Last week, I talked about the censorship of religious imagery in RPG games of old.
Today, we will discuss the censorship of violent imagery in RPG games, and whether or not it is worth removing or changing.
Read all about it after the break!
Clearly, an RPG is typically a violent experience through and through. Players will be a noble hero fighting monsters, enemy soldiers, and even commanding armies into battle for a potentially noble and just cause. These particular themes are just some of what define games of many different genres. So when does an “offensively violent” scene go too far and needs to be altered or removed? More importantly, did it need to be removed in the first place? I have two games which have had either a removal or alteration of a violent scene as an example.
The first example comes from Final Fantasy VI. This is without a doubt my favorite game in the series. I remember when I played it for the first time on the Super NES, and seeing Locke’s first encounter with the Imperial general, Celes Chere. Locke peeks into a prison cell while sneaking around South Figaro, and witnesses Celes, shackled to a wall, being beaten and interrogated by a pair of imperial soldiers. At this point, I thought to myself that she was in trouble and needed help. This not only gave a sense of seriousness, but also gave the player a glimpse of how despicable the Empire really was.
I played the Game Boy Advance port of the game many years later and realized that this scene had been removed. This was so that the game would be able to get a CERO A rating, as CERO did not exist when the game was originally made. Violence against bound individuals is not something that is looked well upon under this rating system, and so it was removed.
The second example comes from Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille Zur Macht. This is an infamous scene depicting MOMO’s first encounter with the insane Albedo. After discovering the bodies of many artificial life forms (all of which resemble a young girl no older than twelve), Albedo appears, mutilates one of these dead girls, pulls out a knife and begins threatening her with it, just before cutting his own arm off with it. Shortly after, he rips off his own head, and crushes it under his boot (Don’t worry, folks. He’s okay…). This scene was altered in the western release to be slightly less gruesome and threatening towards MOMO. The mutilation of the Kirschwasser, the knife, and some other imagery was removed, but the core scene itself stayed the same. The changes were made in the west mainly due to the intense violent implications, especially with regards to a child, or child-like character.
The one that bothers me more here is the removal in Final Fantasy VI, as this change had a larger impact on the background. It doesn’t seem like much, but this loss alters my perspective of the empire at this early point in the game. Yes, I know the empire is bad and yes, I know they are going to be the enemy through most of the game, but this showed me how bad they can really be, even before the events of Doma castle.
The Xenosaga scene was modified, and quite frankly, didn’t need to be. The reason here is that the scene itself is not that heavily changed in either version. It’s still unbelievably creepy, It still gets every point across that it initially tried to get across, and it still clearly labels Albedo as one clinically insane dude.
While I understand that there are laws in place thanks to groups like CERO and the ESRB, I think that there are things that are allowed to slide in many cases, and therefore, should be reconsidered. The one scene that comes to mind that should have been censored under the same logic would be from Suikoden II, Where Luca Blight cuts down a woman begging for her life, after he makes her get on all fours and act like a pig. I am eternally thankful that this scene was not removed because this scene defines Luca as one of the worst people in this world. In my opinion, it’s just as serious and “violent” as seeing Albedo mutilate a corpse. I would think that this scene would have at least been modified like Xenosaga. Both had the same western rating, and were equally as jaw dropping.
The same with religious censorship, things are changing. I recently saw an example from the recent Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth. This game allows you to choose the gender of your protagonist, and at one point, he or she ends up in a fist fight with another character, regardless of gender. Since this could be construed as violence against women, it could easily have been removed from the female protagonist’s version of the story, and yet it was not. This is a great step forward when it comes to violent censorship, but it likely will not be the last.
So what have I learned here? For starters, I think global video game rating systems are inherently flawed, and could benefit from a unified guideline when it comes to violence, sexuality, and other forms of imagery. Without this, things are going to slide that in some cases shouldn’t have seen a western screen. Secondly, I still feel that censorship that modifies the core concept of what is being portrayed should never happen for any reason. When a story is being told, every scene is important, and how it is conveyed has meaning. If the imagery needs to depict violence, then let it be so. I’m not a fan of gore, but if that’s how your story should be told, then who am I to ask for a less gory version?
Today, if a game is censored for some reason, the unedited footage is going to be found and thrown up on YouTube, so there’s really no need to make these changes. All it does now is anger people online, and we now live in an age where it’s an unnecessary practice.