The Rights of Artforms – Part 2

Editor
This is an editor.  His job of trampling pure artistic visions is necessary in order to keep works coherent, continuous, and relatable.

Thank you for rejoining me after Part 1. As stated earlier, this part will focus on video games in regards to artistic interpretation. So, in order to hide the fact that this part was done months ago and I simply cut a longer article in half so I could loaf for another month, let’s begin. And what better place to start than with the elephant in the room, Fire Emblem.

Obviously the controversy of Fire Emblem: Fates has calmed down in the face of the games massive success stateside, but there are still the smoldering embers of a failed hashtag boycott that sees Nintendo’s translation of Fates as an aberration of earlier localizations of Fire Emblem. In an almost poetic twist, a completely unrelated reddit post eight months prior to the whole controversy shows that there has not been one single game in the whole Fire Emblem series that has come over untouched, and this even included fan-translations.  Of particular note are the character rewrites for Eliwood in the eponymous first GBA release Fire Emblem and Marth himself in the DS remake Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon. Both were originally meeker and passive in their original Japanese games, and both were re-written, Eliwood by NOA and Marth by 8-4, to be more heroic in their western versions. Eliwood became a generic medieval swashbuckling hero and Marth became incredibly vengeance-minded and angry. Why the change? Because the West doesn’t like passive heroes. Don’t believe me? Han shot first, right?

Han Shit First T-Shirt
Hooray for erasing the author’s ability to change his own work!  Who’s trying to censor who, now?

And yes, you read that correctly. Even fan-translators have taken liberties with the original texts in every Fire Emblem game. This includes tonal changes in games like Fire Emblem Thracia: 776, to the inclusion of internet speak and memes in the Fire Emblem: Fates fan-translation. Yes, those hated memes make an appearance even in the “literal” fan-translation. Take a gander below to see what was proffered as a better translation than NOA Treehouse’s. I guess certain hashtag activists are ok with memes as long as it comes from them, although curiously when you ask them to produce an example of the memes that apparently drip from Fire Emblem: Fates’ official translation, the conversation grinds to a halt and examples are not produced. In an ironic twist, the promoted fan-translation of Fire Embliem: Fates has more confirmed memes than the official translation.

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The original fan-translation group has halted work on the project, mainly due to lack of interest and their unease at their fan-project being used as ammunition in things they disagree with. A new group has taken up the mantle, but it is unknown whether they are redoing the entire game or just riding off the previous effort. This turn of events creates the delicious opportunity to ask them if they are going to censor and change the tone and content of the original fan-translation, but so far nobody has asked.

Enough beating dead horses. And (for now) enough with Japanese RPGS! Let’s get tactical. Tom Clancy is a respected military thriller author who you might be familiar with even if you’ve never cracked open one of his books or seen one of the movies based on those books. Though he has sadly passed from this world recently, his name lives on through UBISoft and the use of his “brand” for their line of tactical shooting games, some based directly on books that he wrote. You can probably guess where this is going, but suffice to say, plot elements, characters and events were altered in Tom Clancy’s stories going all the way back to Rainbow Six. Considering the most personal and artistic mode of expression outside of straight up painting is writing a novel, you’d think UBISoft’s plot butchery would anger Clancy fans to the point of protest. Maybe even Clancy himself would sever all ties with UBISoft. Yet, for some reason, nobody seems to care that a bunch of French (Grr… FRENCH!) writers made changes to Clancy’s stories, probably while sipping pretentious wine and eating a baguette. Heck, somehow Tom Clancy is still publishing books despite having long passed.

Rainbow Six
Based off a single Tom Clancy book, this game might as well be fanfiction considering how many changes were made to the story, much less the non-Clancy penned game sequels

How about some action? Technos Japan, may they rest in peace, is mostly known for inventing the arcade beat-em-up as a genre with Double Dragon and Nekketsu Kunio-Kun, a title more or less like a game version of a juvenile delinquent manga from Japan. There has, to this day, never been a Kunio-Kun game that was brought over from Japan that wasn’t altered and localized in some way, shape or form. The most famous of these is River City Ransom, being the localized version of Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari. Originally about some kind of delinquent revenge story, the American version made sweeping plot changes, character changes, name changes, and rewrote the entire script. Now it’s about a pair of greasers from the 50’s fighting a bunch of gangs that spew repetitive catchphrases (one might call them memes) that were obviously changed from the pure, original Japanese script to something stupid like “BARF!” Sometimes every enemy would spew “BARF!” after defeat, rendering classic banchō manga dialogue into nothing but repeated “BARF!” Obviously Technos Japan had to weather a torrent of protests about these changes, and they came in weird forms like high reviews and cult status.

