Sunday, July 10, 2016

Is #TorrentialDownpour a sign that #GamerGate failed?

For some time now, I’ve been rather critical of the Twitter hashtag activism campaign: #TorrentialDownpour. Nevermind that its name indicates nothing about their stated goals, or that it uses too many characters. (Compare the eighteen characters in #TorrentialDownpour with the twelve that #ThinkSerious has.) But I realized something today about #TorrentialDownpour (referred to as TD from here onward.)

Is TD a sign that GamerGate failed to save Vidya Games?

The quality of games coming out really hasn’t improved since GamerGate’s height back in 2014, and they certainly haven’t returned to the greatness that was 2004. The big AAA publishers are still mostly focused on maximizing profits by watering down their products to appeal to mass audiences, and the indie scene is still full of people who lack the experiences necessary to make a really great game. And the customers that were driven away by garbage like Gone Home and Depression Quest have already been replaced by the Five Nights at Freddy and Undertale fandoms.

So the situation right now is that most people buying games have yet to develop the taste needed to understand the difference between a quality video game and one that’s not so good. Whereas the older gaming audience has retreated back to playing their old favorites and high esteemed classics. This is likely a big part of why the prices for older, more retro titles are skyrocketing. And what of those who have given up the hobby to pursue other interests?

But there is another option beyond simply sticking to older games to the exclusion of all else. For the most part, non-westernized regions of the world such as Japan or the Slavic nations have yet to become corrupted by the same Marxist social institutions that have ruined the gaming industry for westernized countries. There are plenty of great games coming out from Japan right now, many of which are getting translated from their original language into English. One such title, which I am quite looking forward to the release of, is Mystery Chronicle: One Way Heroics.

The only problem with relying solely on foreign nations for entertainment products is that, when these games come over to the west, their trip doesn’t always leave them completely intact. There are plenty of English publishers which will, for one reason or another, change or remove certain aspects of some games when they bring them over for English speaking audiences to play. This is not a new problem, as Nintendo of America has quite a history of demanding changes for games released on their consoles. It’s just that, with the power of the internet, it has become relatively easy to compare the English gameplay footage with that of the Japanese one.

Of course the solution to this, which QuQu and I proposed months before TD ever started, is fairly simple to understand. Sure, working on fan translations ourselves isn’t easy, but it’s much more conceivable than just complaining to the game publishers until they bow to one’s demands, while still speaking with their wallets that they tolerate such inferior translation jobs. That’s not to say that one shouldn’t voice their concerns about the translation quality of a particular title. The problem is that we cannot rely on some third party to fix the problem for us; if we want to ensure that it’s done right, then we need to do it ourselves.

But the plans QuQu and I made were, of course, ignored by the TD activists, who instead chose to make several infographics whose readability got destroyed by Twitter's image compression algorithm. Another video I made, which QuQu graciously hosted on his channel, comparing the way video games are localized to that of films, was also largely ignored. Part of this is understandable, as I can’t expect QuQu’s fans to be very interested in a video that he doesn’t appear in, and the video isn’t exactly comfortable to watch for more than one reason.

But it’s still disappointing that the idea shown in the video has yet to catch on with the wider gaming community. Film buffs would be furious if someone were to translate an Akira Kurosawa film as loosely as Nintendo Treehouse did with Fire Emblem Fates. Despite many in our community insisting that games are an art form comparable to books or film, Japanese games still seem to be viewed as childish, a view which is narrow-minded at best and outright racist at worst.

If the “Games are Art” crowd could be shown how much of a problem poor localizations are, then they would be a powerful ally in the fight against censorship. Beyond that, this would be a great way to get them on our side, and against those ripping them off with the same sort of crap in the “Modern Art” scene. Though who knows, maybe most of the “Games are Art” crowd already left for greener pastures after realizing how bad most Modern Art Games are. Even people that liked Gone Home, didn’t particularly care for Sunset.

But to get back on the topic, it seems to me that the biggest sign of defeat is that TD’s existence breaks one of the few rules set in the early months: Don’t change the hashtag, though this isn’t just about some dumb Twitter hashtag. As shown by the success of #CyberViolence, creating new hashtags isn’t itself a bad thing, and I’d even say that it should be encouraged. The problem is that the switch from GG to TD wasn’t just swapping out one hashtag for another; it was entirely changing the topic of discussion to something completely different from that of the start of all this. No longer is it about keeping the entirety of video games pure; now it’s just about Japanese games safe from butchering.

While that may be a noble goal, and one which I would love to see come into fruition, it still ignores the larger issues effecting the gaming industry. Sure, when the gaming industry collapses in on itself from the weight of years of nonsense, we’ll still be able to play Hyper Dimension Neptunia and Senran Kagura, but such a situation is far from ideal. I still stand by what I said in the video QuQu and I made on Localization, as well as the closing thoughts of our video on Sekai Project. There are two things one must do to ensure that Japanese games continue to be brought over to the west intact.

Stop supporting terrible localizations, and translate the games into English yourself.

If you keep buying these games, you can complain ‘til you’re blue in the face, but companies aren’t going to bother stopping to reflect on their poor behavior, as they know that they can keep getting away with shoddy localization work, laughing themselves all the way to the bank. Why should they put in the effort to produce an accurate translation when everyone will still buy a poor one? There needs to be a demonstrable effect on company profits to cause them to change their business practices. This is why we continue to see games come out with content cut from the original release—because companies know that consumers will still buy their products regardless.

Beyond simply refusing to purchase their products, you can also deal an even bigger blow to them by supporting fan translation projects instead. Imagine if we managed to make the fan translated version of a particular game more popular than that of the “official” translation. Not only would this have a great effect on their profits, it would also deal major damage to company PR. Fan translations of anime are a big part of why most anime coming out these days doesn’t get the 4Kids treatment, so an increased popularity for fan translated video games should produce a similar result.