Bishōjo game: Wikis

  
  
  

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Adventure games

A bishōjo game (美少女ゲーム ?), Girl game, Gal game or Galge is a type of Japanese video game that is targeted towards a male audience, and centered around interactions with attractive anime girls.

Bishōjo games are a uniquely Japanese phenomenon: they have virtually no equivalent in the western video game industries. They form a sizeable fraction of the Japanese market: the most popular have sold over a million copies, and they make up the majority of offline PC games in Japan. Nevertheless, because of real or perceived cultural differences, only a few titles of this sort have been translated or commercialized outside of East Asia.

Notable subgenres of bishōjo games are ren'ai games (often called "dating sims") and H games (often called "hentai games").

Contents

Characteristics

Gameplay

Since bishōjo elements can be present in practically any type of game, gameplay in bishōjo games varies drastically within the genre. For example, Gals Panic is a variant of the classic game Qix where the objective is to uncover 75% or more of a picture of a girl. Money Idol Exchanger is a puzzle game comparable to the Magical Drop series (which is also categorized as a bishōjo game). In some cases, images of girls are used as prizes for skilled play, as is the case in strip Mahjong.

In other games, the bishōjo aspect can be integrated more tightly into the game: in most dating sims, the objective is to select the correct conversation lines while speaking with a female character to increase their "love meter". This type of game resembles role-playing or adventure games. Many are very linear and are essentially interactive romance novels for men (sometimes called visual novels).

Nowadays, most bishōjo games remain 2D, in contrast to the rest of the gaming industry in which the majority are 3D. The main reason is that bishōjo games are centered mainly on characters instead of landscapes, and for this intention, 2D bitmaps continue to look better than 3D models (which tend to be blocky when seen up close). The main advantage of 3D models in this context is smoother and more realistic animation, although this is usually discarded by the unpolished look of the 3D characters, in addition to the additional cost of production for this type of work. Tokimeki Memorial 3 (2001) was the first bishōjo game to have all its characters modeled in 3D, although the sales were smaller than hoped, perhaps discouraging other developers from the possibility of changing bishōjo games from 2D to 3D. Many bishōjo games nowadays are essentially a slideshow of 2D pictures plus voice and text.

Pornographic content

Money Puzzle Exchanger is a bishōjo puzzle game starring a variety of enthusiastic young girls and scantily-clad women.

Westerners often misunderstand the relationship between bishōjo games and pornography. Frequently it is assumed that all bishōjo games include sexual imagery. In fact, while there are a number of bishōjo games entirely focused on hardcore pornography, many of the most popular titles, including all those available for home video consoles, do not contain pornographic material, and many others only contain a small amount in relation to the story as a whole. For example, the 18+ version of the popular game Kanon contains a total of 5 sex scenes and two other images of nudity within a branched story the size of a long novel.

The pornographic content of bishōjo games is regulated by the EOCS (Ethics Organization of Computer Software), the organization in charge of classifying the content of video games in the Japanese industry. Pornography is prohibited in all console titles, and computer games are assigned a special classification alerting the public of its content. Also, as in all legal Japanese pornography, the explicit images are normally censored, showing mosaics or bars on the genital areas in order to satisfy Japanese decency laws.

Pornographic bishōjo games are often catalogued as "hentai games" in the West. However, this term is usually not used in the Japanese language. In Japan, they are usually called ero-games, or frequently eroge.

Representation of women

Nayuki Minase from Kanon pictured in her school uniform.

The representation of women in bishōjo games varies, but two generalizations can be made. First, most of the girls are portrayed as bishōjo, meaning beautiful, attractive or cute (according to the definition of beauty as seen by the designers and fans of the video games). Therefore, it is rare to find, for example, an obese or unattractive character in this type of game. Secondly, the majority of the characters are feminine (according to prevalent tendencies in Japan): in the cases where a girl shows a "boyish" appearance, she mostly can be found to be sensitive or feminine under a pseudomasculine façade.

Two particularly common settings exist: Japanese secondary schools and medieval-atmosphered, pseudo-European fantasy lands. In secondary education settings, characters wear idealized Japanese school uniforms; whereas fantasy setting outfits range from witch robes to princess dresses, and Fantastic creatures like fairies and catgirls may be found as well. When the game takes place in some other setting, it tends to explore other fashion possibilities, for example, the game Pia Carrot is located in a restaurant, in which the girls wear elaborate waitress uniforms.