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More surprising is a kickstarted sequel to River City Ransom, dubbed River City Ransom Underground, that’s based on the Americanized, localized, gaijinized version of Kunio-Kun, and yet somehow this developer has been allowed to do this, even getting financial support from old fans of the game! It’s almost as if they are treating the translated, butchered, “localized” River City Ransom as if it has artistic merit of its own! But that can’t be possible. Technos’s American branch clearly overrode the original Japanese intent and thus should be punished! They have no right to create art of their own! Their purpose is to translate and nothing more!

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Setting that aside, it’s clear to see that these two versions, despite being based on the same game, are different in forms of presentation. Intractable purists can simply ignore the classic River City Ransom and enjoy the original Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari. But let’s dive head on into a game series that legitimately has (or had) two simultaneous continuities running at the same time, with the same characters (mostly) and it was the one created by the company’s American branch that is the one the mostly survives.

Sonic the Hedgehog exists as envisioned by Yuji Naka, Naoto Oshima, and Hirokazu Yasuhara as an anthropomorphic blue hedgehog that fights the scheming scientist Dr. Eggman across the Earth, trying to stop his attempts to… well it wasn’t really made clear, initially. Collect the Chaos Emeralds and rule the world, maybe? Some characters later introduced are Sonic’s little buddy Tails, a red rival Knuckles, and some girl named Amy that follows him around everywhere. However, this may not seem familiar to thirtysomethings long removed from Sonic, as they clearly remember the fat scientist’s name being the Russian-ish Dr. Robotnik. And Sonic lives on Mobius, right? And he’s some kind of freedom fighter and not just some adventurer! And he’s got a whole boatload of animal friends, including someone named Princess Sally, and a half-robot rabbit and a… walrus with a backwards cap? What’s going on?

Rotor.png
What in the fuck is this?

Well, thanks to Sega of America, DiC Animation, and Archie Comics of all things, the true artistic creation of Sonic is forever tarnished by a gaggle of round-eyed Gaijin. Sega of America made up Mobius out of whole cloth, as well as changed the evil scientist’s name. DiC Animation (FRENCH! AGAIN!) made up an incredibly serious story about Sonic being a freedom fighter on Mobius with Dr. Robotnik wanting to roboticize the animals in a mean-spirited and evil way. This is where the series ends up with 70% French-invented characters that had ZERO input from the creative team back in Japan. Archie Comics ran with the DiC Animated series and continued inventing even more original characters, making a long running comic series that still exists to this day, although still persisting in using their own artistic vision instead of the original creators’.

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A new iteration, Sonic Boom, lies outside of the other two continuities to even further confuse onlookers. You’d be surprised how much the Localized Sonic the Hedgehog is loved, even by people who are currently ranting and raving about censorship. Perhaps these people are lacking self-awareness, but it sadly isn’t uncommon that this sort of hypocrisy exists. They’ll swear up and down on the rights of artists’ creations not to be changed while keeping a soft spot for their childhood cartoons, heavily censored altered that they are.

Let’s change mascots and decades. To the 80’s! When Nintendo of America never changed anybody’s names and everything was left exactly as it was in the Japanese version! Well… no. If you are just coming off of  my previous enormous editorial, then you know that Nintendo of America changed 90% of the names of the characters in Super Mario Bros., leaving only Mario and the Hammer Brothers intact. Now this is true, but what you probably didn’t know (or maybe you did if you’re a Mario maniac) is that Mario wasn’t named by his creator, Shigeru Miyamoto. He was named after Nintendo of America’s first landlord, Mario Segale. However, Mario already had a name. Miyamoto referred to him as “Jumpman” or ofttimes “Mr. Video.” He never was really sure himself, but he thought Nintendo of America’s name fit the character better, especially when he was trying to sell the game (In this case, Super Mario Bros.) to Americans. His erstwhile brother Luigi was reportedly named after a pizza joint near Nintendo of America. Great artistic origins, right? Seems like even referring to Mario as Mario signals acceptance of localization practices.

