Thursday, 1 November 2012

A subject that nobody likes to talk about ... (NSFW)

I've decided that today's topic won't be about male expendability after all but about something else: the subject of rape in video games.

Rhianna Pratchett's interview on Gamespot got me thinking about something. Specifically, she said this:
"The world doesn't need any more Japanese rape-simulators."
And she's right. I completely agree, there's no argument there.

I would like to do a test though; for anyone reading this blog, without looking them up with a search engine or sneaking away to come up with an answer, can you name a game about rape or featuring a heavy amount of rape content that isn't RapeLay?

I may be wrong but it seems like the language Pratchett uses in the sentence above is ambiguous; one is too many rape-simulators, of course, but it could also sound like Pratchett believes the problem is more mainstream or prevalent than it is.

Before I wrote this blog, I did a search for articles on RapeLay and was both relieved and thankful to see that, while there were many places that pointed out it was misogynistic, there weren't any that stated it was representative of gaming as a whole. I was concerned about that cropping up but I think people were intelligent enough to realise that a niche game released in one country for one system doesn't represent gaming as a medium. However, there were plenty of articles that parroted the old Jack Thompson rhetoric; "it influences gamers to [insert crime here]". Completely untrue, of course. I mean, I'd question the kind of person buying RapeLay in the first place, but I wouldn't worry about your average gamer if they decided to play it to see the controversy for themselves.

Let's get this out of the way first; there are a ton of video games that feature rape. I've started browsing The Visual Novel Database over the past month or so and they have a whole bunch of tags about rape. "Attempted Rape", "Avoidable Rape", "Comedy Rape" ... the list goes on, twenty-two of them in all. Interestingly, there are no tags that are explicitly about men being rape victims in their database. There are tags such as "Rape By Female", although the victim of that could be either sex, and "Rape Victim Heroine" and "Rape Victim Protagonist" are two separate tags, although, again, the victim of the latter could be male or female.

One of the tags is interesting; "High Amounts Of Rape", which obviously returns the list of games with a high amount of rape content. I didn't count up all the games because there were four whole pages devoted solely to that one tag. So even though there's no shortage of games featuring rape, why is RapeLay the most well-known? Why was this the one seized upon by Something Awful and Equality Now? I imagine it's because the game revolves around controlling a character while he rapes someone else but, looking at the list of games that features "High Amounts Of Rape" on the VNDB, I find that hard to believe that's a good enough reason. Although I guess visual novels aren't held to the same standards as other games.

That's neither here nor there though. I'd actually like to write about one of the games on the VNDB without the "High Amounts Of Rape" tag but one that really, really deserves it. It does have "Rape By Female" and "Unavoidable Rape" but I have to imagine how much rape has to be in a game before "High Amounts Of Rape" is added to the tags. Unlike some of my previous blogs, however, this isn't going to be an attack on feminist arguments and pointing out certain hypocrisies by using male examples, such as in "The Objectification Double Standard". I actually don't think there has been enough examination of rape in niche video game genres to form debates on the subject. For now, we're all in the same boat.

I like to play as many different game genres as I can, including dating sims. I've played LovePlus, Imodoki no Vampire: Bloody Bride, one of the Tokimeki Memorial games ... they're RPGs at heart. I'm not as big a fan of visual novels and the few of those I've played have been freely available online, made by visual novel enthusiasts. Last month, however, I was interested in playing another dating sim and came across this game online:

It's called Discipline: The Record Of A Crusade. And it's completely and utterly awful. For the love of God, don't play it.

First of all, it's not a dating sim. It's a visual novel. I was disappointed about that but I stuck with it. I'd never played an "eroge" game before Discipline but I figured I knew what to expect. I didn't. To start with, the sexual scenes were more graphic than I imagined they'd be. I know that sounds prudish but trust me, I was expecting something explicit and it exceeded my expectations. There are five endings -- one good and four bad -- but I only had the stomach for the good ending and one bad one before uninstalling the game. So this isn't as comprehensive as it could be. Sorry about that.

There are three counts of a woman being forced or coerced into having sex, at least from what I played. There are so many counts of a man being forced or coerced into having sex or performing sexual acts that I couldn't even make an educated guess. Off the top of my head, I can think of eleven different women who force the protagonist into sex or sexual acts but they each have sex with him multiple times, so it's difficult to put a number to. The protagonist isn't the only one; the game is set in a school and two male members of the faculty suffer the same fate.

