Christians and Porn Games

It’s no secret that eroge is popular in Japan. In fact, these “porn games,” also referred to under the much larger category of visual novels if I may take the liberty of oversimplifying the medium, are often the object of many otaku’s interests. An entire genre of game that revolves around the inclusion of pornographic content seems, at first glance, to be the source of great division among fans. Thus, it may come as a surprise to many that we, as a Christian site, also like a number of visual novels, some of which are wholesome. This medium can often be rather controversial, especially in the West, where pornographic content seems to be viewed a bit more strictly, so what are people on each side of the argument for its existence to do?

Before digging into the meat of this issue, as the editor-in-chief here at Beneath the Tangles, I must make the explicitly Christian view (or at least the view we represent) entirely clear. Our underlying assumption is that pornography, in the popular sense, is morally wrong (Matt 5:28), and this is a point against which I assume few Christians will argue. Jesus contended that a man even looking at a woman lustfully was the equivalent of adultery, emphasizing this point to the degree that the Catholic tradition even considers lust one of the seven deadly sins. Yet, despite this obviously controversial issue, we, as a Christian entity, advocate for the reading of numerous visual novels, some of which are even created by studios that specialize in eroge.

If you check out our visual novel recommendations, we make it clear that we recommend many of these because of their uniquely deep, and sometimes even spiritual themes. However, we also are clear on the content within these, basing our recommendations on the concept of the “weaker brother” (I Corinthians 8:13), meaning that we take into account those Christians who are most negatively affected by content that others might find unobjectionable. If a visual novel with erotic content has truly redeemable value, can a Christian still read it and simply skip over those scenes? I would contend that it is possible in the same way that a Christian can watch Game of Thrones in a mature way. However, I must also qualify that by saying that it is extremely difficult to do so, and I know that I’m not strong enough to myself.

As innocuous as it seems,  Kanon started its life as an eroge
As innocuous as it seems, Kanon started its life as an eroge

Regardless, this is beyond the scope of the discussion for today. More importantly, for someone who disagrees with the inclusion of erotic or pornographic content in a visual novel/video game, namely a Christian who adheres to Christianity’s tenets in the way that we do at Beneath the Tangles, is it okay to support the industry and its studios? Someone in this situation, asking this question, is given three options with different moral implications (with the exception of simply avoiding them altogether):

  1. Buy and play eroge regardless of content, simply consuming them mindfully.
  2. Wait for localization effort to remove adult content before purchasing.
  3. Buy and play only visual novels produced by studios that do not produce eroge at all.

We’ve already briefly discussed the personal moral implications of the first option, but this option also has broader implications. Namely, your dollars are supporting the sales of a game being broadly purchased by fans who consume it either because of or in spite of its pornographic material.

The second option is void of the personal implications previously discussed, but does not lack the general implications. While you may be purchasing a version without the content you are avoiding, your money is still going back to the studio that produced said original content.

Based purely on the logic provided above, the third option is the only one that still involves purchasing visual novels without supporting the production of eroge… unless you count supporting the industry. For example, some studios flip back and forth between producing visual novels that are clean (Clannad by VisualArt’s/Key) and those that are not (Tomoyo After by the same studio). As much as some may not like to believe it, money spent on Clannad does indeed help to fund the production of other visual novels like Tomoyo After.

So what is a Christian, aspiring visual novel connoisseur to do? Give up and cry in the corner?

Personally, I easily fall into option two of the aforementioned three. I’ve purchased the console versions of Little Busters EX and Utawarerumono, which have the adult content of their original counterparts removed, purchased Rewrite and Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen (and many, many others), which don’t have adult content at all, but are produced by studios that make eroge, and also purchased unrelated visual novels like Narcissu. But, as someone mindful of my convictions and personal beliefs, what made my decision to enter and remain in this camp? Indeed, there is a point that I have not raised.

Does purchasing clean visual novels reward developers for forsaking porn?

A Tsukihime remake is on the way. What does this mean for Christians?
A Tsukihime remake has been rumored for years. If it removes the adult content, what does this mean for Christians?

Here’s a simple fact in the visual novel industry: Eroge developers rely on porn to sell. There are countless visual novels that have incredible stories, impressive enough to receive numerous adaptations into more accessible mediums (to varying degrees of success). While, recently, a number of these have been successful without sexual content, the history of visual novels has shown that incredible stories incorporated sex purely to sell copies (the epitome of fan service). Tsukihime, Kanon, Air, Utawarerumono, Fate/Stay Night, and hundreds or thousands more titles have stories that completely stand on their own, but still included gratuitous sex. The fact is, sex sells.

As a Christian myself, I ask, is it possible that the recent trend toward Western localization and the removal of adult content could change the industry? Many of the hundreds or thousands of titles with stories not dependent upon sexual content have seen “all ages” versions because there is demand. So, what if we drive that demand even further? Right now we’re getting “versions,” but what if the ultimate result was not the adult content being removed, but it never being created at all?

