Note: this article contains references to, and descriptions of, the Japanese video game RapeLay.  The subject matter of the game is extremely controversial, and this article is intended for mature audiences only.

There are a number of games out there today that many view as controversial.  One game in particular has gained an unprecedented amount of attention for the repulsiveness of its subject matter: RapeLay.  A game from Japan, RapeLay casts players as a sexual deviant who attempts to rape a teenaged passenger on a commuter train.  The player does eventually rape the passenger, the passenger’s Mother, and younger Sister. Ultimately, the victims can be forced to get abortions, after which they commit suicide.  The game is not legally available in the United States.

Which is not to suggest that no one in America has played the game.  One gamer who has is Derek Littlejohn.  In fact, Littlejohn was interviewed about the game by college journalist Ann Straub for her article, “Game spurs debate, causes controversy.”

Littlejohn’s quotes in the piece include the following:

“I’ve both heard about and played RapeLay myself, and I find it as nothing more than a game.”

“If you continually suppress a country in terms of sexuality, they’ll just find different ways of exploring things themselves. RapeLay is just one of those ways of people expressing themselves, to see new things.”

“It’s relatively easy to to pirate these games, when all one has to do is type in the name of what they want and add ‘torrent’. Usually, some sort of link turns up.”

Littlejohn had been a GameStop employee for approximately two years at the time of the interview.  Shortly after the article was published, Littlejohn was allegedly fired.  Why?  The specifics have not been revealed, nor are they likely to be.  Game Rant writer Trung Bui has emailed GameStop for clarification.  As of press time, Game Rant has not received a reply.

GameStop, the largest specialty retailer in America, does not now, and never will, sell RapeLay or games like it.  To be sure, it is a title you are unlikely to hear discussed in a GameStop store.  So, was Littlejohn fired for expressing his opinion on a controversial game?  Or is it more complicated than that?

To begin with, GameStop employees, like the employees of many large chains, are discouraged from speaking to the press.  Generally, press matters are handled by the corporate office.

Though Littlejohn is obviously not a spokesman for the company (and, to be fair, he never claimed to be), GameStop doubtless does not want their name associated in any way with RapeLay.  Allowing himself to be identified in the article as a GameStop employee may have been, in terms of his career, unwise.

Furthermore, Littlejohn’s admission that he had played RapeLay and found it, “nothing more than a game,” may well have been troubling to his co-workers and, as a result, to his employers.  Rape is, sadly, not an uncommon crime in America.  What if a friend, or relative, or you yourself had been a victim – how would you feel about working along side someone who had publicly defended a rape-focused video game?

But it is Littlejohn’s comments on piracy that may ultimately have been the key issue, from GameStop’s point of view.  Having an employee, in print, note that, “it’s relatively easy to to pirate these games,” and then describe how to torrent them, necessarily runs counter to the very purpose of GameStop as a retail entity.  Piracy is both illegal and a drain on GameStop’s profitability.  Any advocacy of games piracy, no matter how tangential, simply can not be ignored by a company whose entire business is the selling of video games.

And yet.  All Americans are protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.  Abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, is not allowed.  There is no indication that Littlejohn made any of the statements in the interview during a shift at GameStop.  Is he not free to speak his mind on his own time?  Whether we agree with him or not, the man has a right to his opinions.

In the end, it may be that Littlejohn simply made some poor decisions about what he said, and how he represented himself, in the press.  Those decisions may have cost him his job.  It may also be that GameStop has overstepped its bounds in attempting to govern employee behavior during non-work hours.  This is a case without a clear-cut hero and villain, and we are unlikely ever to know all the details.  Ranters, what is your take on this situation? Who do you side with?

Additional writing and reporting by Trung Bui.

Source: Giant Bomb, The Globe