Accepted paper:

Bodies in play: regulation, convention and taboo in representations of the the human body in video games in Japan


William Kelly (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the treatment of the human body in the rating and censorship of video games, focusing specifically on the 'problem' of depictions of hands with four digits and the cultural, historical, political and economic context within which this prohibition has developed and persists.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines the relationship between the rating and censorship of video games in Japan and the human body, which figures prominently in rating and censorship guidelines and criteria both in Japan and elsewhere. Based on research related to the production, rating and censorship of video games in Japan conducted over a period of several years and drawing on conversations and interviews with dozens of video game producers/creators and other representatives of Japanese video games companies, as well as interviews and meetings with representatives of CESA (Computer Entertainment Software Association) and CERO (Computer Entertainment Rating Organization), the paper focuses on the issue of bodily dismemberment, which is an area of particular concern in the rating and censorship of games in Japan and, specifically, the 'problem of four fingers' - the prohibition of depictions of hands with missing digits and/or hands drawn with only four digits. It is argued that concern with this issue is best understood with reference to the historical and political relationship between organizations representing the interests of the burakumin and the mass media (including the print media, publishing, and entertainment media such as manga, animation and video games) and that, in the context of the rating of video games, the avoidance of depictions of four fingers is motivated, primarily, through fear of triggering criticism and negative publicity.

panel Body09
Playful bodies, bodies at play