Before I begin, I’d like to state something crucially important clearly and effectively: I wholeheartedly support Transgender rights and the human rights of all members of the LGBT community. Justice Kazzy / Kazuma Hashimoto recognizes himself as a man and I support his identity as a man. Laura Dale recognizes herself as a woman and I support her identity as a woman. This is not an attempt to shame any members of the LGBT community or to speak ill of them. Unfortunately, in the contemporary barbarous culture of the United States, Transgender people still face targeted assassinations from hateful anti-Trans bigots. Unlike in societies that have more civilized attitudes towards Transgender people such as Pakistan and India, the US still needs to make strides to move on from its barbaric history against the Trans community.
The aim of this blog post is to point out the illogical and I’d argue racist double-standards against Japanese culture, Japanese game developers, and even against people who celebrate Japanese culture like the studio Suckerpunch. I am criticizing the views of two people who happen to be members of the Transgender community, but I am not at all attempting to attack or insult them for what are their own personal life decisions. Nor do I support any transphobia or bigotry against the LGBT community. This is merely a critique of views that I think are either terribly misinformed or outright disingenuous from a group of gaming journalists who work at two popular video game news sites.
Furthermore, this will contain Spoilers for Atlus games, Catherine: Full Body and Digital Devil Saga 2.
With all that firmly cleared up, let’s start:
Two days prior to writing this, Bloomberg news, the well-respected and well-established business news agency founded by Michael Bloomberg and used by business experts across the US and the world, revealed an expose on the sexual assault and sexual misconduct allegations running rampant on the family-owned company of Ubisoft. To understand the scope of how bad it was, here is a quote from the article itself as written by real journalist Jason Schreier:
Five brothers started Ubisoft Entertainment SA in 1986 and since then the video game company has survived seven generations of game consoles, four recessions, a hostile takeover bid from France’s largest media conglomerate, and a global pandemic. Ubisoft is one of the world’s largest game publishers, the maker of blockbuster series such as Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry, and the Guillemot family still maintains effective control. Now they face a new crisis: allegations of widespread sexual misconduct at the company. The situation has shaken up the founders’ inner circle and raised major concerns about how the business was managed for well over a decade.
More than a dozen people made public claims of sexual harassment and abuse against employees of Ubisoft over the past few weeks. The outpouring is part of a broader #MeToo movement taking hold in the game industry, and the Paris-based company has been the most frequent target of allegations. Interviews with more than three dozen current or former Ubisoft employees indicate that these claims, and many others that haven’t previously come to light, had been gathering dust in company logs for years. In some instances, Ubisoft took action, but for the most part, complaints were ignored, mishandled, or undermined, employees say.
The accusations filed to Ubisoft’s human resources department range from subtle forms of sexism to sexual assault, according to two people with access to the reports. In interviews with Bloomberg Businessweek, many employees detailed an atmosphere that was hostile toward women, often describing the Paris headquarters as a frat house. Staff openly made misogynist or racist comments across the publisher’s various offices, and senior executives took part and escalated the misconduct in the form of inappropriate touching or other sexual advances, current and former employees say. On one occasion before this summer, when Ubisoft sided with an alleged victim, the company removed the woman’s boss and rewarded the woman with a gift card, she says.
Yet, despite these horrifying revelations, only the major publications of Kotaku, Gamespot, and IGN have seen fit to share news stories about these horrifying details of Ubisoft’s permissive culture of sexual abuse against female workers. Neither Polygon nor Siliconera have said a peep at the time of this writing. This is particularly odd since Siliconera and Polygon oft present themselves as defending and championing the rights of the downtrodden: those suffering from classism, speaking on the important issues related to ethnic minorities, women facing misogyny, the LGBT, and other major political issues related to social identity. Yet, this #MeToo inspired set of revelations on the horrifying abuse and sexism of Ubisoft have not been shared on either website as of writing this blog post. In fact, here are the top articles of the most recently written news coverage of Ubisoft that appeared when I used Polygon’s search feature on Ubisoft:
How very strange for a news organization that supposedly takes great strides in promoting the importance of ethnic, gender, and LGBT struggles being represented in gaming media. Why are they not reporting on the very real abuses of sexual harassment that occurred in Ubisoft, if these social issues matter so much to them? Wasn’t the point to spread awareness to avoid horrifying crimes of misogyny such as exactly what occurred in Ubisoft?
