Believe it or not, censorship and Japanese games have gone hand-in-hand for decades, dating all the way back to, well, about as long as we’ve had games. The history of censorship in games has ranged from little things like sprites of Japanese characters, or references to religion or alcohol, to bigger deals like copyright infringement and sex or violence. These examples of censorship often come hand-in-hand with poor, or technologically limited localizations, rife with translation errors, bizarre name changes, and straight-up grammar goofs. But sometimes these days, despite localization as a whole being of much greater quality, censorship still appears in many Japanese games.
Especially in the last few years, censorship has been a major talking point for vocal portions of the gaming community on Twitter, and many in-game alterations (especially in games published by Nintendo) have caused a lot of drama. But frankly, most of the time these changes have not been big deals, and often the public outcry against them is a smokescreen for something else entirely. Because otherwise these folks are dying on hills cultivated by underage anime cheesecake, and that’s not a great look.
I’m knocking the dust off this topic because of something I saw recently that just made my faith in humanity sink so far I almost had an existential crisis. See, I love Dragon Quest. I could not be more excited for Dragon Quest XI when it drops in September. Hell, I try not to go to crazy with lionizing my games, but I have a special shelf in my home just for my (near complete) Dragon Quest collection. What I’m trying to say is I know a thing or two about these games, and their history. So, let’s talk about Puff-Puff.
Puff-Puff is a long-standing tradition in Dragon Quest that really dates back to the earliest works of Akira Toriyama and his trademark brand of… okay yeah it’s a boob joke. There’s been one in each game since the original, and things have escalated to some pretty incredible heights, usually at the expense of the player for being a dang pervert. These moments were censored in the Nintendo DS versions of Dragon Quests IV through VI, which were all published by Nintendo. Notably however, the Puff-Puff jokes returned to the series with Dragon Quest IX, and have also made it intact in subsequent releases on Nintendo platforms.
So I see this article pop up on N4G, with the headline all about how Dragon Quest XI won’t be censored, and how the infamous Puff-Puff sequence will be intact. As if… this has been an issue at all since the late 2000s. As if Dragon Quest has ever been a hot button topic due to censorship… as if, well, you get the point I’m trying to make. It’s a non-story. But man is the headline hot! The day it was published, it stayed on the site’s front page and sat there all day. Of course, the comments were full of a bunch of online conspiracy theorists, and people ranting about “SJWs.”
It’s been this way for years now. A game comes out from Japan with a skirt slightly lengthened, some cleavage drawn back, maybe some jiggle physics removed, and people start losing their minds. They start ranting about the “regressive left” or whoever trying to kill video games with censorship, when what they’re effectively doing is throwing a temper tantrum over a localization house trying to avoid an M-rating (or higher in some cases) for sexualizing blatantly underaged characters, and it doesn’t even happen most of the time anyway. The outrage feels disingenuous, and often is easily lumped in with outside events based on the things like harassment that happens whenever someone on Twitter suggests as much. It’s no coincidence that everything that happened surrounding Fire Emblem Fates went to such a fever pitch less than a year after gamer gate got started.
Here’s the thing. Nobody is trying to destroy video games via censorship. Especially since half the time it happens it’s censorship for obscure games mainstream audiences don’t know exist. In fact, the censorship generally happens because some publisher is trying very hard to make niche games available for these same angry, hardcore audiences while still ensuring they won’t eat dirt on localization costs. Seeing frothing, nonsensical anti-SJW rage on a Dragon Quest news post about the Puff-Puff gag says it all. If you’re going to get performatively angry about minor localization changes, at least make sure you’re not embarrassing yourself in the process?