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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Localisation Is Not Censorship

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - Localisation and censorship are actually mutually exclusive.

There is a lot of controversy lately that Nintendo is engaged in outright censorship of games coming from Japan to North America. KoopaTV is an anti-censorship bastion of freedom fries, so it makes sense that we should join in the pile demonising Nintendo, right? ...But, alas, these cries of censorship come only from people who... have no idea what they're talking about.

Over the course of this article, I will illustrate the difference between what people think Nintendo is doing — censorship — and what they and other companies actually do: localisation. Or localization for you z-diehards out there who are going to search engine that way.

What do people consider censorship nowadays? Maybe the lewd outfits in Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water that got replaced with Nintendo lady costumes instead. I've heard complaints about the "boob slider" in Xenoblade Chronicles X that I didn't even know existed got taken out of the localised version of the game. There is a rumour that in Bravely Second, Nintendo (the outside-Japan publisher) changed the Tomahawk (class in Japan) class to the Cowboy class (class outside Japan). Though the "Cowboy" name is what people are calling it, not what the game would call it.

None of that is censorship. 

Here is your KoopaTV-created cheat-sheet on the difference between censorship and localisation:

Censorship versus localization infographic localisation table differences between
The differences between censorship and localisation. The criteria are: definition, who does it, the effects on the product, and the stage of the creative process.

So, for each of the three examples, let's think through this chart. It's a framework to model our thinking. In all of the examples, we can immediately see that they all fit the definition of localisation. These games are all going from Japan to North America and Europe. The products were made in Japan and are now being made suitable for use elsewhere. What makes things suitable for use? It could be complying with government regulations (which would be censorship) or trying to avoid a certain ESRB rating. I doubt the latter is of relevance here.

Koei Tecmo got the contracted publisher, Nintendo, to localise the game around the world and market it there. Nintendo did a questionable job at that, but they still did it. It's important to note that this contract gives Nintendo the ability to do whatever they want to the product to help the game sell, and Koei Tecmo agreed to that ahead of time. Nintendo looked at the limited market of survival horror Wii U owners and decided, hey, what would increase sales of a 16 GB digital-only game? Make it have physical copies Put in Nintendo costumes! Something has to give though. Maybe these perverted outfits should just be replaced with these. Did anyone buy the game so they can play as some Asian girl in a Zero Suit Samus costume taking pictures of ghosts? Nintendo probably thought someone out there would.

Nintendo added creativity in their localisation step. They created/licensed new assets! That's adding value. Remember this: Localisation adds or maintains value, while censorship, as you'll read later, subtracts value. If something is still being localised, it's not a "finished" product. The creative process still continues at that point. That means if it's released in Japan but not America, and it's going to be released in America, it's not done.

If you plan to make something that'll be sold worldwide, you take that into account in production. You allow flexibility for assets to be changed to fit audiences. That means text. That means voice-acting. It means images. Localisation, after all, is not just straight-up translation. If it was, you'd be left with meaningless nonsense. For more insights into that topic, check out this Capcom Unity article from Janet Hsu, Capcom's Ace Attorney localisation manager.

This is apparently someone named "Magnolia Arch". Wearing a cowboy hat is now censorship.

As for the Bravely Second thing? Literally localisation. People think that Nintendo is being "politically correct" and "white-washing" what's based off a "Native American" to a Western rancher. Which is apparently insulting to history. Or whatever. We don't know the context or if this is even real, but I will say that I personally think cowgirls are more attractive than the stereotypical American aboriginal. Not to the point that I'd buy a game just because it has cow-wrangling in it, though I will be targeting the Moo Moo badge in Nintendo Badge Arcade that just opened up. Anyway, Americans should share my preferences here. Having an option for both would be cool, but optimising your resources for success is what localisation is partly about!

As for the slider for characters' chests in Xenoblade Chronicles X, I don't really know the justification for this or what value Nintendo is bringing to making this localisation change. It's still not censorship. It doesn't fit the definition or the characteristics of censorship. It's just odd, though it's also odd it was in the game to begin with, and that someone thought of it. Perhaps the folks in Japan look at America's localisation decision and think, "Hey, maybe they're right. This IS a creepy and oddly specific area of customisation!" You could also consider that subtractive design has its merits. Don't forget that ugliness options are detrimental to celebrating characters!

