In what is probably his Magnum Opus, ‘’Thus Spoke Zarathustra’’, Nietzsche described the Last Man as a person defined not by action but by consumption. To avoid this philosophical abyss, we need to approach Sony censorship not from a point of consumerism or some specific brand, but a perspective of integrity and civil liberty.
We shouldn’t be angry at Sony, as they are a multi-billion international corporation. We already know that their only interest is more money for their shareholders. What we should focus on is the rising tendency of companies to kowtow to some vocal groups and interests and censor what we can and can’t see just because we live in a certain country.
We usually focus on places like China and Iran where a lot of topics are subjected to internet censorship for political or religious reasons. But, there is also censorship for the American market where sexual and other explicit themes are banned because of the local culture. For all the sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll that come from the US, the home of the brave is strangely puritanical when it comes to those themes.
Thankfully, those that use VPN connections and proxy servers can easily jump the digital border and consume content from other places. Premium providers like Le VPN have servers in 120 countries and it takes a couple of seconds to move your location. But, this doesn’t mean that we can become complacent.
First They Came for the Rockers…
Sony censorship is not nearly the first case something like this is happening. While most young people know Al Gore as a champion of environmentalism, that is not his first crusade. In the mid-1980s, Gore was a staunch opponent of ‘’problematic” rocks and metal songs.
As a Tennessee governor, he supported his wife Tipper and her ‘’Parent’s Music Resource Center’’. They advocated for certain songs and performers to be banned or censored because of their possible impact on young minds.
Would someone please think of the children?
Obviously, no one cares about the children. The same way Sony is making their move because of money, the attack on rock music was made for votes. The PMRC ratings were made to appease voters from the Bible Belt. These voters had nothing to lose as they were not listening to rock but loved the fact that someone is promoting Christian fundamentalist values on a national scale.
Why Does Sony Censor Games and Movies?
Short answer? Money.
In this case, it is very important to distinguish between the Sony Corporation that is based in Japan and the Sony Pictures Entertainment that is in California, which is their daughter company.
The company based in the US already makes movies to fit American sensibilities and uses the US rating system. The censorship factor here is not the US audience, but the Chinese one. Everyone wants their movie to be allowed in China and cuts a lot of content to fit that requirement.
The company based in Japan, the one that makes the PlayStation console and distributes games for it, is a whole different deal. Most of the software developers working with Sony are Japanese and don’t care much about what the US and Canadian audience will say about their product.
This is problematic for Sony, as Japanese audiences have little to no issue with sexualized animated characters and their presented age, unlike the Americans. Because of this difference, Western releases of games like Devil May Cry have some of the content cut out, even when not directly erotic or pornographic.
Censorship vs. Ratings
One of the biggest reasons for Sony censorship, as well as that done by other companies, is to get released and rated in other countries. Even though most countries have ratings that would set some games as mature or restricted to younger audiences, this is usually a bad rating for the publisher.
Sony censorship policy aims to restrict enough content to get the game or movie to fit an R (Restricted) or T (Teen) rating. This would make the games accessible to consumers under 17 if they get permission from their parents or guardians.
Even though the PS4 games with nudity mostly feature anime characters and are never photo-realistic, they would still get the NC-17 or Adults Only rating. This would bar the game from most shops and even some online platforms.
What is censorship from the perspective of the consumer is simply good business from the perspective of the corporation. For those using the Le VPN app, they will notice that the content they can see on online platforms differs depending on if they are connected from a US server or the Japanese server.
Who is Being Affected?
It is almost certain that Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw is cursing the day when he made up the term. Regardless, the Sony console peasantry is the one being destroyed by this corporate behavior. People religiously dedicated to the platform and unwilling to fix their connection or try different platforms might get censored games without even realizing it.
This wouldn’t include every PS4 owner, as most consumers are reasonable and know how to engage a gaming VPN. This is the best way to access a game that has been censored in the US but not in the rest of the world.
