“Koei deeply regrets the tragedy at Lafayette school. We did not see the societal hurt that would be caused by semi-historical effeminate and homosexual characters battling each other.”
Dynasty Warriors is a hack-and-slash genre video game series for the Playstation 2 and PS3 by Japanese designer Koei. Due to its popularity it was also released on the Xbox, which apparently is some kinda video game console line or something. It is loosely based on Luo Guanzhong's epic novel Romancing the Three Kingdoms, which was adapted to film in 1984, starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. The series includes Dynasty Warriors, Dynasty Warriors: Tactics, Dynasty Warriors: Empires, Dynasty Warriors: Discreet Encounters and Dynasty Warriors: Bathhouse Conquests.
The series has gained an infamous reputation, especially in right-wing Christian circles, for its alleged role in the Lafayette School Clawings (see below). The resulting civil rights debate rages to this day.
In the Dynasty Warriors series, the player takes the role of one of several sexually ambiguous, kinda-historical characters during the Three Kingdoms era of China. Armed with anachronistic weapons and armour, the player then wades into hordes of men and lashes out at them. Their plaintive, titillating cries are heard as they are brutally beaten by the player's phallic extension. Through split screen, two players may play at once, making the experience twice as uncomfortable.
Between battle sequences, the player is forced to watch interminable cutscenes. In these scenes, men swear oaths to each other, watch large numbers of soldiers parade about, touch each other's backs, and gaze longingly at hillsides whilst repressing powerful unspoken feelings. In many versions of the game, these cutscenes cannot be skipped no matter how much the player frantically presses the X, B or Start button, each desperate moment bringing him closer to his own long-inhibited yearnings.
Dynasty Warriors offers players a wide selection of characters for gameplay, all with different abilities and styles of fighting, most of them suspect. The characters are divided into Three Factions or "Kingdoms": Shu (translation: effeminate), Wei (translation: butch), and Wu (translation: gender-bending).
- Shu characters dressed like women with unusually high-pitched voices. Amongst their ranks are Zhao Yun, Liu Bei and the now infamous Zhang He. Men who select these characters really ought to examine the unconscious motivations for their choice, and dwell upon their repressed sexual appetites.
- Wei characters are tough warriors who focus on prowess and strength in combat, but in a game like this, you really have to wonder. They include such ruffians as Lu Bu, Zhang Fei and Huang Gai. Men who choose these characters should brood upon who they really are, and why they are in serious denial about their failed relationships with women.
- Lastly, there is Wu. You'd think that it would be strange to have female warriors in a setting like latter-Han China, where women were considered to be property of less value than horses. But you'd be wrong. And sexist. The fabulous ladies from the kingdom of Wu give men a virtual sex change, letting them experience for themselves the feeling of dressing up in pretty clothes. Men are able to delight over the fabulous fashion sense of Zhen Ji, Xing Cai and Zhu Rong. Men who choose these characters should stare into the starry night sky and ponder why they want to be women.
Dynasty Warriors and Eating Etiquette
During the making of Dynasty Warriors 5, KOEI decided that the game should be partially educational. As a result, two new characters were created, Guan Ping and Xing Cai, to teach children table manners. Guan Ping wields an oversized steak knife, while Xing Cai wields a giant fork. When playing either of these two characters, kids can learn how to use kitchen utensils properly while still tearing the enemy limb from limb with giant pointy objects.
In beta testing, Dynasty Warriors 5 also included Deng Ai, a character armed with giant chopsticks. However, the character was removed by Koei before the game's release because Western playtesters found him too difficult to use.
Lafayette School Clawings
On the morning of April 27th, 2006, high school student James Quinney of Little Rock, Arkansas, walked into his grade ten algebra classroom. He was a loner and outcast amongst his peers, known for his quiet obsession with video games and described by jocks as simply "gay." He was a troubled student, and had been twice called into the principal's office in the previous year for threatening fellow students with his Musou Ability. He was the lead singer in a garage band called "Mi Win," which played bizarre 80's-inspired rock mixed with solos on traditional Chinese instruments such as the erhu and liuqin. Fellow students described their music as "crappy" and "repetitious."
James' fellow students immediately noticed something threatening about his appearance that morning. He was dressed in fine silks, looking uncommonly beautiful. On his back was perched a pair of purple butterfly wings. Alarmingly, he wore two sets of metallic claws jutting from his arms. Before they could react, James charged at them, slashing at them with the claws.
When the carnage ended, eleven students lay KO'd on the tiles. Five others were hospitalized. James, cornered by police, shouted, "My death shall be a thing a beauty!" and opened his cartoid artery with his claws. Emergency crews were unable to revive him.
Police investigators, initially puzzled by the slayings, discovered several interesting facts which would later spark the Dynasty Warriors furor. According to his parents, James had been playing Dynasty Warriors Empires 5 recently, and the costume he donned on the fateful morning of the 27th was in fact the traditional Chinese garb of Zhang He, a character from the game.
Civil rights activist Pat Robertson was the first to weigh-in on the issue. In a press conference held at The Greenville Center for Poorly Thought-Out Ideas, he announced his church's views on Dynasty Warriors and denounced Koei.
