I remember a few years back a violent video game hit the shelves (it might have been one of the early Grand Theft Autos) and there was much handwringing amongst British parents, or rather, a gaggle of rent-a-gobs who can be relied upon to find outrage in practically anything from mobile phone masts to the salt content of a cup-a-soup. One article I read suggested the UK was importing American violence and gun culture via video games and proceeded to ramble on about the failings of the US, etc. etc. Yawn.
It was one of the comments on the article which caught my attention, and I paraphrase from memory:
If you want a computer game filled with wanton violence, buy an American one. If you want a computer game filled with wanton violence and a healthy dose of child porn, buy a Japanese one.
I laughed at that. I played Final Fantasy VII, one of the finest video games ever developed, throughout my entire 2nd year of university (which goes a long way to explaining my results that year, i.e. Heat Transfer & Fluid Mechanics = 26%. Oh dear.) Anyway, this game is not – nor are any of its successors – short of violence (albeit there is much less than in modern games, but this is probably more a factor of the improvement in graphics engines since 1997 when FF7 was released), but I did happen to notice that all the female characters looked like children with big doe-eyes, childish expressions, and massive (I reckon!) digitally enhanced breasts. Not that there was any overt sexual content in FF7, but Tifa, one of the lead female characters, looked like this:
True, she looks similar to our very own Lara Croft, but in the game where she was allegedly 20 she acted like she was about 15. When she wasn’t kicking the shit out of monsters, that is. The violent computer games in the west generally leave out any sexual content, in Japan it is almost a defining feature.
There’s nothing wrong with the depiction of the girls in FF7 of course, but if you’re looking for something disturbing in the world of video gaming then your attentions are probably better focussed on Japan than anywhere else, as this Economist article makes clear:
The legislation also applies to dating-simulation video-games, in which the goal is a graphic sexual conquest. One, RapeLay, lets players choose their victims, of any age.
Bloody hell! That puts Niko Bellic rampaging around Liberty City in perspective.
See also my comments here from when I visited Japan:
We also wandered into a sex shop which suggested that perhaps all is not well in the gloomier corners of Japanese society. Eerie dolls of what looked to be 12 year old schoolgirls, umpteen devices combining latex, gels, and mysterious liquids into which male members can be poked for sexual pleasure, machinery for men and women which made me wonder where they recruit the designers from, and an impressive selection of DVDs through which ran the common theme of the action being slightly, and sometimes not so slightly, forced. Then there were the pornographic comic books which lined shelves in their thousands, many of which depicted various bodily fluids deposited by what must have been a firehose rather than a human being. Very strange indeed, but seemingly no less popular for being so.
All is not well, indeed.