Game spurs debate, causes controversy
Published: Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Updated: Friday, February 1, 2013 14:02
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."
"If someone puts in the work and dedication to make something, I wouldn't want to deny them of their rights," he said.