Eroge Recession 2

By bluemist on June 4th, 2009

Eroge Recession?

If the first article may have been a result of my personal burnout having lost interest in these kinds of games, I think this time the industry is in a real paradigm shift. Well, this news may have been mostly overlooked by everyone since… well, who among us really do play rape-related eroge anyway? This is a niche genre inside a niche genre inside a niche genre of gaming. I wouldn’t have even known of Rapelay at all if it were not for some over-conservative people who want this game banned, and in effect drove a massive campaign against this niche of a niche of a niche genre of games. I find this rather ironic, because as a result of this sequence of events that eventually led to the banning or restricting of games in Japan with rape themes, the gaming industry itself JUST GOT RAPED.

As I said, most people won’t care about this, and to the two people who are still reading my article, kudos to you because I am about to say why this is very important. As the legendary saying goes… THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS. The vast majority of people, namely the people who don’t understand, refuse to understand, or are co-erced by other people not to dare understand, ruin it for the rest of us. Well, it can’t be helped. We are in this niche genre. Anime is still niche. Heck, even with how big E3 is or how gaming is braving the economic recession tide… gaming is still niche. These two aspects of entertainment that are close to my heart are the current punching bags of our world. It gets blamed for everything wrong in the world, from violence, to immorality, to radical thinking… etc. And we are unable to save it because democracy is the most powerful thing in the world today. Whatever the majority of people want, they get, most of the time.

See, it has some advantages too. When the majority is on our side, the over-conservatives usually stay quiet. This is why violence and sex in games like Grand Theft Auto 4 were allowed. But in something as small as bishoujo gaming, only few would cry for justice. Little do we realize that each step in the wrong direction has some drastic implications for the future. It only started with games with rape, but what would stop them from banning something else? According to this blog post, the regulations are clearly set in paper now. Some of those regulations are not related to rape right? Who knows when the next big issue comes in that those rules would be further tightened? Who knows when someday sexual inclinations in games would be further reduced until it shouldn’t exist at all?

It’s not that I need ero in my games. As I said, it’s not my genre. But just like the other issue of banning everything hentai in my own country, I hate the reality that other people are dictating what I should and shouldn’t experience in life. It hurts to have no freedom in choosing my hobbies. While these bans don’t affect me, the point is they don’t affect me… yet, with the fear that it will definitely affect me someday.

Let me try to bring a positive note to this though. I admit I don’t know everything about the bishoujo gaming industry, but I imagine each game company’s state of shock looking at those reactions from them. Shock… because this time they have to do a little better. They have to be more creative in either avoiding the restrictions or circumventing them. In short, they should see this as an opportunity to change their ways. Make their own paradigm shift. Innovate. Well, they have rested on their laurels for so long after all. Look at all those bishoujo games, they have not changed all these years. We are still in 800×600 resolutions. Character designs still resemble each other. Storytelling and characters are just rehashes of each other. Sequels galore. Fandisks abound. Where are those innovations in the game engines? Why are the highest-selling games still the sequels? Why can’t the Da Capo multiverse ever ever die (I heard there’s a new DCII sidestory coming out)?

Sure, you can pull me back for a while with your sequels for a moment, but if the technology and creativity of this genre doesn’t change, I’m totally out of this market. You want examples of what I think should improve in this bishoujo gaming industry?

– Umm let’s go HD please? Even just widescreen options would be welcome. It shouldn’t be that hard to upconvert a CG either right? But the bigger problem is the simplistic game engines they use. I liked the one age uses in their games, they move and manipulate 2D as if it were pseudo-3D. Lately the games I see have over-simplistic engines, and only rely on the power of their art. What use are pictures if they’re not presented effectively?
– Virtual girlfriend simulation. Games like this. This time wooing a fictional character shouldn’t just be a simple matter of predetermined decision points. How about incorporating text-based commands first before moving to voice? With some kind of AI engine running a girl’s intricate characterisitics and emotions? Hey, you’ll even help wussies this way by training them for real-life social situations.
– Marketing should be better. This one is hard. They have to open their doors and appeal to newer audiences. They can’t expand their reach unless they do so. Surely, if there are creative games already out there, they must try harder to advertise, because clearly I ain’t hearing them from here.

