Cross Cultural Norms

I like to preserve cultural references and views but these are changes I'm more than happy to agree with.
I like to preserve cultural references and views but these are changes I’m more than happy to agree with.

In a previous post, I mused about how cultural differences could influence narrative and game mechanics.  I mean, they obviously can and do influence a lot of different things.  Another example popped up with the upcoming release of Bravely Default‘s North American release.

The above image depicts the costumes in the original Japanese release on the right and the NA counterparts on the left.  The most gratuitous is the top-left—I think that costume change is pretty reasonable.  Seriously, who the hell goes out and fights in their underwear?  Come on, guys.  The BDSM outfit, borderline for me although I do like the covered up one more… it’s doesn’t bash me over the head as much.

More after the jump…

Really?  Playboy bunny outfit?  This girl is apparently 17 in the Japanese version.
Really? Playboy bunny outfit? This girl is apparently 17 in the Japanese version.

Seriously, who the hell goes out and fights in their underwear?

The bigger problem that these pictures don’t capture, though, is the change in the protagonists’ ages.  The ages in the Japanese version range from 14-17 years old.  Whoa!  A lot of these kids aren’t even considered legal to have consensual sex in the US.  They’re KIDS.  When you look at trends, NA culture is moving towards a more scantily clad future.  While the Japanese costumes may allude and be in line with what’s to come in our own country, does it mean we have to accept it?  Is there no responsibility on our part as a society to change this?  To set our own standards of chastity or respect?  Obviously, I think we should have some say in this and try to steer our society and cultural standards to better ones.  In the NA version, ages are bumped up so that they’re in the early 20’s.  A little more acceptable given their choice in clothing.

People, of course, are pissed off about this ‘censorship’ and are actively fighting it.  Based on comments on original news blurbs about this, it seems most people are in agreement with me that there’s something very off putting about minors in sexually fetishsized garments, situations, or positions.  I don’t think the changes are censorship.  With the changes I still get the gist that these people like to under dress, whatever fictional place without winters they live in.  I can’t say that the costume changes really affect the overall story.  Maybe the age changes since I will relate differently to a 17 year old than to someone who’s 21.  Maybe I do prefer to fall in love with a 17 year old rather than 21 year old but this is all personal preference and conjecture.

What is truly interesting is the the cultural norms that were behind these original decisions.  How do the Japanese think?  What do their developers want?  What do their customers want? What is acceptable?  What is expected?  This isn’t a cultural commentary blog nor do I have the expertise to view culture in a more general lens.  All I’m able to do is see how our cultures are portrayed in video games… and Japan has a habit of unreasonably under dressed women in general.

However, this isn’t about East vs. West.

Kojima tried to explain himself... the reason still alludes me... and everyone else.
Kojima tried to explain himself… the reason still alludes me… and everyone else.

However, this isn’t about East vs. West.  The West has also made it a habit of portraying women in poor light.  This even extends to treating female developers poorly!  Internet rage trolling and sending death threats to women in my industry?!  What the hell is this?

No one, West or East, wins in this fight for gender quality in games or in the games industry.  It’s a lot of fail when you look at it closely.  However, the changes being made to Bravely Default, I think, are the right step albeit small ones.  And my general stance holds, as designers and developers we have the responsibility to raise the bar of how people view our medium and how we treat our own colleagues.