The embers of the RapeLay controversy were stirred a bit yesterday with a report that the game – and others of its ilk – had been banned in Japan. Not by the government, mind you, but by an industry standards organization.
As it turned out, the report was false, but it prompted a great deal of hand-wringing about Japanese censorship. And yet, RapeLay is already banned – in advance – in the United States by an industry standards organization: the ESRB. Again, it’s not a government ban, but it is a de facto ban.
Think about it. Video game retailers won’t carry unrated games, which would require RapeLay’s publisher to submit the software to the ESRB for a rating. Given its digusting subject matter, RapeLay would certainly be tagged with the quickest AO (adults only) rating ever issued by the ESRB. If you think back to the 2007 Manhunt 2 situation, you’ll recall that major retailers won’t carry AO-rated games and console manufacturers won’t license them. That last bit wouldn’t be a problem for RapeLay, of course, since it’s a PC game.
Yes, the game could still be sold online by independents. Even governments have a hard time stopping that. But the AO rating is retail death and everyone in the video game business understands that. No publisher would waste their time and money submitting a RapeLay to the ESRB, which is why I maintain that such games are banned in advance. I don’t have a problem with any of this, by the way. It’s how the system was designed to work. True, there are occasional calls for a marketable AO rating. But the ESRB would probably need to create an XXX rating to accomodate games like RapeLay if AO ever became acceptable to Wal-Mart and GameStop.
And while RapeLay’s developers are within their rights to create a game based upon sexual violence and pedophilia, retailers are certainly within theirs not to carry the game. Women’s groups are free to protest its messages. And the rest of us are free to be creeped out by RapeLay.