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Values Dissonance: Video Games

  • An interesting example happened in Final Fight, in which changes to the game were brought about by temporal Values Dissonance. Poison was originally female, but because of the cultural stigma surrounding beating up girls, she was palette swapped and made into a male character, despite Capcom of Japan's insistence that she was a transwoman. These days it would be perfectly okay to have her as female.
  • The manual for Interplay's PC adaptation of The Fellowship of the Ring had a section explaining that the portrayal of some elements of the setting reflected the source material and might conflict with modern sensibilities.
  • Natsume has run into this a few times in translating the Harvest Moon games.
    • The Japanese Harvest Moon DS Cute had a Romantic Two-Girl Friendship/Gay Option, where your girl could engage in a "Best Friends Ceremony" with some of the other female characters, at which point they'd become essentially the same as a wife. Although relatively mundane for Japan, this would've been considered shocking to certain parties in the US, particularly at the time of release, so the feature was quietly dropped from the US version of the game. Both dropping it and the way Natsume handled dropping it have upset fans, though, and it wasn't helped in retrospect by the fact that, not even a decade later, the feature probably would've survived thanks to America's rapidly changing attitudes toward gay marriage.
    • There was also Harvest Moon GBC 3, which gave a choice of playing as either a male or female. The male character could get married and have a child and continue playing. The female character's game ended as soon as she married. Also, the love interest for the male character was completely useless until livestock was purchased, which could only be bought after growing a certain amount of grass. The love interest for the female character merely began as incompetent.
    • In Back to Nature For Girl, your game also ended after you became married. Though this was changed in the enhanced port-remake, More Friends of Mineral Town.
  • If it's historical and has a level of detail beyond personally killing things (effectively, a strategy game), it probably qualifies. Take Rome: Total War: the men in your family line are the most important characters in the game, providing bonuses when they lead armies and run your cities, with stats and intricate trait and retinue systems; the women don't even have stats, they're used for making babies and bringing new men into their family.
    • Slavery is a particular problem with historical building games. Some use it as a critical game mechanic, others pretend that it didn't happen. In Medieval: Total War, if one is playing as a Muslim faction, it is possible to sell captured soldiers/rebels into slavery (for Christian factions, the option is "execute"). It is also possible to launch Crusades or Jihads against another group.
    • Each province in Europa Universalis III produces a particular trade good. In Africa, one of the possible trade goods are slaves. The game, however, gives the player no benefit for finding slaves other than the actual direct profit from the trade good... and even then, one prefers to find gold or ivory (Another resource that conjures values dissonance) in Africa. It's possible to abolish the slave trade, at which point all of a player's provinces that "produce" slaves start producing something else; this is usually beneficial, because it gives players another shot at finding gold in their provinces.
      • Whether you want slaves or not actually depends on economic reasons, just like in actual history. Slave producing provinces give a big bonus to provinces that produce cotton, tobacco, or sugar; and if you abolish the slave trade, you're just as likely to find near-useless millet as you are ivory or gold. Even if you do find ivory or gold, it isn't a huge step up from slaves; and if you own more than a few of the aforementioned provinces that benefit from slaves, you're likely to lose money even if you strike nothing but gold.
    • Victoria: An Empire Under the Sun and its sequel have gotten a lot of flak over the use of the terms "civilized" and "uncivilized." All the countries in the world are divided into these two categories, with "civilized" countries being able to industrialize much easier and research technology much better. This rather simplistic dichotomy works well for game balance purposes, but still generates controversy. The developers respond that the game, which covers the period of neo-imperialism and the heyday of scientific racism, is by its very scope Eurocentric, and that their detractors are just reacting badly to values dissonance.
  • Hideo Kojima's self-confessed fetish for demure, quietly emotional women was never so bad as in Snatcher, where the thirty-two year-old protagonist has a number of sexualised interactions with a demure, quietly emotional fourteen-year-old model. (To give you an idea of the sexualisation, she has a birthmark on her inner thigh shaped like a heart, and you actually need to know that (to prove to her that you have access to the Snatch organization files) in order to continue the game. You can also make the protagonist sniff her panties and, at one point, he accidentally bursts in on her naked in the shower.) While side characters complain, it's because the man is technically married, although no side characters comment when another female character asks him out and he accepts. The localization aged her up to eighteen and removed the panty-sniffing and nudity.