PlayStation censorship doesn’t only impact intentionally adult PS4 games, but any mildly sexual content in other games.
Although there is probably someone considering Trish from Devil May Cry their waifu, she is by no means an anime girl, and definitely not a loli. Still, in the US release of the game, her backside was blurred with lens flare effects, for no particular reason.
This instance stands out because the game itself is filled with blood and gore, not to mention the caricature approach to the Christian mythos. None of those aspects were in any way changed, but the naked lady was covered.
Censoring Video Games
While most current gamers are familiar with Gamergate and the media attention that follows it, this was not the first time games were under attack by the media. Games such as Grand Theft Auto and Doom were under attack long before random game journos started growing hipster mustache.
From an outsider’s perspective, Sony censorship may be reasonable. For almost two decades activists like Jack Thompson and politicians like Hillary Clinton were very vocal about their idea that violent video games impact children. This idea is not even perpetuated by the incumbent US president, Donald Trump.
Due to some more current American movements, Sony has a good reason to believe that any sexual content, however mild, will come under attack in the States.
As PS4 games with nudity are a good portion of the market in Japan, they are still being made. But, the US audiences will always get a covered version that doesn’t offend domestic sensibilities. This aspect of PlayStation censorship will never stop.
The same thing the USA is for Japanese game developers, China is for American moviemakers. Few really understand how the Middle Kingdom operates, and that includes Sony Pictures.
It is slightly ironic that a company with its main HQ in Japan is kowtowing to Chinese censors, but that is where the money is. All multi-billion franchises made a bulk of their earnings in the People’s Republic.
But, unlike Sony censoring games, censored movies are not as much focused on nudity or violence but rather on political and cultural themes. This also includes most LGBT themes and even some science fiction like time travel.
Finally, any mention of a certain city-state and their democratic self-determination would not only ban that movie instantly but would even make this article unavailable for anyone in China not using a VPN with a foreign server connection.
Kowtow to the Witch Hunt
As per definition, most people are normal. Most of us don’t care what others do in their spare time and how they entertain themselves. This only excludes if they are hurting someone else by that action.
But, there is a shrill minority that will try to attack anything remotely offensive to even the most fragile person. These people don’t represent the consumers or the culture at large but are amplified by social media.
On their own, twitter mobs and social media witch-hunts are not that dangerous. But, combined with corporate focus groups, they open a gateway to global censorship as to fit some unreasonable standards.
Risk of Global Standards for Individual Freedoms
Not ecchi games or social commentary Hollywood flicks, Sony censorship finally boils down to individual freedom. You don’t want your media or policy to be dictated by some unknown civil servant stationed in another country halfway across the world.
This type of censorship is commonly done under the pretenses of ‘’global standards”. This term has no actual value as most things are taboo in some parts of the world. Most supporters of censorship believe that it will never affect them because they belong to the dominant culture, but there is no such thing.
Cultures are meant to be mixed and different and new subcultures emerge every day. Art should be a bridge between these cultures and the groups that follow them.
Lowest Common Denominator
If we were to abide by the Sony censorship policies and submit to the global decency standard, where would that lead?
We can collect offenses from all over the world and get to the conclusion that almost everything would be considered unacceptable somewhere. By simply using the Le VPN server list and jumping from country to country, we will see that different content is unavailable on each jump.
As mentioned, China would ban any political and ideological themes. Any talk about democracy and self-determination for a people or region is out of the question.
Seven Years on Tibet? How ‘bout seven years in the Qincheng jian-yu, the biggest prison in China.
Then we have all kinds of nudity that may not be banned in the US, but is ‘’displeasing’’ to some members of the audience. Any witchcraft or wizardry? Banned in the Middle East.
If we are to go very far we should even include places like The Vatican, where even depictions of tattoos are banned from the Holy See newspaper.
