Video game censorship has been around for a very long time. Games have to be changed due to different cultures having different moral standards on issues such as sex, violence, drugs, and profanity. Early this year, Sony blocked Super Seducer from releasing on PSN, this was seemingly due to the harassment depicted in it, as well as the game being a self-proclaimed instructional game, with its Steam description stating,“if you make the right choices in the game, you’ll make the right choices in your life.” Some people disagreed with this, I was not one of those people, because I believe games that have harmful messaging, such as telling shy men to manipulate women if they want to have sex with them, should not be provided a platform. Dating simulators, however, don’t explicitly state that the content in them will help the players in real life, and therefore the genre should not be banned or censored if they follow laws. I believe that censorship has a place on the PlayStation, as well as most game distribution platforms, but the new Sony censorship policy must be changed.
Sony has recently changed its content policy, and now, according to Gematsu’s transcription of a broadcast by Light, the studio that develops Silverio Trinity, it forces Japanese games to be examined by a content examination board that is located in America and ordered the Japanese developers to only communicate in English. This examination is happening to Japanese games regardless of whether they are going to be released in America. The new censorship policy is targeting mature games with sexual content, and they are being censored by an American team due to moral differences regarding explicit sexual content in games, especially sexual content involving characters of questionable ages.
I think we can all agree that characters that can be mistaken for minors should not be depicted in any sexual way, and games that do sexualize them should not be given a platform, but the real problem with the policy is that it unfairly punishes smaller Japanese studios by telling them to only communicate in English. According to Serena Lai, a UX Researcher for Mitsue-Links, “While no official data seems to exist regarding the percentage of native Japanese-English bilinguals in Japan, the general perception from desk research and from conversations with Japanese friends and colleagues, is that less than 10% of Japanese have professional working proficiency in English. This includes all four skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking.” This means that a majority of Japanese developers would not be able to accurately communicate their justification for their content, nor would they be able to talk about how they could change their game to better fit Sony’s standards.
Sony must retract its new policy and instead work to determine standards for all developers to follow and must allow them to communicate in the language of their choice. When it comes to such a sensitive and important topic of creative expression and censorship, communication is key, and if there is a language barrier, then developers will not be able to accurately express their reasoning and attempt to negotiate. Sony is under no obligation to sell games with content that does not reach their standards, but their standards need to be clear, concise, and fair to different cultures. There needs to be a list of content that is strictly prohibited, such as sexualization of childlike features, something that the recently banned Omega Labyrinth Z was guilty of, as well as a standard for how sexual games can be. Developers should not be developing a game for a company that will not support them, so they need to know the guidelines beforehand.
While Sony is taking the censorship approach, Steam and the Nintendo Switch seem to be censoring a lot less, and will likely be the new home for games that are sexually explicit. With this move, Sony is losing an audience, but also taking a stance on what it wants the game industry to look like. Regardless of what they ban or allow to release, Sony needs to address the issues in its newly rumored policies or face the criticism of fans and developers that are not being treated fairly.