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Subject: Persona 3: FES
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Author Topic: A discussion on localisations and censorship  (Read 7428 times)
Cauton
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« on: March 10, 2006, 01:17:35 PM »

While checking around for info about La Pucelle Tactics I came across the following article about the changes Mastiff made for the american version. It sheds light on something that really irks me - american publishers changing or toning down content to cater to the more conservative parts of the society. Whenever I hear of that happening, I tend to refuse to buy the game unless it's something that I really, really want.

The practice of altering content was pretty widespread in the 16 bit era, much thanks to Nintendo's content guidelines back in those days. Situations that could be interpreted as sexual (a kissing scene i Final Fantasy IV, for example) were changed or removed, bars and alcohol were replaced by cafes and coffe/lemonade respectively and the color of blood was changed to green or gray.

The introduction of the Sony Playstation on the american market changed a lot of that, though. Sony targeted older demographics, and allowed much more "objectionable" content, and the rest of the industry followed suit. There were still content that was seen as objectionable, mainly the viewpoint of religion as something not inherently good. I wonder if Xenogears and Final Fantasy Tactcis got such sloppy localisations because Square didn't think the content matter would sit well with an american audience, and thus didn't want to spend too much on the localisation.

I would've hoped that US publishers, after games such as Disgaea and Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne (I'm aware Nocturne was released after La Pucelle) having had some success, would have the guts to let such "objectionable" content remain in the games. But apparently the practice of toning down objectionable content still remains, even if at smaller scale than before.

I'd be interested to hear your opinions on this matter. I wonder if my viewpoint, as a secularised non-american (the swedish society look at religion quite differently than the american), is different than yours. Do you think that it's okay for publishers to change "objectionable" details about the games, and am I the only one who thinks it's a big deal?
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Tomara
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« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2006, 01:42:18 PM »

I'm not going to get all worked up about a few changed crosses. And the smoking thing, as long as it doesn't change the personality of the character I don't really mind. You don't always notice these kind of things. Badrach smoked in the Japanese version of Valkyrie Profile, I found out about that after I finished the game twice.

IIRC Mastiff was a new publisher when they released La Pucelle Tactics, I don't blame them for taking the safe path. Most publishers drop these habits after a few games. Heh, look at what Atlus did to Persona and what kind of localizations we are getting now.
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daschrier
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« Reply #2 on: March 10, 2006, 02:09:48 PM »

Even if the changes don't affect the game, I find it insulting as an american. Are they telling me that I'm not mature enough to handle this content but yet the japanese are??

I find it strange that things like swearing and violence goes unchecked for the most part, but sexual innuendo is shunned, as well as attacks on religion. This isn't surprising when you look at who the founders of america were, the strongly religious and social outcasts.

I would hope that things like censorship in games would be something of the past, yet it still happens. What about some games like Shadow Hearts with some enemy demons having giant penises? Was that ever an issue?
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CluelessWonder
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« Reply #3 on: March 10, 2006, 02:14:03 PM »

I'm more with Tomara.  If it doesn't affect the game,  I'm not bothered.  If a game needs some changes in order for it to get localized then I'm all for it.  I'd rather play a game with some superficial changes than not have a chance to play it all at.
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Angelo
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« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2006, 02:52:35 PM »

The Mastiff changes seem innocent enough to me.  Trying to smooth a cultural barrier isn't the same as censorship.  Something always gets lost in translation.  People take things the wrong way.  It's bad business to convert a foreign product for sale without at least a passing consideration of local customs.

I should think that after all this time, people would know that you're not getting the same product the Japanese did, barring a miracle.  If you have a problem with it, import.
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Cauton
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« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2006, 03:19:18 PM »

Quote from: "Angelo"
The Mastiff changes seem innocent enough to me.  Trying to smooth a cultural barrier isn't the same as censorship.  Something always gets lost in translation.  People take things the wrong way.  It's bad business to convert a foreign product for sale without at least a passing consideration of local customs.

I should think that after all this time, people would know that you're not getting the same product the Japanese did, barring a miracle.  If you have a problem with it, import.


Censoring, according to Merriam-Webster:
Quote
to examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable


So yes, it is in fact censorship. Anyway, I'm only using La Pucelle as an example of what can happen during localisation.

Yes, of course things will be changed when a game is brought over. It's inevitable that minor dialogue changes will take place to translate something that just wouldn't work as a direct translation, such as jokes and puns. I have no problem with this, as long as the translation keeps the tone and spirit of the original version.

What I have a problem with is when symbols and content that don't have a real effect on the storyline - such as crosses and sexual innuendo - gets   changed and toned down. For me, that signifies a desire to water down the product and, yes, censor it for the off chance that someone might get upset.

This quote from the article illustrates what I mean:
Quote
And that gets to the second reality: There are well organized forces that work hard to punish software makers and sellers for what they consider religious transgressions. As a very small and brand new publisher without deep pockets we need to pick and choose our battles. Had we thought the crosses were meaningful we would have fought. But they weren't. And we'd much rather have the game widely available then face disappointed gamers who cannot find the title. It was the right decision, though as we grow as company we may make different calls in the future.