But Nintendo of America’s Mario butchery doesn’t stop there! Here’s a little quiz. I’m going to show you a Koopaling (or Koopa Kid, if you prefer) from Super Mario Bros. 3 and his/her original name and a name that somebody unaffiliated with the project came up with. Ready? Go.

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Done yet? Surely you were able to see the first choice for each name is superior, right? What was Nintendo of America smoking when they came up with Cheatsy, Kootie Pie, or Bigmouth, right? Well, to be honest, I just played a trick on you. The first names are the names Nintendo of America translation team came up with in 1989, and the second set of names were created by DiC Animation (FRENCH! AGAIN! Same guys as Sonic!) So what’s with the confusion? They didn’t have any names when they were first created. They were only collectively referred to as the Koopa Nana Ninshu, or “Koopa Seven Team,” literally. It was Nintendo of America that decided they should all be named after talk show celebrities, and punk musicians (Including Lemmy Kilmister and Wendy O. Williams, last seen in Part 1’s musical covers section), except for Larry. After many a tortured night nursing a bourbon and many caffeinated mornings stooped over a writer’s desk, NOA Localizer Dayv Brooks came upon the name Larry Koopa because… “he just looked like a Larry.” Playing so fast and loose with the source material must have angered the original developers, right? They were so angry they adopted NOA’s names for Super Mario World. But… how could they not care?! Do they not have a problem with their art being butchered?! But, they don’t really see it that way, do they? And if they don’t, doesn’t that make taking offense on their behalf the kind of thing social outrage merchants do?

This sort of outrage is inconsistent as well. I haven’t heard a peep about Splatoon’s localization by Treehouse, except how snappy and good it is. And once again, nearly everybody’s name was changed from seafood-based puns in Japanese to seafood-based puns in English. For example, Callie and Marie were named Aori and Hotaru, respectively. Their personality changes are nothing less than the sinister schemings of people who hate Japan and gamers. Callie and Marie used to be sort of “genki girl”/”coodere” pop idol hostesses, whereas the U.S. versions had Callie be an over-caffeinated, over-excited, meme-slinging girl with Marie delivering sarcastic barbs and snark Callie’s way on a regular basis. These characters have been re-written, and re-written constantly due to the updateable nature of Splatoon, and I have not really seen anybody care. Even the story’s tone was changed a little bit. One wonders where the outrage is. If this is to be the new normal, to go line-by-line through a game and challenge every line change, why isn’t NOA being hammered on Splatoon all the time? You could say the story to Splatoon is inconsequential, but art is art, no matter how seriously it takes itself or expects you to take it. You can’t ascribe differing art-values to different art for convenience or personal opinion. It’s either all art or none of it is.

Squid Sisters.jpg
You’d think there would be more bloody murder screamed at this game for NOA’s changes.  Why hasn’t there been?

In fact there’s one game that had every single aspect of its art, story, premise, characters, writing, music, and in some cases gameplay changed for an American audience. That game is Elite Beat Agents. Known in Japan as Osu! Tatake! Ouendan! The game features a roving band of shouting male cheerleaders who bust in at a person’s lowest point in order to cheer them up and get them through their hard times. Paired with j-pop songs and manga-style comic panels, this was a thoroughly Japanese product through and through.

Ouendan.png

So when it came time to bring this game stateside, everything had to go. We have no concept of “ouendan” here, so they were changed to some kind of CIA-esque secret agent force, all the j-pop songs had to go and were replaced by Top 40 hits from years as early as the ‘70s. All the art is changed, and in some cases the gameplay was different. This might be the most “butchered” game ever, and yet it’s considered a DS classic and highly sought after on auction sites. This is 100%, complete, “censorship” and yet it seems that the American audience is fine with that. It’s obvious these changes were made because if they kept the game as it was in Japan, it would not have sold much considering the incredibly niche premise and music. Considering the sales of most anime-ish visual novels on Steam and other Japanese-focused products, I’d say that fact is unarguable.

EBA

Thinking all this, it reminds me of a certain game that got wildly and outright censored between its beta version and final version that I have found many people applauding the change, despite its trampling of the original idea.

