New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is calling for a U.S. ban on the Japanese rape simulation video game RapeLay, but it's actually just one of a larger genre of disturbing games.
In an article on Slate, Leigh Alexander writes that Quinn, who is working with the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, is unlikely to get RapeLay banned since it was never sold in U.S. stores and has already been removed from Amazon and eBay. Hacked versions of the game's English translation are easily found on the Internet, but it's essentially impossible to police the transfer of the pirated software.
Alexander downloaded one of these illegal copies of RapeLay, in which a man stalks and rapes women in a subway station. She says playing the game resulted in "hours of getting depressed about the fate of humankind." She writes:
While the moral outrage from the New York City Council and Web sites like Jezebel and Shakesville is obviously well-placed, there's little hope that legislation or activism can stem the perversion. Not only is RapeLay rooted in a social illness that's embedded in Japanese society, it's just one game in a niche industry that's more closely related to the porn business than to the video game world.
The concept for RapeLay is actually inspired by Japan's current problem with chikan, or subway perverts. According to a 2004 study, 64 percent of Tokyo women reported that they've been groped on a train. The country has a high conviction rate for chikan, but it's easy for predators to hide on a crowded train and Japanese women are often too ashamed to report the crime.
RapeLay is part of a larger genre of sex-themed Japanese video games known as eroge. The games are usually sold in pornography stores, not with other video games. Eroge is popular in Japan, but Alexander says most games in the genre are not violent, but rather feature, "high-school dating stories, standard soap-opera melodrama that prioritizes narrative, and plenty of oddball pap starring cat girls and alien maids."
The Japanese government places no restriction on the themes of the games, but they are subject to censorship laws, so even in violent sex scenes genitalia will be blurred. As the blurring is removed in the pirated games, English language versions are actually more graphic than the games sold in Japan. Few manufacturers attempt to sell legal versions of eroge in the U.S., and websites that sell Japanese imports will often change the ages of underage characters to 18. No matter how disturbing these games may be, technically, the versions sold in the U.S. are not illegal.