The female character frequently act in an endearingly childlike fashion, which is described by the Japanese slang term moe (萌え), a characteristic that is often looked-for in bishōjo characters. The reasons for this characteristic are not always merely sexual: sometimes it is used to present a pretty and affectionate character who is beloved and supported by the player. In fact, "little sisters" are a recurring fixture of bishōjo games. A very popular game that emphasizes the characteristic of moe is Sister Princess, based on the premise of the player acquiring no less than 12 little sisters.

The majority of bishōjo games involve anime girls and not pictures of real-life girls. Several reasons for this exist. First, the artistic style of anime allows a noticeable sense of femininity and a great sense of fantasy, something that is not obtained with images of real women. Second, since many characters in bishōjo games are minors (or at least have the behavior and physical proportions of minors), the use of the anime style allows the studios of bishōjo games with adult content to avoid the penalty of Japanese child pornography laws, which do not prohibit the simulated representation of characters under 18 years of age. Even so, it is common to find the packages of these games affirming that, theoretically, all the characters are over 18 years old. More circumstantial reasons also exist: for example, anime girls showed better on computer screens in the beginning of the video game industry, when colors were more limited.

Representation of men

The main male character in bishōjo games is often rendered as someone the player can identify with, thus experiencing the story as he would live an episode of his own life. Often the game is viewed in a first person view of the main character. Since bishōjo games focus on female characters and the player's interaction with them, male characters often receive less time on-screen and the character that represents the player rarely appears; when this happens, his face is usually hidden outside the screen or otherwise. Sometimes the only male appearance in sex scenes is reduced to a penis entering from the side of the screen, with no other visible parts. This is often customizable.

Industry

The industry of bishōjo games is closely related to the industry of anime and Japanese manga. They share many conventions in common: for example, it is common to find in many bishōjo games, as in anime, a brief opening video that shows the main characters, in addition to ecchi content that can be found in the games. Many popular games have been adapted to anime and manga, and some games are derived from anime.

Some dōjinshi groups produce bishōjo games, many with the objective to later form a real company or to be contracted by one of the great companies in the industry. Due to the short programming time and relatively small amount of content required in a bishōjo game, barriers to enter this industry is somewhat low, and is the reason why every year dozens of new companies emerge. Nevertheless, like in many entertainment industries, those with greater dynamics are the winners, the reason why a few studios are at the top of the industry and collect a greater amount of money in sales while the rest obtain little more than nothing. In order to survive in the competitive market, companies need to be much better than their competitors, or satisfy an individual market. A substantial part of the revenue of the industry comes from merchandising. Fans are often dedicated to particular characters within their favorite games, and are willing to pay premium prices for goods like posters, figurines and accessories representing them. Several conventions also exist where articles oriented to bishōjo fans are sold, like the popular dōjinshi market Comiket in Tokyo, Japan.

Due to the representation of female characters in the majority of bishōjo games, a great majority of the market is males. Nevertheless, from the year 2000 some developers began to expand their market creating games directed to girls and presented attractive young men in their cast (bishōnen). The most well-known and commercial of these titles is Konami's experiment Tokimeki Memorial: Girl's side (2002). There have even appeared a small amount of erotic games that present man-man homosexual relations (yaoi games), which take their bases from the parallel subculture of yaoi anime and manga. Games targeted specifically at female players are not referred to as bishōjo games, but categorized under the broader genre of adventure or simulation by publishers, and commonly referred to as otome games or Boys' Love games by fans and reviewers.

Bishōjo games for personal computers are usually sold in special stores or sections reserved for clients more than 18 years old. Nevertheless, console bishōjo games, which are generally less explicit, are sold next to other video games. At the present time, dozens of bishōjo games are released every month, and practically all the video game stores in Japan maintain a sizable stock of these. The games are initially relatively expensive compared to the Western market of videogames, fluctuating between 8000 and 10000 yen (approximately $75–$95) each, although soon they can be bought more cheaply second-hand.

History

1980s

Bishōjo games began to appear in Japan in the beginning days of personal computers. It can be said that the first bishōjo game commercialized in Japan appeared in 1982 as Night Life by Koei (although it had little similarity to their games today). At the beginning of the genre almost all the games were pornographic. The first bishōjo games were not too popular, being limited to graphics of 16 colors or less.

A notable landmark was Jast's Tenshitachi no gogo (1985), a precursor to the modern dating simulation. Among early bishōjo adventure games it had a degree of polish that previous games lacked. It was also the first to have recognizably modern anime-style artwork: its characters had very large eyes and a tiny nose and mouth but were otherwise basically normally proportioned, characteristics which today are found in virtually all bishōjo games. Prior to 1985, girls were generally drawn either as normally proportioned adults or super deformed children.

