I think I may have shown up a bit late to the party on this one, but as somebody famous once said:
"Better late and opinionated than early and silent."
Okay, so that was me who said that, and no, I'm not really famous, I just needed a good lead-in to the article. Journalistic license and all that, you understand, right?
TERA Online, the next generation Triple A action-MMO from En Masse Entertainment has come under fire recently from its own potential playerbase. The reason? The looming threat of 'westernizing' the Elin race. For those unfamiliar with Elins, I give you the following screenshots and videos:
AW MAH GADZ - SAEV DA CHILDRINZ
Scroll up to my introduction and you'll notice I put 'westernization' in quotes. Having looked at these screenshots and those two videos, can you guess why, ladies and gentlemen? Of course you can! You're warm blooded Americans! You're fine upstanding European citizens! I bet the first thing every one of you thought is:
"Oh my god, somebody should censor this! These are little girls wearing overly-sexualized clothes and their very existence in the realm of entertainment mediums is a shining beacon for pedophiles everywhere. Also, I will be taking a trip to Middle Earth later, who wants to join me? What?! What do you mean Rivendell isn't real?! HOGWASH AND POPPYCOCK!"
Sure, I'm laying it on a bit thick, but that's what I do. TERA Online intends to censor the Elin to some capacity for western audiences, confirmed in a rather old interview which can be found here.
Naturally, as with many similar issues of censorship, the backlash was immediate and resounding.
Over here is a (now locked) TWO HUNDRED page thread on the official TERA forums, followed here by another 170-plus (at the time of this blog) page thread on the same subject. There have also been rumors that Elins were originally going to be excluded from TERA's western release for their ... ah... obscene... depictions of... ah... skin or... something obscene ... or...
No, I can't even finish that sentence. The absurdity of the whole situation is simply overwhelming. Elins, as cute and child-like in appearance as they are (open for debate... I've never seen a child with hips like that), ARE NOT CHILDREN. They are an imaginary race of humanoid females who are a part of an imaginary fantasy world where other fantastic things exist. You know... those things that make up the Fantasy MMO genre? Magic, epic swordfights, talking animals, medieval kingdoms? All those things that don't exist in real life?
Fantasy is used as escapism. Those of us who play MMORPGs enjoy the idea of working to advance another persona, whether it be by the stats, gear and numbers, or through character development as a roleplayer. We do not walk through every game we play with a hawk eye, attempting to draw or create parallels to real life in every pixel.
I can't throw a fireball at someone I don't like. I can't grab a giant, glowing blue axe from my closet and wander into Canada to start some cross-country PvP. If I go to Compton, there won't be anyone on the street corner with a giant exclamation point floating over their head, begging for every passer-by to complete some vacuous and mundane task to earn reputation with the local thug-guild and a few benjamins for their new dubs.
So why is this all okay? Why is it okay to have fantasy races that summon demons and the undead? Human sacrifices, blood and gore, and all these other fantastic elements? Obviously these vaguely promote some sort of slightly undesirable behavior and should be censored accordingly as well, right?
Of course not.
There are people, mostly the religious type, who have been trying to censor these things for years. Listen to most of them for even a moment, talking about how World of Warcraft is satanic, and the average person will take them for what they are, an utter nutjob.
Poke through either of those TERA threads, however, and you'll find a rather sizable group of people who believe that the way Elin are portrayed somehow promotes and glorifies pedophilia, that anyone who enjoys looking at the Elins as presently constituted are pedophiles or have pedophilic tendencies, and even that the race should be removed entirely due to societal bias on adolescent sexuality.
The problem with this entire line of reasoning is simple. It's not real. Elins are created using 3D modeling and compositing. They are part of the lore of a fantasy world which exists only as a block of data on a series of servers. They are not Human children. They are scantily clad because, in all cases of fantasy, sex sells. We want escapism. We want to be muscle-bound, perfect badasses, beautiful, exotic women, or mischievous nature spirits (the lore behind Elins). We do not want to be Dave and Kate, the slightly overweight, out of shape accountant and his dorky secretary. We have real life for that.
