Just recently I (Jay Shay) got a chance to do an interview with RyanoftheStars who´s a fan translator (Ryan runs a site called “Karasu Corps“) from Japan. So we talked about everything from his recent hacker attacks, fan translations, #GamerGate to Torrential Downpour.
Would you be so kind and introduce yourself and Karasu Corps to our readers?
Okay. I’m known as RyanoftheStars. I don’t reveal my real name. I started participating in the GamerGate board KotakuInAction earlier this year. I am originally from northern Japan and Japanese is my first language, so I didn’t participate as much in English discussion forums, but the Fire Emblem controversy and other things drew me to that place. Through there I started working with people in the Torrential Downpour tag who were trying to spread information about what the original Japanese said, the stuff that was being censored.
When news broke that the translation team might not release their patch, I started Karasu Corps as a place to provide people with accurate and faithful Japanese translations of Japanese games and gaming info. Anyone can request any information they want on the site or use the information I provide for their own translations patches, but right now the main goal is to completely re-translate Fire Emblem from scratch and show all the places it’s been changed. The site’s overall goal is be as transparent as possible about translation by providing as much information as possible.
And I’m sure plenty of people are happy for the hard work you guys do. What is the process of patching these games with the faithful translation?
Thank you. Well, I only know a little bit of the technical aspects, because I’m just the translator. I’ve learned however that you have to be careful with the format of how you translate things, because games have programming that tells how and when the text is supposed to appear. On Karasu Corps you can see for Fire Emblem that I’ve separated dialogue into multiple lines so that it corresponds to what I think could be able to fit into text boxes. Also, for other areas, such as translating system menus or spoken dialogue, you need to include a certain amount of coding to let the team know which line it is, which you can see if you check the Arena Messages translation or the Skinship translations for Fire Emblem Fates on Karasu Corps.
As well, it’s obviously super painful to do if you can’t rip audio and text into files that are more easily translated and manipulated, because otherwise you have to transcribe the Japanese manually and you don’t have the coding to help the patch team know where to input the language. So there’s an element of that involved, but for games like Tokyo Mirage Sessions, which I’m also doing to help restore the DLC and sub the audio that didn’t get translated, you have to rely on things like online playthroughs for region versions you don’t have, or your own copy of the game for the region you do have, and painstakingly transcribe everything just to start translating.
Alright, cool. So is it true that you’ve received a DMCA claim from your work on Fire Emblem Fates?
It is not. I haven’t received any such claim. I’m quite insulated from such things because all I do is post the translation information. It’s for the patch teams to figure out how to patch the games, because they have more technical know-how than I do and any patch team is free to do as they please with my work. I contacted Nintendo before I ever started to check up on the legality of it all and I got a milk warm response about “fan sites being okay as long as they don’t violate copyright.” Just in case, I remind people of the original copyright holders on each page I translate anyway.
I have, however, had somebody trying to break into the site and my RyanoftheStars accounts related to it, for whatever reason.
I apologize. I didn’t mean to insult you or accuse you of any wrong-doing. Speaking of the situation of breaking into accounts, could you tell the readers a summary of that situation? I’ll be sure to link the complete articles at the bottom of this interview, so that they can read the full story for themselves.
No no no, I don’t feel insulted. It’s fine. I can see where people make the mistake because it’s common with Nintendo to have DMCA claim problems. Some people thought it was Nintendo when I first started speaking up about it.
Basically, there was this operation on KotakuInAction and other places coordinated to celebrate GamerGate’s second anniversary. I was going to participate by posting a whole bunch of new #TorrentialDownpour translations about Fire Emblem’s censorship on Twitter. The morning that it was supposed to start, which I believe was Sunday, August 28th, I got a barrage of login attempts to my the Karasu Corps WordPress site and Twitter.
I saw these notifications in the early morning in my e-mail account, which I don’t regularly login to unless I need it and even then I use a private browsing feature that is a combination of my anti-virus program and Firefox’s own feature. This means I never just leave my e-mail account open and have to log into it each time. When I saw the notifications I started investigating and when I went back about an hour later, most of the notifications were gone and deleted.
I know I didn’t delete them, so I knew somebody had gained access to my e-mail account. For whatever reason, they weren’t able to guess my security questions, so they at least weren’t able to change the password, which I did again immediately. I immediately de-activated my Twitter to prevent them from gaining access.