“Dynasty Warriors is an affront to the Christian way of life. The game encourages children to dress up as fruits and kill each other with claws. The characters in the game aren't even American! They're commies! Argh!”
State legislative bodies were quick to react. In the coming months, eight states, including Arkansas, banned the sale of Dynasty Warriors. Retail giant Walmart pulled the game from its shelves, citing the game's gayness.
Same-sex advocates were quick to respond. Matt Foreman, leader of The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, called his own press conference on May 14th, 2006.
“While the Lafayette School Massacre is regrettable, it is not the real issue at the heart of this controversy. The reason Pat Robertson and these religious nuts are attacking Dynasty Warriors can be summed up in two words. Gay empowerment. It's truly frightening to these people to see gay men with swords, kicking ass. I happen to really like Dynasty Warriors. Especially Zhao Yun. His moves, his musou ability, his thighs... Excuse me. I have to go to the washroom.”
In support of the game, gay rights activists staged a "Play-in" in in New York on May 30th. Four-thousand demonstrators arrived in Times Square to play Dynasty Warriors on a 40-foot television screen. Several protesters were hospitalized due to neck-cricks, but Lu Bu was reported to be "Awesome."
Fuel was added to the Dynasty Warriors debate on June 28th, 2006, when Lt. Col. Dave Grossman published his book On Killing Fake Computer-Guys. In it, a whole chapter is devoted to Dynasty Warriors. Grossman writes:
|Computer games are, in effect, taking the safety catch off children's young minds. While military drills place cadets with a weapon in hand confronting human-shaped targets, Dynasty Warriors pits the player with a weapon in hand facing realistic human opponents while dressed like a fruit. Both experiences are violence-enabling and inevitably lead to some kind of homosexual encounter. A study conducted at the University of Innsbruck found that teenagers, within a year of playing Dynasty Warriors at least once, were twice as likely as a normal teen to be incarcerated for assault with a deadly weapon and mass-murder, and three times as likely to actively pursue a homosexual relationship or cross-dress. Dynasty Warriors is therefore a perfect training sim for the armed forces.|
Zhang He Speaks Out
In 2005 Chinese seismographers noted what they thought was faultline activity in the vicinity of Luoyang. The tremors struck hardest in the older section of the city, and seemed to be centered on the tomb of ancient Wei commander, Zhang He. The heaviest of the tremors was detected in October of 2006, when Koei released Dynasty Warriors 5. Baffled, the grave was exhumed by authorities and it was discovered that the corpse had rolled over several times.
After the Lafayette School Clawings and much unfavorable public scrutiny, Zhang He finally spoke out on Larry King Live on September 19th, 2006. With the help of Taoist mystic Suo Wu Liao, the unquiet spirit made his feelings known.
“Okay. So... this Dynasty Warriors crap? Buncha garbage. The way they portrayed me was really inaccurate. I didn't look like that, with the goddamn fairy wings and the claws. I was a really good commander, ya know? People respected me. Women loved me. Now people are just going to remember me as that fem who inspired that moron to carve up his friends. Wei Yan's not too happy about how they portrayed him either, with all that barbarian bullshit. You want to know what your ancestors are thinkin'? They're pissed off!”
An Historical Perspective
Koei has always doggedly stood by the historical accuracy of its video games. However, many historians contend that Koei's vision of Three Kingdoms-era China is incorrect. While the game proposes that latter-Han China was a playground of sexual ambiguity, many experts of the period state that such an interpretation may be tainted by 20th-century bias. Consider these passages from Romancing the Three Kingdoms:
|The farewell between Liu Bei and Zhao Yun was affecting. They held each other's hands a long time, their eyes streaming with tears, and could not tear themselves apart.|
While some may be inclined to believe that Liu Bei and Zhao Yun were "going steady," a more intelligent examination of the context is in order. Chinese society was unaffected by stoicism until well after Luo Guanzhong's death, and predating Western influence, people were more likely to show strong emotions in public. In Three Kingdoms China a man could weep in public and openly read books by Dr. Phil without fear of ridicule.
|Sun Ce and Zhou You bid their wives goodnight, and proceeded to the armory. There, Zhou You polished Sun Ce's sword. When it was slick with grease, Sun Ce reached into Zhou You's belt, withdrew his sword, and began to polish it as well. When both men were exausted from their exertions, they went to bed together.|
|Upon the conclusion of the battle, Sima Yi had the captured prisoners of Shu strip. His sergeants forced the men into line with their bums presented in the air. Sima Yi inspected the lines of men until he found a bum that was pleasing to him. Bidding the soldier rise, he forced him into his tent, whereupon a great clamour was heard. Awhile later, the soldier left Sima Yi's tent, shame written upon his face.|
"The Presenting of the Bums" was a common battlefield sight in ancient China until its fall into disuse during the early Ming Dynasty. The Taoist ritual had the victorious commander select a man from the ranks of the enemy to ceremonialy remove and don his armour. If the armour fit the soldier, it was a sign that the man would go on to greatness. If the armour did not fit, it was considered a badge of shame. The bum was simply the easiest way for a commander to determine armour size, and many petty generals would purposefully select a soldier with dissimilar body measurements if he wished to further dishonor the enemy.