So. What IS censorship? Here's a fantastic example of censorship that happened to KoopaTV very recently. So this hits home.

Scratch MIT account blocked ban message
They literally used the word "censorship".

Scratch blocked the account that KoopaTV uses to create and share the games you should know and love. Just in case you want that admin notification in text,

"Your project Trayvon Tyson's Punch-Out!! has been temporarily un-shared because multiple people reported it as inappropriate. The Scratch Team will review the project based on the community guidelines, and either restore the project or confirm the censorship."
It's going to be forever unshared because it's not really worth the effort to make it "appropriate". What ended up happening is that the Scratch staff unblocked my account and said Trayvon Tyson's Punch-Out!! is too inappropriate to be on a website for all ages, even though I made it so the game literally prevents you from accessing the playable content if you say you're under 17. It's not part of Scratch's philosophy. I didn't think this would happen!

This isn't localisation in the slightest. I didn't ask Scratch to change my content, and they didn't. They just flat-out barred it and is preventing KoopaTV's chosen freedom of expression. It severely limits the kind of creativity we can produce if we will continue to seek to host things on Scratch's site. The only "creativity" that comes up is the creativity used to try to subvert the censorship. But that's basically the equivalent as saying there is value from breaking windows and forcing people to spend money to repair it. The creativity used to subvert censorship could be much better used for other things! That's why I published yesterday's article so late, since I was so busy figuring out how to subvert Scratch's censorship of Trayvon Tyson's Punch-Out!!.

Scratch MIT Team unbanned feedback e-mail
"When a project receives a lot of flags" I TOLD you that Al Sharpton's minions wanted to censor the game off the Internet!

And I did. Through my research, I converted the .sb2 (Scratch 2.0 proprietary file type) file to a .swf (Flash) file and now you can play Trayvon Tyson's Punch-Out!! here! On a site with very little likelihood of taking that particular link down.

Localisation is done by people who want the product to be valuable to others. Censorship is done by people who want that product, or speech, or assembly, or whatever, destroyed. So localisation adds value and censorship always removes it. Therefore, we should always be against censorship.

Unfortunately, today's young people are increasingly for government censorship. And that's probably the worst source of censorship you can have. The government has a monopoly on force and has absolutely no interest in your well-being. At least the angry mob claims they'll buy Tomodachi Life if you allow homosexuals to get pregnant. That means they at least have some interest in doing business with you? And, hey, Scratch or the Google+ Gaming group should see that me being around adds some value, so they recognise a cost if they decide to censor me. After all, those hosts depend on there being content around. But government? Government just dispassionately ruins your endeavours.

Now that you can see what localisation looks like, and what censorship looks like, it's pretty clear that everything Nintendo has done (game-wise, not Miiverse) lately is localisation. While they may look similar on the surface (something at some stage of its lifetime gets changed in some way), if you dig deeper you'll see they are mutually exclusive.

Ludwig is strongly anti-censorship, but he's pretty chill with localising things. Localising means he can play games that he can actually understand and get full value, since Ludwig enjoys characters and stories in his games. Which use a great deal of language and local cultural assumptions that localisers get to tangle with. Meanwhile, KoopaTV wants to hire a Japanese Marketing Manager to help localise KoopaTV's content to the Japanese audience! Contact KoopaTV if you're interested!

Ludwig applies this logic to Fire Emblem Fates specifically, over concerns that it was censored.
People who cry CENSORSHIP are against game developers changing their own mind.


  1. This piece reminds me a lot of this post I read earlier. I wholeheartedly agree with you both.

    1. So, question.
      Did your article add value for you despite you having read on the topic before?

    2. It more or less just reinforced my beliefs, I suppose. There is only a small minority who don't jump on the censorship bandwagon, so it's always refreshing to see others who use logic instead of following the vocal majority.

    3. I like to think that the people whining are actually a vocal minority, and most people don't really care.

      Hell, most people don't even know that things are being changed, I would think. Average consumer probably isn't that educated, right?

