Rule of Rose and Italian politics, the winner is whoever buries dignity alive

Rule of Rose and Italian politics, the winner is whoever buries dignity alive

Rule of Rose and Italian politics

We have observed how the generalist press, especially between the nineties and the two thousand, never shone for great precision when it came to video games. The situation quickly worsened when the theme of violence began to be linked with the young average age of users. The dams have opened: desperate for sensationalist headlines and phony scandals, several journalists have started writing about video games with anything but to inform. In short, representing the truth has ceased to be a problem with which to worry too much. There is no better (or worse, if you prefer) example of this type of journalistic contribution than the one that appeared, by Guido Castellano, in Panorama in November 2006. Not so much for the contents, certainly questionable, but for the consequences that the article ended up having, especially internationally.

We present the case of Rule of Rose.

Rule of Rose: the lord of the flies in an orphanage

The cover of Panorama Let's take a step back, though, let's see what happened before the article itself. Rule of Rose is a survival horror, developed by Punchline (formerly Chulip writers) at the request of Sony Japan. First released in Japan, in January 2006, the game begins to encounter its first problems when, at E3 of the same year, Sony (American) declares that it is not interested in distributing the title because it is "not in line with their image" . Rule of Rose would have been published by Atlus instead. Tomm Hulett, designer for Wayforward and at the time part of the committee responsible for deciding whether to distribute the title or not, shared some of his memories with us: "Atlus didn't think twice about giving a positive opinion, having a Sony title was already a victory in itself, frankly I don't think we thought much about the content. " Released on American soil in September 2006, two months after Rule of Rose should have been released on the European continent as well. And here comes Panorama to get a grip on it.

In his article, written as an exclusive preview of the game, Castellano harshly condemns Rule of Rose from every point of view, describing its erotic contents with underage protagonists and scenes of violence. "Every single frame exudes perversion" describes the journalist, who we can imagine busy writing the keyboard with tears, "every scene is pervaded by homosexual and sadistic overtones for which one is not prepared". The journalist, in the same article, also reports an interview with the designer Yuya Takayama where this almost seems to boast of the shocking contents. I think it is legitimate to express some doubts about the existence of the aforementioned interview, considering that the author himself would have clearly denied the existence of the contents mentioned in the rest of the article.

Politics comes in a slip

Rule of Rose The analysis of Rule of Rose stops at the first side, in the second one moves on to other objectives such as Hitman and Postal II. And it doesn't end there, Rockstar's Canis Canem Edit (Bully) also enters the article, in which the then Minister of Education Fioroni arrives in a slip: "[...] while we are committed to educating children to respect rules and others, a video game comes out with a conflicting message, which threatens to frustrate our efforts. We must make sure that the video game that explains how to be superbullies at school does not become the favorite gift for next Christmas. " And, as we know, the best way to get everyone to ignore a product is to talk about it out of all of the papers.

The Movimento Difesa del Cittadino (MDC), which in the article says it is already mobilized "for the collection of signatures in order to block the sale [of Rule of Rose] on the national territory, will do another intervention in a slip. " The national head of the MDC Junior Department testifies in the article how "it is unthinkable that we arrive at the psychophysical violence of this last game, which aims to bury a girl alive. Between sadism, psychophysical violence, initiation rites and humiliation what should our children learn? ".

I think it is superfluous to add that the famous sequence of the girl buried alive is a nightmare of the protagonist, theme of the introductory video, ergo a strictly NOT interactive sequence. The aim of the game is not really to bury anyone.

Last, but not least, to intervene with sublime clumsiness was the then mayor of Rome Walter Veltroni who, first of all, demanded the withdrawal from the trade of Punchline's survival horror: "it is absolutely unthinkable that a video game with violent content will be marketed and distributed in our country". Again, Veltroni was clearly unaware of the existence of the appropriate European committee, PEGI, and how it had already reported Rule of Rose as unsuitable for minors. "I think - adds Veltroni - the minds of those who have conceived and created such a videogame are perverse. Our young people [...] do not deserve certain products and it is right to raise an alarm and take immediate concrete actions in defense of the right to grow without conditioning aimed at exalting ferocity, hatred and death ". I guess the politician had never seen any episode of Ken the Warrior about twenty years before, huh?

