RapeLay was developed and published by Illusion Soft in Japan in 2006. It is an adventure game in the bishōjo (pretty young girl) or H (hentai/pornographic) genre. The game centres on the first-person view of Masaya Kimura, the son of an influential politician who has been arrested for groping a woman on a train, after a school-girl, Aoi, alerted police. Released from custody because of his father’s influence, the gameplay follows Kimura’s revenge as he rapes Aoi and her family, including her mother, Manaka, and her younger sister, Yuuko. Specifically, on the day after his release, Kimura follows Manaka onto a train, gropes her, and subsequently traps and rapes her in a bathroom. The next day he follows Yuuko from her home onto the train and into a city park where he ties her up and rapes her in the bushes. Finally, he again follows Aoi to the train, and shows her photographs he has taken of her still-tied-up mother, before kidnapping and transporting her to his family’s hotel, where he rapes her. Yuuko and Manaka are subsequently brought into the room, and the game concludes with Kimura’s explanation that they will all he held as his sex slaves and that their horror has “only just begun”.
The game’s objective is to “break” each of the female characters, at which point they will no longer resist the protagonist’s commands, responding with fear and sorrow, and instead demonstrate pleasure in their abuse. In addition to the above linear story, a range of modes can be played, including “Chikan” (sexual harasser, stalker or subway pervert) mode, where the player gropes women on trains, “Neko-Kappa” mode, where the player can view women in bondage, and “5P” (five player) mode, which simulates gang rape. The player can choose for the younger daughter, Yuuko, to wear cat ears, and for Aoi, who is dressed in a school uniform, to wear her hair down or in a pony-tail. The female characters can become impregnated by the rapes, at which point the player must force them to have an abortion or he will shortly be pushed in front of a train and lose the game.
RapeLay generated significant controversy three years following its release in Japan, after an article in the Belfast Telegraph by Gary Fennelly (2009) noted that it was available for sale in the United Kingdom via the Amazon website. Labour Member of Parliament Keith Vaz was quoted in the article as committing to discuss the matter in Parliament, stating that “To know that this [is] widely available through a major online retailer is utterly shocking, I do not see how this can be allowed.” The NGO Equality Now also launched a campaign against the game, encouraging activists to write to Illusion and to the Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso condemning the game’s content. Equality Now claimed that “Computer games such as RapeLay condone gender-based discriminatory attitudes and stereotypes, which perpetrate violence against women. Rather than allowing them to flourish, the Japanese government should be taking effective measures to overcome these attitudes and practices, which hinder women’s equality” (in deWinter 2015, 10).
Amazon was quick to remove the product for sale from its website. A spokesperson for Illusion, however, noted that “We believe there is no problem with the software, which has cleared the domestic ratings of an ethics watchdog body”. In addition to the Computer Entertainment Ratings Organisation, the Ethics Organisation of Computer Software (EOCS), rates games in Japan. EOCS was founded in 1992 by members of the Japanese games industry, and predominantly rates PC games, including many titles produced for adult audiences and focused on sexual content. Illusion was dismissive of criticism that emerged from beyond Japan, stating that “We make the games for the domestic market and abide by laws here” and addressing its foreign customers on its website by stating that “We thank you for your interest in our software and sending many e-mails. Unfortunately, under the company’s regulation, our software are only available for domestic customers over 18 and not for sale in other countries” (in deWinter 2015, 12). Jennifer deWinter (2015, 14-15) notes that following the Equality Now campaign, “EOCS announced its decision to enforce self-regulation standards, prevent new rape simulation games from being sold, and limit the sale of sex-based games only to the national market” (2015, 14-15). However, subsequent reports have questioned the extent to which this is being enforced as new titles featuring rape have since emerged. – Liam Grealy
– deWinter, J. (2015). Regulating rape: The case of RapeLay, domestic markets, international outrage, and cultural imperialism. In S. Conway & J. deWinter (eds) Video game policy: Production, circulation, consumption. Routledge: New York & London.
– Fennelly, G. (2009). Exclusive: Amazon selling rape simulation game. Belfast Telegraph. 12 February.
– Galbraith, P. (2017). RapeLay and the return of the sex wars in Japan. Porn Studies. 4(1): 105-126.
– Hiroshi, N. (2012). “Rapelay” and the problem of legal reform in Japan. Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies. 12(3), viewed at http://www.japanesestudies.org.uk/ejcjs/vol12/iss3/nakasatomi.html