RONZONE: Video games not just children’s play



Raquel Ronzone

Until recently, gamers and a concerned public had seen it all. “JFK Reloaded,” released on the 41st anniversary of Kennedy’s death, allows players to reenact his assassination. “Super Columbine Massacre RPG!,” which includes original media images from that tragic school day, follows teenage gunmen Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold through Columbine High School on the day of the shootings. “Grand Theft Auto,” one of the most widely criticized video games, features violence, crime, prostitution and the infamous “hot coffee mod,” which enables an interactive sex scene. Joining – and very quickly ascending – the ranks of offensive, insensitive, exploitive and demeaning role-playing video games is the recently released “RapeLay,” the title summarizing the distressing premise of the Japanese game.

Gamers play a wealthy man who was jailed as a “chikan” or subway pervert, after raping a young girl. As revenge, the man has to terrorize the victim, her sister and her mother by raping them.

Consider the game a product of culture. As author Leigh Alexander writes, public transportation in Japan has become a simultaneous breeding ground and haven for “chikan,” who commit their crimes in the safety of crowds in order to mask their identities. According to a 2004 survey conducted in Tokyo, 64 percent of women in their 20s and 30s said that they have been groped on subways and stations. The frequency of the problem led to the installation of all-female train lines, available only during rush hour.

Declan Hayes’ “The Japanese Disease” further delved into the scope of this issue, detailing the publications and programs that have grown from a culture consumed by a frightening combination of sexism, misogyny and lasciviousness. “Finger Press,” a monthly magazine, contains timetables and lists of train lines ideal for groping; “Chikan Tomo-no-Kai,” the Gropers’ Brotherhood, provides members with lectures, workshops, tips, strategies and training sessions on how to grope without incurring legal consequence.

The frequency of sexual assault throughout Japan’s public transportation is disturbing enough; more troubling is that the execution of those crimes has become a course to take, a lesson to learn and a skill to master. Worst of all, the gaming industry in Japan decided to profit from this reprehensible societal ill.

In addition to the obvious problems inherent in and the rightful criticism directed at such a game, there still exists deeper commentary about the implications of “RapeLay” and the culpability of a society that has first imagined through immeasurable perversion, then created through each chilling frame and, through its hours of play, continually supported the program.

As a video game, it depicts the violation of human sexuality as normal, consequence-free entertainment, a hobby, a pastime, while also propagating the sickening thought that victims enjoy their abuse. As a role-playing game in particular, it represents the character of the perpetrator as desirable, worthy, goal-oriented and attainable, while first justifying the perpetrator’s rape of an entire family as revenge and then glorifying those actions as steps toward an ultimate victory. As an interactive story whose plot is to commit a crime of a personal nature in a public that never once challenges the abuser, it moreover renders the crime a non-issue, approves the transgression according to public unconcern and leaves victims with no network of support or sympathy. Seen in Alexander’s article, that haunting image of transparent, almost nonexistent bystanders – all witnesses to the violations that unfold in the subways – is rife with meaning.

Too easily, people who are aware of wrongs around them can become a casualty of indifference, neglecting to speak out because of fear, perceived ineffectiveness or general lack of concern. Refusing to acknowledge sexual abuse on the grounds that such discussion is uncomfortable or inconvenient is just as much a crime as the act of violation itself.

The United States, for example, can simply dismiss “RapeLay” as a Japanese invention, a perverted one at that, and therefore a Japanese problem alone. Thankfully, however, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, partnering with the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, has at least called for a statewide ban of the game. If the public learns anything from the horror that is “RapeLay,” then let it be that the barely visible bystanders in the game never did end the abuse and, likewise, that unconcerned citizens in the real world will never stop injustice through passivity.


Raquel Ronzone is a sophomore communication major from Philadelphia. She can be reached at [email protected].