Later in the day, I got an e-mail from a suspicious person asking about information and people that they really shouldn’t have unless they were reading my e-mails. I immediately deleted my e-mail, checked my spam, did a multiple checks for viruses and changed my passwords a second time.
After that it’s been a nauseating back and forth of me changing passwords, receiving notification that someone is trying to login over and over again, until I finally gave up and asked KotakuInAction for help. The day after, the amount of logins got so excessive that I was locked out of my e-mail until I could verify my identity. I’m not going to connect my identity to an e-mail someone’s trying to get into, that would be crazy, so I’m looking for more secure alternatives now.
That would drive me mad if I had to deal with that even for an afternoon. Do you have any idea who’s doing this or why?
Yeah, no kidding. What made it worse is that my cousin had previously this year had an unbelievably nasty series of incidents where he had his bank account broken into, received a series of nasty phone calls and there were signs they were trying to get into his other online accounts.
At first I thought it was connected, as they used the contacts in his phone to contact us early on in that drama, but then I realized that the nature was completely different and that his problem has long since ended since he got the authorities involved, so it couldn’t be that. Nevertheless, I was terrified.
I thought their aim was perhaps to get me to stop posting stuff, but that didn’t make sense. Karasu Corps is a small site with a small audience. I’m not a well-known GamerGate supporter. I tried for a while to make it seem like they “won” and I’d just given up posting by not showing up anywhere I usually do, but this didn’t seem to sate them.
It was when I contacted people at KotakuInAction that I came up with the theory that it’s possible they were actually seeking other people’s information as an entry into their accounts because if you’re a WordPress admin you can people’s IP addresses and e-mails and if they hack into one e-mail, then …
It’s also possible they want to get info on Japanese GamerGate, which is a kind of splinter that operates in Japanese on Twitter, because I communicate with people like Mombot from time to time, whom you might remember set up a masterful trap to show how hypocritical some anti-GamerGate people are.
If they’re expecting a secret cabal plotting to get women out of gaming, they’re way off the mark. All we do is talk about translation and various Japanese gaming stuff. As a precaution though, I’ve always deleted e-mails when people e-mail at the broken into account and backed them up and this last Sunday, I did the same on Karasu Corps, deleted every comment after backing them up into a word document.
What’s funny is that after I posted at KotakuInAction, Karasu Corps got a huge jump in hits, but not from many users, just one and they didn’t go anywhere to view any site material. They were just accessing the main page.
It sounds like this person, in particular, is vengeful if they are so dedicated on trying to uncover something that isn’t there that your site went up significantly in hits. So obviously you are pro-GG supporter right? And does this mean that you believe the attacker is going after you because of this? Or do you think this is caused by your work for Karasu? I only ask because if you are not well-known in the GG community, it could be either one of them.
I personally don’t think it’s me. I think they were trying to get information out of me because of the nature of the suspicious phishing e-mail I got. If they wanted to me stop posting, why not give me a scary warning? Instead, they were looking for someone else’s information. I’ve warned everyone I know who was involved to even the slightest extent to the best way I know how. Obviously, it’s hard because I can’t e-mail them just in case they manage to break in again.
One interesting thing is that the hits to Karasu Corps from single user (somewhere in the US is all I know about them) went down significantly after I deleted all the comments on Sunday. Now I’m getting more regular traffic.
Alright, I think that covers plenty on the controversy, unless you have something else you’d like to add? Either way, I do have a few questions more for you. As my Editor in Chief wants me to ask you about the current political climate and the rising anti-gamer/anti-GG culture, if that’s okay with you, of course.
Do you have anything else you’d like to add onto the situation these doxers/attackers have put you through?
I’m sorry if I’m a little vague BTW. I’m just trying not to reveal anything too specific which might generate a renewed attack.
No, it’s fine, really. I understand.
Nope, nothing more to add, other than that I’m working on a more secure location for the site and security for my various accounts.I have no problem answering additional questions at all. I’m not sure I know much about politics, but I’ll do my best.
What does the Japanese Gaming community think about GG? I know that you and Mombot are clearly pro-GG, but does it draw any kind of attention at all over there? As in, is it as big over in the East as it is in the West?
