Supporting Aksys: Otome Games, the Vicious Cycle and the Rift in the Community

Okay, I know. This is the day I’m supposed to post a review. I get it. This is my second non-review post in a row. But on a whim and a with every little ounce of energy I had to give to care about the otome games and josei-muke, I wrote this.

Naja at Blerdy Otome made an excellent post about Elitism in the Otome Game Community. As a “veteran” I will address this elephant in a bit, but more importantly, I am taking the time to — once again — bring up problems with Aksys.

If you think this is a post where I’ll be saying “Boycott Aksys Games!!” you’re completely wrong. I don’t believe that to be the solution. Buying form them isn’t good, and I will always refer to optional companies to get games from, but limitations remain: Aksys Games have certain titles, and some will want to play those. Boycotting them won’t solve that problem.

If you, however, expect me to explain why I don’t support them, you are completely right. I will go over my reasons why, and what harm I see supporting the company has on the otome games. This elephant is the one I will primarily address.

But first, elitism.

When I got into otome games, I came from gal games. I was in my mid-teens, and one of many who pirated games. I’ll admit to that. If you couldn’t buy, pirating was the norm. There were fan translations of PC games and, much like Naja also wrote in her post, detailed reviews. It was an exclusive club, which I joined very young, with my beginner level Japanese as my primary tool, but also the fortune of being multilingual and able to pick up languages fairly quickly.

I was somewhat lucky, and I know that.

But something I didn’t like back then was the “If you want to play, learn Japanese” mindset. Why should anyone have to learn? I wanted to know languages to enjoy things, but even as a preteen I understood this was my choice. Not all would be willing or able to. Languages are difficult.

After Hakuoki was released in 2011, what had been a bridge over a rift between those who knew Japanese and those who didn’t began to break down. It’s still there, but I feel like I’m holding on the only rope left, suspended over an abyss created from privilege and misunderstandings. I’m not the only one, I’m sure, but it’s a lonely place to be stuck at.

On one hand, I have the community I want to support as someone who can judge the quality of localisations as both a translator and as someone who knows Japanese. The people who I want to give the opportunity to make an informed choice, but often lack both time and energy to keep up with.

On the other hand, I have the community I “belong” to — those who know Japanese. The community people assume I’m part of, in other words, because I happen to play games in Japanese. Sometimes. Yet who I interact with among them has become very limited, and it’s as friends, not as part of that side of the community.

Some can freely get over this abyss or simply shout over it. The interactions can be friendly.

Some are simply toxic.

When the “If you want to play, learn Japanese” mindset comes back to the surface, and when some bring up issues in localised games, with the meaning that the Japanese originals are superior, we have the toxic elitism. gatekeeping an important part of the community.

If you don’t see it, you’re most likely part of the problem.

Some are so sensitive about this, I get called out for… saying there are problems and addressing them in a review? I would apologise, but you’ve misunderstood my intent if you think I’m gatekeeping anyone. I’d hate to do that. I focus on the localisation and in particular the words in localised games, because that’s what’s important. Not a lengthy review summarising everything. You don’t need that for content you can play. Well, still summarise it, but not to the same degree.

Anyhow, I remain suspended mid-air over an abyss I want to remove. A rift that should never have been there. I’m not a victim, though, as it’s my choice. I chose this path, and if that means I have to hear how awful I am, then so be it. But I’m tired. I’m tired of the elitism. I’m tired of people shouting back. And at times I do wonder if I shouldn’t just let go, fall into the rift and never appear again. Never review another otome or josei-muke game again. No more of that content. Let go of the very foundation I built my blog on. Because, perhaps, I no longer have worth and no one cares.

But I’m not going to. The request survey if anything showed me I still have something to give, so I will continue even if I have to balance on a rope continuously. Just saying.

I don’t have the solution to how to remove the rift, and I’m not only a mother these days, my health has declined quickly since May 2017. I can only handle so much, but I still wish to create a place without the rift between those who know Japanese, and those who don’t. There is probably an isle somewhere that I don’t see, so we need to grow that. Build upon it.

