There’s been budding discussion over the past couple of days after a conversation involving the localization of Blade & Soul made it out into the public sphere. The topic in question centered around a side-quest that has been altered in the Western release of NCSoft’s popular game, with the lead senior writer on the localization team citing that the content in the side-quest was “uncomfortable” so they rewrote the entire thing to be more “welcoming”.
Kotaku In Action has been keeping track of a lot of the censorship cases happening in gaming recently, and while people like Jim Sterling have been stating that all of the harsh criticisms leveled at the gaming industry from “culture critics” aren’t intended for the purpose of censorship or to “take your games away”, it has resulted in multiple cases of censorship applied across various games and in various ways that have become more and more public over the past year.
In this most recent case users on the Blade & Soul forum pointed to a thread regarding the lead senior writer on the localization team that goes by the handle of Last Writer Standing, explaining how they had to change a side-quest that involved an adulterer and pervert who enjoyed spying on women, requesting the player (in an optional side-quest) to retrieve the clothes of a group of women while they’re bathing as way for him to solve his impotency problem.
The localization writers felt that this was not something they wanted gamers to experience, with Last Writer Standing explaining in the original Blade & Soul thread…
“In previous quests where he sent the [Player Character] off to find what he believed to be home remedy versions of Viagra, instead he’s asking the [Player Character] to help him research different aspects of the Lycandi’s lifestyle to better understand them. The bathing pool quest you mentioned earlier was changed to remove any degree of him spying on the women (while simultaneously poking fun at a bit of meta-humor from the writers involving confusion over the Lycandi character models). The end of the quest chain has him meeting one of the women – a scholar herself among her own people, interested in learning more about his culture as he was about hers.”
So essentially, they made the Lycandi head into the STEM field and changed the pervert into a white knight. It’s a classic romance tale from the new-age Bible of Tumblr-tier social engineering.
The change in the script sent a chill down the fingertips of various gamers who were not pleased with the outcome. The topic was hotly debated on various Doujin and MMO forums before making it to Kotaku In Action. On the Blade & Soul Dojo forum [backup] the topic was locked by the administrator after people complained that the game was being altered by “SJWs” and “feminists”. Administrator Urbancowgurl777 stated the following before locking the thread…
“Never in my life have I seen terms like “feminist” and “SJW” be thrown around so much. Guys, no one cares what box you fit into. Make the arguments more interesting please.”
A few gamers tried defending the change, stating that it wasn’t censorship. Most agreed that it was censorship. One user in particular, going by the handle of Lyndis, did not think they needed to make such a change, replying to a few male users who claimed that the original quest line involving the stealing of the Lycandis’ clothes was an act of “sexual harassment”…
“So as a woman who is comfortable with it what does that tell us?
“The fact of the matter is that it’s a terrible localization practice and it’s a member(s) of the staff changing text and altering in-game events because their own biased “subjective” opinion tells them it is bad/wrong and therefore NOBODY is allowed to view said content. It’s self-censorship and it is disgusting and people should have a zero tolerance policy on it.
“I didn’t pay for you to tell me what content I am/am not allowed to partake in, I paid for you to translate the game into a language I can comprehend and understand.”
An argument broke out over what the job of localization writers are for; a few argued that the localization staff can change the story and characters as they see fit and that “self-censorship” is fine. Others argued that the localization staff should not completely alter the intent of the original creators’ vision. This issue was also part of a heated debated involving the change in dialogue and characterization in the show Prison School where a similar incident occurred with the translation staff, as they decided to take a jab at #GamerGate, which resulted in a 100-plus page forum debate over on Funimation.
In the case of Blade & Soul, the lead senior writer on the localization staff at NCSoft to help bring the game to Western audiences stated that this change was not done for the sake of censorship or to change the cultural intent of the quest, but to make the game more “welcoming” to a more diverse audience, stating…
“It’s not a matter of censorship or anything like that. There are a number of quests and NPC interactions in the game that go into playful innuendos and the like. It’s more a question of whether or not we wanted to include some genuinely questionable and uncomfortable content when we had the ability to make it something more welcoming. When I’m presented with the choice of writing a character and story line that is pretty reprehensible without it being critical commentary on his actions, or reworking it to a more positive direction that isn’t going to make me and others squirm, I’m not exactly going to hesitate to go for the latter.”
The interesting thing about it is that it’s an optional side-quest and if people don’t want to do it… they don’t have to.
What’s more is that who are localizers to dictate what kind of content people should consume based on what they feel is “pretty reprehensible without it being critical commentary on his actions”? That’s the equivalent of removing cannabis from a game because someone doesn’t criticize the smoker for the potential health hazards involved. Or someone removing guns from the game because no one states that guns can be used to kill. Or removing hookers from GTA V because there are no surgeon general warnings that having unprotected sex could result in contracting an incurable venereal disease.
Anyway, the change in the side-quest has not gone over well with most hardcore gamers, especially considering that Blade & Soul is rated ‘M’ for Mature.
Previously Niche Gamer reported that NCSoft had mentioned that the game would not be censored making its way westward. However, as evidenced by the localization staff, it no longer appears as if the highly awaited Western port of the sexually charged MMO will be as uncensored as some people may have hoped.
Blade & Soul launches in North America and Europe on January 19th, 2016.
[Update 11/23/2015: Discussion about censorship in the Western version of Blade & Soul is now banned from the game’s official forums]
(Main image courtesy of Blade Cloud)