They say they're working to abolish censorship in video games, but yet they let these "organized forces" get their way by changing the "objectable" content. Again, I fully understand their position, but it does sound like a bit of a contradiction to me.

And I would import games, if I could read japanese. Unfortunently I haven't had the opportunity, or time, to take any classes in it yet, even if I plan to do so in the future - just so that I'll have to option to experience these games as they were original intended.
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John
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« Reply #6 on: March 10, 2006, 03:19:19 PM »

There's cultural differences, plain and simple.

You think that the people who were born before 1945 in Japan would really find Fallout to be that kind of kitchy cool we do with the mushroom clouds and the nuclear fallout?  We think it's cute.  It would be offensive to them.

-John
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daschrier
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« Reply #7 on: March 10, 2006, 03:22:59 PM »

While cross-cultural misunderstandings do seem to be a valid reason for changing things in a game, book, whatever, doesn't this lend itself to increased ignorance of other cultures?

I had no idea about the swastika thing in Japan before reading that article at 1up, so if I had gone to japan and seen it, I might feel uneasy etc, but now I am aware at what the symbol means in their culture so it's no big deal.
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John
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« Reply #8 on: March 10, 2006, 03:29:37 PM »

It's a bit different for my example - we know what nuclear weapons do, but we've never experienced something like that firsthand.  It's like nudity on television in America vs in Canada and Europe.  While such images are acceptable in one place, they're unacceptable in another.  Everyone knows what nudity is, it just had a different effect on different people.

I personally don't feel as if it's a huge issue, we've certainly come much further than I would've expected compared to some of the dialogue in years past.  It's not like other things aren't watered down for general consumption - have you guys ever watched The Matrix on TBS?

-John
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daschrier
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« Reply #9 on: March 10, 2006, 03:43:22 PM »

No, but it is funny what censoring they do to some shows. I know sex in the city on TBS, they still allow shit, and some nudity....it's very strange.

There is a big difference between the views on nudity between america and europe, but it's not as bad as some asian countries where movies like brokeback mountain aren't even allowed.

I feel that a lot of things we try and supress in america just come back to bite us in the ass. In europe where they are a lot more relaxed about drinking, their kids still drink and do stupid things, but they tend to learn how to drink responsibly much younger than americans.
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rubenxce
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« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2006, 03:46:18 PM »

In my opinion people take this way to seriosly.  My best friend who also posts a lot more than me on this board thinks like  you cauton (well not exactly like you, you only get mad at sexual innuendo and religion he gets mad for everything).  He wont watch anime unless its in japanese cuase he says all dubs ruin anime and what not. He also gets pissed when they change things in videogames, case and point he hated working designs (clinton jokes) with so much passion he was very happy when then went under.  As for me personally I couldn't care less what they change.  I dont care about any changes they make.  Change whatever the "stuff" you want to change and give me the product ill be happy.  Dogs for Cats who cares the meaning of the paragraph is still there, and if they do change the complete storyline as long as its good I dont mind.  If I would really like to play the original i would learn japanese and import.
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daschrier
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« Reply #11 on: March 10, 2006, 03:52:55 PM »

It's not so much that I care that stuff is changed, it won't stop me from playing a game if I find out, but I just feel like it should be unnecessary to change things for sensitivity issues or whatnot. How can we over come our differences between cultures and races if we brush things aside and under the rug?
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Cauton
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« Reply #12 on: March 10, 2006, 04:13:07 PM »

Quote from: "KeeperX"
 It's not like other things aren't watered down for general consumption - have you guys ever watched The Matrix on TBS?


Can't say I have :)
I don't see what difference that makes, though. Two wrongs don't make a right, as they say. I'm against these kind of changes regardless of where they take place.

Quote from: "rubenxce"

He wont watch anime unless its in japanese cuase he says all dubs ruin anime and what not. [...] Dogs for Cats who cares the meaning of the paragraph is still there, and if they do change the complete storyline as long as its good I dont mind.


As for the anime thing - yeah, I'm that way too. I never watch dubs, for two reason. One: The acting -or should I say emoting - is usually excruciatingly bad. Two: I've watched enough anime during my time to be able to pick up on some small nuances in the language, which give me a better understanding of some character actions and reactions. But I won't get into the sub vs. dub debate here - it's way too inflamatory.

What you say about changing the storyline is pretty interesting though, and ties in with what daschrier says. For me, one of the big draws of RPGs and anime/manga is the Japanese culture, and how its viewpoints and storytelling differs from the Western style. If you're going to change around stuff so that it resembles American storytelling and values, then what's the point of bringing it over in the first place?
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Rico
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« Reply #13 on: March 10, 2006, 04:38:32 PM »

Oh noes dictionary.com!  I am vanquished!