    • Something similar happened in Metal Gear Solid. It's worth remembering that the plot involves an eighteen-year-old who has never had a previous relationship hooking up with a thirty-two-year-old, and that no-one at all thinks this is odd — in fact, the other characters actively encourage it and point to her youth as a reason why she's perfect for him. It gets worse when you remember that Meryl was originally going to be thirteen (modeled after Natalie Portman's character in The Professional/Leon), and was only aged up to an adult because the character designer had trouble imagining a thirteen-year-old handling a Desert Eagle like in the script.
    • Related to the Snatcher example, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. Check out these sexy screenshots of Paz, the sixteen-year-old girl rendered as jail-baity as possible.
      • This is itself an example of Values Dissonance — 16 is the Age of Consent in most of the developed world, including most states in the US. People in the US tend to think of treating 16-year-olds as sexually available adults creepy because 18 is the age of consent in California, which produces much of the US's entertainment and exports its ideas about the appropriate age of consent and when someone can be considered a mature adult to the rest of the country.
      • The age of consent in Japan is actually 13 (with some restrictions).
      • This is also slightly mitigated by the fact that Paz is not actually 16 years old.
  • Pokémon Diamond and Pearl implied that humans and Pokémon were once able to be married, among other things.
    • The European version of Platinum removed the slot machines because PEGI has gotten harsher on gambling references. Moral Guardians elsewhere complained too, and starting with HeartGold and SoulSilver, the slot machines have been removed from the international release of future Pokémon games.
    • The Pokemon games also give a meta example: The idea of splitting the content between two games and requiring players to trade for version-exclusive content is often viewed very differently by different audiences. The Japanese players see it as a Socialization Bonus. A lot of western players see it as a money-grab that forces them to buy the same game twice for 100% completion.
    • Some believe that this is why the Starters are generally predominantly male. In Japan, gifts are Serious Business, and female pokemon are considered more valuable than male pokemon due to their role in the breeding mechanics (females determine what type of pokemon is born, males determine the child's move set). Thus, since each Gen's starter is a gift to you from the region's Pokemon Professor, the male to female ratio for Starters is heavily on the male side to discourage trading it.
  • The Disgaea series is consistently rated A in Japan, the equivalent of E or a low-end E10+, and is marketed accordingly. In America and Europe, the games are rated T and 12+ respectively, and aimed at teenagers and adults, as the games have a lot of fanservice designs and shots, particularly after a battle is completed. The English translations also tend to have a moderate amount of profanity.
  • Shirou Emiya of Fate/stay night earned a large amount of fan hatred for his seeming Stay in the Kitchen attitude towards Saber's fighting in the Grail War. In fact, he's actually a subversion; he's just mortally afraid of Saber dying (and painfully aware that he's not qualified to fight alone) and initially doesn't understand why, settling on a traditionalist view as a random excuse. Notably, he doesn't act this way towards any other woman (even Saber herself in the non-Fate routes), and the very idea is even mocked on occasion.
    • This doesn't dismiss his bizarre approval of Ayako's attempted rape for 'teaching her femininity'. However, this along with Stay in the Kitchen, fades from the later arcs, and in another arc where it is implied that Ayako is actually raped, he is horrified.
  • Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne is rated "all ages" in Japan, though it (or rather "Lucifer's Call") is rated 11+ and 12+ by PEGI based on the region; the ESRB, on the other hand, has it as M (17+).
  • Shenmue II has a barmaid in the British Colony of Hong-Kong thank Ryo for being so honest about being too young to buy alcohol at age 18. For the record, legal age for buying alcohol in Britain (and Hong Kong) is 18, but it's 20 in Japan.
    • 21 in the US
  • Sort of noticeable in the Metroid series of games: In the Japanese-made 2D games, Samus is a somewhat understated character, implied to not be terribly well-known outside of people who need to know who she is (typically, the Federation and some of the Pirates that she has history with). In the American-made 3D games, Samus is well-known by nearly everyone, played up like some sort of celebrity or war goddess, universally feared by the Pirates and well-respected by even the newest recruits in the Federation; in other words, a more Hollywood-esque portrayal of a heroine of her stature. Incidentally, the Japanese 2D games are also the ones to show Samus scantily clad in her "reveal", even in Zero Mission, the first 2D game to show her in her Zero Suit (which appear in some of the endings, but she's wearing less in others). It was the Americans who first made an attempt to cover her up, with Prime never showing less than her without her helmet, and Prime 2 introducing her slinky but functional-looking Zero Suit.