In a way, it's pointless to get annoyed about the amount of rape in Discipline. The game clearly isn't for me -- because, like it or not, games like Discipline and RapeLay do appeal to people -- so being shocked by the content is like being shocked that the next Final Fantasy is going to feature feminine-looking males. Having said that, even if the game featured no rape and the sex was all consensual, I still wouldn't enjoy it; the sex would still be graphic and placing the protagonist into scenarios where he had sex came across as very forced. Even if there wasn't any sex, the game would still irritate me; there are six male characters in the game and all but one of them is completely useless. Although that one character who isn't completely useless also happens to be a colossal pervert, so he's hardly a role model either.

Not to mention the amount of non-sexual abuse the male characters suffer. There's a running gag about the Assistant Dean of the school suffering at the hands of the villainess (he's run over, hit by an explosion, shot) before finally being raped himself. The protagonist, too, is involved in a running joke where one of the few nice female characters has a habit of punching him whenever he accidentally finds her in compromising situations, although it comes to the point where she attacks him just to wake him up. The climax of the story features the protagonist's baseball team going up against the villainess' team and -- surprise, surprise -- the three male members of the team are the most pitiful batsmen on the team. So to compensate, one of the female members outright states that they should get hit by the ball thrown by the pitcher, so it counts as a hit (sorry to any Americans reading; living in the UK, I'm not familiar with baseball terminology). The male members of the team rightly express outrage about this, given that the opponent's team has a professional pitcher and they could actually be killed by the balls hitting them ... and then they go out and do it anyway. When asked why the less-useful female members of the team don't do the same, the response is simple: "we're girls! You can't expect us do that!"

Speaking of physical abuse, there are many characters in the game who I wanted to see the protagonist beat up, all of them female. However, the one character who he does beat up and we're meant side with him over? The poor transperson who has been brainwashed by the villainess into falling in love with him. The game's narration tells us "he's a guy!" in a horrified tone but it's clear to anyone civilised reading the story that the protagonist's anger is directed at the wrong person.

All-in-all, it's a horrible game to play. I know it probably seems odd that I'm going into such detail over a game that very few people will have heard of. It's true. I'm not really trying to get across a point in the same way I have for previous blogs. However, looking up RapeLay on Wikipedia, there are a few things I do want to address:
"Articles in defence have also been written, many noting that rape is a lesser crime compared to murder, yet there are thousands of legal video games in which the goal is to kill enemies."
I'll be honest; if I had never played Discipline, I might've sided with the above statement with regards to RapeLay. I can definitely see where they're coming from with regards to murder being a worse crime than rape ... but just imagine an alternate universe where 99% of all games feature rape as the subject matter rather than death. It's hardly more appealing, is it?

I have to say, I could find myself supporting that train of thought. As well as the point about murder being a worse crime, it's worth bearing in mind that there have always been games about sex. There's a site called Lemon Amiga, which is a wonderful place if you were once an Amiga-owner, like myself. It features a database of all games to ever be released on the Amiga and even there, we can find adult-oriented games.

These are all real games. Yes, really.
Like I said earlier, I'm open to different genres and that includes the adult genre. I knew Discipline was an eroge game before I played it but I still played it. Even though it was too extreme for me and I can't recommend it to anyone else, I know there are people out there who would enjoy its content. Same goes for RapeLay. So I'm torn; I detested Discipline, I really did ... but even with regards to adult-oriented games, censoring them doesn't seem the way to go. They deserve varied content that appeals to everyone. Or we'd get a bunch of eroge games that are all the same. Like FPS games and Call Of Duty!

There is one point I want to make about RapeLay and for that, we have to go back to Wikipedia:
"Equality Now followed up on the game, urging activists to write to Illusion and Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso in protest, arguing the game breaches Japan's obligations under the 1985 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women."
I've noticed while writing this blog that I often come up with male examples of issues that supposedly only affect women in games (or where women are the only examples we ever hear of). This was especially the case for "The Objectification Double Standard". I kind of figure that if I show that males are affected too, it's hardly an issue of misogyny in gaming. I'd like to note that this blog entry, where I wrote predominately about a game that featured a lot of female-on-male rape, wasn't intended to be like that. Although it does come in quite useful now; all I'll say is that RapeLay actually doesn't breach Japan's "1985 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women" because there are games that feature men being raped too. It's not discrimination against women if there are games that feature men being raped too. Hell, for that matter, there are tons more games that feature women being raped according to the VNDB, so it's odd to single out RapeLay.

Having said that, if it was just RapeLay that was protested against and, say, removed from the shelves, I wouldn't miss it. I'd be grateful, in fact. I'd only be annoyed if all games featuring women being raped were hunted down but games like Discipline still remained. That's when we'd have a serious problem.

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