Noises at an international level

Franco Frattini What could remain "alone" the umpteenth forgettable page of the relationship between the Italian press and video games, will actually set off a spiral of absolutely unjustified moral panic, fueled by other people who had no idea what they were talking about, having never seen the game. On the other hand, Rule of Rose dealt with decidedly taboo topics for the Italian (and European) average, such as latent homosexuality in children. My lady! To complete the mess, Franco Frattini, EU Commissioner of Justice at the time, shouted to the rooftops that it was a shame that such material was available and that developers should avoid making certain contents. Again, indirectly underlining how even in 2006 video games were, mainly, children's stuff. Frattini was reprimanded by Viviane Reding, another EU commissioner, who reminded him of the existence of a special association - the PEGI in fact - dedicated precisely to ensuring that certain contents do not reach minors.

In France, even not echoes of censorship and a ban on sale were spared. Eventually, the game in Italy will be distributed regularly by 505 Games, so it won't be in other countries, though. Rule of Rose will eventually never be sold in several countries, including the UK, New Zealand and Australia, still remaining hard to find today. Those who want to buy a copy should be prepared to shell out a hefty sum. At the conclusion of the story and of Frattini's comments on having to "reform the PEGI", Laurie Hall, general secretary of the Video Game Standards Council, confirming the PEGI rating of "16+" will respond angrily to Frattini. "We don't know where these notions about sadism come from, much less about children buried alive. These things have been completely invented [...]," Hall says. "We are not afraid the goodness of our work will be questioned, since the references of Mr. Frattini make no sense." In short, a big international fool for our country.

Panorama and its inspirations

Kimura with Rule of Rose The even more bitter side of the story, and I would dare to say exquisitely Italian, is that Castellano had copied that article. That he had never played Rule of Rose was clear, but there's more to it than that. Chris Darril, designer of the Remothered series, remembers, in fact, having posted - almost eight months earlier - a review of the game as a user of the Gamesradar forum, then published, with some changes, also on "Thanks to friends from the Rising Sun, he was able to get a preview copy, also because at the time the western distribution of Rule of Rose was uncertain" comments Chris. Castellano has taken up Darril's article in the contents, adding specific moralistic notes so as to cause as much noise as possible. For example, the review reported a description of the teacher: "he finds himself tied by strong ropes in the airship shed with a brain now devoid of cells and neurons." Castellano's article reports the same sentence, removing only the airship. The reporter will do the same for the description of the poor waitress. There are also different images that coincide in the two reviews, such as "the dense and sharp thorns of the game of the Rose". Hard to think that these are mere coincidences.

Many users of the Gamesradar forum did not fail to let the newspaper know their dissent. Panorama, in response, deleted all comments. Darrill still has a particular relationship with the game "is the title that most of all pushed me to give myself to the videogame sector. In my works there are not a few references to the girls of the aristocracy of the red pastel, from Jennifer to Diana, but also adults indifferent to that world of fast-growing children. " As much as he mentions the review with shame, having been written at a young age and with unclear ideas, Chris declares himself the victim. On the other hand, its content made available for free ended up in a newspaper sold at newsstands. "Unfortunately I was little more than a kid, I didn't know how to behave, and honestly felt used twice. Had it happened today I would have certainly known what to do," concludes Darrill.

Everything changes so that nothing changes

A scene from Rule of Rose The editors of, Chris recalls, wrote an email to Panorama asking for an explanation, a public apology or, at least, an admission that he had used his review as a "guide". Apparently, there was never any response. Shortly thereafter, Panorama will remove the article from its website, which is still available in the archived version. Subsequently, several video game experts in Italy also took sides, such as Matteo Bittanti and, asking those involved in the article for further explanations and, above all, why they all ignored the role of PEGI in the affair. We don't know they ever received an answer, at least not in public. Daril concludes bitterly "I have at least the sop: an accredited journalist who wrote for a magazine as famous as Panorama, swiped a 16-17 year old boy who wrote for fun on the forums!"

On the Rule of Rose question it would really still be a lot to discuss. Not so much for the game itself which, personally, the writer did not find so special, but for having demonstrated - again - the damage potentially caused by subjects who do not have the slightest knowledge of the subject. Asking for the censorship of a content that none of those involved had seen, within a sector they did not know, Frattini, Veltroni and the others thundered from their benches on the basis of two information on the cross dispensed by an article that, those few apt, had copied them from another source, without citing or verifying it.

A scene from Rule of Rose In this case, of course, the damage was limited, Rule of Rose is certainly among the rarest PAL PS2 titles, but certainly not impossible to find. It would also be difficult to deny, however, that he took a big risk and, in light of similar precedents such as the seizure of copies of Carmageddon and Grand Theft Auto, it would not surprise us at all that these cases would repeat themselves in the very near future.

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