Instead, the most popular news article currently on their website is heavily insinuating the Western game developers of Suckerpunch are ignoramuses because their game is a homage to Kurosawa films. The so-called “gaming journalist” Kazuma Hashimoto alleges ignorance on Suckerpunch’s part without ever actually going into details on what were the historical inaccuracies of the representations of classes in feudal Japan. He merely asserts the case without evidence and then goes on a nonsensical rant because the main character of Suckerpunch’s game behaves like an honorable Samurai helping the people. There’s actually no substance to his argument as to what Suckerpunch got wrong. Most alarmingly, Hashimoto falsely accuses Japanese politicians of supporting US White Nationalist movements created by US White Nationalist leader Richard Spencer. No, that is neither a joke nor a misreading. Hashimoto says the following in his article:
Did you catch that? I’ll bold it. This statement “Except that wasn’t always the belief, it wasn’t what Kurosawa bought whole cloth, and none of the message can be untangled from how center- and alt-right politicians in modern Japan talk about “the code” today.” is so absurd that it shows the complete ignorance of the people praising this article for supposedly tackling real social issues pertaining to modern Japan. For those who aren’t aware, here is how the Southern Poverty Law Center defines the alt-right ideology:
The Alternative Right, commonly known as the “alt-right,” is a set of far-right ideologies, groups and individuals whose core belief is that “white identity” is under attack by multicultural forces using “political correctness” and “social justice” to undermine white people and “their” civilization.
According to both Richard Spencer himself and Wikipedia, the alt-right ideology was created by Richard Spencer to promote a white ethno-state and is classified as a far-right White Nationalist ideology through his webzine, The Alternative Right. Now, I don’t know about you all, but I think it is very safe to say that conservative Japanese politicians in modern Japan have no support for wiping out all the ethnic minorities in the Western world for the purpose of creating a White ethno-state. I haven’t checked every current Japanese politician in power, of course . . . but I’m fairly sure that I don’t need to do that in this specific case of a gaming “journalist” accusing Japanese politicians of supporting a White Nationalist movement. And if you think I’m being too harsh, I must make it clear that Hashimoto really should have double-checked his terminology before using a term that quite clearly doesn’t apply to a conservative movement that may have Japanese nationalist elements. To accuse them of being alt-right is false and that was unfortunately the very premise of Hashimoto’s woefully inept article. To use such political terms so carelessly really reveals Hashimoto’s ineptitude at understanding current politics both in Japan and the West. He felt qualified enough to talk about it and failed miserably because gaming journalists obviously aren’t real journalists and should stick to just telling fans about gaming news. Hashimoto and his ilk of fellow “gaming journalists” don’t have the qualifications of actual journalists and they should stop pretending like they do so they can avoid future embarrassments such as this one. The other gaming “journalist” websites who did remark on Ubisoft’s sexual assault allegations smartly linked it to the Bloomberg article of Jason Schreier, a real journalist. Hashimoto’s “streaming” on Twitch also showed a bizarre level of anti-Japanese bigotry for someone of Japanese descent themselves by calling Date Masamune, a historical Feudal Lord from the 1500s – 1600s, a Warlord. It seems he used the platform of a “gaming journalist” to spew hatred of Japanese culture and history as “woke lessons” for people unfamiliar with Japanese history from what I’ve seen of it. The particular one that I saw was Hashimoto making exaggerated remarks of Suckerpunch’s supposed incompetence for a minor mistake probably from the art department since they added the crescent moon symbol of Date Masamune’s 1600s helmet onto the fictional character Jin Sakai’s Samurai armor upgrade. At best, this is a minor goof, but Kazuma Hashimoto used it to spew this strangely white supremacist rhetoric of calling Date Masamune a warlord and then using a fairly minor mistake to insult Suckerpunch. Perhaps Hashimoto needs to re-check his own White Supremacist views before he starts labeling everything as “alt-right” and continues falsely accusing Japanese politicians of being White Nationalists.