There are many differing opinions regarding this issue, and I don’t claim to be the answer (more than likely, supporting clean visual novels won’t make a lasting impression on the industry, anyway). However, for those who hate the industry, those who love it, and those who perhaps didn’t even know what it was before reading this article, I hope and pray that you consider not only what media you consume, not only why you consume it, but how your consumption affects both you and the world.

Oh, and go read Rewrite. It’s amazing.

 

28 thoughts on “Christians and Porn Games

  1. Honestly, I was a porn addict before I came to know Jesus Christ, so I have strong convictions against media that includes it willingly. For me personally, I simply cannot stomach reading visual novels with any eroge content at all because I myself cannot handle consuming it with a pure, Christ-like mind. This isn’t to say that others don’t have the ability, but I will not follow suit to others. Because of these convictions, I choose to not purchase or put my money towards any eroge/pornographic content, but will not condemn another Christian if they choose to do so for the right intentions.

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    1. It’s definitely hard to draw the line between what’s right for different people, and what should be a hard moral line. I appreciate your approach!

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  2. There is a very important aspect of the industry that you kinda danced around but never mentioned: what about the companies who only have the ability to create All-Ages games *because* people bought their eroge? This is especially relevant given how many times you brought up Key. You praise VNs like CLANNAD and Rewrite for being meaningful visual novels AND not having sex scenes, but I question the prospect that these wonderful stories would exist at all if other meaningful games such as Kanon and AIR had sold well with the sex scenes.

    Indeed, this extends to your second option as well. How would a company have the money, or more importantly a *reason* to localize and/or remove the adult content from the game if it had not sold well in the first place. This almost turns into a game of “does the end justify the means?”

    Following from that, option 3 is, as of right now, decidedly inviable. I can count the number of companies putting out visual novels worth buying that have never made an game with sexual content on one hand. This could be something that changes, however, with the current trend of expanding into the West.

    Ultimately, this dilemma is much more complex, and goes much deeper into economics and morals that anyone would probably wish it to be. Nonetheless, this was a wonderfully written article, and it was a great introduction to an aspect that definitely needs to be considered, regarding not only visual novels, but all forms of media.

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    1. Exactly as you said, I touched on that in point two. And what I touched on there is, sadly, just about the only solid conclusion I can offer. It’s not really even like I can say that Key “moved on” from eroge, as they have continued to create them alongside their all ages content. That said, Rewrite is a perfect example of all ages content with some of the best spiritual imagery I’ve seen in quite some time.

      As you noted, this is a terribly complex issue, and one that I can’t really definitively answer. I would rather consider to pursue my thoughts on it, however, than just ignore it and continue to do as I please (as I’m sure you agree!).

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  3. I have never read a VN so….I can’t write much of an opinion. I do agree though, there is way too much sexy scenes in anime/manga for sure. In almost every single one, it’s there. In fact, my personal way of figuring out if one has a lot of it, is just by looking at the cover of the anime online when the new fall/winter season comes out. If it has girls drawn in certain ways…..I know to skip that one. Or I just watch the intro to confirm my suspicions.

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  4. I think there are two layers to think about. The layer you seem to be stuck on is the “tax” layer in which best answered by Jesus in the “do you pay temple tax” question. Paying tax is directly supporting the government (in that context), the answer there applies equally here. I think the moment you start to be a part of the “conversation” so to speak, you are a part of the enterprise, the fandom, the scene, that deals with erotic content. But I think it does not mean you have to compromise your moral stance for it. That’s the second layer in which you address (eg., Paul’s concern.)

    The consumption of media that contains erotic or pornographic content doesn’t defile you, it’s what’s inside you. Each to his own here, but I think freedom of expression applies in both what you choose to enjoy for video games/anime/literature/etc as well as what you choose to avoid.

    Personally there’s a huge cultural gap that a western-centric, Christian point of view is not going to grasp easily in which limit this fairly interesting question in its ultimate usefulness. It’s like trying to go from US to Japan on crutches when you really need is an airplane.

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    1. You make a fair point that porn consumption doesn’t defile you (personally speaking), it’s your reception of it (it’s the reason why seeing a picture of a naked person isn’t inherently wrong, as it could happen by accident or not be of a sexual nature at all). However, I think few people can dwell on that type of content and by be affected by it.

      It also ignores the objectivism it portrays of women (things of strictly pornographic nature, I mean).

      I think In Search of Japan’s Hidden Christians and Silence are two great books on Christianity in Japan that demonstrate the huge culture gap between Japan and the West. I am personally extremely frustrated when someone’s Western Christianity gets in the way of his or her Christ-centered Christianity, so I think we’re on the same page there.

