Sometimes I’d like to send people on the internet back to school. It’s usually when they’ve fundamentally misunderstood the meaning of a word: irony, feminism, censorship, funny. A lot of people seem to learn the alphabet, figure out how to put it together and then consider themselves sorted, because censorship is not, and has never been, a word that means “changing something you did for different audiences”. Censorship is having someone else change those for you, against your will – the suppression of what you wanted to say.
If I had a great anecdote about running naked through the woods like a bear, and I told all my friends and they loved it, I could still decide not to tell the internet. That’s not censorship.
There have been a couple of stories recently that have been labelled by some as “censorship” – the first was Dead or Alive’s developers deciding not to release their boob-tastic volleyball game, DoA Xtreme 3, in the West; the second was a story about Fire Emblem Fates’ release in the West having certain scenes removed.
It’s muddy, but I’ll try to explain: there’s a gay female character in the game who can become attracted to your character, despite them being of the opposite sex. The character is explicitly not bisexual or gay, and is able to fall in love with your character when you put a special powder in their drink which makes them see you as a girl. The powder wears off, and they eventually fall in love with your male form.
Regardless of cultural differences, the scene is pretty bad. Spiking someone’s drink, trying to convert them from gay to straight for your benefit – it’s pretty offensive, even if you do bear in mind that certain audiences will see it differently. Ultimately, it’s about how the average player will see it, and if it can be seen as promoting those two things, it’s just not good.
Certainly not the first time
Understandably, there have always been differences between Japanese and Western releases – in the original Nintendo release of Punch Out!! the boxer “Vodka Drunkenski” was renamed to “Soda Popinski”; Bowser flips the bird in the Super Mario RPG and that has to be taken out for obvious reasons. There is a gulf between what flies in Japan and what doesn’t here, and that’s not the issue – the issue comes when people get angry.
It’s an incredibly tricky subject, and one that requires a full reading of the transcript and a familiarity with Japanese and Western culture to properly understand.
There are issues with the story – don’t put powders in people’s drinks, folks, no matter how magical those powders might be – but at the end of the day, what do we get out of calling it censorship? Whether you think the changes are good or bad, it’s not censorship. In fact, Fire Emblem games before this one have been changed during localisation, you just might not have noticed.
So, maybe I have this excellent anecdote about running naked through the woods like a bear. And maybe you hear about it from someone. But if you get mad at me for being mean about bears, or for not telling you the story… perhaps there was a reason I didn’t tell you in the first place.