This is a hard road ahead for everyone of us. I, as a consumer, must do my part as well. For one, we let this restriction in freedom of expression through undetected and undefended. I hope the few still reading this push the awareness further. This is not just about rape games, not about bishoujo games, not about games either. This is about being oppressed by the powers that be. This is about them dictating what is right and what is wrong for us. And someday, this may be about losing our human rights. I don’t like to live in a world like that. But this is not a battle for us to fight for now. I hope that when that time comes, the time when we are directly affected in some way, we should be better prepared for the next wave of battles. Let’s make this a game worth playing.


Posted By: FlameStrike On: June 04, 2009 At: 3:31 pm

Interesting point. While I’m not a fan of rapegames at all, it would be bad if this leads to more unreasonable bans.

Posted By: meganeshounen On: June 04, 2009 At: 10:00 pm

iirc, Yuzusoft’s Tenshinranman detects the system it’s installed on if it can support widescreen, then implements it. HD enough?

And we probably need more SLG-type games… like the ones that Alicesoft and Eushully churn out. Circus also makes those kinds of games, but I don’t hear too good of them though.

Posted By: Anon On: June 04, 2009 At: 10:08 pm

Not another “rape game ban” post…

Let me explain how stuff works in Asian. Tons of stuff are technically illegal and people do it anyways. As long as it is not really bothering anybody locally the government has other things to worry about. That’s why there’s so many damn food stall vendors on the street when they are illegal; or people fucking building illegally when it is clearly against the code; etc etc etc…

This “ban” has just lip service to give “due respect” to “power that be” so they can generate some newspaper headlines. After things quiet down, I’d be freakn surprised if this “ban” amount to anything in 2 months.

Posted By: bluemist On: June 04, 2009 At: 11:35 pm

You are right that in most Asian countries these miscellaneous regulations don’t matter because they ain’t enforced anyway.

The rape game ban though is Japan-based, and they are a lot more strict in enforcing these. Rest assured though that game makers will find some loopholes to somehow get away with it.

Shh don’t tell anyone about the “surprise sex” genre mmkay?

Posted By: Gawain00 On: June 04, 2009 At: 11:47 pm

I agree with you on several points.
The bishoujo game industry is in recession. The bishoujo games are currently just like insects. They are not very advanced, there are very many families and species and they evolve very slowly. Due to their variety, they are interesting, but they get boring after some time. There are too many games that look the same and there are too many clichés and tropes. Why don’t the writers think out of the box more often?
The ban of the rape simulation games was (from a social and psychological view) a pretty bad move. I believe these games are used often as a substitution for aggressive and sexual feelings. If you can satisfy yourself with the simulation and you realize the consequences if you did it in real life, then you probably don’t do it. Well yes, suppression also works, but the suppressed emotions will burst out sooner or later. When they do then you usually commit a crime. From this perspective, loli is also acceptable as a form of substitution. People with these ‘’disorders’’ and ‘’extraordinary tastes’’ usually don’t consult a psychologist because of fear and shame.
I also agree with Anon. Even if it is illegal, people still do it. That’s the point of laws. If nobody does something wrong, why do we need morality and laws? Just like Durkheim said. Crime is functional for society and beneficial (if it happens moderately).
I am sorry if I took an overly scientific view. I’m a science otaku.

Posted By: relentlessflame On: June 05, 2009 At: 1:30 am

For my part, I’m going to facepalm just a little bit at the “games need to evolve” and “we need more simulations” comments.

Innovate in story telling? Sure, absolutely. Despite the fact that I don’t think the Japanese anime/gaming industry has ever really been driven all that much by innovation (more on continuous improvement and refinement), I think there’s always plenty of room for new ideas. But stories don’t become automagically better-*written* just because they employ more-advanced technology. Fundamentally, these are books — illustrated, narrated, semi-interactive books. The auditory and visual aids are meant to augment and enhance the *reading experience*, not so much become a “gaming experience”. Even works that integrate RPG-esque battle components tend to have a line between “story” and “game-play”. Yes, they’re all sold as games, but that’s mainly because of the platform and distribution method. I think that innovating *in* the genre would mean delivering a better reading experience; if you remove the focus on reading, it seems to me that it becomes something else entirely (not that that’s necessarily a bad thing). When you complete an AVG/NVL work, the first question should probably be more like “was it a good book”, not “was it a good game”.

