Same end goal, different method

Nintendo has a history of localisation, culturalisation and censorship. To some all these three terms are synonymous witch each other, as the end result is the same; modified or removed content to avoid offending someone. While you’d think this would be appropriate, the reality of it is that the Japanese developers don’t give a rat’s ass about it and mostly look at at the sales numbers.

Everybody who played games during the Third Generation remembers how NES had strict censorship rules across the board in order to maintain certain image. Sega used this to advertise themselves as a more mature option, with far more lax rules imposed to the developers, which ultimately ended in the birth of ESRB, the Entertainment Software Rating Board.

Nintendo mainly caters and develops for Japan, and this applies to all Japanese developers across the board. There is nothing wrong in this, though the reality is that a game that has the strongest roots to Japanese culture will sell less in the West. It would make sense for a company to want to localise and culturalise their game for the Western market in order to make it more profitable, but there’s the rub.

As much as game developers may tell use the art when describing games, their actions betray the notion. Art has an untouchable sanctity to itself, where the work and author is required to be respected. This goes to all art. Games, however, are not art and can be modified to any degree the creators see fit in order to make it a more selling product. Certainly developers are willing to meet halfway through and modify things that may seem inappropriate (for some) while keeping the overall work intact, but this sort of approach is not needed for art.

It should also be mentioned that culturalisation is an incredibly half-assed method to localise or translate anything. American sensibilities do not meet up with various European nations to any degree. A chest-size slider from Xenoblade Chronicles may be somewhat eyebrow raising thing in a puritanical nation, yet most European nations would laugh it off and admire the extent of customisation the developers have provided. Yet Nintendo is listening and believing people who consider themselves the guardians of Western (American) culture by taking anything that would seem offensive. Though there’s another rub in there, as most of these offences seem to touch upon only on depiction of women. The aforementioned chest-size slider being a good example of this.

Nintendo’s approach how they culturalise is limited at best. According to an interview, staff from Nintendo Treehouse travel to Japan to discuss with the developers in order to affect development of a game. This effectively means that Nintendo has few selected guardians of morality that dictate what should be censored from a game for Western release. This is of course absolutely bullshit, as this without a doubt affects author’s vision and intent for the game. Staff from Nintendo may claim that they aim to have different region versions as close to each other as possible, though that’s beside the point; without exchange of ideas and contest of contents, cultures stagnate.

Nintendo can claim to disregard politics and concentrate on fun as much as they want. With the action of culturalisation, they are making a political statement about people, their culture and what sort of content they should be have available for consumption. Due to this, the only way to play a Nintendo game in the future in its original, unaltered form, is to play a Japanese original release with no modified or removed content.

Despite all this, Nintendo’s attempt to increase sales by catering to puritanical moral guardians fails to take notice how it’s not the chest-size sliders or the like that affect sales. As much as Japanese developers want to think otherwise, Japanese games don’t sell if they have anime look or otherwise. No matter of censorship won’t change the fact America and parts of Europe reject this look. There are numerous stigmas towards anime, starting with perversions and under-age girls in lingerie to hyperviolence. Often combinign the two no less.

If Nintendo would do culturalisation to its fullest extent, they’d completely rework the Xenoblade Chronicles 2‘s visual design and story to step away from Japanese culture and anime visuals. However, Nintendo, like any other Japanese company, takes pride in their culture and its products and would consider this an impossible task. However, changing something that’s little and of no importance is OK, just to make sure it could sell a bit more.

Which is absurd.

A minor edit in a game’s options or visuals won’t change the fact that a game like Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is inherently Japanese and this is its grand weakness on the market. It can’t be even properly contest on the market place on its own merits due to censorship applied to it from the Treehouse. Nintendo has an extremely small pool of data from which to make their decisions on, and their failure of following reports from sites like Kotaku and Polygon instead of following raw data that is the consumer trends means they will continue to censor their games for no good reason.

Video games may have eclipse Hollywood in terms of money flowing back and forth. However, unlike Hollywood, the game industry is spoiled like a baby. This media can’t mature any further if its ideas, methods and content is being suffocated for the sake of supposed American culture. The European nations suffer from this, as each nation has its own distinct culture and approach things from their own angles. No company would want to make around 53 different versions of a game for the Western world, counting American and Canada with the all the Old World countries and their transcontinental states.