No, hardly anyone knows about in the wider Japanese gaming community. I think as time has gone on, some more hardcore gamers have a more general idea about it, but only the sites that cover overseas news ever touched on anything about it. These are sites like Gamespark, Damonge or Automaton. They’re not nearly as popular as places like 4Gamer, Famitsu or Dengeki, which all tend to avoid controversies like GamerGate.
As for what people think when it does come up, the perspectives I’ve seen are varied enough to the extent that I don’t think there’s a one-sided narrative building in the pro- or anti- direction, at least not yet. On the other hand, even people in Japan have heard of some of these ridiculous social justice controversies, you know like Dead or Alive Xtreme 3, and we have a few of our own to deal with.
What sorts of Social Justice controversies does the Japanese gaming community go through at the moment? Because I don’t recall hearing anything about it before.
That’s probably because it’s not the same type of controversy. Usually it doesn’t have anything to do with the type of politics I see overseas. For instance, take Akira Sakuma, a former Hudson/Konami developer who worked on a popular series of multiplayer video games called Momotaro Railways. There was a big controversy when he seemed to be in conflict with Konami and it went on for years and a lot of it revolved around the earthquake disasters we’ve had and whether it’s okay to let personal conflicts leak out in public. This type of controversy has gotten really heated in recent years. A certain contingent is always shouting that it is not proper to cover certain events or news due to it being disrespectful. Happily, it seems to be resolved now and he’s back to making the series under Nintendo.
Another one I can think of is this controversy that happened a few years back with female fans at fan events and they way treated voice actors on the stage. Apparently, they would cheer and cheer for their favorite male actors and then give the female ones a cold reception. Again, the whole thing was about levels of politeness, rather than identity.
These controversies seem to be getting more frequent as time goes on.
When it comes to censorship, CERO, the ratings board who is kind of like our ESRB, at least in the circles I run in, we all hate them with a passion. Mostly because they have ridiculous standards about “forbidden expressions” that can’t be allowed in console games. It should be noted that feminism isn’t very popular in Japan. Where censorship usually comes from are family-oriented community organizations that push for things “for the sake of the children,” so to speak and the politicians that listen to them. Recently, for instance there was a slight controversy over whether the new mayor of Tokyo was being a hypocrite when she said she would fight for artistic rights.
Personally, I’m all for free expression. I don’t think things should be censored for the reasons the West say they should or the idea of “for the children”. I think this is having a lot to do with the evolution of cultures into extremes. You know, kind of like how particular traits become exaggerated in certain communities due to consistent breeding within that community, except with cultural concepts. It doesn’t make it right by any means, but I think that’s the cause. One last question, is there anything we could do to help you and Karasu Corps so that you can continue to do your uncensored fan translations? And what are your plans for the rest of 2016 and 2017?
I agree with you. Just the other day there was a fan event for the Japanese game Dragon Nest R and the comedian who does the Obama impressions appeared again in what I think US people like to call “blackface.” This history of specific racist imagery making black people look like buffoons isn’t a Japanese thing. Old Japanese racism looks like racism in every other pre-modern society, or basically, “Everyone who is not us is inferior.” There was no vast history of specific discrimination toward black people. Even if there was, I think it’s pretty obvious that the comedian in question isn’t saying black people are inferior with his routine, he’s just trying to play the part for Obama. I know blackface offends US people, but the world is not the US and I think people should grow up and learn to distinguish the difference in intent when real harmful racism occurs. There is no vast conspiracy to discriminate against black people in Japan. It’s so ridiculous.
As far as helping Karasu Corps, I’m making a brand new site location on Squarespace, though the old WordPress one will remain, so it will have its own domain and I’ve received good information on how to protect it better. I’ll also roll in Disqus so commenters can be safe and not have their personal information found out through me. If people are interested in Fire Emblem or any other game you need translated, always feel free to drop me a line. I can always use people helping in the comments by offering constructive criticism since I’m not a native speaker. You don’t need to know Japanese. All you need to do is read it and point out where my English isn’t natural or good enough. Some lovely people have been kind enough to do so up till now and it would be great to have their cooperation and those of others as I go forward.
I’m hoping to get things back into gear once I lock in better security and just keep serving the community who wants uncensored Japanese games. Tell me you what you want and I’ll do my best to make it happen!
I appreciate the work you do, Ryan, and I hope things turn out for the best for you. Thanks for speaking with me, I really appreciate it.
Robin Ek – Editor
The Gaming Ground
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