As all Sony censorship is already happening back in Japan, this may not apply to this situation but is important in general. The ones affected would be the consumers in Canada. They suffer the same barriers as their southern neighbors, only because of proximity.
There was no Jack Thomson in Canada and their community is more concerned with internal matters and the costumes of their Prime Minister. But they are considered similar to the US, so their content is censored. Basically, foreign involvement has affected their entertainment.
A similar thing is happening in the US because of China, as Chinese censors are often dictating what can be in movies, music, and even the National Basketball Association.
Last, least, but by far the most annoying, Twitter mobs can easily destroy someone’s life and livelihood. Regardless of your political affiliation, ideas, ideologies, or behavior, someone on Twitter is currently appalled by what you are doing and believe that you should be fired from your job.
Thankfully, if you use a VPN and practice cyber hygiene, this will be an easy problem to solve. If you are not disclosing your real name or location, and you use Le VPN app to mask your IP to some chill country like Iceland, you can be safe from all and any Twitter mobs.
Bypassing Sony Censorship
Bypassing censorship will greatly depend on where it is happening and is the uncensored version available anywhere at all.
In the case of Sony, most western PlayStation releases will already be censored. But, for those where you can change the language at will, there is a workaround. You can connect your PS4 to a Japanese VPN service and buy the original version.
Additionally, the Japanese market will have loads of other games that you will never even see with a US-based IP address. These games will be in Japanese, so at least some proficiency in the language will be needed.
Regretfully, for some games, there will be no PS4 title in English that can be downloaded. If you would like to play the aforementioned Devil May Cry 5 without the backside lens-flare, you will need to set yourself with a gaming PC and buy the game over Steam or buy an X-Box.
Future Tendencies of International Censorship
As far as corporations being scared for their Dollars, Euros, Yens, Yuans, Pesos, and Rubles, this will not stop any time soon. While we can expect more indie games to fill out niches that are lacking, the AAA titles will become as timid as possible to not offend any global audience.
This may spell the death of many beloved franchises, but will probably give rise to new ones.
Some companies are withstanding the pressure to censor their games. Unlike Sony, Nintendo censorship is almost non-existent. Their president, Shuntaro Furukawa stated that it is bad for business and that they will not touch any third-party games.
The native Nintendo intellectual property will still stay family-friendly, and we will probably not see Bayonetta in Smash Bros any time soon, but the other IP will not be cut down because of American, European, or Chinese tastes.
Regardless, there are a few things we need to remember:
1.Sony Will Not Stop
At its current pace, there is little chance that Sony will change its censorship policy. They are already too deep into the matter and will not allow future releases to tarnish the new name they are building.
The only situation that may change the policy regarding adult PS4 games for western markets would be if the consumers boycott these games in favor of uncensored versions.
2.Global Standards for Local Consumers
More companies will probably follow Sony when it comes to cutting down content and censoring certain themes. Nudity and adult content is usually the first to go as most countries and cultures worldwide have some taboos on the human reproduction system.
There is no way to solve this through global corporations. Thankfully, you can use a VPN and switch your location. Here you can support the local game developer or company, helping them grow and create more of the content you like.
3.The Lure of the Middle Kingdom
China is the emerging global superpower and will become only stronger in time. This will also impact art and entertainment. Even though the average Chinese citizen enjoys all the same things as a person from Europe, America, or Africa, their government doesn’t.
As things stand now, western audiences will get their content blurred or removed and no Sony censorship petition will stop that. This move is made to please specific groups in the United States and the only point when the practice will stop is when the corporation realizes that the ones complaining are not their customers, nor will ever be.
In the meantime, we have a bypass solution to use our cybersecurity tools to switch our IP address and access a foreign market. With premium VPN providers like Le VPN, you can choose from over 800 servers in more than 120 countries.
This will not stop the censors, but it will give you the possibility to choose the sensibilities you want, and not let some bureaucrat decide what you can and can’t see.
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