    • Of course, this has led to a large quantity of Americans Hate Tingle with the latest release in the series, Metroid: Other M; some of which being the various materials that were published to establish her emotions. For instance, the Japanese viewing "Bounty Hunter" as just a cool title rather than a badass anti-hero and/or amoral law enforcer, with a proposal in Prime 3 by Retro for side quest bounties being denied by Nintendo as something a good person like Samus would never do.
      • This trope is in full effect in Other M with Samus's relation with Adam.note  As the story was written with the Japanese fanbase in mind, they consider Adam's assertions of his rank over Samus to be normal procedure. In America, Adam is seen as a psychotically abusive controller who has mentally conditioned Samus to obey his commands even after Samus has stopped officially working for him.
      • One need only look at Other M's reception among fans and critics in the West and in Japan for a good example of Values Dissonance. While Critical Dissonance is in full effect on both sides of the pond, Western fans utterly despise the game with very few exceptions (due to the mentioned Samus-Adam "relationship", and if not that then Samus's encounter with Ridley) while Japanese fans are more mixed, leaning negative. Its major criticisms are roughly the same in both regions, interestingly enough.
  • In the Japanese release of Earthbound (Mother 2), in the Town of Magicant (and at the beginning of the game, when Ness wakes up), which exists only in Ness's mind, the protagonist is naked (a Japanese symbol of purity), while in the US he appears in his pajamas, as nudity—especially child nudity—is considered extremely sexual there.
  • In Western territories, gamers complain about Bullet Hell shooters being crazy-hard Japanese bullshit. Meanwhile, in Japan, First Person Shooters get similar treatment instead.
  • While received favorably outside of Japan and generally seen as a fun and heartwarming game with tons of Video Game Caring Potential, Valkyria Chronicles has a strongly Japanese ideal of unity and has a tendency to kill anyone with a unique character design who either doesn't wear some type of uniform, or betrays the one they have. It leads to some Family Unfriendly Aesops when it comes to the titular Valkyria, who disavows her superpowers essentially because they make her stand out too much.
    • That... might explain why Valkyria Chronicles III completely went the other direction when it comes to values (except Camaraderie, that's inviolable). Your characters are society's refuse, they constantly go against their superiors' orders (for better or for worse), at some point they have to fight and kill their own countrymen, and their Valkyria, Riela, is not trying to do anything to change people's perception of her as a "freak". VC3 thrashes the usual Japanese values out of the window and then tosses live grenades on them just to make sure.
  • Rule of Rose was subject to this trope in many parts of Europe where the publishers were pressured to pulling it out of the shelves. All because it depicted children as something other than innocent little angels, capable of extreme cruelty and spite, and possessing early signs of developing sexuality — even though nothing unwholesome happens with preteen children in that area, and the sexual abuse of a sixteen-year old girl is treated with all the horror it deserves.
  • The Nancy Drew game Shadow at Water's Edge plays with this trope, as it is set in Japan. Part of Miwako's resentment towards Yumi, apart from sibling rivalry, is that she left the Ryokan to start her own career making bento instead of staying to run the hotel as expected of her. According to Miwako, this makes Yumi "selfish". This logic only makes sense if you understand that in Japan, independence is frowned on and that you're supposed to do what's expected of you. However, it is also revealed later on that the girls' mother actually wanted them to lead their own lives and not take care of the Ryokan unless they wanted to do it, proving that the general attitude towards an issue does not necessarily hold up for everyone.
  • Godot, a character in the third Ace Attorney game, is viewed by western audiences as sexist and patronizing towards women: he refuses to take Franziska seriously and tends to refer to her by condescending pet names, not to mention his insistence that Mia needed to be protected, if not by him then by Phoenix. While it is still presented as a character flaw in the Japanese version (given that his guilt over his failure and resentment toward Phoenix led him to make a plan to protect Mia's sister Maya that results in him killing their mother), it's not presented as a serious flaw; as a result, he's pretty much universally beloved in Japan (although he is still much-loved in western audiences as well).
    • Godot in general tends to be a source of Draco in Leather Pants, from both Western and Eastern fans, who see his 'women must be protected' thing as romantic (towards Mia) rather than sexist.
    • Well, if he knew about Franziska's tendency to whip and slap everyone around her to get her way, Godot may have been playing more on her immaturity and young age than her gender. Which goes with him calling her things like "filly". There is no retort for the 'women must be protected' thing, however.
