Witch hunting in Japan

A disturbing new video game lets users figure out whether a woman is a witch -- by lifting up her skirt.

Published October 11, 2006 8:36PM (EDT)

Here's something disturbing: There's a Japanese video game in which players use their styluses to grope animated schoolgirls. Why? To see if they're witches, of course. According to Gizmodo, UK: Resistance blog and Softpedia, the game in question -- playable on Nintendo DS -- is called Dokidoki Majosaiban, which roughly translates to "Exciting Witch Trial." (Neither we nor the gaming blogs have been able to figure out how users are supposed to know a witch when they see one, but judging from the screen grabs posted on UK: Reistance Blog and Softpedia, the telltale signs are probably pornographic in nature.)

What's the most upsetting thing here? That there are video games based on witch trials? Sure, that's bad -- the inherent misogyny of characterizing women as witches is uncomfortably Salem-circa-1692.

But what about the fact that in the minds of certain game makers, witches apparently bear an eerie resemblance to anime schoolgirls? That's bad, too, but not necessarily surprising -- if you're going to caricature a group of women in hopes of racking up sales, better to have them look like Britney Spears-esque preteens than witches of the warted, broom-toting Halloween variety.

How about the notion, then, that the best way to check if someone's a witch is to take off her virtual panties? That's up there, touching, as it does, on themes of pedophilia, voyeurism, sexual objectification of women/girls, and rape fantasies.

But I think the most upsetting aspect might actually lie in the comments posted on the gamer blogs that have covered Dokidoki Majosaiban. Many have been removed, but the ones that remain include such treasures as "If only I could take off the white pants hmmmmmmmmm," and "Best. Game. Evar" (sic).

Some posters point out that it's inconsistent for us to accept other questionable sorts of games -- like those that allow you to "control animated characters doing drive-by shootings," as one poster put it -- while criticizing this one. That's a fair point, but it hardly seems a justification for this girl-groping game. What's next? A new version of Grand Theft Auto where you can rape the prostitutes before you shoot them?

I try to have a sense of humor about such things, but this just seems really sick.

By Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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