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  5. I can’t understand why anyone would play visual novels specifically for the sex scenes. I can understand the moral objections against pornography, but even without those concerns in mind, those specific scenes are so poorly written and distracting. It’s better to do without them.

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    1. I would tend to agree with you, but I also read VNs for the story. Sex is sex, and sex sells. You also have to consider that the majority of VNs are pretty mediocre, so the sex scenes really are the driving force behind them.

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  6. I like Narcissu, Season of 12 Colors, and Ame no Marginal. All of them are beautiful and appropriate visual novels with deep meaningful stories. I am not a fan at all of eroge or ecchi so I get VNs developed by developers who do not create eroge games. I hope one day more of high quality VNs without eroge content will become popular and main stream.

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    1. I haven’t read the second two, but I also love Narcissu! Narcissu Side 2nd is also great, and offers a unique take on Christianity (something not often seen in VNs!).

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      1. Ame no Marginal is another visual novel from the creators of Narcissu, the story telling is very high quality and it also has a sad and meaningful story. Season of 12 Colors is from a small Chinese developer but is equally high quality minus some spelling and grammatical errors.
        It’s great that Narcissu did so well that we are now getting the rest of the series, I hope that Ame no Marginal will be re-released as the trilogy it was meant to be. Both are such beautiful games.

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  7. I love this post, and I knew it was going to be worth a read literally from the subject line. Japesland, you did not beat around the bush; you did not try to use euphemisms or to be vague about the subject matter. You were open and honest about how this post was going to cover a difficult topic, and I think those characteristics are integral to any fair and frankly Godly discussion about sex, or love (even if not romantic) for that matter. You are asking a question that I think has value and implications FAR behind eroge, and I deeply thank you for sharing your thoughts on this issue without belittling Godly guidance (“do whatever you want without considering the potential consequences”) or lacking information and compassion (“don’t watch or play X because it’s bad”).

    (Background)

    My approach to this specific combination subject matter might be the opposite of some of your all’s. I usually tend to ignore visual novels, but my first and really only complete exploration of anything in the medium was the widely known and praised * Katawa Shoujo, in all of its explicitness (this was an area I also had to work through with guidance from God’s Holy Spirit), its tenderness, and its sympathetic but not cloying treatment of its characters and their respective struggles, which generally had nothing to do with their respective disabilities.

    * (safe link; it’s just a database I’m citing)

    The nudity in the work kept Katawa Shoujo off of Beneath the Tangles’ own visual-novel recommendation list for anyone who might be new to this site and might not know if Beneath the Tangles had heard about this story. More encouragingly, however, the site did publish a how-to guide for referring to individuals without disabilities without making that characteristic the primary way of identifying someone or “conspicuously ignoring it.”

    Short version: The only VN I remember reading all of (I’ve read a tiny part of Narcissu) was sexually explicit, unless Go Go Nippon counts as a VN. One person once asked me out of curiosity how I as a Christian dealt with the sexual content, particularly in the context of fornication. As best as I recall, my answer to that person was that I as a believer don’t always endorse every aspect of a work designed to entertain, but I primarily came to Katawa Shoujo in order to see how it handled its premise and portrayed its relationships, hoping they would be at least somewhat realistic. I walked away impressed, even with the work’s flaws, and I still am to this day.

    —-

    When I was growing up, I was told very little about sex. My parents signed the permission forms, and my public school taught me the mechanical aspects including birth control. My church was responsible enough to tell me to wait for marriage but told me basically nothing else of usefulness. I had such a sheltered view of the world that I thought a middle-school friend of mine was exaggerating or lying when she told me she was sexually active. “No one in the world would do that–God said not to!” My upbringing in this area largely amounted to Mom or Dad saying don’t-watch/play-this and not really giving a specific reason.

    “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect…” ~ excerpt from 1 Corinthians 15:10, New International Version

    God’s work on my heart and His influence on my character took a sharp upswing when, one day when I was in high school, some of my peers found out I was in love with a certain girl (not just because of her beautiful body–I greatly admired her character and her heartbreakingly strenuous work ethic), and they emotionally tormented me with taunts about the sexual things they assumed I wanted to do to her. Their choices of words were crude and demeaning, and I still hear them in my heart to this day. I’ve had other negative experiences I’d rather not get into the details of, but the core of this is that even from the time I was young, God called me to a higher standard of relationship conduct (even if I did have my downturns that thankfully God pulled me out of) than a lot of my friends and classmates liked to live up to when I watched how they behaved. Hence, even when I was extremely popular and highly regarded–throughout the last half of middle school and nearly all of my high school–I often tended to feel lonely because I felt, and sometimes still do feel, that I had no one to really talk to about the most intimate and deeply personal parts of life. Would I have made things awkward with my parents if I’d pressed for these conversations? (I’m adopted, so for a long time I honestly believed my parents never even tried to have biological children. Dad only discussed sex in emotionally distant contexts like political scandals. Mom basically never said anything except for don’t-do-this.)

