he was really being “triggered” when he wrote his comment. Doesn’t seem bothered enough.

        • I dunno. There’s a hell of a lot of pearl clutching going on from people whose only contribution to Kotaku is wading in exclusively on articles like this one. I mean, seriously, that’s a fair amount of effort for people who can’t be “bothered enough”.

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