A couple days ago, a controversy sprung up surrounding content within the game called Fire Emblem Fates. It involves two characters in the game, the male protagonist and a female character named Soleil. She is presented as a lesbian character (at least strongly implied she is one) who is very easily flustered around other women, to the point of fainting. She wants to be “strong and cool” (her words) around women, but can’t pull it off. So, the male protagonist has an idea of how to help… Nintendo World Report gives an excellent summary of it:
He spikes her drink with a “magic powder” that makes her see women as men and vice-versa to help her “practice” around women. This was done without her knowing, as she fails to recognize the protagonist at the start of the conversation. Once the magic wore off, she found herself attracted to the male protagonist, and ends up proposing to him, saying that she fell in love with the female version of him, but now loves him as a male. This was interpreted by many as not only casually drugging someone in order to alter their state of mind, but as a means of “gay conversion therapy”, a method used by many religious organizations to change one’s sexual orientation from gay to straight. This method is often seen as scientifically unfounded, abusive, and heteronormative. – Curtis Bonds, Nintendo World Report
For more context, you can find the transcripts of the exchange here.
The outrage sprung up only after Nintendo announced they were removing the scenes in their North American and European release for the game. When questioned about it, Nintendo released an official statement: “In the version of the game that ships in the U.S. and Europe, there is no expression which might be considered as gay conversion or drugging that occurs between characters.” There’s no evidence to suggest that this scene would be removed from the Japanese version of the game. But considering it has been six months since the original release, it seems unlikely they would remove it.
It is difficult to say what the controversy is at this point. Yes, the character did something that was clearly horrible. Even if it was presented in the very best light, and done for the best of reasons, having a male protagonist slip anything into the drink of anyone without their consent or permission is never good. The terribleness of the action is not in question. Or at least should not be in question (I’ve seen comments on various sites that attempt to defend it). But, Nintendo removed it completely for the Western audiences who would take greater offense to that sort of behavior. In other words, it is no longer going to be present in the game for the Western audience.
So the question should be this: is it reasonable to take offense to something in a video game that is no longer there? Is the fact that the scene exists in a version of the game that will not be played in anywhere but Japan enough to cause controversy?