This one was a bit lost in the shuffle due to the other big controversy of the week but it is certainly no less of an issue, especially to us as niche gamer fans, and fans of XSEED. XSEED caught fire this week due to the word trap being used in Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed. This caught the ire of quite a few people and they quickly took to twitter, tumblr, and all other forms of social media to voice their disgust with XSEED.
To give you some background on the situation transgender people were offended at the use of the word and consider it a slur against transgender people. Here is the negative connotation of the world directly from the GLAAD website
Defamatory: “deceptive,” “fooling,” “pretending,” “posing,” “trap,” or “masquerading”Gender identity is an integral part of a person’s identity. Do not characterize transgender people as “deceptive,” as “fooling” or “trapping” others, or as “pretending” to be, “posing” or “masquerading” as a man or a woman. Such descriptions are defamatory and insulting.
I can certainly see the problem here from a logical standpoint. They basically view it as similar to a racial slur and a positive coming out of this for them is that it’s something I never even knew about. Now I know not to use that word in a casual context the same way I don’t run around shouting out more traditional racial slurs.
Here is where the problem comes in for them however when directing their ire at this particular game and that is the issue of context and artistic integrity and this is where XSEED’s response comes into play.
XSEED basically says they aren’t going to edit the game to preserve it’s artistic integrity and they mention how the context of their use of the word trap is fundamentally different than the actual slur. The context part I don’t know if I agree with it, if a word is offensive, it’s offensive. To sort of go off the example he used in the article, If I’m out at a bar and say “I’m taking a step outside to smoke a fag” I would be shocked if people weren’t taken aback, despite the context of my statement having nothing to do with the homosexual slur. It’s now known as an offensive word, so I’m not going to use it regardless of the context.
Where I am 1000% behind XSEED, however, is when he brings up preserving artistic integrity. You see period films, novels, etc. use racial slurs all the time because that was how the world was back then and we would be diving into the issue of revisionist history if we didn’t properly capture how people spoke in say…a film about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s drive for racial equality.
Now, I’m certainly not comparing posting on image boards such as 4chan to something like that, but the concept is the same. As stated in the article, they were trying to accurately portray the chaotic style of posting on these boards in the game and since the entire game is focused around otaku culture and to a lesser extent “chan” culture, it just wouldn’t feel right to replace it with something else as it’s a very common term used on places like that.
This takes me to a discussion on the concept of videogames as art. This is the main cause of the inferiority complex that I feel a lot of people in the industry have. People from other forms of more respected media scoff at the game industry, calling it juvenile and “a joke” and honestly, especially considering the events of this week, whining and insufferable manchildren holding positions of influence, and certain recent censorship issues, I can’t help but agree. If the gaming industry wants gaming to be considered an art form they can’t be afraid of their game not appealing to every single being on this earth and, more importantly, they can’t be afraid to offend somebody. XSEED took the right step concerning this, but it’s something you see far too often and far too often the industry violates their artistic integrity in an attempt to appeal to as many people as possible.
So While I certainly sympathize with the people who were offended by this, I feel the use of the word was justified as a snapshot of history if you will. This might possibly a very minor/irrelevant history yes, but a history none the less and the entire point of history is that it’s something you learn from. In the game the term is used in a negative way and I think this was a great opportunity for the transgender community to educate people as to why the term was used negatively in the game and why it’s offensive to them because lets be honest, most people don’t get it. The only thing they see is a bunch of people on twitter going totally bonkers over something they view as meaningless and the original intent of your message is lost among all the shit flinging.
Both sides of the debate lost the chance to learn and evolve as human beings. I feel the finish line was reached correctly in the end, but at what cost? People are angry at the transgender community for how they flew off the rails, people are angry at the gamers themselves for being totally unwilling to accept why this situation might be offensive to some, and people were angry at XSEED for the initial non-response response they gave on twitter. Again, the finish line WAS reached as the transgender community got their word out, some gamers expanded their social knowledge, and XSEED correctly preserved the however minuscule concept of games as art. However, nobody looks good coming out of this.