But before I get to that, have you seen the latest Conker game? Named “Young Conker,” it’s a sort of Augmented Reality Game that uses Microsoft’s HoloLens peripheral. What most people are talking about, however, is that Conker appears to be some kind of kiddified version of himself. Gone are the swearing and adult humor that characterizes his legacy and this censored lump of focus-tested garbage stands before us, hoping to pull our nostalgic heartstrings in order for us to buy an Augmented Reality headset. Yet, and bear with me now, what if I were to tell you that Young Conker is more like the original version of the character and that Conker’s Bad Fur Day trampled the artistic design and personality of Conker that was established in two prior games? Yes, you heard me. Young Conker is the original Conker, or at least closer to it than anything else.

Conker Hololens.png
He’s as shocked as you are.

Conker started life as the star of an unreleased Rated E platformer called Twelve Tales: Conker 64 about cartoon squirrel who has adventures in various themed worlds and puts on different headgear to reflect each new world. It was all beautiful and aboveboard, but suddenly Chris Seavor, the game’s new director, took control and morphed the game into Conker’s Bad Fur Day, an M-rated Platformer that replaced all the whimsy and innocence with dated movie references and crude humor. Conker’s character had been previously established in Diddy Kong Racing and Conker’s Pocket Tales as a happy-go-lucky squirrel, but Chris Seavor didn’t care as he and his team were “tired” of making cutesy platformers and decided to just override the original creation and insert jokes, pop culture, and movie references, otherwise known as the predecessor to the hated internet meme. References to movies like The Matrix can be understandable due to the popularity of the movie at the time and the crossover between fans of that movie and fans of videogames in general, but references to Eyes Wide Shut? This game isn’t about your movie nights, Chris Seavor! Release the original version! #ConkerisBonkers  (Note: I should say I’m being facetious before I get hate mail.)

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However, it might surprise you to learn that there indeed is a small movement to get Rare (or Microsoft) to release some form of the original Twelve Tales: Conker 64. Obviously this hasn’t received much attention or movement, but shouldn’t it? I mean, isn’t it censorship, what happened to Twelve Tales: Conker 64? A game that was the original creation of a dedicated team at Rare had its entire direction changed, most of its art destroyed, and the characters that they had created perverted into parodies of themselves, by a single director. It’s funny, you tend not to think of censorship going in this direction. It’s always the removal or covering up of violence, profanity, or sexuality that’s considered censorship, not the addition of such in the first place. But if you like Conker’s Bad Fur Day as it is, congratulations! Judging by both the spirit and classic definition of censorship, you support it and prefer outdated movie references to original creations as envisioned by their creators. Or maybe we can all get a more nuanced view of this whole issue.

This is not to say angry internet mobs haven’t developed a convenient nuance for censorship. Flash back to March 2012, and the then-current internet outrage was over the ending to Mass Effect 3, the culmination of the popular sci-fi Action-RPG series from Bioware. After a series-long marketing campaign about the impact of player choices on the series, the conclusion of the final (at the time) game left something of a bitter taste in the mouths of longtime fans. Most of the choices made in previous games ended up not mattering and the “ending” as it was, was determined by a final choice, something about taking control of “reapers” or “synergizing” with them or destroying… you know, I really wasn’t paying attention because I’m not a Mass Effect fan. All I’m able to glean is that the ending wasn’t liked by a goodly-sized and definitely loud chunk of its fanbase.

Retake Mass Effect
Almost 66,000 people tried to browbeat the writers of a video game’s plot and demand that they change it because they simply didn’t like it.

How loud? Let’s just say a movement sprang up called “Retake Mass Effect” that endeavored to get Bioware to rewrite the ending to a videogame’s story because they didn’t like it. One player even filed a lawsuit for “false advertising” relating to how BioWare (and their publisher EA) marketed the product. Trying to use the courts to punish artists for making art that you don’t like? Seems harsh, right? Regardless of your opinion of the tactic, notice that suddenly video games became a “product,” not art, once the protest mobs found something they didn’t like about the art. I should say that not wanting to buy the game is perfectly fine, and so is trying to warn people about the “deception.” But angry fans of Mass Effect didn’t just boycott the game and vote with their dollars. They demanded that BioWare take their game and change it to suit their collective tastes and what they envisioned as the “proper” ending for their sci-fi trilogy, because then they saw the game as a product made to cater to their tastes and not a piece of unalterable art. They were fine with attempting censor BioWare’s vision for their own product when it served their own interests.