    My church youth group really didn’t help, as I was discussing with another individual on BtT’s Discord channel. Even half my life ago, when I was in the middle of high school (frankly, shortly before a number of my friends started getting pregnant), I was sitting in youth meetings wondering if there was anything more to Godly intimacy and sexuality than hearing “don’t have sex before marriage” over and over. To this day I still wish I’d pushed harder and really pressed my instructors for good and thorough answers, and this is something I and my God-willing-future-bride should be the FIRST line of information to teach my future children about (Proverbs 22:6).

    (Body–of believers in Jesus Christ [Galatians 6:1-2], as well as of this post)

    I think discussion of Godly intimacy and sexuality has to be more than about lust and the “don’t-do-this”es, especially to single people who in my experience tend to be the most vulnerable to not knowing what to actually do with the natural and healthy aspects of those desires when they do arise, and sometimes that’s just biological. Ask a group of Christians, “Should believers in the Lord masturbate?”, never mind whether they should look at pornography (in animated form or otherwise) or even–for some people I’ve met–engage in premarital sex, and I would expect a division of answers. I don’t think we as believers should be so divided about anything (1 Corinthians 1:10).

    I’m about to be deeply, painfully honest about my own experiences, and I’m sorry if this is too much info. I have viewed pornography, not just in terms of Katawa Shoujo but of real-life people as well, owing to a number of motivational factors that I think were primarily sandwiched between a desire to have been married and in a stable job (I had a great position and an independent life and quickly got laid off, much to the sympathy of my wonderful coworkers I often still hear from to this day) by this point in my life, and previous emotional trauma I think I convinced myself “wasn’t important” because people around me went through worse things. As I mentioned, when I was in high school I was basically at the very top of the social structure, and I had a sort of bird’s-eye view at my school’s various ‘groups’ of friends and interests, including what was sort of an informal outcast caste. Likewise, once I got out of college, I made several friends in succession who happened to have been raped; since I hadn’t experienced anything like that, I told myself that my own emotional traumas, which still sting and go beyond the ones I mentioned earlier, just weren’t that important. In the middle of all this, my heartbreak from a long string of relationships never getting off the ground, and the lack of positive guidance from my churches, I turned to the Internet and the Bible, the only resources I could come up with.

    The short version is that I think I’m on the other side of the parabola. Even if not nearly as often or as intensely as I used to browse these things, I still struggle. Even as a longtime Christian, I still have struggles, moral confusions, and days and moments where I simply don’t know what the best thing to do to honor God really is (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). It’s not okay to willfully reject the command of the Lord (Hebrews 10:26), but it is okay to admit that we are not perfect and that we need the Lord’s spirit within us.

    I did not lust for the girls that I saw, and I still don’t (Job 31:1). I don’t know if that makes my actions right, or if that makes my viewing of the Game of Thrones show right. But are these things BEST? Will these things, or perhaps God working in the midst of them, altogether spur me to dwell on the beautiful and flawless things mentioned in Philippians 4:8? This is a question only my very closest friends ever encouraged me in, and my churches rarely if ever did.

    (I don’t know if this is satire. But to me it speaks to how a lot of “romances” I’ve seen come across as wish fulfillment, not as a call from God for us to act responsibly and to become the mature people our would-be partners need us to be.) A lot of the reasoning for why I viewed these things in the first place was that I wanted to know how to use my body, my spirit, and my intimate desires in unison to deeply and richly bless my future wife’s well-being, to think first of her needs instead of my own. This admittedly wasn’t the best place to be looking, but again, I didn’t get a lot of guidance from any one source growing up except primarily from God alone.

    One of the real catalysts in my desire to leave pornography behind was/is that I find a lot of it morally repulsive. Sex and sexual body parts are given so much significance that in removing all of the relational context, they lose all of their actual significance. I don’t like the crude terminology a lot of people use when talking about it, especially when talking about what they desire for others to do for them. It’s as though people are nothing but pieces of meat, even in cases where they’re simply showing themselves off, similarly to “tame” HBO content such as the “Rome” pilot. (Though I see this elsewhere even in “normal” contexts. A friend of mine models, and even though a lot of her work is partially revealing, she has her own set limits about what she will not do. She’s received a number of comments even on her normal work where some people very crudely ask her to do one thing or another, which she does not respond happily to. She’s engaged, last I checked. I’d rather not guess how he feels.)

