Twitter just isn’t long enough for me to say what I can say, so I thought I’d say it here. Please read it to the end if you have concerns or just want to know what’s going on.
If you’ve looked around for AKIBA’S TRIP: Undead & Undressed talk, you’ve more than likely come across some discussion over the use of the word ‘trap’ in the game. Lots of angry discussion; some defend it without knowing the context, some defend it while knowing the context, some do the opposite for both situations and others have applied it to being something XSEED does carelessly as a whole. I want to try and clear up— as in not defend, but explain—everything that’s going on. As the person who wrote the series of conversations where the word is in use (and is therefore 100% responsible for them), I hope you’ll give me the chance to explain all this as best as I can.
For those who don’t know, context for the word’s usage: the game is a recreation of Akihabara, often referred to as an otaku paradise of sorts in Japan (though it has its competitors), and all the cultures that clash within it. Basically, if it’s in Akihabara in real life, it’s in the game as well, from people bugging you for charity to maid cafés to cosplayers and more. The game itself, even in the Japanese, uses a lot of internet slang, some of which was impossible to translate. It was interesting trying to write equivalents for those.
Within the game, you can also use your phone to keep up with a series of ongoing discussions using a 2ch/4chan/Twitter-fusion app called ‘Pitter.’ You don’t participate in the discussions yourself, but read conversations between other users. It has the user who can’t spell, the troll, the bitter, hateful user, the one who talks in a way absolutely no one would talk in real life, etc. In particular, there’s a user who consistently remarks that she’s female in her posts, even going as far as to shoehorn it into discussions when it’s not needed. Most don’t comment on it either way, but the archetypal ‘bitter, hateful user’ mentioned before addresses her in a very hostile manner. As an example of a conversation where that occurs:
ANT_LION: Hey, everyone. Where do you guys go for food in Akiba?
Pumio: Home lunch is the best. Or that’s what everyone says.
Kozue: if im rly hungry then i’ll just stop at a fast food joint
Misery: As a lone girl, there are a lot of places I’m afraid to go
Eriko: Nobody asked you, goddamned trap.
Shiretoko: There be many a fine ramen establishment in this fair town.
Shiretoko: If thou widenst thy search to Suehiromachi, Ogawamachi and Kanda, though willst find thyself in ramen elysium.
Takehara: I’ve been eating inside Yodobashi a lot. The restaurant floor is pretty legit.
Yatabe_Jr.: Yeah, there are a lot of food places where you can just relax and take a load off
Carrivan: What about canned oden? Seems pretty popular these days. People have been hyping it like mad.
I_LOVE_ANZUTAN: never had it, all hail bento-sama instead
Kozue: me neither
Yatabe_Jr.: Canned oden was mentioned as Akiba’s most popular food product not too long ago
Yatabe_Jr.: Probably just for tourists, though, I’ll bet there are a lot of locals who haven’t tried it
Takehara: All right. Then let’s do a canned oden eat-off!
The user, Eriko, will occasionally direct his or her bitterness toward other users, but is particularly harsh with Misery during the Pitter conversations and consistently refers to her as a ‘trap.’ [SPOILER] I believe Takehara also refers to a trans* character in the game, Antoinette, on Pitter as a trap shortly after he learns she is trans*. [END SPOILER] Outside of that, the term is never used. Several bilingual members in the office played it in both Japanese and English after, and no one said anything about the term being completely out of place.
What does the Japanese say?: The Japanese uses the term ‘newhalf,’ which isn’t necessarily the same word ‘trap’ is. A trap is a derogatory term which refers to, in short, a person with male genitalia dressing as a woman and being ‘deceptively’ female in appearance, thus, no matter how they identify, they may be referred to as a trap on messageboards. A newhalf is closer to M to F trans* individuals who currently have male genitalia and is less about the ‘deceptive’ concept—a crude but direct translation would be ‘shemale’ or ‘ladyboy.’
I think it also use ‘nekama’ (a boy pretending to be a girl on the internet) and sometimes uses ‘okama’ (transvestite or an effeminate man—I think it’s a blanket term, but I’m not completely sure). Don’t quote me on this, though; I don’t speak Japanese, so I’m going off of the information provided for me to help me use the raw translation that was given to me.
EDIT: Looks like ‘nekama’ was the main term in at least the first instance, not ‘newhalf,’ though I think that’s still used. Thanks for the correction.