Now it might be unfair of me to conflate the angry Twitter mob about Fire Emblem with the angry Twitter mob about Mass Effect 3, but I wouldn’t be surprised if more than a few people in the mob didn’t have to dust off their protest pitchforks that much for this go around. One wonders if the anti-censorship, purist, authorial intent-protecting protestor of 2016 was the entitled, edition-demanding, status quo enforcing activist of 2012. I can’t say, but be sure to check Twitter histories for anybody that claims to be against censorship. You’d be surprised just how recently in the past they may have wished for no entertainment ever “pandering to SJWs,” however vague that notion is, and even advocated boycotts against such products. They have no qualms wielding or attempting to wield the market and public opinions in an attempt to censor and change products and art that they don’t like.

What’s that? “The market cannot be a censorious force?” you say? Of course it can! What do you think all those religious protests against The Life of Brian and The Last Temptation of Christ that I started my previous article tried to do? They tried to drive down the ticket sales and financially punish the distributors to the point of unprofitability, and nearly succeeded in The Last Temptation of Christ’s case. Were you a fan of Japanese games in the last generation and didn’t like how it seemed that they all wanted to “westernize” due to the U.S. market being much larger than Japan’s? Did you not like how it seemed every First-Person Shooter tried to copy or clone Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, to the point that even Bioshock Infinite, a game from a series that pretty much sells on its artistic vision, buckled and adopted some elements from Call of Duty? Don’t like the encroachment of free-to-play mechanics and microtransactions that infect mobile games into retail titles? These are all effects of popular titles on the market, and they alter games’ designs. Publishers pressure their in-house developers to follow these trends, and more independent developers make games similar to the popular titles in order to attract publishers, oftentimes to public backlash in the form of consumer protests as they feel these developers are compromising their art to follow trends, never mind that these protests seek to change the artistic vision of the art they are protesting for, seemingly unaware or unwilling to believe that companies will change their artistic visions to follow trends on their own in order to sell more copies of their games in order to raise their standing in the market. Despite being well-meaning, or at least claiming to be well-meaning, consumer protests have shown time and again to be just as censorious as the people they claim to be against.

Nintendo is no stranger to consumer protests meant to control their artistic visions. There are currently two petitions running right now meant to cancel Metroid Prime: Federation Force and Paper Mario: Color Splash, based on trailers alone, mostly founded on keeping the “integrity of the franchise” intact due to pre-release perceptions of the games. This is, in my opinion, worse than altering content on the censorship scale, as altered content still exists in its base form even if the words and some of its art has been changed. This is an attempt at the outright destruction of games entirely, because who gives a shit what Next Level Games and Intelligent Systems think about their artistic works, right? Their work belongs to the audience! Because of this attitude, Nintendo has seen pre-release protests over the following things in their history:

  1. “Kiddy games” – Having long been the song of a Nintendo critic, this continuous protest seeks to rid an entire aesthetic from the development of video games.
  2. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask – mainly because Link would be a child throughout the game. See #1.
  3. Metroid Prime – For being a First-Person, American “Gaijin” game and trampling the legacy of Super Metroid.
  4. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker – Two separate petitions at the same time blasting the use of cel-shaded graphics instead of the “SpaceWorld 2000” demo. Here is an archived version of one of them.  Many requests to cancel this game and make a “mature” one.
  5. The Nintendo DS – also aided from the press, (particularly IGN) consumers felt that Nintendo’s best-selling game device would lose to the PSP in the market, and demanded they make a “portable Gamecube” instead.
  6. The Nintendo Wii – Nintendo’s best-selling console, Nintendo was chided for its “gimmicky” controller, its name, which they referred to as “gay,” even wearing T-shirts to that effect at E3 2006.
  7. “Casual Games” – Some kind of nebulous notion as to what “casual” and “hardcore” are, this vague terminology was applied to pretty much any game that used touch screens or motion control. See Mario Kart Wii, Wario Ware, Metroid Prime: Hunters, etc.
  8. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess – For having motion controls in its Wii Verison.
  9. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword – For being motion-based and cel-shaded (again)
  10. Bayonetta 2 – So controlling was this protest that they tried to dictate what platforms Nintendo could release their published games on. Some even demanded Nintendo stop funding the game because they’d rather censor an entire game out of existence than be on a Nintendo platform. Even Platinum Games employees commented on this lunacy.
  11. Metroid Prime: Federation Force – For trampling the legacy of Metroid Prime and not having Samus in it. Taking this with #3 says more about the Metroid fanbase than its creators.  Petitioners are asking to destroy this video game for not being exactly like a previous game that was also asked to be destroyed.
  12. Paper Mario: Color Splash – For being too similar to Paper Mario: Sticker Star, a game that’s not liked by a small subset of its fanbase.  Petitioners are also asking to destroy this video game.

