Understanding Gender by Dressing up Yakuza

So when looking up how to play golf correctly in Yakuza 3 (Ryu ga Gotoku 3) I came across a review of Yakuza 4 that had come out before that game’s Western release.  In the beginning, the reviewer teases this bit:

“Its visual representation of Japan is astonishingly accurate, and though its endless series of street-brawls and bizarre side-missions can hardly be called a true-to-life portrayal of everyday life in Tokyo, the game does offer a fascinating insight into Japanese attitudes and melodramatic storytelling culture – right down to the institutionalised sexism, unfortunately, but we’ll get to that.”

So you know I had to read on.

Kiryu and Goro: you know you feel the sexual tension.

So way far down we finally get to this:

“The frighteningly detailed hostess grooming that SEGA (perhaps wisely) removed from Yakuza 3 for its release in the West is also back, and has now been integrated into the first character’s story. God knows how they’ll manage to take it out now. Essentially you pick a girl, and adjust every conceivable aspect of her appearance so that you can sell her company at the hostess club for a higher price. It’s not Yakuza 4’s only troubling depiction of women’s role in Japanese society – there’s also an onsen ping-pong mini-game where the objective isn’t so much to win as to aim the ball at your date’s breasts so that she falls over and sprawls provocatively on the ground.”

Jeez, “frighteningly detailed hostess grooming?”  What an unnecessarily dark description for a dress-up game.  Because that is all it is.  You get a character that you can dress up however you like.

Here’s a Joker inspired one that I made.

But if you want to play the game you have to listen to what type people in the club want and then play with the dress up game trying to make an outfit combination that fits that type (e.g. people in my club said they wanted a natural type so I took the makeup, hair-dye, and jewelery off my Joker and I was able to pass the first level).  It’s just an arbitrary goal to give you an excuse to play around in the dress-up simulator more.

Now certainly the theme is dressing up to appear attractive to the male customers, but how is that any different than real life?  Probably almost everyone has dressed to appear attractive to their desired sex at least once in their lives.  It is so common we don’t even blink when girls do it.  The website girlsgogames.com even has an entire subcategory of dress up games titled “Dating Dress Up Games,” at least one of which involves dressing up a guy to suit your tastes.

Dress Up Date Games from Girls Go Games

Which I think is the reviewer’s real problem with this game:  the target audience appears to be males.  Playing games that involve putting on pretty dresses and make-up is totally fine for girls, but is somehow creepy and perverted when boys do it.

But a dress up game for boys is not the “only troubling depiction of women’s role in Japanese society.”  No no, there’s also flirting while you’re on a date!  Seriously, being a bit cheeky with the date you’re playing ping-pong with doesn’t have anything to do with “women’s role in Japanese society.”  I used to make out in the backs of movie theaters on dates, is that a “troubling depiction” of something?  Maybe.

The long and short of it is that if you’re looking for something you’re sure to find it.  If you approach Japan (as many Westerners do) with the preconceived notion that it’s especially sexist, you’ll see sexism everywhere.  But if you really want to get at the truth, you need to ditch preconceptions and look at things as they are.

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