The game industry needs to grow up into its teenage years and stop giving a shit about what people say about them and go their own way. Let the market decide what’s appropriate and what’s not. Culture can’t thrive if there is no open debate on presented ideas. All ideas exist to be tested, and so does a market test a game. However, as said, a game can’t be tested on its own merits if it already has been censored.

Vote with your wallets and make your stance known, as private consumers. The only way to say No to unnecessary censorship is through money.

Censorship is not transformative

While it may seem at times that this blog is against art in some ways, the reality is that I am against the wild use of the term. Not everything needs or deserves to be art to be a highly valued cultural commodity. This blog largely defends the rights of creative industries and their aims to create works. However, I also come from the consumer perspective, where the creator often needs to take into account the market’s wants and needs in order to succeed. Needless to say, this entry is going to differ from the usual writer’s persona a bit.

Censorship is not that.

If an author intends his work to be in a certain way and releases said piece in its intended state, it is not the job of others to come and change that product to fit themselves afterwards. If we are to determine art as a way to express oneself, no one else should have a word how or what the creator wishes to express. Censoring or changing one’s work, but not transforming it, is essentially infringing a core element of art itself.

A product is transformative when an original piece is taken and given a new form. For example, Youtube is filled with videos that fall under transformative label, as they take existing videos and sounds, creating something new based on them. MADs fall under this same category. They do not infringe on the original author’s intent since the original is still there, unaltered. Hollywood seems to have hard time grasping this thing.

To argue that censorship would be transformative is nothing short of incorrect, as it is intentional suppression of any element of a work as seen by any faction or person for whatever reason, be it political or due to supposedly objectionable content. Censorship does not transform elements of a work into a new one, it simply removes pieces it doesn’t like. It doesn’t transform the work; it doesn’t derive anything new from a work.

While human history is short in the cosmic scale, we’ve still had numerous works that are significant to our world and cultural heritage. Many of these are under the gun of censorship, especially nowadays when bikini clad women in games are seen as worst sort of offending material there is. Some even argue that Shakespeare should be censored to be more timely.  What a terrible waste that would be. Even when we would remove the Immortal Bard from the equation, the fact is that his works are significant both culturally and historically. Understanding them is to understand the time they came from as well as modern English as a language.

Censoring the likes of Shakespeare for whatever reasons, or Mark Twain for the matter, is showing every sense of lack of belief and confidence in the people. Essentially, removing nigger from Twain’s books shows that the factions doing the censorship has no faith in the people to make the distinction between the era when the book was written in and now, or that the term is used in form that offers no offence. It is unfunny irony that Huckleberry Finn would see censorship in this way. Often the intent of censorship in cases like this is for a more positive and “fitting” release of the work for a given era, but as it always is, the path to hell is paved with good intentions.

If one were to argue that Shakespeare’s King Lear is a copy of the legend of Leir of Britain with elements from the Holinshed’s Chronicles, I would argue back that it is not. To use something like Star Wars as an example, using existing works as a template to create your own work is not plagiarism, or in Star Wars‘ case, even transformative. The fact that George Lucas used classical literature, especially the concept of hero’s journey combined with elements inspired by Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress, to create something that was essentially new and needed in the later 1970’s speaks volumes on itself. Creativity feeds back on itself, just like any field feeds back to itself. It wouldn’t be incorrect to say that all creative fields derive from each other and from themselves, but that doesn’t keep anyone from to taking elements, rearrange them and give them new approaches to create something original. Sure, some resort to blatant ripping off, but that’s another issue.

Of course, it is well known that Shakespeare’s works are inspired by existing tales, but we don’t exactly celebrate the plots of his works. They are celebrated because Shakespeare’s works broke down existing boundaries both socially and in language. Hamlet‘s plot is not why it’s so highly regarded, but because Hamlet himself is so well written as a character and how Shakespeare conveys his growth and anguish through and through. Act III, Scene I of Hamlet is not great because To be or not to be has become recognized as almost universal anguish, but how the whole line bears Hamlet to the audience. There is no actor who would not want to tackle this famous line and breathe his own life into it.

We do not have reverence for Shakespeare’s works because of him; it’s the opposite.