I don't really see the crosses as a big issue, or an actual censorship issue, for that matter.  It's part of the localization process.  The cross example really must be taken right along with the theoretical swastika issue; they're not separate.  It's not really that one culture finds something objectionable while the other doesn't, though in both these examples that does happen to be the case.  It's that the symbols have different meanings in each culture.  Every game that's well-localized has dozens, if not hundreds of lines of dialogue that have been changed from direct translation to something that conveys relatively the same meaning to the target audience as the original did to its audience.  When this doesn't happen, we criticize the localization.

The removal of characters who smoke is likely due to ESRB policies.  While I can't speak for La Pucelle: Tactics, I know that Badrach's smoking was removed from Valkyrie Profile because it would've bumped up the ESRB rating had it been in there, it was easy to remove, and didn't meaningfully affect the game in any way as some of the other possible changes would have.
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Hidoshi
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« Reply #14 on: March 10, 2006, 04:40:41 PM »

A solution of course, would be to include both censored and uncensored modes as a parental control option. Heck, this was done with games like Mortal Kombat 3 if I recall correctly, where the blood could be changed from red, to green, to off. I'm somewhat behind censorship because there are things which are offensive to us.

I think quite a few of us on the boards are too close to our fandom. We want no censorship because we are the more serious gamers, and more informed as to our hobby. Being that I try and practise tolerance across the board, I usually don't get offended by much as it is, but I still take issue with certain things and feel mildly insulted that the Japanese would put such things in their games and movies.

For instance, I'm not a Christian, but I'm often very insulted when the Japanese decide to make something very Christian in nature into an evil force. Look at Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy X. The Church is evil, God is evil, Jesus is evil. I can't stand behind that. I love the games for other reasons, but there's still objectionable content present. A more Christian person may wind up extremely insulted, and that's a valid complain on their part. You're essentially spitting on something that's dear to them.

Why I'm insulted by that sort of thing stems from two places. One is the general ignorance with which the developer has decided to treat the material. The Japanese tend to have a pop-culture interpretation of certain Western things, including Christianity. I should point out, it's their pop-culture, based on previous historical biases (Christianity DID cause problems in their culture). Okay, fine. If you want to discuss the problems Christianity caused in Japan, that's one thing. Instead, they outright demonise the religion, not thinking "oh hey, we might be offending a large chunk of the world". It's important to remember such things.

Before someone makes this argument by the way: You cannot justify this attitude by attempting to call games 'art'. Are they art? Sure, some are. Some aspects of some are. Shadow of the Colossus is in fact a work of art in my opinion. But its commercial art, and that comes with rules of compromise. You're selling this product on a large scale, and therefore do not have the right to do as you please with it. In Japan they're much more accepting of bashing the Christian religion because of their history with it, and because of the public's general ignorance towards foreign attitudes.

Now, we do have the same problem, but we temper it with the idea of being politically correct. I'm not for being all-out PC, that's ridiculous. But I also won't just stand there if someone starts whipping out stereotypical Chinese jokes in a hurtful manner. I don't appreciate it when a game incorporating Chinese or Japanese culture here only plays on the stereotypes. It's one reason the ultra-fans at conventions annoy the shit out of me. They're very well informed as to all the nitty gritty cultural details, but they still have a stereotyped view of things. The same goes for the ignorant campus jocks when confronted with foreign cultures.

Now, I don't stand behind utter censorship. In fact, I'd prefer censorship be done away with and game developers themselves be more sensitive to the audience of their product. In some cases, like SMT, there's already a warning flag up which tells you it's a dark, sinister atmosphere. The art, the packaging, the themes described on the back. Fine. La Pucelle? Not so much. It's much more lighthearted and general public-friendly. It's a different audience. Understanding this, the censors have to react accordingly. Historically, this hasn't been done so well. We all know the shitball Persona 1 turned out to be thanks to ultra-Americanisation. But I think they figured out that you don't need to and shouldn't do that with SMT games because of the inherent themes.

Even then however, I'm not at all surprised they never brought over P2:EP. Why? Because Nazis offend everyone. Though I'm sometimes lost as to how an American developer gets away with putting them in certain wargames. I imagine it's fine because you're shooting them, rather than interacting and exchanging dialogue with Hitler. But that brings up another point: Games like that don't fly in Germany. Why? Consider their past with Nazism. It's something the country's  very sensitive about. They have every right to censor the shit out of anything with Nazis in it.

In general, I'm in favour of parental controls here for basic things like iconography, violence content, what have you. For storyline content, there are far more difficulties, most of which would have to be solved at the developer's level, long before it comes to the censors. And even then, let me be clear: I'm not for utter censorship. I think it has to be treated with a very balanced hand. I think La Pucelle was treated well for the most part. I'm still a little miffed by the whole smoking thing, but hey, it is an RPG and character association with younger players can be a strong influence sometimes. That has to be taken into consideration to, at least until the ESRB is a more ingrained part of public mentality.
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