    So where does that leave us? I can’t speak for others’ motivations, or whether they lust from watching pornography or Game of Thrones or reading the Song of Solomon, or what God has led them to do. But I firmly believe that the Church should be the first place people feel safe (second to parents alone, if even that) where they can learn about Godly and responsible sexuality, not the last place. The reason I mention Song of Solomon is–this still stings to think about–I had church friends in high school who were embarrassed to read it, and I had a ministry friend in college who thought Solomon was a pervert. WHY? I think it’s a woefully underrated book that there should be no shame in teaching, especially to our young people. Read “The Book of Romance” by Tommy Nelson, which I thought was superb and Bible-focused and supported. Other books like “Every Man’s Battle” and John Eldredge’s “Wild at Heart” felt like they were focusing on what the author believed, not on what the Bible said.

    Though I won’t need to stay on it for long, I’m about to get into a lot of explicit detail about my own desires and about what I think God has called for all of us. I apologize if it makes anyone uncomfortable, but this, and all of me, is where I need God to make me holy. What is my TREASURE, when it comes right down to it (Matthew 6:21), and in so asking, where is my heart? My treasure cannot be a woman’s vagina (life? Her pleasure and health? I’ve often tried to figure out if my heart ascribes some symbolic significance to the various things it has yearned for–though not out of the context of the rest of a person), nor her breasts (nourishment? Societal forbidden fruit?), because if I am not valuing and placing importance on the whole of a person, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually (even the flaws), I personally feel like I am not giving that person my very best, and the very best of what they deserve from me and from others (John 15:12).

    ———

    I will tell you what I think has really produced the most positive results for me. I began pouring my heart and its most intimate desires to the Lord, in every socially embarrassing detail, holding nothing back, praying over every aspect of how (God willing) I want to someday love and serve a woman (Ephesians 5:21-30), not as a slave or an inferior but as Jesus came to serve (Mark 10:42-45) and to give this special woman every reason to feel beautiful in all of her dimensions–not just the detached and often arbitrary physical–from the inside out. A lot of what I looked for in these images and videos had a symbolic root in my wanting to be a special girl’s relief, her refuge (in Christ), her catharsis at the end of a stressful day, so to speak. I asked and still need to ask the Lord to make all of these desires holy. I know and understand and believe that God knows all of our needs (Matthew 6:32), and I think a lot of my struggles were that I felt like I had no one to talk to about those for fear that they were shameful to have or discuss no matter whether they were others-focused or not. And I would love to do what I can to be God’s method of provision to someone else who needs this kind of encouragement.

    @Japesland, I once wrote into “Untangled” expressing my spiritual anguish over one particularly callous act in the film “Noah” — http://www.beneaththetangles.com/2015/01/15/untangled-i-like-this-anime-but/ (it basically ruined my enjoyment of an otherwise well made film, not because of a moral objection per se but because even that short scene is disproportionately terrifying to watch) — and I have not forgotten your mention of how you were not personally comfortable with watching Game of Thrones for similar reasons in light of your own desires. I have been praying for you and your desires, and I think you will make a wonderful husband someday if the Lord wills you are blessed with that opportunity.

    I think American society is in the midst of growing pains. I don’t think the sexual revolution has necessarily made intimate relationships healthier, and I don’t think it’s made sexuality significantly less of an embarrassing or taboo subject. I stopped watching a variety of sitcoms after a few episodes because I think reducing sex to innuendo instead of being open and honest about it does it a disservice that deeply bothers my own heart. But in an area where Game of Thrones is one of the hottest things going, where The Witcher III: Wild Hunt receives hundreds of awards and accolades (I’ve only played bits of its predecessors, but the games and source material don’t shy away from sex, even in places where they’re irresponsible and reckless about it), and where religious and secular outrage about stories like Fifty Shades of Grey quite possibly fueled a great deal of its publicity, to the point where Focus on the Family caught undeserved flack — http://pluggedin.focusonthefamily.com/far-more-fifty-shades-comments/ — for even bothering to review it*, I think the Church needs to become a safe haven where people will be valued as people no matter their sexual history or orientation (I think the Bible treats sex as something that you *do* and are responsible for, not something that you *are*, but that’s beside the point), because if we don’t talk to people about something they deeply value and long for, and help to fill the void left by unmet desires that it’s simply not the right time to have completely fulfilled just yet, someone else will.

    And sometimes those conversations get ridiculous, like treating a woman’s mastectomy pictures (*shown*, by the way) as offensive — http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/25/joanne-jackson-breast-cancer-survivor-mastectomy-facebook-photo_n_1545858.html — or treating a high-school student’s collarbone as inappropriate — http://www.today.com/style/kentucky-student-violates-high-school-dress-code-exposed-collarbone-t39211 — and none of these would-be controversies will teach us how to be altogether holy and intentionally positive in the way we treat other people. I think so much of society and even some parts of some churches I’ve been in excessively emphasize “how not to be a bad person” without giving practical advice for “how to be the ~*best*~ person I can be,” regardless of whether other people or circumstances or advertisements make that easy or convenient or not. The Lord is my shepherd (Psalm 23:1, King James).

    * (this is not the review of the movie itself and does not go deeply into the subject matter, but you might not want to read the comments if you’re sensitive to people stirring up debates).