      That said, I meant my question in a "Was reading this article worth your while?" sort of way!

    4. In that case, the article was definitely worth reading. The one thing that stood out to me the most was when you mentioned Scratch removed your project, considering how long it was available. This just gives me another reason to hate it.

    5. Hey, don't hate Scratch! They got a pretty nice...thing to use for young people to learn the basics of coding! (So who knows why I haven't graduated.)

      Hate censorship instead!

      But thanks for likin' the article. :)

  2. Wow, I've been saying much the same thing! Although I have to remind you that the Fatal Frame costumes weren't changed due to a desire to cover up skin, but because the clothes worn are an actual Japanese brand that Koei partnered with to use in the game. As such, it would have cost them money to license it for use outside of Japan.

    This kind of thing has been happening for years, but it's a perfectly normal part of the process. People acting outraged over this kind of thing really don't understand how little of a deal this is, and that it has been happening for years. They're just looking for something to complain about, in my opinion. They are, after all, whiners first, gamers a distant second.

    1. Wait, those clothes were licensed? This changes everything. Do the people complaining about the so-called censorship realize this?

    2. Not at all. Only the people, amusingly enough, really invested in Japanese culture have pointed this out. I've only seen people bring it up a handful of times.

      Also, NOE did the localization, NOA had nothing to do with it, and the vast majority of the game is clearly identical to the original release anyway.

    3. (I dunno, NOA at least came up with the America-exclusive title!)

      Yo, tell us more about the licensed clothes bit. I haven't heard about this before!

    4. America-exclusive title? It isn't Maiden of Black Water in Europe? Or do you mean "Fatal Frame"?

    5. But... it's always been like that. So NoA had nothing to do with it!

    6. ......Why would NoA have anything to do with the localized name of a PS2 game?

    7. "Try to think before you make accusations, Mr.Wright."

  3. When people get all, "Agh, Nintendo is afraid of anything remotely sexual," I have to wonder if they just forgot about Bayonetta and how Nintendo actually *prevented* Platinum from making one costume less risqué.

    Shall we also point out that replacing Fatal Frame's skimpy bikinis with a skintight Samus suit hardly sounds like they were afraid of sexualizing the character? xD

    I believe Janet Hsu's articles perfectly demonstrate how things have to be changed for a humor-focused series like Ace Attorney... yet there are STILL people who will argue that only a literal translation is "true to the writers' original vision." *sigh*

    1. Nintendo isn't afraid of sexual things!

      Look at all their sexy character designs, folks! <3


      Yeah Janet Hsu is spot-on, and it makes sense since she has first-hand experience on the topic! That's a lot more credible than the hot-air these whiners put on.

    2. Not sure if you looked into the Discussing Inkling/Octoling Biology at Squidboards but in the middle of being on topic, some guy was arguing for NOE localization of Splatoon who said it was closer to the Japanese translation and NOA's was an insult to the original vision. Because having peanut butter instead of chips (Britain's word for French Fries) is a really terrible thing.

    3. That's one of the few threads I've been avoiding, as well as the Octoling Hype Thread for the past month.

      If we had the NOE localisation of Splatoon, the game wouldn't take off in terms of fan adoration as it has now. NOE's localisation is pretty boring compared to NOA's!

    4. Those people probably think she's censoring their Ace Attorney experience. xD (Though I suppose then they'd have to boycott Ace Attorney because they're anti-censorship, and therefore not have an Ace Attorney experience at all...)

    5. Wait, wait, wait.

      Ace Attorney Trilogy gives you the option to play the game in Japanese, probably to attract these very people!

    6. You missed out on a few "gems" in the Inkling/Octoling biology topic such as someone posting if Callie was really male because the tentacles were short, I was like huh, Callie has the longest tentacles known in this game and will drag the tentacles on the floor if they were untied. Then the person said he/she confused with Marie and said never bothered to properly learn their names. I then said something like "so only males are allowed to tie their tentacles?" and showed an example of a male inkling in canon that has the tentacles down which was the purple tentacled band member in Squid Squad (splatoonus.tumblr) said that only the orange tentacled inkling is female, so we know for sure purple tentacled inkling is male. The person also said that he/she never saw the Squid Sisters from the back so I wrote that you can see them when they turn around in their dance during Splatfest. The person said he/she never paid attention during Splatfest, just ran quickly into battle. I then showed screenshots of their backs along with someone's interpretation of how long the Squid Sisters' tentacles will be if untied. I managed to stop Splatoon from thurning into a "Samus is really transgender" situation. This just shows you how SJW almost never bothers to look at all the facts before making outrageous theories.

