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Game spurs debate, causes controversy

Published: Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Updated: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 10:09

In the Japanese video game RapeLay, players like 22-year-old Derek Littlejohn choose their own storyline in the process of evaluating how to rape a female passenger on a mass transit system, molest her two daughters and climactically persuade one of the victims to endure an abortion.

Littlejohn has worked at Gamestop in Oakland for two years and understands why the game has sparked international outrage from feminist groups and parents who want it banned in the United States because of its degradation of women. However, he has a different view.

"I've both heard about and played RapeLay myself, and I find it as nothing more than a game," Littlejohn said.

RapeLay has risen in popularity over the years, but consequently sparked international outrage. In other countries, it is believed that the crassness found in RapeLay should never be marketed. In Japan, however, the objectives in the video game are not unusual for a gaming genre called hentai. Hentai is a Japanese word that refers to sexually explicit comics and animation. Although the genre is common, the word hentai is used with negative connotation in Japanese culture and is regularly used to mean "sexually perverted." Hentai games have been a part of Japan's culture for years. The country has produced thousands of products the rest of the world might consider deviant and pornographic. The Internet has allowed other countries access to these consumer products, and once a game is released in Japan, it can be shared worldwide.

Japan's culture will remain the same. However, international opinion is currently the only factor in this issue. Japan has strict censorship laws for sexual content. In games and videos, genitalia are obscured, even if they are animated. But Japan's laws allow the freedom of the themes and ideas of the specific games. Littlejohn is aware of the censorship in Japan.

"One has to remember that Japanese culture itself is very suppressed in sexuality as a whole, to the point where they still censor their pornography with mosaics, both picture and film-wise," Littlejohn said. "If you continually suppress a country in terms of sexuality, they'll just find different ways of exploring things themselves. RapeLay is just one of those ways of people expressing themselves, to see new things."

However, fan made English adaptations have begun to include various uncensored textures that heinously visualize blood with the rape, among other things. This leaves the harsh reality that no matter what is being censored, people seemingly find a way of avoiding the censorship predicament. 

Women's rights groups have focused much attention on RapeLay. In an article covered by CNN, Taina Bien-Aime of the women's rights organization Equality Now has advocated for the game to be taken off shelves.

"This was a game that had absolutely no place on the market," Bien-Aime said.


However, banning games does not always have a positive outcome. When people see a certain product is forbidden, the demand for it increases.

"It's relatively easy to pirate these games, when all one has to do is type in the name of what they want and add ‘torrent,'" Littlejohn said. "Usually, some sort of link turns up.

Kids know technology in this day and age, and these games are not hard to find."

In the United States, games like RapeLay are not carried, not because of outrage but because of company guidelines. Gamestop would not carry it because Illusion, the game's production company, has a policy that prevents them from releasing their games outside of Japan.

"The only reason the game is really known stateside is because of a third party releasing it in Britain via Amazon, which was shortly removed due to people's complaints," Littlejohn said. "Banning has never been an issue with Gamestop."

Eddie Williams, a senior film and video production major, is convinced that games sold today are primarily based on sex and violence.

"Sonic and Super Mario didn't have any kind of sex appeal, but still pulled off an outstanding game," Williams said. "Games like Grand Theft Auto are about violence, and it amuses people. I believe the reason is because the stuff that happens in that game would almost never happen in real life. That's why people enjoy killing a mob boss or driving a car through a building."

The dilemma with RapeLay and similar games is that they focus distinctively on the torture and mistreatment of women. RapeLay delves deeper into a reality factor that is impossible to ignore. The graphic violence focuses on the intensely disturbing content of multiple rapes, vicious emotional and physical trauma and intolerable acts of child rape.

"RapeLay pushes the envelope. A guy who rapes a girl, then gets caught, then rapes the family, could hit a little too close to home for some people," Williams said. "The fact that you are forced to play as a character who is a rapist is absurd. The storyline of the game doesn't even have any kind of alternate ending. RapeLay takes elements of gaming too far and is ruining gaming's good name."

Larry Milano, a junior cinema and digital arts major, believes in anti-censorship and therefore remains unopposed to RapeLay on the basis of its content.

"I have heard of the game RapeLay once before, but thought nothing of it as I thought it was just another risque video game," Milano said.

Concern has arisen, however, because sexual violence against women is the objective of RapeLay, and the obscenity often disgusts certain individuals.

"This game is perhaps the most vile thing to come out of Japan's entertainment, and that's saying something," Milano said. "Your goal is to molest women on a subway, and the title speaks for itself, really."

Littlejohn disagreed.

"If someone puts in the work and dedication to make something, I wouldn't want to deny them of their rights," he said. 

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5 comments Log in to Comment

Wed May 12 2010 12:11
I find it amusing that once again, a piece points out there is no 'alternate ending' but fails to mention that the 'ending' involves the punishment (via death at the hands of his victims) of the main character.

I also found it sad that people were so outraged over this piece that they got the guy fired. Ah, destroying lives while hiding behind the cloak of morality... classic.... people just love finding people to victimize when they know they can get away with it, and this is what we had here.

Tue May 4 2010 14:58
Game spurs debate, causes controversy, article gets GameStop employee fired.

Faith, games, porn, whatever, don't cause people to kill and rape. Seriously. If anything it provides a healthier outlet for aggression (which we all have some level of). Also, Derek Littlejohn is one of the nicest people I know which further proves that you have no idea what you're talking about.

Sat May 1 2010 20:35
First, I apologize for the Littlejohn comment to Littlejohn and to anyone offended or hurt by it. I could have went about saying I disagreed with him in a more tactful away. I was not referring to him when I was talking about why I thought why kids who liked this game liked it, and that bit of my reactionary rant was brought on by the "disturbed kids sitting in their rooms and not on the subway" quote.

I wasn't about to criticize something on the Net and then hide behind an anonymous posting. I got very angry over the game and I don't understand why ANYONE would play it. I don't care if it's taking away the rights of the creators of the game because the game is focused on promoting an undermining of a very basic human right-the right to not be harmed. And it is not just a game and I dont understand how anyone could say that, but to each their own. Like I said, I could have disagreed with him more tactfully. Usually I think before I speak but my gut reaction was anger to this article.

My brother shared this with me awhile ago. It was written by a woman who was sexually assaulted and her reaction to RapeLay. While I'm with her on not everyone is going to go out on a rape spree, and that crazy is crazy and that goes in hand with what I said my previous comment, again, I am still at a loss as to why it's being played/made/sold.

That's all.

Fri Apr 30 2010 21:12
Voicing ones opinion should not get them fired fromt heir job.
Fri Apr 30 2010 14:51
Kids want to emulate what they see in the media. Ted Bundy said in his final interview that when porn wasnt enough of a high, he took to actually doing it...and that's the problem with games like this. Who else would play them except people looking for a high from it, subconscious or not-so what happens when gaming is not enough?
RapeLay sounds intensely psychological and the gamer has to be into that controlling psychology to be "into" it-think about it. Forcing a woman to have an abortion, and rape itself, is all about the mindset of the rapist or the person assuming control. Driving a car into a building does not have to be psychological to be fun, but in order for Rapelay to be "fun" for the gamer, then they have to get off on some level about the simulated abuse. Why elese would it sell?
On another note, Littlejohn sounds like a creeper. Sorry you had to endure that. :(

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