However, to do that we need to address another issue. Aksys Games. Yes, the company itself is the issue, not just shoddy translations.

This isn’t aimed to hold Aksys accountable. If that ever would have worked, then my open letter many years ago would have been of use. Instead, it was a waste of my time. No, let me rephrase that: It was a fucking waste of my time.

I want to address why the community creates the problem. But to do that, I think I actually need to remove otome and josei-muke out of the equation and use a real-life example, or else someone might just wish to make me canon fodder in some book. Please don’t.

Because of my poor health and disabilities, I receive housekeeping and grocery shopping services through the municipality. That sounds great, right? Nope. The grocery shopping service makes mistakes time and time again. Some are honest mistakes, obviously. Like when they bought me soy instead of ponzu. Or silken tofu twice when I explicitly wrote it couldn’t be silken the second time, or when they forgot to bring my kitty litter and came several hours later. But then there’s the time when they unannounced changed the delivery time, which caused me to panic. Or when I, who explicitly write milk free and ask for oat alternatives on my list every week, got a milk product. I have milk allergy. Which reminds me about the vegan cheese I asked for, but instead got lacto-vegetarian cheese, which I can’t eat. And the butter when I asked explicitly for something milk free (again).

Is someone actually out to off me, ’cause milk allergy can be deadly, you know?

Now the logical conclusion would be: Why don’t I change service?
I mean, do I need it? Deserve it?
Shoddy service, but from the biggest provider?

Wait. Shoddy service from the biggest provider… Doesn’t that sound like… Aksys?

Precisely.

Back in 2011, Hakuoki was pretty much the only game. Yo-Jin-Bo had been released too (not by Aksys), but it’s not at all like Hakuoki’s serious plot, and it wasn’t available on consoles. Sweet Fuse followed. We’re pretty good here. Aksys was technically the sole provider of otome, and it made sense to support them.

But that was ten years ago.

The situation looks completely different as we have several companies and Aksys has since then shown that they have no respect for the target audience. Or games. Or translators,

  • They repeatedly have been releasing bad or even terrible translations, and the ratio between bads and goods is pretty shitty.
  • They rush teams, or teams simply don’t get a damn.
  • They don’t care about their target audience.
  • They also don’t take the time to understand them.

Certainly, they have released good releases. I will always point to Hakuoki on this one, because I wrote in my letter: they set the quality bar right there. That’s the level of quality to their customers they should give. Every. Time.

Naja wrote “Dedicated localization teams at companies like Aksys Games ensure that there is a steady stream of new games for Western fans to consume.” and I agree on these two points: steady stream and dedicated.

Only the dedication is in “easy money”. I’ll explain this in a moment.

Following this, she mentioned that handing over the torch might be difficult. I believe this is the case for some. To me? Not so much.

want these games to be localised. But I expect the respect that the company gives its other target audiences. Excusing a company that’s been in the localisation game for decades, because it’s the “sole” provider?

Are you telling me I should keep getting milk products? Pay to get food I can’t consume? Are kidding me?

No disrespect to Naja; I respect that she and many others want to support who gives them the games. I want to support them too.

But I’m afraid the problem also lays there.

Okay, hear me out. You are free to argue against this, but listen. Well, not like all that many will, so I expect… nothing.

My criticism isn’t based on Norn9 and some random typo. It runs deeper than that.

Aksys Games is a misogynist company. They don’t care about the target audience — women. They see that you are willing to open your wallets as long as it’s a game of the right genre. Instead of making reasonable schedules, hiring staff or teams who care about these games and understand the audience, taking feedback from any who might actually care (like, idk, women who translate) and they hired (temporarily), and making reasonable delays to release quality products they… just don’t.

I’m not telling you to stop buying games. Buy whatever games you want, that’s up to you. I think you should get games that interest you, I genuinely do.

But don’t excuse a company that has experience far beyond making it reasonably acceptable to sell shoddy translations in the extent they have, and very much targeted to a certain group.