    • This trope may also account for why Dahlia Hawthorne repeatedly makes mean-spirited jabs at Mia's age, calling her "Madame Fey" and a "spinster". At the time of her death, Mia was twenty-seven and very attractive, leading these insults to seem pretty out-there to western players. In Japanese culture though, a woman tends to be considered past her prime when they're twenty-five (though this is becoming a less-common view).
  • Japan insisted on partial removal of nukes from Fallout 3 before it would permit release in the country. Specifically, the nuclear bomb in Megaton could originally be either permanently defused (good option) or rigged to blow up the entire settlement (evil). The Japanese version removes the latter option and also renames the "Fat Man" nuclear grenade catapult to "Nuka launcher". Strangely enough, the weight-reducing modification kit for the weapon apparently retained the name "Little Boy".
  • Deliberately invoked in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance. Ike is quite shocked to find out that a Laguz calling a Beorc "human" has roughly the same implications as a Beorc calling a Laguz "sub-human".
  • This trope is part of the reason American Kirby Is Hardcore exists. While video games make cute characters and box art a common selling point in Japan, in America it is relatively a niche market outside children or casual gamers. Attempts to move towards the happy box art of most Japanese games is far outweighed by the amount of box art that turns them into sword-wielding warriors or have them wear scowls on par with Jean-Claude Van Damme. Case in point—the Starfy series was a big hit in its native Japan, but despite a fun and unique gameplay style; the cutesy appearance of the title character caused the series to be a commercial failure in America and localization attempts ceased after a single entry.
  • Quite a few games with an ESRB rating back in the 90s when released today have had a change. For instance, a few K-A (Ages 6+) games get slapped with the newer E10+ (Ages 10+) or even T (ages 13+). The new ratings come with extensive lists of possibly objectionable content listed on the website as well, which allows consumers to make a more informed decision based on their own values and avert this trope. Sonic Adventure 2, when released for Dreamcast and Gamecube back in '01, got an E for Everyone rating, but when it was re-released for XBLA, PSN, and Steam in 2012, it got bumped up to E10+, because its content is now considered too dark and mature for an E-rated game.
    • The opposite can happen too: In 1984, Germany banned River Raid for its violent content; in 2002, the ban was lifted, and it was rated free for all ages. In America, the Streets of Rage series usually got MA-13 ratings (Sega's equivalent to the T rating) because they were considered very violent for their time, but with modern-day re-releases, they are now rated E10+ because they're not as violent as games you'd see today.
  • Left 4 Dead 2 is filled to the brim with zombies that can be blown apart to pieces and have their blood and guts spill all over the place. Most places in the world are used to this type of violence in media, but Australia and Germany are heavily against such violence and consider this type of content too extreme for minors. The German and Australian versions of the game are heavily censored by disabling dismemberment and zombies immediately vanish upon death. The fire effects on zombies are also disabled, which can actually make the game harder if you can't tell whether or not you set zombies on fire.
    • In Australia, this may be less to do with Values Dissonance and more to do with the fact Australia didn't have an R18+ (i.e. adults only) rating for games until 2013. The reason they didn't have one boils down to one politician believing "... it will greatly increase the risk of children and vulnerable adults being exposed to damaging images and messages." (Videogames are a relatively niche market in Australia compared to other countries) Fortunately, after several attempts a bill finally got passed.
    • The censored versions of the game also removed the riot infected (zombies in body armor) because Germany and Australia heavily frown upon violence against authority figures. Some time later, Valve was allowed to put the removed zombie back in the game after they removed the "Security" logo on the chest.
    • Australia's game classification system in general can be a case of this trope for other countries, as several games are rated higher or lower there than averywhere else. It seems that sex and violence are really the only things that can push a game into the two highest categories (MA 15+ and R18+), while countries like America can have games rated M due simply to mature themes (the Mega Ten series being a prime example). Australia also views cartoon violence as less "harsh" then realistic violence, hence why games like Super Smash Bros., Ratchet & Clank, and Team Fortress 2 get lower ratings there than America. Meanwhile Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland, rated T by the ESRB and 12 by PEGI, was classified R18+ in Australia simply for "references to sexual violence", EarthBound is slapped with an M (13+) for crude humor and "sexual references", and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword got a 15+ rating over there, but an E10+ rating in America and 12+ in Europe.