I don’t know the exact reaction of the use of the term in Japan, but it’s likely not half the issue it is here (Note: when I say issue, please do not misunderstand me saying this in a careless or dismissive way; that is not my intention). The west is much more sensitive to all terms, the direct translation included. It wouldn’t matter which term we used, the reaction would be the same. Most probably didn’t think anything of the use of newhalf in the dialogue.
When writing the dialogue on Pitter, I wanted to closely portray the internet based on my own experiences. I took some liberties with the writing style of the characters themselves to make them feel a little more real (misspellings, lack of punctuation for certain users, internet slang). I left Shiretoko to our lead editor since I’m awful with any speaking style that’s dated. Our translator beforehand had asked if there was a careless term commonly used online which resembled the concept of newhalf and fit into the dialogue, and ‘trap’ was the first one that came to mind. Other terms previously mentioned aren’t really used in careless discussion and would be considered just as offensive. Nearly any term I would use to get across the intent of the scene would be just as offensive really, especially coming from Eriko.
Here are the options presented based on that:
- Use the slur, which portrays the conversation intended.
- Use a less common slur, which sounds unnatural and would still be a slur at the end of the day.
- Use a correct term such as trans*, which would lessen the blow but not get across the same message and would like seems awkward coming from someone who is being intentionally hateful.
- Remove the discussion entirely or rewrite it so that Eriko doesn’t use derogatory slurs at all in the English; censoring it for the English-speaking audience but keeping the Japanese text with ‘newhalf’ intact (We have the Japanese text in the North American version too).
Here’s where I talk about my personal thoughts on everything.
It sounds lame, but I do know a lot of trans* individuals and they’re all great people. Although I do also know someone who is a self-proclaimed ‘trap’ from many years back (not so sure if he uses the term himself anymore), I’ve been on the internet on all corners long enough to know that it is indeed a derogatory term that dehumanizes someone. I’m desensitized to seeing it on anonymous messageboards as much as one can be because of how frequently it’s used. However, on a personal level, I know too many people who don’t like the term and I wouldn’t use it as I am now because I respect them. It’s a term which makes the people closest to it feel bad because it’s used in a demeaning, ignorant manner. I feel the same with not using a whole slew of common slurs used in real life and on the internet, not just ones regarding trans* people. Personally, I’m not a fan of ‘retarded’ because I have a brother who’s challenged, and like most women on the internet, I get to deal with plenty of misogynist slurs (bitch, slut, whore for a few of the common ones) on a nearly daily basis that I’m not too fond of hearing in real life and hit a little too close to home when I see it in media. Well, I do use those on occasion, when I’m comfortable enough, but not in the context of being derogatory; it’s just that I have a foul mouth in general. I don’t want to be dishonest on that front. This little incident earned me a few new colorful lines under the assumption that I’m a typical ‘cishet’ and were none too kind.
In short: I don’t agree with using slurs like this in real life. I wouldn’t call someone who’s trans* a trap in real life at this point, not ever. I’d sooner make sure I was using proper pronouns and addressing someone in the way that makes them most comfortable first.
This is where localization gets messy. I know a lot of people think the use of the word is an endorsement of sorts, but that’s about as true as us endorsing the systematic slaughter of children (thanks, Corpse Party). Even with games like SENRAN KAGURA, which I’ve said I’m a fan of in general, I’ve been very honest about the parts that I do not approve of for personal reasons. With localization, you have to decide how you want to portray something for your audience and where you stand morally. Do you alter it/censor it? Do you leave it as-is, whether you agree with it or not?
For me personally, if it’s dialogue that changes something big and isn’t just a meaningless one-liner, I leave the intent as-is. That single scene in SKSV made me uncomfortable, but it’s not my role to change it to suit my personal feelings on how men should interact with women and vice versa. Even if a lot of people agreed with me, it still isn’t my place to change it. This is the developer’s story, not mine. As much as personal experiences dealing with assault make me wish Japanese games didn’t have so many ‘casual’ instances of a man almost assaulting a woman with little to no consequences, even going so far as to blame the women in the situation at times, I would still keep such scenes fully intact if I were to come across it in one of our games. I may hate the characters involved with a passion and localization is largely interpretation, but there’s a big difference between interpreting lines a certain way and outright changing them for moral reasons.
