-Trigger Warning: I’m speaking about violence, torture, and sexual violence. Skip if that triggers you.-
I’ve often tried to remain conscientious of cultural bias when looking at another country’s customs, doing my best to disseminate the truth from our perception. The perception of the West.
When Rapelay came out, in Japan, it didn’t really draw that much attention to itself. However, when it was accepted to Amazon.com, people were in a flurry. Don’t these people know that rape is WRONG? And that portraying a rape like this is WRONG? People felt good about feeling upset about it. They felt moral. They could point at something and say ‘See, this is rape. It’s wrong. It has rape in the title. He definitely 100% rapes that woman/girls, and that’s wrong.’ The west got to feel so high and mighty, once more looking down at the hedonistic Japanese and their sinful ways. It united people in the feeling of moral panic.
We like cases like this because it’s easy. It’s obvious. It’s over the top. No one will argue that this game portrays a rape and since rape is wrong, this game is wrong, at least without coming under fire as being too soft on these evil sickos. Hell, maybe YOU’RE a rapist, since you’re so set on defending the game!
But we should be looking at it in context, and the culture of Japan as a whole. Japan has one of the lowest rates for violent crime in the world and one of the lowest reported rape rates in the world, firstly. Obviously these type of games aren’t just training people how to rape (which, from what I hear, only takes a couple of key strokes and you don’t even need to get naked). They’re meant for titillation, sure, but in Japan there is a LOT of games focused on titillation, including many romance games – something we don’t typically have here in the West.
We see the violence of this Japanese game and we compare it to what we know – other violent games. But we don’t have sexual games in the West to compare it to, which is a huge piece of the puzzle.
Japan represents not only violence in their games, but the spectrum of love, relationships and sex through video games in a way that America doesn’t yet really have. This doesn’t seem to be changing all of their population into mindless rapists, and some people theorize that this is because there’s a heavy duty of responsibility and shame for Japanese people who break the law. Not only do they shame themselves, but they shame their families and their employers when they commit a crime like rape.
Now I will make note, of course, that it’s very difficult to look at rape rates across multiple countries as each country has their own laws on what constitutes a rape (i.e. statutory rape laws vary from place to place), and countries have different cultural attitudes about reporting rapes and the people that report rapes (i.e. some police officers in various countries will verbally dissuade women from reporting a ‘questionable’ rape. Like in America.).
American entertainment has a love affair with violence. Our biggest movies typically have violence or action, and almost all of our games are centered around violence or violent scenarios. The sex that we get in games are seeped in violence. Any romance we do get is typically clunky, half-hearted, and surrounded by violence.
Grand Theft Auto IV (the only game in the series I’ve played), allows and encourages you to kill people and steal from them. You kill civilians all the time – not just the prostitutes and strippers that people often bring up, but old men and women walking down the streets or going for a stroll in the park, police by the bucket load, along with other mob members. This is a game that is DRIPPING with violence.
And I, for one, feel that no one went out killing the elderly and prostitutes and pedestrians walking through the park because of this game any more than I feel that someone went out and raped a single mom and her family because of Rapelay. The vast, vast, vast majority of people that play violent games are aware that it is an escape, that it is a fantasy, that it is just for fun. And those handful of people that DO act out violently because of this media? They are mentally ill. They are sociopaths or people with anger issues or disconnect issues that allow them to commit these atrocious crimes against the innocent people around them and chances are they would have eventually done something like this with or without violent media.
We don’t live in a vacuum sealed tube, and because of this we’re a product of our environment and we pick up cues from the world around us. We need to remember that people in other cultures aren’t picking up the same cues that we are and that we must look at their culture in a more open minded manner. When we, as a group of gamers, come out and say ‘this game shouldn’t be allowed and I don’t understand how this country allows it’, we’re drawing attention to our own hypocrisy, our own cultural bias, and along with that, we’re opening ourselves up to scrutiny from outsiders.
If we, as gamers, say that Rapelay should not be allowed because it will encourage people to commit rape, then what’s to stop the Jack Thompsons’ of the world from using our own argument against us? We must think of the long term implications and impacts of our actions when dealing with such contentious issues.