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Censorship, Localization, Culturalization, What Does it Amount to?


I spent most of my childhood in Brownsville, the southernmost tip of Texas, but I lived in Arkansas and Oklahoma for a while. The further north you go, the worse "Mexican" food gets. People who know what Mexican is supposed to taste like know better than to visit Mexican restaurants outside of Texas. Many people I know won't bother with anything north of San Antonio. This is mostly because the food becomes increasingly mild the further north you go. Each restaurant is catering to a clientele that is accustomed to increasingly bland food. Most home cooked meals I had in Arkansas or Oklahoma had no flavor as far as I can tell, meanwhile in Brownsville people put cayenne pepper on deviled eggs instead of paprika. The few times I made bean dip, chili, or some other tex-mex dish, most people could only eat one or two bites, very few people could finish a dish, and I'm a lightweight. My friends and I would joke, I'd say their food lacked flavor and they'd claim I had no taste buds, but it all came down to cultural differences.

Each restaurant gets increasingly bland the further it gets from the original source. Each bit of censorship or localization change that removes cultural references, does so at the expense of the source material. Eventually the games are so butchered they end up only retaining their original shape but lose all flavor. Sure, people in Oklahoma make tacos, chili, and enchiladas, but none of it tastes like Mexican food, it tastes like Oklahoma food with a Mexican slant.

It's like ice cream. We all have flavors we like and don't like. If you don't like rocky road, then you probably won't care if it gets taken off the shelf. If you're allergic to mint, you might want mint chocolate chip removed. When someone speaks up saying "that's my favorite, please don't take it away", people who don't care will tell them they are being childish, that there are plenty of other flavors to choose from, that they don't need that flavor specifically, until it's their favorite that's on the chopping block. If an ice cream manufacturer is only making one flavor of ice cream and they want the broadest group of potential customers, they will go with vanilla, the blandest flavor. No one likes it, no one hates it, it doesn't appeal to any specific preferences, but everyone is a potential customer. The difference between games and ice cream is that games have a well documented, and recent, history of this.

Censorship, localization, culturalization, sometimes there isn't even a word for it, but it all amounts to the same thing; having your entertainment watered down. Sometimes it's unavoidable, like with word play jokes. It's nothing new either. Elvis had people telling him to tone down his dance moves, groups got together in the dark ages and the colonial era to decide what literature would be allowed based on morality. Go back to ancient Greece and the great philosophers of that time were accused of corrupting the youth. It's always been there and there will always be a group that sees something they believe to be an issue of morality or ethics that they want removed or changed. There will always be a group of management types running the numbers and trying to figure out how to maximize their profits by broadening the appeal. It always ends the same, watering games down and making them bland. Now that publishers are starting to have games altered on both fronts, dictating content morality in the east to match the west, things will only get worse.

The danger, as Tom Lipschultz from Xseed puts it:

"The more examples of this that the industry provides -- the more options we give management types to use for filling the blanks in statements like, "Well, ____ did it!" or, "Well, ____ had worse censorship than that!" -- the harder it will be to convince anyone to leave games intact in the future. No one wants to be the first person ever to censor a game in a specific manner, but if someone else has done it before, or if someone has done something even worse, the floodgates are open. And the more often people do it, the wider those floodgates get, until that form of censorship becomes so commonplace as to be expected. And once that happens, it could take years to undo the damage -- if it can even be undone at all!"

- “Give a man a fire and he's warm for a day, but set fire to him and he's warm for the rest of his life.” ― Terry Pratchett

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About Mordeth Kaione of us since 11:13 PM on 09.13.2017