I have already spoken at length on my contentious issues with the incompetent and racist moderator of Siliconera, Annette Polis. Perhaps some may argue calling her a racist is going too far, but she specifically erased my views because she didn’t like what I, an ethnic minority, was saying in disagreement with the falsehoods that Jenna Lada perpetuated in her review of Catherine: Full Body’s Switch edition. Lada made the following statement:
More importantly, it has the common Atlus issue of not treating LGBTQ characters with the respect they deserve. There are games that handle gender and identity better. Two characters in particular deserved better, with the same person from the original release being treated poorly.
Lada doesn’t specify and the reason obviously being that the LGBT issues were handled perfectly well. The issue of consent that she talked about wasn’t actually an issue since both adults consented and the revelation of one of them being a Transgender person resulted in acceptance and not any negative insinuations on members of the LGBT community. It was not dehumanizing Transgender people or the LGBT as a whole. In her Persona 4 Golden Steam review, she had this to say:
What follows is a story about growing up. It isn’t perfect, and certain elements haven’t aged as well as others. (Some people will take issue with Kanji and Naoto’s personal journeys, and that’s valid.)
Actually, it is not fair to judge a game from 2008 to be up to the standards of out times more than a decade later. Persona 4 was heavily influential at the time of its release for even discussing Kanji’s sexuality and his fear of what society would say. To the best of my knowledge, they left it open to the player to interpret whether Kanji was gay or not. Moreover, Naoto’s journey was not about any Transgenderism as is wrongfully claimed by Siliconera and Polygon’s even more idiotic fanbase. It was about the discrimination of women in Japanese society at the time that the game was released. Naoto’s story was tackling a legitimate woman’s rights issue and it was unrelated to the LGBT. It is unfair to insinuate that as anti-LGBT. It’s as if Lada is expecting people of the past to predict modern-day political trends and as such, really shows the sheer incompetence of the “video game journalist” profession. Further displays of incompetence by other Siliconera “gaming journalists” was labeling an act of censorship of an admittedly terrible anti-LGBT joke scene as an “update” as if their readers are idiots and don’t understand that censorship is clear and present.
Finally, we get to the most egregious form of anti-Japanese bigotry of this deluge of asinine behavior. Laura Kate Dale has got to be the worst of this bunch due to her thoughtless actions of casting aspersions on Atlus Japan for supposed Transphobia simply due to the trailer of Catherine: Full Body. She went on a tirade and falsely accused Atlus Japan of Transphobia just because she didn’t like the depiction of Erica in the original Catherine game and thought the trailer proved more of the same. It seemed to fly above her and her little band of gaming journalist groupies that the deadnaming and comments from Erica’s friends was Atlus Japan depicting a Working-class cultural setting. Unfortunately for the classist snobs of Siliconera and especially Polygon, this was beyond their comprehension; Erica gave as good as she got in terms of insults and the point was that they had all accepted her which was why they were okay with the crass humor. I know of real life friendships that are like that; I’ve even seen co-workers become fast friends because of racist jokes they share and laugh at when the subject matter is each other’s ethnic backgrounds in real life. Did Erica show any discomfort with that attitude or did she take part and enjoy it with her own wry sense of humor? It was clearly the latter to depict working-class culture along with acceptance of each other’s personal life. In this instance though, Dale saw the first trailer and she immediately jumped to conclusions.