Don’t excuse one that tries to market to people who don’t care, while not giving a damn about those who should matter to them.

Don’t excuse someone who isn’t willing to hire those who are suited to translate the games and who want to translate them because they care.

Don’t excuse them when there are no excuses to give.

If you buy any of their games, understand that other companies who could localise these games lose a little of their chances to get localisation licenses. Understand that you add to a vicious circle of feeding misogynists whose only care is getting money out of anyone who buys their games, which gives them higher chances to localise, which results in that they can disrespect you again. Even when you don’t see it, know that they don’t give a shit.

There are no excuses for the grocery shopping service to buy me milk when I have an allergy, and it says milk free on my grocery list.

And there are no excuses to knowingly just not care about you as a consumer of their products.

Otome game translations didn’t start with Aksys, and they don’t end with them either. But it’s entirely up to you if you think you deserve respect, or people who look down on you.

There are no replacements for the games they got. But there are other games. There are games localised by those who actually care about you.

I think localisation is great for those who don’t understand a language. I want more of it. I mean, it’s a necessary evil, just like any translation (and the translator says this) but also great. I just don’t want it from someone who thinks I’m a dumb ____ and that they could spit me in the face and I still open my wallet so I can get my game.

Nah.

As a translator, it infuriates me.

As a consumer, I can’t accept it.

As an otome gamer, it breaks my heart.

And as a person who wants nothing more than for everyone to enjoy one of my favourite genres among games, I’m tired. I’m just so tired.

In the end, I expect nothing to come out of this. I expect this post to be as much of a waste of my time as my open letter. I know there are passionate supporters of Aksys, but to support blindly… I don’t want to mix in politics, so I won’t, but I do see a parallel here that is disturbing.

If you read this far without writing an angry comment, thank you.

If you read this far and realise this isn’t about shoddy translations or plain passionate gamers, I applaud you.

If you think I’m dumb, well… I can’t help you.

I only have one thing to say.

Really, buy any game you like from any company. Just know what you’re supporting as you do and consider if it’s truly worth it.

I simply decided I deserve more respect than being laughed at for what games I like. That’s all.

The thing is, you can’t hold Aksys Games accountable. It just doesn’t work. What Aksys Games needs is a reality check. And only you can give them that.

2 thoughts on “Supporting Aksys: Otome Games, the Vicious Cycle and the Rift in the Community

  1. Thank you for your article, it’s quite interesting to have another point of view on the subject.

    I think that for some people that can only play a localized version of a game, they don’t like to be reminded that Aksys is not a good company, because if they want to play one of their titles, they don’t have other choices to buy it anyway and to support it by doing so. So I agree with the vicious cycle. In my opinion, the problem is that they take the critics on a localisation or on Aksys personally. Showing problems in a localization or in a company isn’t a toxic elitism.

    But there are also some people who are waiting to know if a localisation worth it or not. So I think it’s always interesting to review a localisation so that people can make an informed choice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment!

      I agree that some take it personally when Aksys or localisations take it personally, just like some are surely very protective of otome games and may worry needlessly about localisations in general. The protection of Aksys is as toxic as when people tell those who don’t know Japanese to “just learn Japanese”. I will always advocate for buying the games one wants, because it’s not all bad. Aksys is the issue, not the games.

      But seeing and admitting the problem is the first step to solving it, while looking away and blindly is just dangerous. Not only does it create the idea that we have to put all hope in them for localisations (we don’t), but it can deter people because of the poor works released, which is the opposite of what the genre needs. I mean, one or two poor localisations happen once in a while — we all know that — but when the ratio is on Aksys’ level and focused in a niche genre, it’s sad on a professional level. No, it’s not even professional, actually. It’s just sad.

      I think it’s important for those who want informed choices to get them, and we can only give them reviews if we play the localisations. My pride as a gamer (in general, not just otome) and translator just doesn’t let me anymore. I know I miss out on some good localisations, but when I know they would just mock me if I worked for them, it’s hard to put money in their pockets.

      Like

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