Not to mention the little mini protests about Smash Bros. and whether Snake or Roy or Ridley or Detective Stevenson from Gumshoe is in it. In fact, Super Smash Bros. Brawl had enough of a protest against a few of its mechanics that a group of disgruntled fans took it upon themselves to “fix” problems in the game, completely trampling over series Creator Masahiro Sakurai’s vision for the game, which brings an interesting wrinkle to the “games as art” discussion.

Notice how a game’s programming or its design aren’t included in the “games as art” discussion. One of the much-touted benefits of playing PC games, through Steam or otherwise, is the ability to independently patch and mod games. Often these mods fix unforeseen bugs in the game that even the developer’s QA departments don’t find, or worse don’t care to find, but most of them replace art assets or “update” textures with higher resolution images, destroying the art of the original designers. Some even program in new modes and new characters and such. Suddenly a game’s content belongs to its audience to tinker around with and loses its permanent artistic status. So goes the argument that one can still buy the game in its “vanilla” form and not use any of these  censorings mods. But this is also true of all of the games previously discussed. One can always purchase the original Famicom version of Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari or the Japanese version of Fire Emblem: Fates. Sure you may have to buy a Famicom or a Japanese region 3DS and it may be more expensive, but try tracking down an original, first-run copy of The Hobbit before J.R.R. Tolkien altered it to fit more in line with The Lord of the Rings, or the first edition of Gilgamesh, which might set you back millions, if not billions, if the museum or university that has it will actually sell it. But an interesting thing happens once a piece of art transfers its ownership from the artist to his audience.

There’s a school of thought about art criticism called “Death of the Author.” I’ll spare the intricacies but it mostly entails ignoring the author’s stated intent and examining the work by itself, unattached to the author’s psychology, or personal history. It’s popular with the social justice set, as they comb through anything to see if there are trace amounts of sexism, racism, colonialism, whatever-ism, but it should be noted that they do not follow Death of the Author completely, as the point is to examine a work without the author’s input, as if he doesn’t exist. You can’t then revive the author and pin various crimes against humanity on him and his race, country, etc. You’d think Death of the Author would be resoundingly unpopular with audiences, considering the guilt trips associated with this kind of analysis, but you’d be surprised how often it gets upheld, even by its critics. Fan-art, for instance, completely relies on Death of the Author as artists redraw characters and scenes in different art-styles, or often enough, in adult situations. Rule 34 of the internet states that if it exists, there is porn of it, and this porn resides solely in the realm of Death of the Author as I’m sure the intent of the creators of My Little Pony never intended for people to draw porn of it. But their freedom to make porn, as well as other, more wholesome fanart, is the freedom to re-imagine these characters, and so far I have yet to see anybody claim fan-artists as censors, even though they do override the original artists’ vision frequently, and that is the textbook definition of censorship.

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BEHOLD!  The wonders of having one’s own interpretation of characters!

Such is the problem with trying to argue censorship on a philosophical level. It creates many incongruities of opinion where a collaborative commercial art project of more than 30 or 100 people’s contributions with no real dominant artistic vision is to be protected and sanctified as if it were a single person’s voice, yet the work of a single artist, especially a musician, can be overridden, remixed, and parodied as the audience and the market sees fit. Where the sundry aspects of video games like promotional art, model art, textures, voice work, dialog delivery, etc. are considered more sacrosanct than the actual programming or game design, which is the thing that actually differentiates video games from other artforms. It creates embarrassments where an anti-censorship protestor is revealed to have liked, loved, or even enshrined a heavily altered or even censored work of art as his or her favorite, even as they rail against the very process that created it. Like being a hardline objectivist, it’s hard to live that way and the rewards for doing so are paltry.