I'm not sure about anyone else in the world, but I learned to distinguish fantasy from reality when I was about three or four years old. It's one of the first lessons I believe any child should learn. Entertainment, gaming and television in all of its forms gives us as a society an outlet to explore feelings, ideas and thoughts in a controlled, safe environment that would not be acceptable in real life. It gives all of us an avenue to confront and handle situations or components thereof that may get us in real trouble if followed to their logical conclusion in reality. THIS IS HEALTHY. IT IS NOT A BAD THING.
Pedophilia IS a terrible thing. Sexually utilizing a child for your own perverse pleasure is about the lowest thing someone can possibly do. I'm right there with the rest of you when I say, string em up, cut their dick off, hang em upside down and leave em to rot. I would be unequivocally naive though, if I were to suggest that it could be eliminated entirely. People will always break the law, any law. There have been studies done as to why, and I won't get into those, but it's going to happen.
Society as a whole has lost the ability to distinguish fantasy from reality. A lesson that should be taught and instilled in any child from an extremely young age has either been ignored or coopted to suit the insular views of the parent. Should I infer then, that the average person has the emotional and social development of a three year old? I could, and from a logic standpoint, I wouldn't have a difficult time proving it, but unfortunately, things aren't that simple.
Censorship always comes down to one argument. It's the same one that all pro-censor groups use as their ultima ratio.
"We should censor X and Y because it's a bad influence. Children who see X and Y on television/movies/in games may turn around and do/say/become X and Y in real life."
Let me offer you an anecdote. My first summer out of high school, I was 19 years old, and I had the opportunity to take some volunteer work for a non-profit company engaged in caring for and rehabilitating developmentally and learning disabled adults. During my second week of the two-month long program, I was assigned to work with a man who we'll simply call Jim. For all of his faults, Jim wasn't a bad guy as far as developmentally disabled people go. I didn't have hardly any problems with him until one day.
We were doing arts and crafts, as I recall, something to do with colored stencils (those things that have the shapes, stars, circles and what not that you trace and color in). Things were going great until I showed him the next step in the project which involved a couple of stencils in the shape of triangles.
The man went completely and totally apeshit, flipped over the table and started attacking and literally going berserk on anything within range, including me. I wasn't exactly small or a wimp at the time, but I felt like I was getting pummeled by the fucking hulk. It ended up taking about a dozen people to restrain him and prevent him from tearing the place apart. When things had finally calmed down, and I was explaining what had happened to set him off, I mentioned the word 'triangle' again, not realizing the problem, and Jim went completely apeshit yet again.
Turns out, the shape of a triangle or the word 'triangle' triggered some strange thought process in his head, causing him to go into berserk mode.
Should I go on a crusade for the rest of my life against triangles? Should I call up every television network and demand that any instance of a triangle, or the word triangle should be censored because it might make someone lose their mind and kill? Of course not.
Do you understand the slippery slope you run into when you demand that everything be censored, simply on the POTENTIAL for a problem? It's wrong.
There are people out there who will find different things offensive. Personally, I find most celebrities to be pathetic, horrible role models whose very existence degrades the Human race. Should I call for their censorship? Of course not. I may not like them, but they are a part of society. If I go and kill somebody and claim that Britney Spears made me do it, should Britney be banned from all media?
If someone plays TERA and sees an Elin, then goes out and molests a child believing that they look like one, the problem lies with the individual being a fucking lunatic and not on the game for containing fantastic content that serves as an escape for millions of normal people who have no problem with them.
If I find Elins to be hot, alluring, cute and awesome, does that somehow make me a pedophile? Despite the fact that I would go to my own grave before harming a child in real life?
Society - Take some personal responsibility and quit ranting, raving and carrying on about these mysterious 'potential scenarios' and strange, bizarre leaps of logic.
Let fantasy be what it's meant to be, a healthy escape for people disenchanted with the daily grind of dealing with the exact types of people trying to censor it.