22:00, September 28 2023
First of all, thank you everyone for reading my third real English article on this website! I was not expecting such a large and enthusiastic response from the western community. This topic was heating up so much, so much that I was expecting to get more negative responses. Thankfully none of that was present, and I was able to have fruitful and productive conversations with the community on this topic. Again, thank you very much.
This is a companion article to the original “Playing on Data” article, detailing some topics deeper, based on conversations I thought were insightful. Also, this will be a more opinionated take on the original article. As such, there will be more anecdotal evidences compared to the original, and more of my opinions on this topic1 will appear in this article. I will be speaking bluntly on some aspects as to represent some hard-liner ideas of the Japanese rhythm game community or the traditional Japanese general public, even though I have to say I do not subscribe to all those views.
As far as I read the western side of the argument, the support for the “right to pirate” stems more from a purely economic standpoint, rather than a legalist or moralist standpoint. Even some supporters of the right to pirate are fully aware that it is illegal by the letter of the law, but state that it’s the laws and the realities of economics that take precedent. This is one of the point of contention between the eastern and western players. From the moralist standpoint, ignoring the fact that there is a de jure violation going on does not make sense and thus immoral. But from the economist standpoint, the consequences of breaking the law seem to be negligible so it is natural that the laws of economics take over and piracy follows. For this reason, I understand that emphasizing the moralist perspective too much will not convince the western audience, so let’s put that aside for a while.
I believe this “economic support for piracy” has grown stronger in the wake of Steam’s success. Steam has succeeded in reducing piracy by providing easy access to official content, and this success have been advertised on gaming media continuously. So the economic supporters of piracy would say, Steam has done it, why not others? Well, for one thing, Steam sells digital products as opposed to arcade hardware, where physical goods have hoops to overcome such as import control regulations. Also factor in the fact that Konami is a Japanese Traditional Company (see previous article), having risk aversion tendencies.
For the “free market” to function, there needs to be written laws and regulations to ensure the proper function of the market. These laws and regulations are backed by law enforcement, thus being backed by the threat of real-world consequences. As one might have seen in the news, selling counterfeit brand goods will surely result in seizure and arrest. The Japanese government is increasingly understanding the importance of its intellectual property. As the market grows, the line between counterfeit high-brands and pirated games will draw closer, making it worthwhile to crack down on digital piracy. It’s only a matter of time that these real-world consequences might come to our sphere.
Also, if you yourself will not face direct consequences, the fact that piracy exists at a volume in a certain area will create risks for businesses going into that region. Note that Japanese Traditional Companies tend to avert risks at all costs. The reputation of having high risks of piracy would definitely go into the corporate’s calculation, making it harder to reach a viable deal for both sides.
Indirect it may be, it is undeniable that there are consequences, and thus I believe the economic support for piracy cannot be completely justified.
(this and the following section comes from this discussion thread)
sorry if the tone of this comment may sound condescending, but this just sounds like defeatist mentality. It's not that you guys hate piracy because of its inherent nature, if anything you absolutely want to but you can't due to coporate crackdown pic.twitter.com/bGtx5Y0dLS— NDeVt (@GnoahA) September 27, 2023
Um yeah, I understand your line of thought, but we don't operate like that. That needs another cultural background, where we put emphasis on harmony, or "wa": https://t.co/chK7adOe4C (cont— sylph01 (@s01) September 27, 2023
Yes we do. It was just not fair and convincing enough to say “we as Japanese are virtuous and so we hate the notion of piracy and breaking the law itself” without supporting evidence, and it is difficult to find concrete evidence of such.
One reason I can come up with is that we grow up with manga and anime, and in some of those manga books, the artists talk about their life situations and recent matters, sometimes describing how they feel about their content being used in undesirable ways. Nowadays manga/anime/game artists can be easily accessible on Twitter. And they will speak harshly on piracy. If your childhood hero speaks of content pirates as despicable human beings, you grow up with that notion.
I understand that line of thought, but I think this needs multiple contexts:
Combine these contexts, and what you get in this case is, you are pushing back against social norms, disrupting harmony, just to protect your right to play games illegally (or depict your favorite character offensively in the dojinshi case2). Were you to push back against the corporations publicly, this is what you will be seen by the public. You will be seen as a crybaby, whining for your childish “so-called-right”. You will surely not get public support. Some responses from the Asian side to the western side mentioned insisting on the right to pirate being childish. This is where this notion comes from.
Also, if you’re going to go public on this issue, your family will know about this, and your traditional Japanese parents will tell you that you are being a disgrace to your family by being a crybaby in public. Their response will surely be, “Be a f*cking adult.”
Yes, this conformist attitude has allowed powerful corporations and governments to impose powers freely on the general public. This could explain the reason Japan has operated under single-party politics for the majority of the post-war era. Although this mindset have some real-world implications that set us back, this does have some merits, primarily that we are able live in a peaceful society. This is just a different way of operation that our culture has.
This does not mean that we do not push back on any issues regarding subcultures. It is just not wise to argue on the front that “we have an unalienable right to play pirated games”. If this was the case for life-or-death matters, “disrupting harmony” would be more tolerated3. As such, we do have our instances of demonstrations or coups against the government. Also, if this was backed by rules or notions that construct our social order, they will be more supported. And yes, we do have our instances of going up against the government for “the right to draw hentai4”. How did this happen? This was grounded on the freedom of speech clause, Article 21 of the Constitutuion of Japan. Because it is grounded on written law it is surely getting some public support, but due to the way the topic appears, this movement also has issues of getting the support of broader public.
