The internet is abuzz today with news that in Japan, you can get a game, Rapelay, for your PC in which the main character carries out rapes. That seems to be pretty much the entire game, and the accompanying moral outrage is interesting.
This boingboing article has alleged footage of the game, which I’ve watched, and it doesn’t show any rape, just some kissing-and-running away. There are no screenshots of any rape, and the only evidence that the game contains rape is in descriptions online. I haven’t seen any testimony from anyone who has played the game, and indeed the story broke in the Belfast Telegraph with reference to MP Keith Vaz, who has a vested interest in finding evidence that British kids are playing rape sims because he claimed such in parliment, and was roundly shouted down. Apparently the game was available briefly on amazon, there is an archived page (although it could be fake I suppose) linked in the Belfast Telegraph coverage.
Japan has one of the lowest rape statistics in the world, some twenty times lower than the USA. Is this because there is less rape, or because it’s not reported? Japan has low crime rates generally, so I would hazard it’s a bit of both. If it is indeed a country that has produced a rape simulation game, where is the evidence that such a game is harmful? It’s certainly tasteless, but I don’t find rape any worse a crime than the violent assaults and murders the average GTA game asks players to commit. In fact, I will stick my neck out and say on balance, I’d rather be raped than murdered (I’d much rather neither but you know what I mean), although that is a ridiculously simplistic way of looking at it. But this is the gaming world, not the real world, so if we’re saying it’s OK to maim and kill in a game, why is it not OK to rape in a game? Is raping worse than deliberately driving your car into a pedestrian? Remember, we’re not talking real life here, we’re talking simulation.
I don’t believe there is any evidence linking in-game crime to any increase in real-life crime. Given the Japan rape statistics and what must be a relatively small demand for a rape sim, I can’t see how this is worse than the sort of thing you can buy in any USA or UK game store. The difference is, you can’t buy this game here, and if it’s true that amazon’s quality control slipped for a moment and has since been rectified, that certainly isn’t a reflection on any potential demand, and despite several generations’ penchant for shooting game characters in the head or beating them with a baseball bat, I seriously doubt many of those gamers are going to want Rapelay. Perhaps what we really should be worried about is the arbitrary line we’ve drawn between acceptable in-game crime and ‘oh that’s just wrong’. Moral outrage is not consistent, but if simulated rape is not OK then neither is simulated whatever-onscreen-crime-you’ll-commit-this-weekend. Myself, I’m shooting soldiers in the head with my sniper in Valkyria Chronicles.