The question whether or not we should separate the creator from his work is something we all should consider. I would argue that as often as possible we need to separate the work from its author simply because our view on the piece would be coloured and become biased if we have strong opinions on the creator. It is very easy to veer into identity politics if we have something against a creator, as it is the case with Dana Schutz’s Open Casket. The case shows how anyone can interpret a painting how they see fit and disregard the author’s intent. While we can debate which one is more important, we should always remind ourselves that freedom of expression is a supposed tent pole with art, and as such should be respected over personal views. Calling for her painting to be burned is very reminiscent of book burnings from various eras, e.g. German Nazi party’s book burnings. While we can argue obout the painting itself, no subject should be banned from anyone within the proper limits of law.

If we were to ban certain people from subjects to create works based on, the opposite should the true as well. Otherwise we’d be discriminating a group and favouring another. However, such limitation would kill the change of thoughts and ideas as well as the discussion between and in these groups. Creativity would stifle to a standstill when nobody is allowed to wonder outside their own region, creating a sort of echo chamber. No outside aspects would be brought in to give new and fresh ideas. Some would certainly welcome this sort of approach, as long as it would be aligned with their own views.

The world already has a history with this sort of approach, at least a one sided example. The Socialist Realism was practices in the nations of Soviet Union, which essentially prescribed a canon in art and other creative fields. While creative fields are not political by their core nature, politics can be applied to them. Socialist Realism was nothing short of political propaganda and its core intent can’t be separated from politics, but we can sideline it.  However, not before it fell from favour around the 1960’s, no other idea or thought was allowed; it governed the creators.

The Chinese communist party did even worse by almost erasing their old culture and destroyed much of the Chinese heritage. Jump here to read a bit more on that. It’s interesting to notice both of these are communist and marxist examples.

In order for discussion and exchange of ideas to move forwards, we need to allow the creation of things we may object and view them outside our own selves. Nothing good comes from silencing the one we disagree and push him underground, when we can lift him up to the stage of ideas and allow all to see and wage these ideas ourselves.

The will and skill to express oneself has been around longer than the written word. If we’re to value art as we like to see it, it’d be great of we could stop fucking around with it and let people show their stuff. If one is ready to censor or ban someone’s freedom of expression, he’d better be ready to face censorship himself.

 

Experience and digital space

Short answer; No. Long answer; It’s a bit more complicated than that. With digital media, the ontology is often concentrated on viewing the relationship between the consumer, the media and the culture of the media. The digital part is significant. While there are now few generations that have grown up in a world that never lacked the digital component, it is still relatively new introduction in historical scale. Nevertheless, it is present everywhere nowadays and digital elements in out life most likely will keep growing as the time goes by.

Timothy Druckery, a theorist of contemporary media, even went so far to argue that it would not be possible to describe or experience the world without technologically digital devices. He argues further that the evolution from mechanical to technological computer  culture has been more than just a series of new techniques and technological advances, that it is more about the evolution between dynamics of culture, interpretation and experience. Much like Druckery’s collegues, he argues that representative works are based on experience, and it would be hard to argue against that.

Video and computer games are based on experiences people have. First computer RPGs had their roots in Dungeons & Dragons campaigns people had, and this applies to origins of Ultima as well.  Miyamoto has stated that The Legend of Zelda his goal with the game was to have the game feel the same way as if you were exploring a city you have never been in before. You can almost see the overworld map as a city layout in this sense, where certain paths are alleys, larger open areas are parks and numerous dead-ends permiate the game. Or maybe that’s just me. Satoshi Tajiri, the name behind the Pokémon franchise, based the game on his own experience with bug catching. Japan has a history with kids having bug catching as a hobby, and the latest big craze was during the 1990’s. When you consider how a kid has to cover creeks, run over rivers and search the forests for new bugs to catch, you begin to see the adventure and the excitement that Tajiri wanted to convey in Pokémon. You also begin to see where modern Pokémon has started to veer off, emphasizing plot over adventure. There was a good article how Yu Suzuki put Virtua Fighter’s developer through martial arts training each morning in order for his men to animate a punch or a kick right.

That is not to say a game can be created without any experience in subject itself. Hideo Kojima has never been a spy or a soldier on a battlefield, but he nevertheless put his experience from Western movies into use in Metal Gear. You can see the change in certain visual in Metal Gear Solid 2  when they got an actual military advisor on the team. For example, Snake no longer pointed his gun upwards and overall how characters began to handle weapons changed. Small, but rather significant change when you consider how much Metal Gear games depend on the whole experienced soldier schtick.