Some games involved elements of forcing and brutality. These came to national attention in Japan in 1986 with the release by dB-soft of 177, a game where the player takes the role of a rapist. (The game's title originates from the number of the Japanese law criminalizing rape.) 177 was not actually the first game designed around this premise, but it was unusually explicit. The game caused debate in the Japanese parliament and was eventually recalled and re-released with the most controversial scenes removed.

A little-known fact is that some major mainstream Japanese game companies got their start by publishing shady bishōjo games. Koei is best known today for action/strategy games like Dynasty Warriors, and Enix for role-playing games like Dragon Quest. They both released half a dozen pornographic games in the 1980s.

Some of the main industry players in the 1980s were Koei, Enix, PSK, ASCII and Jast. The two main systems for playing bishōjo games throughout the eighties were the FM-7 and PC-8801 and variants (the latter being dominant), early computers that were never released outside of Japan. In the late eighties, some games were also released for the MSX.

1990s

The industry gradually moved away from proprietary Japanese hardware to the burgeoning DOS platform, and then later in the decade to Windows. Throughout the nineties, bishōjo games underwent an evolution from being one of the most technologically demanding types of games (because their detailed 2D graphics required a large amount of storage space by the standards of early computers) to one of the least (they rarely use 3D graphics). Thus, more than regular games, the main employees required by bishōjo game companies today are not programmers but artists and writers.

In the early nineties the atmosphere in Japan became more and more hostile towards bishōjo games. In 1989 serial killer Tsutomu Miyazaki was arrested and was revealed to be a consumer of lolicon manga, causing widespread opposition to pornographic manga, otaku and anything similar. In November 1991 there was an incident where a middle-schooler shoplifted an adult bishōjo game Saori: the House of Beautiful Girls, resulting in increased police scrutiny for makers and retailers. Several prefectures began classifying games as obscene and pulling them off the shelves.

Faced with the threat of being forcibly censored out of existence by the government, in 1992 the bishōjo game industry formed the Computer Software Rinri Kikō (meaning "Ethics Organization for Computer Software", and often abbreviated EOCS or Sofu-rin), setting industry guidelines for acceptable content and packaging. This organization tamed down the most objectionable content in the "wild west" of the 1980s. Thus free from controversy and fueled by continuing improvement in technology, in the 1990s the bishōjo game industry underwent a decade-long boom.

A turning point was ELF's Dōkyūsei (1992). Dōkyūsei, whose gameplay focused on meeting girls and seducing them, established the standard conventions of the dating simulation genre. Another major release was Konami's port of Tokimeki Memorial to the PlayStation in 1995, which sold over a million copies. Tokimeki Memorial, the first dating sim, featured good graphics, full voice acting, and a role-playing game-like gameplay system. To be accessible to a more mainstream audience, it contained no erotic elements, seeking instead to create a "romantic" atmosphere. Sega's popular bishōjo game series Sakura Wars also first saw publication in 1996 for the Sega Saturn; like Tokimeki Memorial, it contained no erotic elements. However, it was unique in that it contained not only adventure-game elements but also a combat system borrowed from tactical combat games such as Tactics Ogre.

Since the late nineties, there has been a trend towards better storytelling in mainstream bishōjo games. Particularly notable in this respect are Leaf's To Heart (1997), and Key's Kanon (1999). Even though their gameplay involved little more than scrolling through text, they became hits largely due to the quality of their writing and characterization. Both were first released on the PC with erotic scenes, which were subsequently removed in their console ports.

Today the industry has grown, with most publishers making releases for Windows, but some of the least pornographic and most successful also branching off into the console market. The main consoles used for bishōjo games in the nineties were the Sega Saturn and Dreamcast. More recently the PlayStation 2 has been the console of choice with a growing number of games for the PlayStation Portable and Nintendo DS handhelds. Games ported to consoles usually have adult content removed.

Indeed, with regular Japanese game publishers focusing almost entirely on the console market, and with American PC games being unpopular in Japan, today the majority of retail single-player PC games in Japan are bishōjo games. However, unlike the rest of the Japanese game industry, this genre has never cracked any major foreign markets.

Reaction in the West

The English localization of Princess Maker 2, which was never officially released.

In the West, especially in the United States, the popular discussion of bishōjo games is widely plagued by disagreement and disapproval of pornography. The debate tends to be remarkably divided: on one hand, critics condemn the genre as totally pornographic, while on the other hand, enthusiasts deny this generalization. This question does not cause as much controversy in Japan.