      I used to read the Octoling hype thread but quickly lost interest. I understand why you would avoid the biology topic. It can get too technical really quick but I do like seeing how fictional species may work in the real world.

    7. Ah, Ludwig, that only helps the people who can read Japanese. The people who can't read Japanese but nevertheless want the "pure" experience are the problem here. (Though I suppose that at least helps the "we won't play if there isn't dual audio" people also troubling Xenoblade.)

      ...This Squidboard conversations remind me of the old days at Capcom-Unity (before I came to my senses and quit visiting the general discussions).

    8. Yeah, I joined Team Art for a reason!

      Do you know that the user on Squidboards is a SJW? Maybe he's just stupid and ideologically neutral. I always wanna be careful about mislabelin' people into groups.

      To be honest, I seem to be relying on remembering that Callie is the one on the left and Marie is the one on the right during the Squid Sisters news broadcasts. (Knowing which is where is easy because name pun.) So I always need to take a second to visually remember that. If they ever switch sides I'll be totally ruined!

      Octoling hype thread just seemed full of hype over spoilers so blegh.

      As for youuuu Samantha, well, uh, I guess it goes without saying what the response is to people who can't read Japanese but want the "pure" experience.

    9. I'm good at remembering fictional character's names far better than real people's names that I do not need to rely on cues like positioning. I wish I am able to remember real life names just as well as fictional names.

    10. I'm pretty abysmal either way, so yeah, cues definitely help me out!

      "Oh, yeah, obviously Brock is the rock-type gym leader!"

    11. Squidboard topics I now avoid are any NA Splatfest topics after winners are announced whether I win or lose. After Cars vs Planes and Pirates vs Ninjas I see there is pretty much no difference in complaining and defensive posts now. I look at the topics in the beginning and during the Splatfest to gauge which teams people will go for and how things are going but afterwards *shudders*.

    12. I think we need Japan-style results to shake up the popularity vs. wins thing.

      Like how Team Art won both, except have it be a more dramatic thing where they win both by bigger numbers.

    13. I saw it has already been seven pages so out of curiousity I wondered what they have been talking about and as predicted it because aboue fighting for Cephalopod Cousin waifus. I wish I have not let curiousity get the better of me.

    14. ...yeah that thread turned into garbage.

  4. NoA always likes to play it safe, that's why there's so many edits to games that come here. Sad part is that the only reason they're doing that is because people here get angry over everything, so if they saw the Tomahawk girl they would probably call it racist. So they used a cowboy, because yknow. We are the WILD WILD WESSSSTTTTT! (or... something.)

    1. Well it's not just NoA. It's... sort of a business's natural inclination to play it safe and appease everyone. (See: Chamber of Commerce on social issues.)

      So if they see there is a controversy they'll try to avoid it. Washington Redskins controversial? No Indians!

      My question is this: Will Wing Kirby ever be in a game again?

      He's already being white-washed!

    2. I wrote an essay on racism not so long ago actually... Used a political cartoon with the Redskins as a reference. What a coincidence!

      Wing Kirby was one of my favorites. Should have kept the paint, he looked cooler.

  5. I must say that this article was one of the best you've ever written and it really needs to be read more by others who still don't get it. There can be good and bad examples of localization that exist, and not every bit of censorship in media is damaging. Of course, they have to focus solely on the bad parts and demand literal translations that apparently respect the "artistic integrity" of the creators, regardless of how nonsensical or slap-dash they will be.

    Video games can still be called "art" and at the same time accommodate cultural standards in each country. Few "creators" actually care about what they create compared to say, an auteur like Kojima or Suda51 and will approve of any edit or change of dialogue necessary to make it more widely acceptable outside of Japan. The Ace Attorney localizations are a great example of this.