Nevertheless, all the above mentioned games are representative of some sort of experience and allow the player to experience a sort of simulation of it. With any new sort of media there has been the fear of losing something important to humanity, if you will. With digital media the question of the consumer’s identity has become a question through the fears of how any new media might (or rather will) change our way of thinking and the way we live.

Without a doubt we have both real and virtual spaces as well as the identities that go with them. We have a wear a different persona when we are with our parents or friends, and the same applies to the virtual space. Since the 1990’s virtual space has become more and more daily thing to the point of Facebook and other social media becoming almost essential. However, even in these spaces we have a persona on us that is different from others. Much like how when writing this blog I have a persona on you don’t see in other virtual spaces, though it is overlapping harshly with everything nowadays. While there is no physical aspect to virtual spaces (they are digital and non-physical by definition) they nevertheless are real and can carry to the “real” world. However, we can always the space we choose to interact with, though this has led to the birth of extreme comfort zones where one must feel safe all the time rather than challenging oneself and broaden horizons. After all, nobody wants to get stuck in place for all eternity. Unless they get hit by a car and fall into three years of coma.

Whether or not digital media and virtual identities change our selves in physical form is a topic for a different post (it does, but the extent in which way is expansive), but I can’t but mention that experiences the consumers gain from digital media affects us just as any other similar source. After all, electronic games are an active medium instead of passive like movies or music and require the consumer to learn in order to advance. This has led some to argue that games promote violence through teaching violent methods.

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold are the two names responsible of the Columbine Shooting in 1999, and two years later Linda Sanders, whom lost his husband in the shooting, sued 25 different companies, like Id Software, Apogee Software and Interplay Productions, claiming that the event would not have happened if games with extreme violence like this wouldn’t exist. It was argued that certain games allowed the two assailants to train their shooting skills with precision and affected the two in a negative way. However, as we’ve seen multiple times over, games do not cause kids to go violent, and it would seem to be far more about the individual and their mental health than the media they consume.

However, it must be said that even when games are escapism from real world, they still are a product of real experiences. Playing may be just a game much like any other, but the more real world expands into virtual spaces thematically and ideologically, the less there is separation between the two. Ultimately, playing a game will affect the real world persona of the player, thought he question how much is very much up to the individual consumer. Games have been discussing censorship, violence and current topics for more than thirty years now, and for a medium that is about escapism to a large extent, that does not bode well. How much value we can put on a digital world that does not make use of its non-real capabilities and ties itself to the real?

Perhaps the digital personae we use has become less important as the melding of two worlds continues, and the identity we assume is an amalgamation.

ICD-11 video game addiction is being pushed without proper backing

Without a doubt certain percentage of people who play electronic games overdo their hobby. However, this is only for a small percentage of the overall enthusiasts and hobbyists. Furthermore, it would seem that problematic gaming, that is the consumption of electronic gaming that is detrimental to everyday life, itself grows itself thin in time and dissipates on its own. A longitudinal study showed this with 112 adolescents. I’ve already covered why the proposal for gaming disorder has no basis, but it would appear pushing for its suggestions into ICD-11 has merit to it. Merit that wouldn’t serve science, culture, markets or consumers.

Ferguson wrote that less than 1% of people experience video game addiction. His writing is a good read. Game addiction in itself is a very different nature from e.g. gambling. I’ve actually covered issues with pairing electronic gaming and gambling with each other previously, but to make short story even shorter, video game addiction is far more often a symptom of an underlying problem than the cause in itself. Ferguson’s own study supports this. Hell, there’s even a paper arguing against the very concept of video game addiction.

In a discussion between Ferguson and an administrator at the World Health Organisation acknowledged political pressure from countries, particularly from Asian ones, factoring in the inclusion of video game addiction into ICD-11. If countries are pushing its inclusion, that means scientific basis comes second at best and whatever political stance these nations have come in first. That is extremely dangerous, as adding video game addiction opens doors for other far more intrusive and harmful suggestions to be included under its umbrella. Considering video game addiction is extremely loosely defined and would require far more research than what it has, there’s no guarantee any of the future additions would have better research behind it.

You may be asking yourself what nations would have need or use for this sort of addition to the ICD-11. Some nations have reported more deaths from non-stop gaming than others, and mostly we hear these reports from either China or South Korea. In 2005 a 28-years old man died because his heart failed during a session of Starcraft, BBC reports. It is interesting to note from that article that despite Starcraft being a real-time strategy game, professor Mark Griffith only talks about MMORPGs, a very different genre of game. You have far less interaction with your opponent in Starcraft that you have in e.g. World of Warcraft.

