What's With All The Censorship Lately?

by Justin Sevakis,

James asks:

I have been seeing much news about censorship in video games, recently, and I am wondering why it is still occurring; in this day and age, when people can access virtually anything instantly on the internet, how can companies still think that they can get away with any form of censorship, or have any desire to censor their products? How long shall proponents of freedom of expression (such as myself) need to wait before all forms of censorship in any media are completely eliminated in the name of freedom?

This question comes up occasionally, both about games and about late night anime, so I wanted to cover it here.

Censorship has traditionally meant that content was altered or had elements removed at the behest of an official government official, or some other gatekeeper over content distribution, like a TV network's standards and practices department.

That's not happening so much these days. Anime is being aired on Adult Swim more or less unaltered. Censorship of late night anime is being done due to network standards, but as the broadcast is being done to promote a DVD/Blu-ray release, anime producers just as often design their shows to have elements removed or blacked out by design, just to encourage people to buy the "uncut" version.

What's also happening is that content producers are becoming mindful of the fact that whatever they produce, travels. From Tokyo to Hollywood, from game designers to film producers, everyone these days is cognizant that they're not just chasing a fan base in their native country, but around the world.

When the people censoring the work are the very creators of the work, it's much harder to argue some sort of moral high ground. There is no transaction that is being stopped by a third party. Rather, what the buyers want and what's being offered for sale does not match.

There are some games that are being tamed down for overseas release versions. Japanese companies usually don't like controversy, so if something they do runs the risk of embarrassing themselves en masse, they're not going to do it. As the owner of the game or whatever, that's their prerogative. It's not unlike Toei Pictures sitting on Battle Royale for years rather than release something in the States that might have cut too close to home for an American audience.

Is it an overreaction? Probably. Are there fans that really really want their controversial content in all its glory? Definitely. But not releasing that version is the choice of the content owner, and always will be. You can either respect that, or voice your disapproval online, but ultimately it's their decision, not yours. And if people don't buy it as a result of the overseas version missing a few things, that's also on the producer.

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Justin Sevakis is the founder of Anime News Network, and owner of the video production company MediaOCD. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap. Please note that he does not take question submissions via Twitter.

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