    ——

    (Conclusion)

    If you really want to know what I think, I don’t want to emphasize that you can or can’t watch porn or play eroge without sinning. I think it “can” be done, especially if a person is strong in the Lord and yearning to please Him, but I also think that if (if) we are using these things to fill a deeper need, there is no way God left us on this earth to try to subsist off of these things for fear of spiritually and emotionally starving, and I think we as the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27) will do the world a huge favor by bearing one another’s burdens and by acting in harmony in accordance to the gifts that God has blessed us with (1 Corinthians 12). Do you want to do something you don’t know if God will bless? Pray over it (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Is there a significant feeling in your heart that what you are doing is wrong? You’re better off saying no and waiting for the Lord to lead you (Romans 14). Pray over your motivations. Pray for an ability to honor the Lord and to bless others in the things you take in, not only with your eyes but with your heart, and in the things you give to people, not only with your hands but with your tongue, and your eyes as well.

    But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.

    “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” (2 Peter 1:2, NIV)

    Oh, and see also this. http://www.kimberleysuchta.com/2014/09/26/facing-the-awkwardness-to-fight-satan-why-we-should-talk-about-sex/

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  8. Sekai Project has been a great boon for the spread of VNs and the promotion of all-ages releases in general, and to me in particular. For the most part, if there’s not an all-ages version in English, I won’t read it, so I’m grateful for their work.

    That said, I was willing to read Katawa Shoujo (in large part because the sex scenes are skippable), and it’s still my favorite VN to date. If a story achieves a certain degree of value or goodness, then it has the potential to outweigh unsavory content in my mind. Of course, such a balance is impossible to quantify, and some would say that kind of trade-off is unacceptable, but it’s what I do.

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    1. I’ve actually read KS, but even though the sex scenes are skippable, the unskippable nudity (and the temptation for many to uncheck the “skip” button) prevent me from recommending it wholeheartedly. Plus, reading some real classics made me realize that it wasn’t as incredible as I thought it was when I first read it.

      All of that said, the 1.1 patch includes an updated version of the song “Red Velvet,” which features me playing saxophone 😛

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      1. In all seriousness, can you tell me what these real classics are? I haven’t read many visual novels compared to what’s out there, but what little I’ve seen hasn’t managed to dislodge KS in my mind yet (though it could just be a matter of preference).

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        1. As far as “all ages” VNs with more easily-accessible copies, Rewrite is a staff favorite (by staff I mean Kaze and me), but it’s great for entirely different reasons than KS.

          Hardcore VN fans would probably cite the following four clean (though check the content first as “clean” can be interpreted differently) VNs as being classics for different reasons:

          Little Busters: Can’t say much about it without spoiling it, but it has some rather unprecedentedly amazing storytelling by the end.

          Ever17: While not incredible, it was one of the first VNs to really push the medium and tell a story that is otherwise impossible.

          Narcissu: Created largely by one person, it was one of the first “indie” VNs to make a significant impact on the industry.

          True Remembrance: Not incredibly by any means, but it was created around the same era as Narcissu, and pushed the medium by its “indie” development and popularization.

          If you can find some all-ages versions of Kanon and Air, I also recommend them (Kanon because it was one of the first VNs as we know them today, as opposed to a dating sim, and Air because of its story).

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        2. In addition to the ones Japes listed, I’ll list some classics that might not be clean or translated, just so you can have an idea of what’s critically acclaimed.

          Soukou Akki Muramasa – definitely one of the most well received VNs ever made.

          Umineko no Naku Koro Ni – incredibly interesting take on the mystery genre

          Kara no Shoujo – highly praised murder mystery

          Oretachi ni Tsubasa wa Nai – just absolutely amazing writing incorporated into a “VN-only” story

          Cross Channel – received similar praise as Ever17 as an early work which really utilized the VN medium to tell its story.

          Tsukihime – has a lot of flaws but definitely a classic with great world building

          MuvLuv trilogy – Attack on Titan done far, far better

          Dies irae – kind of the epitome of how chuunibyou can work really well in Japanese when done right but completely untranslatable due to its language acrobatics

          Kimi to Kanojo to Kanojo to Koi – fairly recent so I can’t say it’s classic, but it told one of the most unique stories in one of the most unique ways that I think will be remembered for some time

          I can definitely see how personal preference plays in role, but some of these titles, in addition to having (in my opinion) better stories, have very high quality writing. This means English translations usually fail to do them justice because it’s so hard to replicate very talented writing styles and prose. Maybe you don’t place as much value on literal sentence by sentence writing quality versus the overall story, but that’s definitely one aspect of why some titles receive more praise than others.