South Korea has seen drastic changes in its electronic game landscape, and one of the more worrisome changes came around 2014, when some members of the government began to regard games as a detrimental pastime. South Korea has discussed to enact game addition bill to limit not only the amount of time people should be allowed to play, but also games themselves. However, when you have legislators directly comparing video games to tobacco and alcohol, there is something amiss. South Korean gaming culture is far different from any other, e.g. you can actually graduate to be an e-Sports player. However, much like any other person who has a career in “sports,” e-Sports players suffer from injuries as well. Seeing how the South Korean culture has almost twisted games and e-Sports into a national pastime, it’s no wonder a lot of young people are willing to give a chance to become a player worth millions of wons.

The thing is, South Korea does have a problem with gaming, but rather as we are lacking in evidence for gaming addiction (we have more researches saying against it as linked above), it is far more probable that the South Korean gaming problem is a symptom from an underlying social and cultural troubles. Putting legislation that equates games with drugs and alcohol won’t cure the problem, it will manifest itself some other way later down the line.

Passing a law based on game addiction is hard when you have nothing to base it on. However, if ICD-11 would recognize video game addiction as a valid illness, there would be no need for debating or researching the issue much further; after all, you can simply point out that it’s in the books. That would be injustice.

One of the gaming limiting laws has already passed. The Shutdown law was passed in 2011 and limits people aged under 16 from playing online games during the night between 00:00 and 06:00. While this would sound decent in principle, it is not the government’s job to do what parents should be doing. Furthermore, this law challenged in few occasions as unconstitutional. However, the law is still in effect, albeit nowadays parents can request the ban being lifted from their child.

China’s following this South Korean example with similar legislation that would ban gaming outright from people aged under 18 between 00:00 and 08:00, and would necessitate computers and smartphones to be fitted software that would track down law breakers. Both South Korea and China require their people to use their real IDs when accessing their gaming accounts. In case of South Korea, this is a necessity with many of their websites in general. However, in 2012 Real Name Rule was struck down and rejected by court. The law requiring the usage of users’ real names was introduced in 2007 to combat cyber-bullying. Again, this is treating the symptom, not the cause. Furthermore, as gaming is a million-dollar business, by accusing game industry creating addictive products, governments could push forwards for harsher taxations and other underhanded shenanigans to gain more from the revenues. This may sound like a foil-hat idea, but seeing how few years back we found game journalism colluding and attacking their consumers and recently CIA spying everyone everywhere, this isn’t far fetched.

Games of any kind, be it sports, card games or anything else, are addictive in their own way. For modern electronic games, it’s a whole mess to open why they could be addictive outside the usual action-reward scheme. This is because electronic games have more dimensions than gambling. After all, games are a tool to give leeway for people from their everyday life in an electronic way that supports social interaction through cultural landscape and aims to both challenge and please the players at the same time. They are not gambling, except Complete Gacha in Japan, as gambling quite literally requires wagering money or something else valuable under uncertain conditions for higher gains. Of course, games are designed to pull the player in and be enjoyable, but that is what every form of entertainment does.

If video game addiction would have something to be tied to, it would be escapism. Escapism is always tied to something else than the tool people escape through, and the question I must ask here; what are people escaping from if they are willing to kill and die because of video games?

Social unsocial gaming

In the 1980’s and 1990’s electronic games were usually blamed to remove children from each other, that games separated players from their normal friends. However, much like on many of claims like this, that’s only partially true.

Let’s consider arcades at first. They were nothing short of social event. While I’ve gone over how arcades were part of continuing cultural phenomena, including criminal activities and rebelling teenagers, I’d like to reiterate that arcades have always gathered people of all walks of life to a common place. Penny arcades first, then video arcades. While the image of arcades as masculine place of triumphant to-be adults has long since died and replaced with kids’ place of play, only to be taken over by free-to-play arcades for young adults with barcades, they nevertheless have always served as a place to escape to in some extent. A round of Street Fighter II might have had a group significance, it also served a way for those who simply wanted to vent something out and be alone.

