Courting Controversy with Censorship

No Angel Sanctuary this week because I found something that I really wanted to talk about. When I was looking up information about Love Live for that review I found out about a controversy surrounding the English release of the iOS game from KLab.

Basically, they decided that it would be a capital idea to censor out the homo-erotic subtext from the dialogue. Because acknowledging the existence of gay people would just be awful. I mean, someone might get the notion that people living their lives while daring to be attracted to other people of the same sex is perfectly okay and absolutely none of anyone’s business but theirs and their partners. Naturally, there was a completely reasonable and proportionate fan backlash calling this out for being complete bullshit.

Honestly, this never should have happened. I’m against censorship in general and censorship done for the sole purpose of pretending a minority group doesn’t exist is particularly sickening and inexcusable. But even in the context of social mores and what was viewed as acceptable way back last year, this was a stupid move. As bad as a lot of anime dubs have been when it comes to erasing homo-erotic text and subtext, the English versions have been getting better about not doing that. Because it’s becoming more and more apparent that it’s a bad business move.

I find two things entirely flabbergasting about the censorship in this case. There had been plenty of games with homo-erotic text and subtext released when the Love Live game came out. The Neptunia franchise is big on that and the first of those came out in 2010. The second Fallout game had a potential shotgun wedding between women and that came out in 1998. Several Bioware games have had the option for LGBT romance. In EA’s Sims series you can have two men or two women snog, jump into bed together and marry. Final Fantasy XIII, released worldwide in 2010, had Fang and Vanille and, as far as I know, they didn’t censor a damn thing. So, why is all of that perfectly acceptable to most gamers but the English division of KLab still thought that their game took it too far?

That brings me to the second thing. This was sub-textual stuff that they censored. Speaking from experience, most people who really hate seeing LGBT content are very good at pretending it doesn’t exist as long as the characters don’t snog or outright declare that they’re romantically interested in each other. Remember, this is the group that insists that Trowa can’t have a thing with Quatre in Gundam Wing because he is clearly in love with his sister. Why that’s supposedly better, I haven’t the foggiest. The point is, they’d almost certainly dismiss any homo-erotic dialogue as the girls just being good friends. Except that now they can’t because the censorship attempt stirred up enough controversy that the reasoning behind it is well known.

I should add that just this June there was an update to the English version of the game which supposedly fixed the dialogue so that it’s true to the original. Although it really shouldn’t have taken them more than a year given the negative reception.

So, you might wonder why this is a big deal to people? Aside from the obvious anti-censorship thing. Well, the fact is that not many games include LGBT subtext or text. There are some out there, certainly, but you might get a game or two a year that has a bit if you’re lucky. Naturally, this means that people who are fans of that type of content tend to be excited for those few games with it. So, when the developer of one of those, or at least their division in your area, decides to be a dick and remove that it’s kind of a big deal. More importantly, it’s representative of a hostile, regressive attitude that is, to put it bluntly, offensive.

KLab deserves all the criticism they got for the initial bollocks and for taking so long to address it. I do hope that they and other developers learn from this and we don’t have to deal with another situation like this in future. However, realistically speaking we probably will. Censorship has been around for a long time, after all. About the best we can do is remain vigilant and continue to give companies that pull this kind of nonsense a linguistic thrashing.

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