As I am not an expert in this field I cannot give this topic enough justice, nor can I explain this topic in a politically neutral way5. If I can find an article that explains this phenomenon in English, I will add a link here.
Speaking of being an adult…
We have a phrase called 大人の事情, which translates to “adult matters” or “adult circumstances”, which is a catch-all phrase for everything “why we can’t have good things in life.” This includes regulations, contracts, business relations, and so on. We tend to use this term to combine all the difficult stuff that we can’t reason about, but we are cognizant that these “adult matters” exists. These are the realities that the adults in the corporations face. If we were to complain that we can’t have good things in life, we are required to come up with the counter-argument or counter-solutions to these “adult matters”, or else we will be seen as just whining crybabies.
Getting DDR A3 into the US seems to have some instances of being blocked by these “adult matters”:
It was due to contract issues between some US arcade chains. An arcade chain in Hawaii (technically part of the US) had no issues getting the release like normal.— Prohibited Props (@ProhibitedProps) September 26, 2023
A delayed US release would've made no difference to crackers. It was 99.9% likely in their hands well before then.
I think it emphasizes the fact that even legitimate businesses (like golflands who had repeatedly asked to buy official and revshare) can't buy the games..... except the one dude who's connected in konami. Nepotism of arcade games doesn't really help— shao (@autumnfootfalls) September 26, 2023
This is very, very likely true, as the same problem existed with Nesica and Allnet. I'm not sure if they ever got Allnet or the current situation with Nesica, but for a long time Round 1 was the only business trusted enough in the US to get NESiCAxLive.— Jyosua (@Jyosua) September 27, 2023
Yes, this seems like the corporate bullsh*t that we can’t reason why this is ever happening, but it’s the way of life.
On the other hand, other games have found success with different business models:
The arcade distribution model in Japan is very different in comparison to the rest of the world, revenue sharing from a manufacturer is not something that is accepted in America, Europe and many other territories. StepManiaX is successful because it does not depend on this.— Kyle Ward (@kyleaward) September 27, 2023
Andamiro, with Pump It Up, has also been successful in creating new markets for dance rhythm games, so much so that it found its way into the Ukranian TV drama “Servant of the People”(Season 1 Episode 22). They also seem to have issues with cracked data, but nevertheless they are the go-to dance game where official DDR cabs are nonexistent. Konami, it’s a marketing L when your competitor’s game is recognized as Asian Pro DDR!
Also, as I was going to upload this, this tweet showed up:
こんにちは。アメリカで日本のリズムゲームを正式にプレイするのに色々な困難があります。私たちはそれを改善したいと思ってますが実現するのに支援が必要です。ありがとう。🙏— Red Note Gaming (@RedNoteGaming) September 28, 2023
This could be game-changing. As some people pointed out, it is mostly contract and regulation issues that is preventing official DDR to get into the Americas. Anyone willing and able to sort out these “adult matters” mess would just change the game altogether, and Red Note Gaming has a positive history from up^^beat Denver, giving us positive hope moving on.
From the general public’s viewpoint, we’re all “children who can’t still graduate from gaming.” I’m not going to pretend that I know every aspect of the “adult matters” that go into this situation, nor do I intend to take the moral high ground by pointing out that “adult matters” exist.
Having said that, I believe the way going forward should be constructive discourse on how the game’s future should be, not by talking poorly of the other side. I have high hopes for this, seeing the responses on my first article. When the competition’s creator comes in and worries about the future of the game as a whole, I am sure there could be ways around the “adult matters” that our game is surrounded by. We might be seen as childish from the general public, but at the same time, we are adults, and as such, we can figure our way out of this.
If any of you dataheads leak the unlocks of the upcoming Babylon’s Galaxy event, I will turn to the “100% F*ck Data, No Exceptions” side (like most of JP players). Don’t spoil event content. Thank you very much.
As stated in my original article, I am critical towards the lax nature of content piracy in the west, but I do understand the reasoning behind why playing on data happened at all. ↩
As for dojin fandoms not pushing back against the original content creators there’s another layer. Derivative works (二次創作) are not officially legal by Japanese copyright law (or as far as I know even in other legislations). If corporate were to crack down, there is no legal ground that derivative works can be defended as 100% legally clear. For this reason, fandoms (especially R-18 fandoms) go underground. As communities are beneficial to the content itself most of the time the corporations will not take action on fandoms (or even admit that they exist, because admitting them gives them responsibility to act), but when someone is found to be profiting undesirably or when the derivative work is found to be detrimental to the official content, corporations will come in. I am nowhere near an expert in this field, so if anyone could guide me to an English article that describe this well, please let me know. ↩
Yes, some Asian gamers have mentioned that “games are not infrastructure”. ↩
Another segway, but I like the fact that the English otaku community has a distinction between “ecchi” and “hentai”, both using Japanese words. ↩
Most of the cases involving restrictions on anime/manga comes from gender issues, and being a male otaku, I am surely biased. Also, as this involves gender (and thus the notion of “political correctness”), this is another reason that “freedom of expression gurus” have a hard time getting public support. I used the phrase “right to draw hentai” to appear provocatively, and people do push for that right too, but the cases I could come up with were mostly “ecchi” at best, in some cases not even at that level. ↩