Chris Rooke is a former Official Nintendo Magazine writer, and he has taken to his soapbox to collectively lump the Senran Kagura series, the Dead or Alive series, Code of Princess, and so on together into a group of games that he thinks are alienating in their target audience, because of their sexual nature.
He cites the Entertainment Software Association, saying that their estimates put the male to female ratio of gamers to about 55 to 45% percent, respectively. Coming from this, he also states that there are more women gamers over the age of 18 than there are boys younger than 17 playing games. To cite the report by the ESA directly, their numbers are women over 18 at 31% and boys age 17 or younger at 19%, both of which derive from the previously mentioned totals of 45% versus 55% percent, respectively.
Here’s where his blog gets nasty, and he completely trashes the Senran Kagura franchise, specifically the first game to be localized in the West, Senran Kagura Burst:
“Senran Kagura is one of the worst types of game around. It’s insulting to the intelligence of gamers, damaging to the reputation of the industry, and alienating and harmful to women (both inside and outside the gaming community and industry). So, do yourself, and the wider community a favour: don’t read articles about its release. Try not to Youtube it. Avoid reviews. And certainly don’t buy it.”
I think there are a couple of problems with his argument. For one, I know lots of men who are over the age of 17 who buy and enjoy these types of games, the games with lots of fanservice. Most of them are just like me, they grew up heavily influenced by Japanese culture, whether it be from anime, games, movies, or maybe all three. Getting into games like this that have lots of scantily clad women with wild features kind of just came with the territory after a certain point.
Next, I wanted to point out that claiming that these games are made only for teenage boys is a disservice, and it’s the same kind of bile that people like Jason Schreier from Kotaku spew out all the time. I don’t want to get off topic, but one of his glorious outbursts involved alienating the entire Dragon’s Crown fanbase by saying the game’s art style was made for pedophiles, and as such fans and the talented developers at Vanillaware should be ashamed. Right.
I know my next comment is probably going to get me labeled as sexist, misogynist, and so on, but I’m just going to say it – not every game’s target audience is necessarily women. The creator of Senran Kagura, Kenichiro Takaki, frequently states that the Senran Kagura games are all about women with exaggerated features who get into silly, cute and or naughty situations. One of the recently confirmed games, Dekamori Senran Kagura, is described as a game to “satisfy man’s three desires.”
What I’m saying is that the Senran Kagura games are clearly marketed and designed towards men who want to see women with exaggerated features, or a great art style, or even great gameplay. I know that this is the day and age in which everyone is fighting for games to evolve and move forward, to help give credence to the argument that video games can be art, and so on. Going back to my previous statement, not every game has a target audience of both men and women, or even young men and women.
Some games are so ultra violent, it’s pretty difficult to recommend them to people who are skittish towards that sort of thing, the same can be said of games with sexuality in them. In my opinion, this could also be said of any game that features highly detailed sexuality or partial nudity, although the Senran Kagura games at their core feature the exploding clothes mechanic made popular from various anime. The main thing about these games that feature sex or partial nudity is that never do they show off the characters’ naughty bits.
Compare this to a gem called UTE, a game in which you actually lure men into alleyways only to have sex with them. I’m talking full nudity, some scenes even showing penetration. Sure, the art style is crude and meant to look silly, but still. That’s the entire game, and it was even given an honorable mention in the Independent Games Festival Student Showcase from 2011. Instead of this game being chastised for its crudeness or blatant sexuality, it was close to winning an award!
Oh, I forgot, the game isn’t a “weird Japanese game”, and it’s also developed by a woman – so I guess that makes it ok to have full frontal nudity and or sex scenes? I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve seen Western developers getting a pass when it comes to things like these, but for some reason the Japanese get a magnifying lens on their games and the content therein. I know that UTE is meant to discuss the problems women face in society with their sexuality, but that’s not to say that the Senran Kagura games lack a narrative.
If anything, instead of trying to censor these games, an effort should be made to make more games that are targeted towards women. Look at the otome games that have been wildly popular in Asia and Japan, one of which I actually reviewed. In that particular game, you play an intelligent, empowered heterosexual girl who has a bunch of awesome guys to potentially date, although the entire story takes place during a hostage situation. It’s still a really solid game, and quite fun if you’re into dialogue heavy games. Why can’t there be more games like that, instead of people crying to censor games like Senran Kagura?
If you haven’t already, you should read our review of Senran Kagura Burst, it’s a very solid title and totally worth the purchase if you own a 3DS. Instead of dismissing the game as pure sexual fantasy for shock value, we gave it a serious, unbiased review and came out with the realization that the game features not just fun and stylized visuals, but a robust story as well. I sincerely hope that this alienating of Japanese games and developers, regardless of how sexual their games are or how sexualized their characters are, comes to an end.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of, and should not be attributed to, Niche Gamer as an organization.