Monday, 24 March 2014

Opinion: The Hanzo/Hebijo Witch-hunt

The other day I read another one of those articles jabbing away at Senran kagura Burst. The article itself wasn't too bad, although basing the entire thing on a single tweet by an unnamed 'Veteran female gamer' seemed a tad odd to myself, instead it was the opinionated & baseless ignorance displayed in the comments section that was jarring. It devalued the debate for me that the original article intended to illicit. As always with an opinion piece, the reviews expressed here are my own & may not be the same as the rest of the staff here

Objectification seemed to be the main crux of the article, I'm not one to disagree either, but here is where most commentators ignorance was shown the most. Theres some manner of objectification of the characters with regards to how the game was marketed, there's no denying that, but to base an entire opinion of a piece of entertainment based on such is ignorant. Perspective is the key to objectification of a person, and basing your view of a person/character on how they are physically portrayed in media is objectification on your part! Crazy I know. The perspective gleaned when actually playing the game portrays the characters entirely differently to the media. Each one is an independent, strong minded & willed individual with a deep backstory that gives them a unique and insightful personality. I actually find the characters endearing, not objects of male sexual desires. Take my favourite character, Yagyu, for example and her interactions with Hibari. No doubt there's assumptions out there that it could be due to some kind of 'attraction' on Yagyu's part, not so. Again, playing the game reveals that *Spoiler* Yagyu's younger sister died in a traffic accident and the first time she and Hibari met, Yagyu mistook her for her younger sibling (before obviously realising that wasn't the case) and has been protective of her ever since* Nothing objective or sexualised about that is there? Of course not, but playing through the game gives me a different perspective on all the characters compared to most. This is the point I'm making.  Most people are still basing their view on the fact the girls have big boobs and the games marketing didn't help in that regard with its tongue-in-cheek adverts portraying the game as something you'd hide under you bed. Sure, its a little sexualised but then we're surrounded by sexualised imagery all the time due to western media, so why the focus on this game? People assuming Sexualised=Sexist is also another barmy notion brought on by the debate. The game is lacking anything along the lines of a Harem, Knight-in-shining-armour or damsel in distress routine (like the typical Mario one of saving a kidnapped Princess Peach? Yeah I said it) etc and theres a distinct lack of male characters to put the girls into any sexist situation in-game. The way I see it, the girls in this game go around kicking all kind of butt WITHOUT needing the support of anyone except their fellow female shinobi. There's no super powerful male ninja that saves the girls at every turn or whom they all fall in love with for no reason. If anything, this game is a prime example of the old notion of 'never judge a book by its cover'. I'd even go as far as to say the game even teaches you that. When going in most people will have the same idea given by the media on Senran Kagura Burst, but after spending some time with the game your perspective on the characters shifts. Those out there assuming the characters are just 'boobs on legs' are doing themselves & the debate a great disservice, as the insightful & endearing backstorys & personalities of the characters shows theres so much more underneath the exterior.
There was also the point I heard a few times of people calling for censorship, boycotting or even going as low as deducting points from a games review score. Seriously? Lets go into how ridiculous that notion is for a second. A game that has the odd moment of cheeky fan-service should be chastised, while games that have you murdering & torturing thousands of people before the credits roll are OK? Its when statements like this are made that it shows how much full of nonsense it is to threaten a game with boycotting etc due to its content. Another point I made was the fact that Senran Kagura Burst is a game from the Japanese industry, which also produces what are known as Otome games. These feature a romanticised viewpoint of males & relationships which are clearly aimed at female gamers. Wait. What?? Objectification of games..for female gamers!? Indeed. When you consider there's entire shops (Otome Road in Tokyo pictured above) or sections of shops dedicated to these type of games in Japan, one must wonder why the same fervent debate isn't started over these titles. Idea Factory are currently working on localising Amnesia V for the Vita, an Otome title, that will no doubt recieve a free pass and not suffer similar debates if it does indeed make its way to our shores. Hakuoki: Stories of the Shinsengumi is another Otome game heading west, confirmed for release on May 6th in the US, so it looks like these games are starting to filter out into the console space after beeing available on PC for a good while thanks to localistations by fans and publications. Then again when you think about it, an article discussing Otome games in a similar way is hardly gonna be good click bait in the western industry. It seems there's a 'Knight in shining armour' attitude among journalists in the mainstream gaming press these days whereby they feel the need to start up click bait articles on games like Senran Kagura Burst. To me at least, these type of articles are probably more patronising to Women as they come across as though the authors are turning to women and saying "Its OK love, you sit down and Ill take care of this" while rolling up their sleeves. Can't they decide for themselves now whether something needs all those restrictions in place?
Moving on from all this, we come to the real issue. The issue isn't a game like Senran Kagura Burst, the debate IS the issue. Once you take on board that a game like the one discussed is brought over from a 'neutral' Japanese gaming industry, yet it stands out so much once localised in the west should be enough of a clue as to whats coming. Have you never wondered why? Its simple. The western game industry is so Testosterone fuelled that games like Senran Kagura become easy pickings to form inaccurate debates to throw people off from the real issue - The western gaming industry is borderline sexist in itself. Great strides have been made with regards to female protagonists - Lara Croft (Tomb Raider) Nillin (Remember Me) & Jodie Holmes (Beyond: Two Souls) to name a few great examples of late, but theres still a distinct lack of games aimed at a female audience here. Its not unusual to see this idea being brushed under the carpet, Its hardly click bait & it could potentially damage publications relationships with the bigger publishers in the west, but its an idea that should be debated on a lot more. With us covering eastern games a lot more than games in the west, I notice these things everyday and the differences between the industry's on each side for who they cater to are there for all to see. Isn't it about time we start debating the real issue with regards to the industry in the west?

Senran kagura Burst scored a well deserved 8/10 [Review] with us as theres some genuinly great things about the game once you brush aside the fluff. Any other Otaku gamers out there that purchased the game who want to add to the discussion? Leave us a comment!

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