    1. Thanks!
      (I better make sure it's in KoopaTV's Best Article of the Year nominations then.)

      You can help do your part by sharing this article to folks. But yeah, everything you said is spot-on.

    2. Already shared it with some of my friends on those forums. It'll be interesting since one of them staunchly thinks that NOA's being infected with SJW culture and is censoring "art", since they don't provide "validation" for every single edit they made.

      Now can you talk about the DOAX3 debacle? I'd love to hear your two cents on this whole debacle since this emerged around the same time that Nintendo was getting shit on for their "censorship". This for some reason became part of the larger conspiracy that SJWs are influencing gaming and removing anything they perceive as offensive.

      To safely put it, both sides for and against this T&A game are stupid.

    3. Hm, well if both sides are stupid and you're asking me to pick a side, that sounds like I'll end up making myself look stupid. Which isn't anything new for me.

      (HolyCrapItsBob is clearly wrong here and I don't know what reality these people are living in where the opinionated Facebook intern breaking internal protocol is taken as seriously or more seriously than a company statement saying not to listen to that guy.)

      I think DOAX3 is shameless garbage. I don't think that necessarily means it shouldn't be released outside of Japan. The idea that Koei Tecmo is afraid of what SJWs would think of DOAX3 if it were released here doesn't suddenly erase their history of releasing DOAX2 and DOAX here. Koei Tecmo, to this day, still earns the ire of SJWs (and a lot of other people in general) for their previous decisions. They carry with them a negative reputation regardless of what they do in the future because of what they already did in the past.

      I'm in the position that they just figure that no one would really buy the game now. In 2016, gaming is very social. Much moreso than 10 years ago when we saw DOAX2. Now gaming systems share to the world what you're playing when you're playing it. Along with people maaaaybe having better tastes and advances in consumer education from a decade ago, people might not want to be seen playing this game in this very social gaming environment. Japan apparently doesn't have these barriers, so... They release it there. (I dunno why they made the game at all and if it may have consequences for Linkle.)

      Now, see, KoopaTV's Twitter follows Nintendo Treehouse's Alison Rapp. And that's probably who people are referring to when they say NOA is being "infected with SJW culture" or something. Obviously she'd qualify as a SJW as a proud social progressive.

      But there's no evidence that she was involved in localisation decisions, and it'd make sense because her role is in product marketing, not localisation.

      According to her LinkedIn profile:
      “• Product marketing lead on: Yoshi's New Island, Kirby: Triple Deluxe, Bayonetta 2, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D, Mario Party 10, Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water, Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival
      • Product marketing back-up on: Wii Sports Club, Wii Fit U, Tomodachi Life, Kirby Fighters Deluxe/Dedede's Drum Dash Deluxe, New Nintendo 3DS XL, Super Mario Maker, Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer, The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes”

      Judging by Yoshi's New Island she seems to be stuck on working with second-tier games, mostly.

      Is it possible that NOA is making decisions based on some sort of hijacking of their convictions rather than what they believe would most appeal to North America? Sure, it's possible, but there's a lack of conclusive evidence.

    4. I'd absolutely agree with you on the DOAX3 debacle. It's telling that a company like Play-Asia would try to capitalize on this, pandering to the people desperate for some titty (especially those underaged ones) and those bitching about NOA's recent actions. Besides, many games still get away with showing good amounts of cleavage and Koei Tecmo felt that those outside of Japan would import it anyways.

      It's absolutely amazing how people can bitch about a game just because we don't get clothing or imagery that sexualizes underaged girls in North America, but the truth is is that Japan's age of consent is much lower than ours and most gamers in Japan outside of Nintendo's systems are "moe otaku", so that's why we get so much creepy fan-service over here in the West, especially on Sony's systems like the Vita (a haven for games like these). They might as well normalize pedophilia if they're really desperate for "uncensored" lolicon games.

    5. Question:

      How come many of the people that (rightfully) bash NeoGAF for normalising pedophilia are the same people that are clamouring for DOAX3?

      (That said, those particular Play-Asia's tweets do make me smile a bit.)


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