Japan Loves Erotic Games: What’s The Problem?

Last week, Japan saw the release of an erotic indie game called Kawaii Imouto ni Rizumu ni Awasete Koshi wo Furedatte?! (So I heard I Can Make My Little Sister Swing Her
Hips to The Rhythm!?

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The internet community was shocked and amused by the game, which boasts a "right hand free-mode" feature, blatantly proclaiming to the world, that anyone buying this game will probably want to heh hem…pleasure themselves with one hand and play with the other. "But of course, an erotic game would fail as an erotic game, if you cannot fap on it," or so I read on an erotic gamer’s blog. Needless to say, the release of the game was big news on Japanese Twitter that day.

Erotic or R18 (rated 18 years old and above) games refer to games with sexually explicit contents. Games that depict violence and or politically/culturally sensitive topics are not called R18, if they do not center on love simulation with sexual themes.

Erotic games started in the 1980s, but quickly expanded to the variety we know today. There are a lot of variations in erotic games, from simple hardcore porn, where the aim of the game is to have sex with your targets, to the beautifully planned love simulation RPG games, which have a proper plot and sex with the targeted character forms only a small highlight part to prove the characters’ eternal love. Most erotic games use anime style graphics, but cover all genres, including simulations, RPGs, shooting games, rhythm games, you name it. I think I can guarantee that there’s an erotic game for almost every existing genre.

So even though I’ve heard about these games before I came to Japan, I didn’t realize how many there were or how popular they are. The sheer variety means guys could never feel they’re lacking in porn games. My initial thoughts were that if most erotic games use animated cartoon-style graphics for their characters, it’s not really harming anyone, but then I began to wonder.

At first, I was indifferent to these games, but then I became more familiar with the hardcore titles. I started to feel extremely offended, as a woman, and genuinely worried about the sanity of R-18 players.

The idea of erotic games will sound highly offensive to many people. I mean, how can playing a character whose main goal is to molest, rape, and impregnate the female characters, with or without their consent, be seen as entertainment?

RapeLay must be the most infamous game to come out of Japan. The player steps into the shoes of a stalker whose goal is to rape a mother and her two daughters. The game was found for sale on Amazon.com, by British MP Keith Vaz, who called for a ban. The game was removed from the site and there was worldwide criticism of RapeLay. Of course, we can understand the concerns of these people and there should be debate concerning rape as a "game." However, there is a danger that we use one game to condemn all erotic games.

Games, along with comic books and animation are products of a certain sub-culture that are almost always identified with children’s culture. Initially, they were created for children, but then these children grew up and games, comics and animation grew up with them. And today these forms of entertainment provide something for every generation to enjoy. Erotic games are just part of that progression and feed a certain demand for adult-oriented games.

Erotic games in Japanese are often called R-18 games, a title that clearly states the age range they are aimed at. Sales of these erotic games are regulated within the Act of Protection and Rearing of Children in each local state prefecture. In Japan, these games are placed in areas prohibited to underage consumers. The sale of these games do not actually harm anyone because the supposed targets are adults, who are expected take responsibility for themselves. The problem begins when these games fall into the hands of minors.

RapeLay hit the headlines because it became widely available, perhaps due to some ignorance regarding the gameplay. This led to worldwide dismay and an assumption that all R-18 games insult women or turn players into real-life rapists. While I am sickened by hardcore games, such as RapeLay, I don’t think it will inspire players to hit the streets and begin raping women. Just as I don’t believe that shooting games make players any more likely to go out and shoot everything that moves.

Erotic games are often misunderstood because of the assumption that games are for children, thus treating gamers as either children or irresponsible (read: childish) adults. The wider public first needs to realize that adult gamers, with rare exceptions, understand that what happens in the game stays in the game. Nevertheless, extreme cases are often used to criticize the moral absurdity of erotic games as a whole. The Japanese public looks at erotic games with the same skeptical glasses as the rest of the world, with pressure from within the government to limit the freedom of expression when it comes to the sexual contents of games.

Erotic games won’t go that easily, with between 1,000 and 2,000 new titles released every year and almost 5 million copies sold circa 2005.

This shows the demand for these games. High profile criticism of hardcore erotic games like RapeLay means that the majority of the public are unaware of the better products within this genre. Many erotic games focus on storytelling and character and become so popular that they are reintroduced to the mainstream as anime, manga and games with lesser or no hints of sexual content of the originals.

Fate/Stay Night are perfect examples of this. These titles eventually gained more fans than their erotic counterparts, proving that it’s not just sex that sells a story.

And finally, it would be easy to assume that all erotic games are for male gamers, but this is not the case. There are erotic games for women and sometimes they rank as the best selling games in that genre, hitting the top of the Amazon.Co.Jp ranking. Whilst some of these games focus on heterosexual relationships, most of them play on homosexual themes. The female player plays as a male character, but the aim of the game is to form a relationship and have sex with another male character. It just goes to show, these games aren’t just for dudes who lock themselves in their room.

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