    • The Australia classification board has absolutley no tolerance for Black Comedy Rape in any form, regardless of any Double Standards anything featuring it gets slapped with an R18+ rating. One suce scene in South Park: The Stick of Truth even had to be censored and the game was still rated R.
    • This even extends to Europe as well. In America, Bayonetta and Lollipop Chainsaw both received the Mature 17+ rating, whereas Europe gave both of them the 18+ rating due to having lots of gore and sexual content/dialogue. Also in Europe, Metal Gear Solid 3 received an 18+ rating (it got the Mature 17+ rating in America) all because of the torture sequence.
  • Blizzard repeatedly had trouble distributing World of Warcraft in China because Chinese culture considers desecration of the dead, and any depiction of bones or mutilated corpses, obscene. Among the changes that had to be made were removing exposed bones from undead models, replacing the skeletons left by player deaths with headstones, and changing the graphics for decapitated heads with bags implied to contain them. Lord Marrowgar, a large monster that's made up of bones, had to get an entirely new model in the process (and presumably, so did his Palette Swap, Earthrager Ptah). None of those would make a Westerner bat an eye.
  • Pretty much a given for any Romance Game or Dating Sim. Cultural differences in gender roles have a lot to do with that.
  • Doom is still a pretty bloody game, but it's very hard to imagine it attracting the controversy now that it did back in the day after the release of other games that top it in the gorn department several times over (God of War being a shining example).
    • Wolfenstein and Mortal Kombat were also shocking, Mortal Kombat because the entire point of the game is to kill people for sport (although the blood just looks like thick tomato juice) and Wolfenstein because at that time it was unprecedented for a video game to contain bloodshed at all (even though the graphics on that game were so primitive that the blood looked more like red confetti than anything else).
    • Cannon Fodder was accused of glorifying war (although it was more of a tongue-in-cheek condemnation of War Has Never Been So Much Fun). Nowadays, with games that glorify war unironically (like Call Of Duty) people are saying that that game is a predecessor to Spec Ops: The Line and Valiant Hearts.
  • Kunio Tachi No Banka: Sabu shot Misako, Kyoko, and Ken during different parts of the game. While it's already considered to be a Moral Event Horizon, the Japanese gun laws prohibits most kinds of firearms to the point that even some Yakuza refuse to hold one with the penalties being high (firing irresponsibly ranges from three years to life in prison). It also means that Sabu lost his honor after those acts.
  • Dead Rising 2 has a lengthy plot about how Phenotrans is keeping life-saving medicine from the public due to the cost exceeding the benefits from giving it. This is just plain strange to countries where medicine is a government provided service.
  • In Japanese media, crossdressers are sometimes viewed as transsexual by Western audiences, with Naoto Shirogane from Persona 4 and Chihiro Fujisaki from Dangan Ronpa being the most prominent examples of this issue, as a handful of Western fans insist that they are transsexual despite canon saying otherwise. This is due to misunderstanding their problems in regards to Japanese culture; in Japan, it is extremely important for a person to fit a certain criteria of what it means to be female and what it means to be male. If they don't meet enough of that criteria or act in a way that is against it, they are shamed for it or not taken seriously. Naoto was insecure about her femininity because she wanted to pursue a career in a male-dominated field but knew they would dismiss her skills if they knew she was a girl. So she cross dressed in order to make sure that didn't happen. Chihiro was constantly bullied because he was too frail and shy to be considered a real boy by Japanese standards, and started cross dressing as a means of escape since his personality was seen more proper for a female, not because he identified as such. Both are examples of individuals who couldn't live up to the gender standards of Japan and had to find a way to conform to it instead.
  • One theory that has been made to explain why JRPG's are popular in Japan but not in the West is the fact that JRPG's require a lot of level grinding. Japanese gamers are perceived as being more patient than Western gamers and perceive the idea of level grinding in order to get some ultimate reward in the end. In the West most people do neither have that kind of patience nor the wanting for a reward, which is the reason why many Western gamers get frustrated with those games and give up on ever trying one, which results in low sales.
  • Clayfighter 63 1/3 has one fighter named Kung Pow, who looks like a caricature of the Asian stereotype, but is played straight. Aside from the typical squinty eyes, Kung Pow uses woks for one of his attacks, has typical kung fu acrobatics, and pulls out a Chinese carton of food when he wins and asks if it's to stay or to go. While no one would have batted an eye to the stereotype in 1997 when the game was released, looking back on it in today's time makes the whole character be seen as terribly racist or the developers simply not thinking things through when they designed the character.

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