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  9. This post brings up an interesting thought for me, largely because projectedrealities mentioned wish fulfillment offhand and it sent me off on a classically Luminas tangent. But it does somewhat relate to the central issue. Eroge aren’t the only type of visual novel that involves romantic content— There are games for women known as “otome games” available as well. But the thing is, due in large part to the desires of the female audience, otome games don’t usually involve explicit depictions of sex. The entire point of the game is instead to be the object of desire for multiple attractive men, and to pick one of them to engage in an idealized romantic relationship with. This is in keeping with the (ordinarily) decreased sex drive of most women, who care more about the mental and societal characteristics of their partners than the physical.

    But the thing is…A lot of men seem to misunderstand or have trouble grasping this, but women fetishize the mental characteristics of the men they like as much as men fetishize the bodies of the women they like. We’re all sinners, after all. When I think of intimacy, it’s not bodies and intimate acts I’m picturing, but a man’s deep and arrogant voice whispering somewhat twisted sweet nothings into my ear. Is the problem with the content the physical act of intercourse, or the intent of reducing another human being to a mere object of sexual interest?

    The Bible seems more interested in the actual act of adultery, but Jesus notes that even being attracted to a woman is to commit adultery with her in your heart. But what do you do when the person you’re looking at doesn’t actually exist, and really could not actually exist, and is in fact your creation or someone else’s? Or what if you have that desire for a person you will never be able to meet, touch, or engage in intimate acts with? Basically, is an impossible-to-realize sexual desire a sin?

    I suspect the correct answer is “All of the above, the problem is deifying and idolizing someone who is not God, and seeking what you can never have.” But if so, it seems to be an aspect of sin that is impossible to avoid.

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    1. “I suspect the correct answer is ‘All of the above, the problem is deifying and idolizing someone who is not God, and seeking what you can never have.’ But if so, it seems to be an aspect of sin that is impossible to avoid.”

      I think you answered your own question here, part of which is realizing the difficulty of this. This is part of what defines the Christian idea of sin insomuch as humans are ultimately rather helpless creatures that can only overcome this shortcoming by the grace of God. I’ve sinned, I sin, and I will continue to sin. It is my trust in Jesus’ saving grace, and my consequent desire to minimize or completely erase this sin from my life that defines the difference in my life.

      One thing I will have to give you, though, is that, as a male, it’s hard for me to understand and address the female perspective. Maybe this is a good topic for one of our female staff to tackle 😛

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    2. I wanted to say thank you very much for the mention! I think you make a really good point about the physical and emotional aspects since usually I hear the former and primarily the former argued over back and forth (I personally haven’t heard much debate over whether to formally censor “somewhat twisted sweet nothings” as with various parts of a person’s body, for example, unless the sweet nothings are themselves profane or sexual).

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      1. Well….it’s complicated. Said sweet nothings aren’t usually sexual or describing anything sexual. The reason they’re twisted is that they’re coming out of the mouth of a selfish, powerful, sociopath-esque person whose intention is to possess the person they’re speaking to. Almost akin to what might happen if Lord Voldemort had worked out Harry Potter was a human Horcrux.

        I find this alone more sexually arousing than any human body part, and the Person who best employs it knows this about me. In context, I find it extremely hard to argue that there isn’t an element of perverseness and selfishness to the whole thing, even though nothing explicit ever happens. It makes me think that lust shouldn’t be and isn’t limited to pornographic ideas.
        The Master seeking absolute willing submission for no other reason than himself, something which is normally very unlikely, and the servant seeking to be desired by an idealistic perfection of a person or Concept. Both seeking Sin.

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  10. This is a little belated, but this was a very interesting article. However, I’m left with a bit of a gap, because there are usually two immediate and primary concerns when I hear (or am discussing) media with/among Christians. The other thing I usually hear asked about is violence. For me, there’s an incredible disconnect between how Western Christians are able to handle an incredible amount of violence and gore, but the slightest hint of nudity and/or sex automatically gets a rejection response.

    The Bible doesn’t blanket all lust and sex under sinful. The love between a man and woman is celebrated – I can obviously point to the Song of Solomon as the primary example, but there are others. Many Biblical stories revolve around the miracle of conception and being able to have children (often with God’s help). While there are eroge’s that can feature or even star having multiple partners, why aren’t the ones that have (once the character one wants to pursue is chosen) a one-and-only pairing falling into more of a grey area? Is a single picture of a sexually-explicit nature enough to ruin someone’s morality?

    Not that I want to blow that off, but it strikes me as almost hypocritical that a physiological response, one that a person has no control over in terms of what inspires that feeling, is almost blown up in contrast to how violence is played down.

    When I watch certain anime or certain shows, the bad guys are…. bad, at least within my own personal and cultural context. I often want them dead. I /cheer/ when they die. I think I can say with a fair amount of certainty that most Christians feel the same way. Why isn’t this as much of a problem? After watching something violent, I’m no more likely to go out killing someone than I am to go out having a one night stand after seeing something sexy. To add another dimension to that, if I found someone to love and who loved me in turn I’d have sex with them, but I would never be violent towards them, and only under circumstances would be violent *for* them (see: people who get girlfriends/boyfriends to beat up or kill someone else).