That’s led to other questions: if a game were to use slurs toward other groups, would they be used in text? Personally, I say yes, if it is appropriate to the scene itself. It sometimes takes a lot of work to mentally distance yourself from content in a game from a place with a different perspective on cultures, but yes. Akiba does use misogynist terms that would apply to me, for example, but I wanted their use to correctly set the scenes they’re used in. Does this mean I actively hope for an opportunity to use slurs in localization? No.
I also wrote this small response to someone which applies to how I feel about localizing sensitive topics:
"Anyway, a bit more to the point, I wouldn’t go out of my way to censor positive reflections of LGBT characters in a game (and XSEED hasn’t) just as much as I wouldn’t go out of my way to censor negative reflections either. I’m not arguing on a personal scale whether these things are good and bad, but we used what we used to appropriately show a certain culture in its current, actual state. The characters that use it either aren’t privy to the weight of slur because the internet’s made them insensitive to it, they don’t know or they simply don’t care, which is true of a lot of people in real life. Granted, these characters have usernames while most have the convenience of being anonymous, but it’s also a less sensitive topic in general in Japan. Outside of omitting it entirely or completely changing the text to be an out-of-character life lesson on how you shouldn’t use a slur like that (which is about as good as omitting homosexual relationships and replacing them with Bible verses in a game if you think homosexuality is wrong), it was going to be insulting no matter what because the west is much more sensitive to it. Again, not saying that as a good or bad thing, just that’s how it is.”
I think I expanded more on that in the rest of this writing, but if anything is unclear, please feel free to kindly ask. At this point, I think it boils down to localization choices. Some may go, “I would omit it entirely because it’s insensitive,” others may go, “I would translate it directly and people will have to look it up,” others may go, “I wouldn’t use that particular word, but another one because I think its reflects the intent better.” I don’t regret the choice I made because I feel it works in the context of the game as properly reflecting the messageboards I wanted to portray, but that doesn’t mean I would condone its usage in real life or would always use it to refer to trans* people in future localizations as a blanket term, since that’s completely inaccurate. I doubt the need would even be there, since it’s not like games involve the usage of 2ch/4chan type boards and slang that often, but that’s beside the point. I’d use whatever the character would basically use if they were an English speaker, be it a positive or negative representation, because I feel that my morals shouldn’t be forced on every character or line spoken.
I’ve felt pretty terrible about people saying how hurt they were when they saw its usage in-game. I don’t really think that’s come across since my explanations can sound cold or defensive—I’ve been trying to stay fairly neutral with my explanation outside of when I explicitly state my personal feelings on the matter. It’s true that, with all the other controversy AKIBA’S TRIP has faced before its launch in North America, it was something that was swept under the rug, so it was unexpected for those playing. I do want to apologize for not bringing it up at any point before launch, simply because I was preoccupied with discussing other aspects of the game. I can say that the slurs were reported to the ESRB and is categorized under ‘Strong Language.’ It doesn’t look like they mentioned it in their descriptor, but since it’s a very ‘internet’ term, some may not be aware of the weight of the word.
I guess…that’s really it. Again, if I wasn’t clear on anything, please feel free to ask me in a kind manner. I’ve felt really bad so I’ve tried my best to give a thorough explanation (not an excuse, not a defense, but an explanation), and some aspects of the topic have been covered again and again throughout the week, but if it’s something new, please do ask. For those who haven’t been so kind in your messages (most have, but a few have not): that was exactly the kind of behavior I was trying to portray with Eriko, and it seems I was accurate. For those defending it because it’s ‘okay’ to use in real life: I don’t agree. I write characters, even if I don’t agree with what they say sometimes, because I don’t think it’s my place to change the original team’s work in most cases. Please be kind to the people who are offended and are speaking up in respectful manner. This, too, is what I was portraying with Eriko and even Takehara, who uses the term without thinking much of it.
This isn’t the first time XSEED has localized something relating to LGBT characters or terms and it won’t be the last, but I hope those unfamiliar with our previous works will see that we don’t write about trans* characters in the way they were written about for Pitter in all our works—this is a single case tailored to a specific situation. I’m really, really sorry if anyone felt personally attacked by this situation—that is not what I meant to do. While it’s not used anywhere else in the game from what I remember, I do understand if this turns you off of the game completely. I’m sorry for your pain. I hope this explanation is enough for everyone who feels one was needed.
Note: sorry if I made any mistakes on this. Hopefully there are not too many. Please feel free to kindly correct me if you see anything factually wrong.
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