Now that Tumblr is back up (ugh, unfortunately), I can go back in and pull a conversation I had out of my archives and post them here. In the event that Tumblr management royally fucks up again, or if I just tired of the whole operation and let the easily-offended Social Justice Idiots and Jackoffs who consider lolcats and pewdiepie to be the height of comedy pick at the bones, I can have this exchange posted here for posterity.
At the end of November, the hella cool blog Pixel Boys asked me some questions regarding my thoughts on Masaya’s Cho Aniki series. You may remember that I’m not all too keen on the series overall, preferring my shooters and my homosexual game characters to not be awful. It’s a pretty cool back and forth I think, so check it out.
The questions will be presented in quote boxes, while my responses will be in the standard body of the post.
pixelboys asked: I’ve always found it fascinating to examine how and why gay men are offended by portrayals of homosexuality. For example, I find it offensive that it seems like 99% of the time you see gay men in an action movie or game they are portraying a flamboyant over-the-top villian. And yet simulataneously I usually enjoy watching that as well. Maybe I’m self-hating. What I love most about Cho Aniki is that openly gay men get to be the heroes. I’m no shmup fan, so I can’t say if it’s “good”.
I actually wrote about this very thing earlier in the year, but there’s no harm in reiterating/expanding upon what I said. I don’t have as much of a problem with Cho Aniki as a game than I do its reputation.
[NOTE: There’s nothing wrong with playing and enjoying Cho Aniki. I’m only speaking for myself here.]
I guess I should begin by saying I’m not bothered all too much by gay stereotypes. If I were, I’d think an awful lot less of things like Godhand, No More Heroes or Final Fantasy VII. As long as it’s not completely malicious (like Duke Nukem Forever), I’m cool with it.
As a game, it’s bland, boring, doesn’t do anything that Gradius or R-Type didn’t do better by several magnitudes and would otherwise be quickly forgotten like many other terrible PC-Engine shooters if it weren’t for its unique aesthetic.
The problem is in its perception. There are, or were, so many articles about Homosexuality In Games that used an image of the Cho Aniki bodybuilders as a thumbnail in the preview. The game that its home country calls Kuso-Ge (“Shit Game”) is the first thing that pops into people’s heads whenever “LGBT” and “Video Games” are in the same sentence and there’s definitely something wrong with that. Like that’s the best we’re ever going to get.
And now with the explosion of do-nothing Social Justice Idiots trying to fix the world by complaining about video games, it’s only gotten worse. As a gay guy who likes playing video games, it is really fucking insulting to have some dumbshit write paragraph after paragraph about gay characters like Kanji from Persona 4 or Arcade from Fallout: New Vegas not being gay enough, while the shooting game with the barely-clothed bodybuilders pelvic thrusting at each other is either completely harmless, or just merely “problematic.”
pixelboys asked: I went back and re-read the article, and I actually do agree with a lot of what you say. The Cho Anikis are considered THE gay games. But isn’t it partially cuz the main characters are gay? How many other games do that? And I’ve heard tons of arguments on both sides about Kanji, My take: the bath house is no more or less offensive than Cho Aniki, and sexual confusion is normal. The reason I don’t consider it a gay game is because Kanji isn’t the main character.
There really aren’t that many games that have protagonists, aside from a handful of RPGs that give you the ability to either set your sexuality in the character customization or give you a same-sex romance option, a few fighting games, Fear Effect 2, and Bully, although that’s more of a bi-sexual option. And those games all have other features to focus on beyond who’s fucking who, which can explain why Cho Aniki is looked at the way it is; the graphics are the first thing you see the moment you fire up the game, after all.
And my POV on Kanji and the bathhouse was that there was at least a point to it being there. The same reason Rise’s Shadow was a stripper or Yukiko’s Shadow being a Damsel-in-Distress; that reason being a one-dimensional exaggeration of their emotional state. I should probably leave my answer at that, because if I type up everything I thought P4 did right, I’d be answering this until 5 a.m.
Again, like I said before, I wouldn’t be nearly as hard (lol) on Cho Aniki if it were actually good or any fun to play. The whole idea that the “Shit Game” is what’s associated the most with homosexuality is literally the only real problem I have with it. An over-the-top arcade game is the sort of thing that’s right up my alley and, again, a ridiculous caricature not coming from a place of malice (so like, a dude with a limp wrist would be alright, but a black person with novelty-sized red lips and small, beady eyes would not, if that makes any sense) is something I’m actually pretty darn cool with. At least, that’s something I hope I get across with all the sarcasm and irony and shit that I use in my normal Tumblr posts.
pixelboys asked: Actually you bring up two points I’ve always been curious about — why is Cho Aniki considered a “shit game”? Who decided that? Sure it may be mediocre and some people find it offensive, but it’s not like it’s unplayable. I’ve seen much worse! And has anybody ever interviewed the creators to find out what their intention was? I know this may sound crazy, but I’m not convinced they are trying to make fun of gays with this game.
It was a game released by Masaya, a company whose previous PC Engine releases, like Moto Roader and Energy, are considered some of the worst offerings on the system, Energy in particular. Heck, outside of Langrisser or Gynoug, none of their output is particularly well liked. And considering that this was the PC Engine, home to the best shooters of the 16-bit era, Cho Aniki looking, playing, and sounding the way that it does, combined with the pedigree that Masaya carries, is a recipe for disastrous ratings and reviews. At least, that’s my best guess as to why it has the reputation that it does in Japan.
As far as an interview with any of the developers, I found nothing. Plus I’m sure that if I did, I couldn’t read it anyway (my Japanese is far worse than people give me credit for).
Your last point may be onto something. Like Capcom with Resident Evil 5, I’m sure they weren’t intending to offend or mock, it’s just that the end product begs to differ. Or, going on our different thoughts on the series, open to interpretation at the very least. Either way, I’m just glad I’m getting asked things that require me to articulate my thoughts.