    Perhaps it isn’t the single-pairing eroge VNs themselves, it’s the cultural/religious context Western Christians have when viewing them. Americans have a different view towards sexuality than Europe and Africa and India, how do Christians in those areas view this issue? Is there an issue? It’s something that would be very interesting to explore, because while I’ve been saying ‘Western Christians’ not all Christians in the Western Hemisphere have the same viewpoint.

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    1. I completely understand your concern, and can empathize as well. One of my greatest frustrations with Western culture is its obsession with non-biblical violence. Additionally, the concept of a game celebrating a single pairing could perhaps be argued to be morally gray.

      With that said, however, I think your comments are a bit misplaced in regard to the topic of this article.

      For one, even if an eroge celebrates a “one-and-only pairing,” that pairing is not the reader’s “one-and-only pairing,” but the character’s. Reading a story and inserting yourself into the character’s shoes is one thing, but carrying that to sexually explicit extremes is another. Additionally, while I’m sure they exist, I can’t think of a single eroge off the top of my head that has sexual content with only a single target character.

      Second, while your argument is EXTREMELY relevant to the discussion of anime, it isn’t as much relevant to VNs. This is because VNs generally do not contain the same gratuitous blood and gore of their animated equivalents.

      Regardless, I appreciate your input! It adds greatly to the discussion to hear another’s point of view, and I’d welcome any other responses you might have!

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    2. I wanted to say that you make so, so many good points. For me, as far as killing in entertainment goes, I think that “logically” it would make sense to give all presentations of it the same moral weight (within the same context, e.g., not comparing the murder of civilians to a mandatory boss battle or destroying robots) whether they’re up-close and gory or they’re at a distance or on a spreadsheet like in the video game Crusader Kings.

      I think the Bible does present “lust” as sinful (“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” ~ Matthew 5:28, NIV; “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman” ~ Job’s statement in Job 31:1), but I don’t think that all sexual attraction and desire is necessarily lustful or even selfish. I think it is possible to hold these desires in such a way that you primarily want your spouse or future spouse to be deeply and richly blessed inside and out by those desires and your love for them, so manifested in this way.

      I can empathize with what you’re saying about cheering when bad guys die, even as God has reminded me of Proverbs 24:17-18 (“Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice, 18 or the Lord will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from them,” NIV) over the years. I can say that I did rejoice when Saddam Hussein was captured, even as I think I should have prayed more for his salvation, and even when real-life bad guys *need* to be brought to justice, I think it does follow that we as Christians should extend at least some pity to them for their outreach, even if the best-case “I repented” scenario might not do much for the people they’ve hurt. But I guess that is the unearthly beauty of the Gospel, in that it extends beyond whatever agendas, hurts, and vendettas any of us might have. But I can say that in video games, I’m thankful whenever I win fights, not because I hated my enemy but because I value my fictional survival and want to go on treasuring it without taking it for granted. But I think in either case, whether of sex or violence (which in the real world is always a tragedy even in the most justified scenarios), it’s possible for a work to either try to uphold Godly/selfless morals, or to fetishize parts of the human body without really appreciating all of it as a single whole.

      I think that in this country, I don’t always agree with the cultural religious or secular perspectives regarding sexuality, where the one seems to treat sex as primarily spiritual and downplay the physical (as if it were taboo), and the other seems to do the opposite, as if sex is just an animalistic urge to fulfill and forget about until the next time the desire arises, without a focus on long-term priorities and commitments. But I think that both sides have a great deal to learn and to gain from the God who designed sex and all of its physical and spiritual beauty and who calls people to humility, not to pride or embarrassment or “I’m getting more than you/I’m more physically ideal than you” gloating. As it is, I think the approach toward sexuality and its depiction in this country tends to go into bizarre territories when you stop and think about how, in American culture, a woman can show part of her breast, but not the nipple, which is considered indecent for whatever reason, and this specific prohibition to the best of my knowledge is nowhere in Scripture. And so on for any number of other various body parts except that in my experience the standards tend to be heavier on what women cannot do. My question is not, “Who makes these rules,” whether men do it or not, but rather, “How is any of this supposed to help make us more motivated to honor God with our sexuality?” Your question about other cultures and their approach to sexuality is interesting, because I was listening to someone else the other day who was briefly asking why Americans seem to be so obsessed with sex, and the response this person got was that we were crawling out of our prudishness or something? I don’t remember the exact words. But really I feel like open and honest discussion of sexuality in our “liberated” culture isn’t really any easier or less taboo than it ever was, and I can’t lay the blame exclusively at the foot of the Church for this.

      Blessings to you, and I wish you the very best. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

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