PC gaming has always been a bit more a hobby for the hermit kind, that much I’m willing to give in. However, even then most children who played computer games played them with either a friend or a family member. Furthermore, computer games would bring people together in groups to discuss the games themselves and ways to upgrade or fix computers. Geek squad is most likely derived from these kind of groups of people with specific computer know-how most people seem to lack. Nowadays Internet connection is making playing with other people very easy, and the old way of thinking of a person playing alone doesn’t apply. A person may be playing a computer game alone in a room, but connected to dozens of different players across the world. Modern social gaming at its finest.

Console gaming has been about multi-player since Pong hit the markets. David Sudnow goes over in his book Pilgrim in the Microworld how adults, not children, played an Atari console at a party and it was a big hit. This should be noted, as while the perception used to be that gaming is only for children, everybody regardless of their age is open for a game or two. Electronic games may be largely based on boy’s play culture, but the truth is that both boys and girls, men and women, have always played games.Compared to PC games’ hot-seat switching (it’s still cumbersome to shove people next to the same keyboard) console gaming has allowed real-time interaction. Now you may scoff at me and say You can attack USB controllers and whatnot to a PC and just play emulators, but you’re console gaming then.

While multi-player games are part co-operation and part contest, playing a single-player game socially is a different kind of shared experience. Streamers nowadays seem to get the same kind of kick from socialising with their viewers as they did when they were children, interacting and discussing the game. What’s lacking from here is sharing the game and taking turns at beating a stage. Peer learning is the key here. By sharing the physical space with someone and exchanging ideas and turns, players learn from their peers that they can then put into use later when they are playing alone. However, it would seem that the significance of peer learning diminishes with age and older game hobbyists tend to prefer their own, single experiences to challenge themselves. Nevertheless, the significance of socially playing a game has not vanished, and streaming indeed has given it a new form. Perhaps streaming is the next step in this chain, where the streamer first has learned from his peers, then challenged himself  before stepping unto a stage to both entertain viewers and to showcase his learned skills.

In late 1990’s and early 2000’s, video games were still mostly an option to do when you were bored. This applied specifically to girls, who saw more merit in more traditional hobbies. Boys on the other hand regarded games a better option over reading a book, listening to music or watching television. For computer gaming at the time, this could mean boys had a somewhat powerful gaming machine and an Internet connection to play either a strategy game or a first person shooter together. Console gaming, outside the Dreamcast, didn’t offer much online functions. The amount of games boys and girls played games is significantly different due how different the play culture is between boys and girls. While we could argue that gender roles have something to do with this, it would be extremely interesting to see how much genetics have a role in how a child takes part in their gender’s play culture.

There are those who have been separated from their friends and peers because of games. However, the same applies to any hobby. Books, radio, television, movies, etc. It is more about the person himself than the hobby they choose. Gaming can be extremely social event with its own set of rules depending on the people and the game being played. Just like how one can’t expect to enter a foreign culture and find it acceptable from the get-go, so does modern social gaming expect new players to get accustomed to the modern Internet-driven multi-player landscape.

It would be foolish to assume there would be just one form of game culture when it comes to online gaming. Each region and even game has their own set of sub-cultural rules and behaviours that can even vary between server rooms within the same game, in the same region. The much laughed Call of Duty kid who calls others by names and acts like a brat may be a black and white stereotype, but as much as it is true just a much there are those who act completely the opposite with courtesy and encouragement towards their fellow players.

Electronic games, as much some people hate to think about it, connects more people than it separates. We can choose what games we play and whom with we play them, and we shouldn’t expect to be able to share a game with everybody, either because of cultural or preferential differences. We can be social in the circles we choose in, and while it is healthy to venture outside and see what others are doing to broaden out horizons, we should just concentrate on enjoying this social hobby instead of tearing it down.

A local question

Astro Boy, Gigantor and Eight Man are classic shows that have a place in American pop culture, even thou Eight Man is probably the most forgotten piece of the bunch. This was the 60’s, and a cartoon with robots flying in the sky, high-speed androids and robot boys fit the era fine. From what I’ve gathered from what people who grew up with these shows, nobody questioned their origin. They were entertaining shows on the telly and that’s all that mattered. I’d throw Speed Racer into the mix as well, thou it arrived just a tad later to the mix, but met with the same treatment.

Video and computer games have a similar history, all things considered. Nobody really cared where from arcade games came from, they just rocked the place. Not even the name Nintendo raised some eyebrows, it was just some exotic name cocked up in a meeting. Pretty much what Herb Powell did in The Simpsons.

