After that business in Australia I’d thought it was all over. The sense of victory I’d felt looking over the shelves and shelves of Gal Gun boxes in EB Games, only to have that crushed as employee after employee swiftly ran out, swiping the boxes off the shelves into buckets, pots, tins — whatever they could get their hands on.
I recognised many of the faces that were erasing Gal Gun‘s shelf presence. Tears specked their eyes. These were the same people who only hours before I had watched stacking those things sky high, who I had split a lemonade with. Now they were sweeping up piles of plastic cases. Those dreams were forgotten.
Since the PC release of Gal Gun on Steam it seemed like things would be dandy for people from all over the world to enjoy a hit on Gal Gun. Imagine my surprise when I got a phone call from my contact in New Zealand. Desperate, panicked.
“Where did it go?” he asked me.”Where did what go?” “Gal Gun.” “Gal Gun? What are you talking about? Gal Gun‘s on Steam.” “That’s the thing. Not anymore. Not for us. Not for New Zealand.”
There was a pause on the line as neither of us spoke. We didn’t have to. We both knew what was going on in each other’s minds. We both wanted answers. It was the kind of phone call that didn’t necessitate a reply, so I just nodded into the receiver, and gently crushed the device in my hand. I’d mail him my new number later.
No matter where I looked I couldn’t find answers. The phone directory turned up nothing. I spent two fruitless days in the library devouring reference books, but again nothing. I hit up the usual guys I squeeze for info and they didn’t know squat. All they knew was what I knew, that the supply for the game had dried up in New Zealand and nobody seemed to know why.
Trying to relax, I poured myself a whiskey and loaded up Steam to browse the latest sales. Mid-week sale on STEEP already. Nice. This is what the industry has become. As I was glancing over reviews for the game I received a chat pop-up from a name I didn’t recognise — “Friend”. “FVLB,” read the message. “Who are you?” I typed. “The sexualisation of the girls is relentless throughout the game and, indeed, is the game’s main focus.” “Who are you?” I asked, again. No response. The soft blue glow of their username changed to grey. Offline.
I did some more digging. FVLB. That’s when it all started to come together. It stood for the “Film and Video Labelling Body”. The New Zealand age rating body for video games. I tried to dig into what rating the FVLB had given the game, and then it hit me. There wasn’t one. Gal Gun had been refused a rating in New Zealand by the FVLB. It had been rejected as “objectionable”. I had to dig deeper.
It wasn’t hard to gain access to the PQube vault of classifications. All it took was a Japanese maid outfit and some Pocky to fool the suits at the door. The shelves of documents were mixed together with stacks of manga. Some of the things I saw can’t be repeated. Those doujins will stay with me always. But I did manage to find the documents I needed. FVLB stamped on the cover. The entire document can be found here. It’s some pretty hefty reading, but to summarise it didn’t look good for the game. Here’s a snippet of their “Conclusion” that throws some serious shade at players for the game being too easy:
“The game’s lack of difficulty means that this content is available to even unskilled players and further supports the idea that the intention of this game is for the titillation and arousal of the viewer, rather than for any interest in gameplay mastery. It is therefore likely not only to attract people with a prurient interest in young persons, but also to reinforce the belief that a sexual interest in young persons is acceptable, which contributes to their sexual exploitation in wider society.”
Score attack mode seemed meaningless to them. But there was nothing I could do. I had my answers, but they didn’t change anything. Not for me or my New Zealand friend. All I could do was document my findings, and spread the word. I changed out of my maid outfit, and left the building.