The attempts to massively trade bishōjo games in the West have caused a certain degree of public controversy. An example of this is the attempt to release the PC game Princess Maker 2 in the United States. Though it was never officially released, a few newspapers critically accused the game of sexism. Adding to the uproar was a pre-release screen-capture containing nudity. It should be noted, however, that the game itself is not pornographic; there was some nudity which was already censored by American localizer SoftEgg, and the only way to see any real nudity is through an Easter egg cheat code. Princess Maker attracted negative attention due to the fact it was widely promoted as a mainstream video game, unlike other translated games which had been kept in adult-only channels as pornography.

The dōjinshi webcomic Megatokyo, popular among Western followers of anime, especially in the United States, was inspired in a large extent by dating sims. Megatokyo idealizes bishōjo games while simultaneously expresses another criticism commonly used in the West against them: that players resort to them as a form of escapism because they are socially inept (This type of criticism is also found in Japan, though in a quite different form: see otaku).

While translations of bishōjo games in English remain a relatively niche market confined mostly to the adult genre, elements of the gameplay do exist in a lot of games. Harvest Moon, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 and other games like them do focus on the social interaction and the romancing of attractive anime girls of the opposite sex. However, such games also much more social ties, even if the gameplay may favor social interaction with the latter.

Related terms

There are a number of terms roughly equivalent to "bishōjo game" in use, both in Japanese and English, and there is considerable disagreement and confusion about their proper use. There is no clear consensus on the precise meaning of many of the terms below. The naming difficulties reflect the fluid boundaries of the genre, as well as embarrassment caused by the pornographic nature of some of these games.

In general, "anime game" can be considered the most general term, and other names designate subgenres. Here are the most common terms currently in use:

  • Bishōjo game (or Girl game, Gal game)
This term designates any game involving pretty anime girls. The Japanese word "bishōjo" literally means "pretty young girl". "Girl game" and "gal game" are also used to describe these games.
Girls' "bishōnen" game where teenage boys and young adult males engage in homosexual relationships. Most such games are visual novels (see below). See also Yaoi game.
"maiden game", a game which is aimed at female players and features heterosexual relationships. Sometimes called a "reverse" harem/bishōjo game because the genders of the protagonist and the target characters are flipped.
Strictly speaking, this term designates the small subgenre of bishōjo games specifically focused on dating, the most famous being Tokimeki Memorial. However, this term is frequently used by English speakers to describe any love simulation.
  • Eroge (エロゲー), H game , Hentai (変態) game
These terms are used in English to designate anime games with explicit erotic or pornographic elements. "H" is a letter used in Japanese to refer to sexual content, and "erogē" is an abbreviation of "erotic game". "Hentai", meaning "pervert" in Japanese, is not used to describe these games in Japanese, but it is common in English. In Japan, hentai games are almost always sold for the PC, because console manufacturers such as Sony and Nintendo generally refuse to license pornographic games for their systems.
  • Raiser sim
This is a subgenre where the goal is to "raise" a character, training and educating him/her to improve his/her (usually numerically quantified) attributes. This resembles role-playing games except that the goal is to improve another character rather than yourself, not unlike a digital pet. The classic example is Princess Maker, where the player's task is to raise a girl into a queen. Another is the N64 game Wonder Project J2 with an orphaned robot girl. Many hardcore eroge also start from this premise, in which case the character to be "raised" is usually some kind of sexual slave. (This sub-genre is called "chōkyō" (調教 "training" (animals) / "breaking" (animals).)
A variation of the raiser sim genere involves the recuitment and training of pop idols in the guise of a music rhythm game. One game of this genere is the XBox 360 game The Idolmaster.
  • Romance game (恋愛ゲーム) or Love ADV game, Love sim
This term describes adventure games focusing on romantic interactions with anime girls. This term is generally used to describe games which have little or no pornography, or for which erotic content is not the main focus of the game. To describe hardcore pornographic games, eroge is preferred.
This is used to designate a type of game which is particularly story-focused, or containing novel-like narration in its writing. Often text appears on the entire screen (covering the background image) instead of sitting in a small textbox at the bottom of the screen. Examples of visual novels include To Heart (only available in Japanese) and Kana Imōto (translated to English as Kana: Little Sister).

Also, note that many Japanese games which are not strictly bishōjo games contain elements of the genre. Many mainstream Japanese role-playing games feature attractive anime girls (such as Final Fantasy VII's Tifa Lockhart), but they are usually not considered bishōjo games unless this is a central aspect of the game.

See also

References

External links

This article contains Japanese text. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of kanji and kana.
  • Insert Credit — A video game news site which often covers bishōjo games
  • Freetype — Bishōjo game reviews and opening movie downloads
  • JAST USA — Major licensor and distributor of English bishōjo games
  • Peach Princess — Licensor and translator of bishōjo games
  • J-List — Well-known retailer of bishōjo games and other products







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