Games had a shorter gestation period than robot cartoons when it comes to finding the source to some extent. US saw the mid-1970’s Shogun Warriors, a toyline that used wide variety of toys based on Toei’s show with some changed names to fit better the American market. The NES era is relatively infamous of its localised games, and much like how American reception of these Japanese cartoons ultimately was felt back in Japan, so was the localisations and changed made to games. Perhaps the best example of this would how Salamander became Life Force in its arcade re-release and effectively became its own spin-off from the base game.

This, of course, has been largely in America. Europe is a bit of a different thing, with France, Italy and Spain having their own imported animation culture to the point of Spain having a statue for Mazinger Z. I remember reading about a tennis comic that a French publisher continued after its end in Japan. This was done by hiring an illustrator who could replicate the original style and saw healthy sales for a time. Something that like probably could never happen in modern world, unless the original author has died and has made it clear that continuing his work is allowed. Somehow I can see titles like Mazinger  and Dragon Ball still gaining new entries to the franchise long after Go Nagai and Akira Toriyama have left for Mangahalla.

Sadly, I am not as well versed in pan-European phenomena when it comes to Japanese animation in the Old World, but there are numerous resources in both online and book format, often in native tongue. Perhaps worth investing time into for future entries.

While things like Robotech and Voltron made their names around the American landscape, the 1980’s saw a growing appreciation for the original, unaltered footage. This was the era of Laserdisc, and people were mail ordering cartoons solely based on the covers. Can’t blame them, LDs tend to have absolutely awesome covers. Whenever these shows were shown in a convention, a leaflet explaining the overall premise and the story would be spread among the visitors or a separate person would enter the stage and give a synopsis of the events on the screen. There were those who felt, and still feel, that localisation demeans the original work.

Similarly, game importing became a thing in the latter part of the 1980’s and in the early 1990’s with NES’ success, though it should be mentioned that Europe saw PC game importing across regions far more. The Nordic countries began importing NES games anywhere they could and specialised mail service stores popped up just to service this part of the population. It wasn’t uncommon to see Genesis and Mega Drive titles sold side by side in-game stores. Appreciation for the original game saw a rise, either because of it was simply cool to have shit in Japanese or from America, or because some level of censorship was present. However, more often it was because Europe was largely ignored when it came to releasing certain games. Importing unavailable games to a region is still relevant, perhaps even more so than previously now that companies are investing in English releases in Asian versions and region free consoles are becoming an industry standard.

The question I’ve been asking myself for a long time now, longer than I’ve been writing this blog, is that whether or not wholesome localisation like Space Battleship Yamato and Starblazers was a necessary evil of the time that we can be do without now, that we are grown culturally to accept the original work as a whole, or whether it’s just hubris of the people who are too close to their sub-culture and co-fans. A person who is tightly knit with music’s sub-culture doesn’t exactly understand the sub-culture of pinball or golf.

By that I mean that pop-culture in general doesn’t give jackshit whether or not panties are censored in a video game, it’s irrelevant in macro-scale. Even in a localised form a product can impact pop-culture in ways that the original couldn’t, the aforementioned Speed Racer and Robotech being highly impacting examples in American pop-culture. I guarantee that these shows would not have their impact without the localisation effort.

Is it a necessary evil then? Perhaps this is the subjective part with no answer. Those who value original, unaltered product without a doubt will always prefer the “purest” form of the product, whereas someone who doesn’t have the same priorities will most likely enjoy the localised version just as fine. It would be infantile to assume that people who don’t know better can’t appreciate the original piece or lack in intelligence somehow. It is merely a matter preference, and like assholes, everyone has one.

If it matters, I personally vouch for unaltered products whenever applicable for the sake of keeping the integrity of the product and the intentions of the creators intact. However, also see complete localisations having their valid place in e.g. children’s cartoons. While it would be nice to have two or more versions of everything for the sake of options, that’s not always an option for budgetary, marketing or some other reasons.

Perhaps that’s what could be argued; when it comes to Western culture, we are more acceptable to unlocalised products more than previously, but total localisations still have their place. Even without knowing much about the source, we can appreciate the intentions and look past the cultural difference.

Or at least we should be able to, and appreciate the differences and intentions without resorting to raising a hell for nothing.

Reprints and the aftermarket

In the wake of good news from the good ol’s Sega, they seems to be intending to further promote Yakuza in the US by doing a reprint run of the first four games. Reruns are good and bad news to collectors. Those who misses the original run can pick up these sort of games and enjoy them good as new. Then there are those who would hoard them for future sales who buy them amass. Scalpers, if you were to use the bad tongue.

