This is an editorial piece. 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.
So coming off of a few articles in the recent past, we’ve once again all been reminded that sexuality is bad, liking younger women makes you pure evil, and there is far too many things that shouldn’t exist. Gaming needs to grow up, be art, not for fun, and strive to be this great thing for everyone – and that means that it needs to be written, presented, and designed to not offend anyone. Ever.
Japanese games are the worst ‘offender’ in these cases. Games featuring any images with scantily clad women are immediately hate on, utterly disregarding the rest of the game, or the situation around the game.
Let’s discuss a recent example that’s come under fire; Dungeon Travelers 2. If there has been any game to come under fire without people understanding what’s behind the game and where it comes from, this is it.
Dungeon Travelers 2 is being published by Aquaplus, an eroge publisher – many people know that. I’ve seen such posted in comments around articles written about the game. But Dungeon Travelers 2 is a sequel – who knew! – to ToHeart 2: Dungeon Travelers. The whole series is a spin-off of the ToHeart visual novel series, which was heavily romance focused. Yet, despite that, people continue to hate on the game for no reason other than the existence of fanservice.
It’s utterly unfair for a game like this to get hate without people at least understanding what it’s coming from. And while ToHeart has suffered this fate, it’s not the first game to deal with it, and it certainly won’t be the last.
It, like many others, falls into the trap of cultural differences. Westerners fail to understand why characters in Japanese games are young, generally at around High School age – often times even younger – but they’ll deal with issues that adults can’t even seem to grasp sometimes. Unfortunately the meaning is lost here.
Japan’s culture is all about seishun, but there’s not even an English word to capture the meaning quite like it. While it’s often just translated as youth, seishun means so much more than that. It’s a word that captures the vivaciousness of someone’s youth. Their passion, and drive, and energy that comes from their youth. There’s just no way to capture that concept in the West since no one sees the word mean anything beyond youth – when kids are just being kids.
Seishun is the reason so many Japanese games feature young adults. They are able to be reckless and wholeheartedly involved in anything they get mixed up in. You can’t say the same of an adult – and that much at least still holds true in the West. When was the last time you saw an adult get mixed up in a fantasy situation and roll with the punches? Adults are generally too serious, stuck in their ways, and too cynical to be enjoyable main characters in many of those situations. (The keyword here is enjoyable)
The culture difference is just too far gone for people to understand things like that. And then comes the nail in the coffin in many of these games; fanservice. Now I do understand the knee jerk reaction that seeing younger women (like 14 or 15 years old) scantily clad or in compromising situations makes people uncomfortable. And here’s where I’m going to throw a curveball – the age of consent in Japan is 13. Girls that are 14 or 15 are not underage the way we think of. Again, it’s just a difference in culture and upbringing. It’s not wrong, just different.
Culture barriers are one of the biggest problems when it comes to judging games outside of your individual comfort zone. These differences need to be learned, or at least considered, when talking about a game like it is bad.
I want to make it clear that you thinking a game is bad is fine. That is your own prerogative as a consumer. However, people need to get out of this habit of calling something objectively bad because they don’t like it. It’s an incredibly bad habit that too many people have fallen into recently, and it’s running rampant.
But even worse than that is people judging games based upon their own culture’s standards when it wasn’t designed for their culture. This problem is what is hurting Japanese-developed games most right now. Westerners approve of gratuitous violence (Look at the SAW series. Case and point.) but can’t stomach sexuality, or immediately move to call it porn. In stark contrast, Japanese culture embrace sexuality, and instead look down on gratuitous violence. And this happened across all media in their culture, too, not just gaming.
But I’m going to go one step further to make a point. When was the last time you saw a major Western game focus on an utterly non-violent, non-deviant form of romance? Not that here I mean a game where the romance was the focus, not beating up the bad guys or getting through the next area, but just the romance. Has that EVER happened in a Western game that didn’t adopt Japanese stylings to do so? Whereas hundreds upon hundreds of games in Japan focus solely on romance, with no ulterior goal. And while, yes, most games do have hentai scenes in this case, is that not the natural course of things? Let’s be honest people.
But even then, many don’t. One of my favorites (Amagami) is delightfully devoid of any H-scenes, and focuses completely on the love between characters. It’s touching and just ultimately a feel-good story. I can’t think of a Western game that doesn’t just have violence for the sake of violence. And yet, fanservice of the smallest degree is immediately put down in the West as vile.
People just need to get over the inclusion of fanservice and the like. I mean, tons of great games include fanservice. Look at Senran Kagura, for example. Great game, plenty of fanservice. For as much hate as Monster Monpiece got for it’s ludicrous fanservice, the game was actually really, really good for a trading card game. And then there are eroge like Fate/Stay Night, Kanaon, Shuffle!, Utawarerumono, Tsukihime, and that list goes on and on. Every single one of the ones I mentioned are absolutely fantastic stories and games that all deserve a chance at being played.
Again, I’m not saying that violence or fanservice is a bad thing. They’re just different. And people need to realize that before they go gallivanting through an article telling people how terrible they are for liking something that they personally don’t agree with, especially for something like fanservice.
In fact, I would dare someone who thinks fanservice and eroge are bad to play through a game like Kanon or Clannad.