(The move to HD for these works is sort of notwithstanding, though, as this allows for a more immersive experience for those with widescreen monitors. Besides that, it will make it much easier to port to HD consoles. So, on that point, I agree that the move is a bit overdue.)

In the end, the lament about “the lack of creativity” is by no means limited to this form of entertainment. Consider anime, consider “Western” video games… heck, consider Hollywood! Our entire entertainment culture right now is focused on sequels, safe bets, and progressive improvements to old formulas rather than on “reinventing the wheel”. You need look no further than the E3 conference currently going on in the U.S. to see this in action — even the “big announcements” are just evolutions of previous ideas.

At the end of the day, the whole industry is designed around a sort of “revolving door” model where new people gain and lose interest on a fairly regular and quick cycle. So, at any given time, you will always find stuff that touches on all the major interests and demographics (yes, including Da Capo games), and most will be derivatives of things we’ve seen before. To those entering the market at that point it’ll be new and exciting, but those who’ve been around for a while may start growing weary and nothing will ever be “the way it was before”. Those of us who choose not to head for the exit and stick around in the genre have to find a way to keep our interest up. I suppose that’d be especially hard if you derive enjoyment more from “new, innovative experiences” rather than “comfortable, familiar experiences”. Neither of those preferences are better or worse than the other, but I tend to think that a good portion of the dedicated community in Japan must be in the second category.

So, anyway… all that and I didn’t really address the catalyst of the article, which is the erosion of freedom this industry group is imposing on the creators. Certainly, this is an opportunity to innovate, but the only way to fund that innovation will be through consolidation and by doubling-down on the formulas that do work. It’s nice to tell the industry to “reinvent thyself”, but at what cost, and what is the expectation of return? As I said above, I’m not totally convinced that the move to more expensive technology will result in a corresponding increase in sales for a genre that’s really all about reading. Is there really that big of a market interest in simulations, 3D eroge, and the like? Who knows… time, as always, will tell.

Posted By: Koji Oe On: June 05, 2009 At: 8:26 am

I first heard about Loveplus when I read about it in… Oh what was it? April’s (?) issue of Dengeki G’s. I’ve been hyped about it since. About time Konami gets back into the renai simulation scene.

Posted By: bluemist On: June 05, 2009 At: 10:54 am

You brought interesting thoughts to me actually. All this time I was thinking of these games exclusively in popular formats like pc and game consoles. If it’s a reading experience, I didn’t consider that there are mobile phone and even ebook platforms for visual novels. This is a rather unknown market for us internationally but I would imagine how big it is especially in that almost everyone has a darn phone in Japan. Lately I see Gift and other visual novels at Apple’s app store. It would be interesting how big the potential is for mobile gaming and whether bishoujo game makers are already taking advantage of it. Rather than my thinking of improving the pc or console market by innovation that may be too costly as you said, I think the bigger action are in those portables.

Posted By: Wavehawk On: June 05, 2009 At: 6:46 pm

Bishojou games today are pretty much like FPS and fighting games back in the 90’s–everyone’s making them, there’s really no research done in the technical department, and everyone was churning out ideas for them. And since it’s an established sub-genre with lots of gamers willing to buy (literal) crap games, it took off.

The strength of a visual novel game is in two elements: characters and story. Thing is, most if not all the characters are now stereotypically cliche, and the stories of most aren’t much to write home about either. Essentially, if you can’t be bothered to like the characters or be interested in the story, there’s no real draw.

Unfortunately, like my example of FPS and fighting games: most companies don’t really see beyond “package new game to sell”. And like you mentioned, not many companies really take time to develop new technologies and interfaces for the genre, thus it stagnates. And hell, with the number of Bishojou Game stories nowadays making the jump to TV animation? Why bother with a game if the TV animation can tell the same story (or just show the same characters)?

I seem to recall Namco trying to use the Half-Life:Counterstrike engine to make a sort-of Visual Novel some years back. The idea might have been lame, but it sounded like there was at least some effort involved. And anyone who’s played Half-Life, Halo, Metal Gear, etc. games can probably attest that being able to interact with your environment makes a story and characters more immersive than just (sad to say) point-and-click choices for conversation.

As for the good old ‘Pinas…the less I can say about the Colonial Mentality (este, Mental Colony pala), the better…

Posted By: bluemist On: June 05, 2009 At: 7:14 pm