Truth is, most of the time when you have a discussion about the cultural, regional, and editorial differences in all of the art, media, and entertainment in these two articles, most people will say, “Oh that’s interesting,” or “I didn’t know that.” They don’t launch into a diatribe about whether it’s right for a Frenchman to change an English story or whether it’s OK for there to be almost twenty different versions of Batman. Even if they don’t like the result of a different vision of the character (especially comic characters) they don’t start hashtag stupidity and cloak themselves in the First Amendment or “Anti-censorship” rhetoric in order to demonize their opposition. And if they can justify liking, say, Frank Miller’s Daredevil or Disney’s Robin Hood despite the wild changes in both, then that shows a distinct results-oriented caprice when it comes to this whole “censorship” thing, meaning they’re fine with sweeping character, tone, content, and artistic changes so long as they personally like the result.

Dark Knight Returns
“Who cares if it plays fast and loose with established canon, tone, and character?  It’s my favorite comic!”

Treating video games as art means giving it the freedom that other artforms enjoy, and that is the freedom of transformation, edition, revision, and any other re-interpretation. The addition of the market further compounds this, as art needs to sell, and thus the wants and desires of other markets and cultures must be taken into account for maximum market penetration. Even the most personal of artistic endeavors, the novel and the painting, are still made with an eye to sell the result. Novels have editors, and even self-published authors will have an editor or even a friend give a work a once-over before throwing it out into the world. Even the old masters like Leonardo, Raphael, and the other ninja turtles had wealthy patrons essentially funding them and commissioning paintings for portraits, and they would change them if their client wished it, as the artists themselves don’t think their art is free from change, edition, or alteration if their market of one demands it.

Hopefully you come away from this with a more broad vision of what art is and how it changes, especially commercial art. And if you haven’t, maybe you can lessen the demonization of your intellectual opponents by not calling them censors, because according to the grand history of every artform and the base definition of censorship, art has been “censored” since it was ever codified so. Demanding strict standards on what constitutes “censorship” is actually more binding than the current system of tuning the commercial art of video games for each market, especially when you tell artists that they can’t alter their art before release in another market. Art is, after all a form of communication, the best communication reaches a broad audience so as many people can enjoy it as possible.

Peaceful Harmony
This image came up when I searched for “Peaceful Harmony,” so I hope that’s good enough to end an editorial on.

TL;DR Nintendo has the right to change their art to suit each market. This is a right granted to every other artform without an accusation of censorship, and even classic books, films, paintings, and video games have altered their content for different markets without issue. This means that even wildly different translations have their own artistic merit alongside the original. Throwing the word “censorship” around to demonize your opponents and claim some moral high ground disrespects the history of the production and appreciation of art.

4 thoughts on “The Rights of Artforms – Part 2”

  1. If there is one thing I find fault with this editorial, Deg, is that you failed to mentioned when Microsoft brought Conker’s Bad Fur Day to Xbox they actually toned that game down more. They censored the game more then Nintendo did.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your opinion on Elite Beat Agents seems quite disingenuous. Yes, it’s a completely different game. Which is the trick – It’s not censorship, it’s a *completely different game*, with the same general premise running on the same engine. And that game happened to be good.

    A bunch of people were wrong about certain games that ended up very good. Not a surprise.

    A bunch of fan translators get it into their heads to be funny by adding memes, or just do a shit job of it. Of course inexperienced amateurs on practically no budget do poorly.

    People can muck around with creating their own fan work, or writers can have a different interpretation. What does censorship have to do with that? Nothing. No one calls it censorship whether those changes result in something good, or some deplorable sequel. Batman and Robin isn’t censorship, it’s just a bad movie. If a Skyrim player adds in some custom armor, that doesn’t prevent anyone else from playing that game in it’s officially released form.

    The problem people have is, mostly, becoming annoyed when some middleman comes into the picture – not a creator, not someone on the development team, not a producer – and says some theme or another can’t be done. Yes, that usually involves sex, because in America, you can market beheadings more easily than you can sexuality. That doesn’t mean that a creator won’t do something stupid that has a sexual theme, that the game might have been better of without… but can’t we let those things succeed or fail on their own merits?

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