Due to innumerable cultural, social, and religious reasons, a video game which is considered perfectly acceptable in one country/region may be looked upon as the devil incarnate in another. This is one of the reasons why localization – as opposed to just straight translation - is extremely important for video games.
But one seemingly simple yet relatively deep and
complicated question has always bothered me: when does the
“localization” of content stop being “localization” and turn into
full-on “censorship”? And to what degree should this sort of censorship
As an example, I’ll use the newest installment in the
Yakuza series. Yakuza 3 – an imported Japanese PlayStation game. Almost
immediately, it came under fire for the huge cuts it suffered at the
hands of Western localizers. Apparently, a significant chunk of the cut
scenes, minigames, and events were removed from the US release, deemed
“inappropriate” for American audiences.
This gets me wondering: how much of the cut content
was actually “inappropriate for American audiences” as in “cultural
differences would prevent full understanding and therefore only serve to
confuse the player and impede their progress”, as opposed to “Americans
are generally far more religious and uptight than Japanese people, so
we can’t show them this kind of nudity and/or violence”? I assume that
someone purchasing the third installment in a game series would normally
have a pretty good idea as to what kind of content they were getting
into, especially with a series such as Yakuza, which is relatively
well-known. The games even receive ratings similar to films, giving the
consumer an even better idea of what the game in question contains.
What I’m trying to say is, basically, shouldn’t this
be enough as far as “protecting” the consumer from “inappropriate
content” is concerned, with regards to the publishers? Shouldn’t the
“localization” have ended with the changing of certain references, place
names, and linguistic changes?
Regardless as to what country this game is purchased
in, by default (due to content) the player will generally be an adult –
or at least old enough to understand that the game may contain some
“naughty bits”. Just look at the cover - this fact is not going to
surprise anyone. So who are the publishers to decide even further who
this game is for, and what parts they should be allowed to play?
This is not the first time this sort of
censorship-disguised-as-localization has occurred, but it was the first
example off the top of my head. Please feel free to discuss your
opinions/experiences on the matter (or share more examples) on the