Here’s an image of the tweets that set the firestorm:
She had also written an article on Kotaku with these wild speculations to wrongfully accuse Atlus Japan of transphobia without evidence on the basis of the trailer. On Polygon, She also notoriously complained about an admittedly transphobic scene in Persona 5, but even after they made changes she went on a nonsensical rant about how she wasn’t satisfied with the change. Even after she got what she wanted, she was finding more reasons to accuse Atlus as a whole – and not just Atlus Japan – of bigotry. Moreover, she seemed to use the “controversy” that she yet again concocted by labeling Japanese people as bigoted and transphobic as a way of self-promoting herself at the end of the article which had nothing to do with the “controversy” that she continued to concoct. She needs to get it through her mind that people can tell the difference between fiction and reality. Her response to Atlus USA caving to changes is further proof that they shouldn’t cave to any changes in the future because certain people will be chronically unsatisfied regardless of what gaming studios do to appease their demands. Laura Kate Dale seems to be that type of person and her response proves it. However, in fairness to her, she admitted to being wrong about the Catherine: Full Body controversy, despite the damage that she willfully and thoughtlessly caused, already being done due to what seems to be a culture of anti-Japanese bigotry and racism proliferating in “gaming journalism” circles:
During the initial controversy that Laura Dale Kate caused regarding Catherine: Full Body, Polygon “gaming journalist” Allegra Frank helped stoke more fuel to the fire by supporting her wild speculations with accusations against Atlus Japan and even uncritically linking an essay that wrongfully claimed that Naoto was Trans when she wasn’t. Allegra Frank even cited passages from it:
This is woefully inept criticism at best and ignores the working-class lifestyle and that Erica shows no discomfort while participating in such crass banter.
However, if all that hasn’t convinced you, despite the clear failure to report on the real life sexual abuses conducted by the Western and White Male founded company of Ubisoft, then consider the fact that unlike Ubisoft, they never say anything positive when Japanese developed or Japanese inspired games do actually represent LGBT in a very positive light. In fact, I had confronted that racist bigot, Annata Polis, with the fact that in Digital Devil Saga 2, a game that was released by Atlus Japan during a time when homophobia ran rampant in the US and a “gay panic” by US conservative voters caused a surge of elections for anti-gay and anti-lesbian US politicians who openly ran against the platform of Gay rights. During that time period in the US, DDS2 released, the theme of DDS2 was a depiction of a non-binary Hindu deity, Ardhanarishvara who spread peace, compassion, and love for all humanity to remind humanity of this forgotten truth of loving each other.
Ask yourselves, if they are so sincere about pro-LGBT representation, why do these “gaming journalists” not give due credit to Atlus for representing a Transgender motif of peace and love through a non-binary deity, which as a major plot twist that encompassed themes of love and compassion, especially since Atlus Japan did this when it wasn’t financially viable to do it unlike in today’s culture? This is why I can never take what these “gaming journalist” people say seriously. They never praise Atlus Japan for when they did depict a compassionate and loving representation of LGBT themes that fit so smoothly with religious themes of peace and love. Why do these “gaming journalists” never talk about Sera and Serph’s transformation into Seraph or how Seraph represents all these wonderful themes that fit so well into the core of Digital Devil Saga Duology’s narrative? Why do they not praise Atlus Japan for doing this during the years of gay panic in the typical barbaric culture of the US? Why isn’t Atlus Japan ever being celebrated for their history of risking financial losses for this representation during a very bigoted and anti-LGBT time in recent US history?
Take a look, Seraph’s form and Seraph’s transformation are awesome in Digital Devil Saga 2 as are DDS2’s themes itself:
Seraph and Seraph’s transformation into Ardhanarishvara with the lesson of Om Mani Padme Hum as the core theme of Digital Devil Saga’s finale.
To conclude, please ask yourselves, why do these “gaming journalists” spend so much time and effort routinely and ruthlessly harassing Atlus USA and Atlus Japan to change, but don’t make a single complaint about Ubisoft’s blatant sexism with their statement “women don’t sell” as Ubisoft’s reason for why Assassin’s Creed Odyssey didn’t have a solo female protagonist? Do they sincerely believe in the values that they proclaim, or do they perhaps see Japanese developers as easy targets while making excuses for predominately White developers perceived as part of their culture? Are they sincere about criticizing Western developers who pay homages to Japanese culture, or are they making things up to spread nonsensical ideas such as all conservative cultures somehow being adherents to white nationalist Richard Spencer because these “gaming journalists” genuinely aren’t educated in using political terminology? Are they treating Japanese developers and Western developers equally, or are they whining excessively about fantasy representations of important social themes while turning a blindeye to real forms of sexual harassment and sexual abuse depending upon the ethnic backgrounds and financial clout of the developers? I sincerely hope this has helped further important social discourses and perhaps caused some incompetent so-called “journalists” of gaming to rethink their thoughtless, racist, and hateful behavior towards Japanese people and culture.