The game aftermarket is bloody battle, and certain fields are largely controlled by a group of individuals. There are those who collect games in mint condition to use in the future as the basis for higher priced sales. It’s not an unknown tactic to buy the market empty of loose cartridges to eliminate competition, thus causing a shortage of supply to already supply diminished market.

Not that there isn’t anything wrong in that in itself. It’s the buyer who is stupid enough to pay extraordinary prices.

You're asking what now?
You’re asking how much now?

I picked up Battle Mania Daiginjou for some 200€ some years ago, and that was a stupidly high price. A reprint of the game would in place, but a reprint to a dead console like this is less than likely. But Aalt, why would you repress PS2 games then? Because pressing DVD is so much cheaper than mass producing plastic shells and PCBs to run a cartridge based games. As a side note, we’ll get back to this series on a later date in form of a review, and I’ll be revising Daiginjou‘s old review.

Some people were guessing that digital redistribution of games would bring down old games’ prices. Either it had no effect on the aftermarket or  raised prices further. In principle, there are more games available now than ever before in digital format for consumers. However, the core collectors who want the real deal, so to speak, are more or less willing to dish out the dosh for whatever. That’s pretty unhealthy, but such is the nature of a collector.

This is one of the reasons I don’t personally believe that physical distribution will die out any time soon, if you allow me to step outside my own rules here. As long as their collectors and people who wish to gain control over what they put money into, or value an item enough to wish to have total control over it. Not all people are comfortable with the idea of allowing another to have total control over their purchased goods. However, it is undeniable that digital distribution does cut down multiple factors in inconvenience, through the pricing overall is still overt, often meeting with physical releases’ prices. I’ve been told I’m wrong when it comes digital distribution for good decade now, and I’ve yet to see digital distribution killing the physical goods market. Diminishing it perhaps and taking its slot in there, but not killing the market overall. Of course, not all games have seen official digital redistribution, something that is extremely unfortunate. However, it is something we have to live with, especially with so many titles having their source code missing.

To get back on the subject, reprinting Yakuza is a rather clear sign from Sega what consumer market group they are targeting. It’s not the general public, but the collectors, red ocean gamers and Japanophiles. Let’s not forget the people who got into the series during PS3 games, who never managed to get their hands and play the first titles. The Yakuza games weren’t exactly hot sellers and ended up warming the shelves long enough to cut the price at least 80% in rather short time. The supply was rather large in comparison to the demand, but it seems that part of them were moved away from the circulation. In Japan the series is far more popular than in the West, and banking current fans and niche audiences is Sega’s best bet to have the series be successful.

Furthermore, the Yakuza series has not been through the best of localisations. Whatever you think of the first game’s dub, it was a fair attempt at making the game more open for the general public. The second game wasn’t tampered with, but pretty much all the rest of the games saw removal of minigames and missions to some degree, up until the latest titles. Whether or not we believe Sega’s statements why content was cut from the games, they didn’t really give them any positive press and seemed to affect the sales to some extent, considering these same niche audience that are their main target audience currently tends to prefer their games in more untouched form, head petting games intact and all. I can’t fault  them, I share their sentiments for my own reasons.

The question that rises from here whether or not it would be worth to run reprints on more games, even when the price might be higher. It’s not exactly an easy question from the consumer point of view. On one hand we do have collectors and retro collectors that would gladly purchase a new print of some high-calibre NES game like Super Mario Bros. 3 or Castlevania III, both games that tend to run at a higher price. The price would need to be gauged beforehand and probably be handled through a sort of pre-order similar to Kickstarter to meet up the costs of running a new production run. That is if we assume that we would replicate the original NES carts. As we’ve seen with 8bi Music Power and Kira Kira Star Night DX, there are more cost-effective alternatives. However, if we assume SMB3 would get this sort of reprint through modern technology, there would be split between the consumers; those who would like to have the “original” release and those would be “satisfied” with the reprint. In reality, both would be Nintendo produced official version of the game on NES. The semantic of what’s original and what’s not is strong with collectors, and these tend to drive up sales. NES is a prime example of a system to which people want to collect, and its partially because of its large library of games.

The retro game market may be skewered to hell and back, but that seems to be natural progression of valued old products market. It’ll take few decades before video games would be appreciated as proper antiques.