Itagaki doesn't feel censored
Backs classification systems.
Team Ninja boss Tomonobu Itagaki says that he doesn't feel "censored" by ratings boards, and believes that the difficult work undertaken by organisations like the ESRB and PEGI to classify what people find offensive, or too violent, is very positive for videogames as a whole.
Speaking to Kikizo in a wide-ranging interview, Itagaki makes a number of interesting points in light of the recent Manhunt 2 controversy. "First of all," he says, "it's very difficult to classify what people find offensive or what people find to be too violent only in words - in rules and regulations."
"The second point is, that being said, I don't believe the adage that the artist should be able to express whatever he wants is necessarily applicable in this case, because we're creating entertainment. And entertainment shouldn't include things that make people feel uncomfortable or extremely upset.
"The third point would be that people out there that want to create something that is very far removed from societal norms and the moral sensibilities of the general public ... They're unfortunate, and I don't want to be grouped in with that group of people."
Given these things, he says, the fact that organisations worldwide are trying to understand people's reactions to violence and classify games accordingly is "something that's good for the industry".
Itagaki goes on to expand on the point that people view things differently to one another by focusing on the different responses to decapitation - something that had to be removed from Xbox title Ninja Gaiden in PAL territories. "[S]ome people might think of [decapitation] as being excessively violent," he admits.
"But say from a Japanese perspective, when you decapitate someone you're killing them instantly. So from a Japanese perspective, with the sword, when you decapitate somebody you're basically giving them a very quick and easy death." He then contrasts this with a belly slit - something he doesn't believe games should include - which leads to a slow and agonising death.
Later he adds that he believes that the Japanese rating system does a poorer job than its international equivalents in quantifying the degrees of violence that should or should not be permitted, and says that there should be specific guidelines a developer can follow.
Overall though, he backs ratings boards, and denies that he feels censored - despite, you might imagine, having had to deal quite closely with related issues in his catalogue of beat-'em-ups. "I understand that from a player's perspective, it might look like there are these organisations out there that are keeping the creators from creating what they want to, but I never feel like I'm being censored in the strictest sense," he concludes.
Itagaki's comments come at a sensitive time for a sensitive subject. In the eyes of Rockstar, publisher of Manhunt 2 - effectively banned in the UK after the BBFC rejected it due to characteristics like its "unremitting bleakness and callousness of tone" - videogames should not "be singled out for special treatment from the authorities". Itagaki seems to believe that videogame creators have a responsibility to behave within a different context, and seems happy with the work he's able to do in tandem with authorities to make sure nothing oversteps the mark.
To read Itagaki's thoughts in full, head over to the relevant page of the Kikizo interview, or you can start at the beginning to hear about Ninja Gaiden on DS, among other things, in the Japanese developer's typically forthright and entertaining style.