Self-Censorship

 

Self-censorship is a special kind of censorship that differs from the usual. Rather than being imposed by a higher authority, it is self-imposed, at least in my case, due to some "moral obligation" or perhaps feelings of insecurity. Of course, in many cases it could be an effort, of the artist's own volition, to comply with regulations per age ratings (with regard to movies and/or video games) in order to maximize profit.

But the kind of self-censorship I'll be discussing today, that being my own, deals more with personal insecurity. As such, the true extent of this particular form of self-censorship may never be fully known, as many are probably not willing to admit that they've so indulged. Nevertheless, here we are.

Beginning with E1, yes, I've censored myself from the very beginning. Romeo was originally going to be gay, for example, and sported a much more "flamboyant" design that may or may not have influenced the character of Troy in the same game (who is a villain, and make note of that). Ondine was also originally male (and had a different name, of course), so you can see where that might have led. A remnant of the "male Ondine" may have been preserved in the background character of Sir Celius, who barely has a place in the plot at all. Fun fact: Pica was initially male, as well.

Near the end of the game, in the initial version of E1 that I released, Leonardo states to Luminaya, "I don't feel like a grown man... I don't feel like I ever grew up." Before it was released, however, the word "grown" wasn't there, and, realizing the alternative connotations the line may have held, I quickly shoved it in. In the recent update that cleans the text a little, I removed it because I wanted to represent the original intent, free of self-censorship, as faithfully as possible.

The fact that I self-censored in the first place is indicative of my own discomfort. I was simply putting myself into my work, and feared the ramifications. Back to Troy, he did have a semblance of redemption, but only in death, where we see that he was "damaged goods," a bright and shining soul that had been tragically corrupted by Emperor Fiyara's abuse. In the name of moral obligation, he could only obtain this clarity in death, where it frankly didn't matter anymore. Such is the ugliness of self-censorship.

There was a time when I didn't self-censor, and I don't censor myself anymore; because having acknowledged what I've always felt, there's no reason to. The series is rife with such characters and themes, perhaps most prominently in E3 (which currently exists only in writing). E3 was very, very special to me because, in writing the story and characters, I pulled no punches, letting out everything that's within me with liberal generosity. And yet, the filthy tendrils of self-censorship began to creep upon this sacred bastion of self-expression in good time.

 

At one point, Nevena and Dia were to get married in the ending, and that was that. As I began to ponder the reality of the game's inevitable creation, I began to fear the repercussions. What would my Christian parents say? I depend upon them for everything. If they disowned me, it would mean the end of my life. This was my thought process. I even channeled it into the comic I mentioned in my coming-out discourse. A character said to me (that is, my self-insert), "So what if you're gay? Nobody cares." My reply was, "My parents are Christians." Their reply was, "Sucks to be you." This is the personal poison that leads to self-censorship.

So what did I do? Well, I rewrote E3 so that in the end, Nevena sacrifices herself for Dia and literally plummets to Hell, so they can never be together. Thank God, I eventually woke up and realized how much that completely and utterly sucks, and changed it back. Then I got the idea to build the story around multiple outcomes, so if for some reason you don't want to see two women getting married, you won't have to. Because I like to please everybody, even if the very effort is silly and futile.

Unfortunately, this occurrence of "same-sex couple must never be together" persisted in the final version of E1, where *SPOILERS* Nalin dies. I went to great, painstaking lengths to reverently portray her loving relationship with Erin (who is bisexual). But it couldn't last forever, because a statement had to be made in the name of religious intolerance. And of course, Erin then falls upon a man's shoulders (Boaz). Now Boaz is a pretty cool guy, one of my best-written characters if I may say so, so it's not too egregious... ;P

Skipping forward, from its inception, E5 included openly transgender characters Cleo and Wald/Helga (well, not open at first, but they find themselves along the way). There was also a trans man originally; he was axed not due to self-censorship, but because I wasn't satisfied with the shallow depth of his character arc, wishing to focus instead on my true storytelling strengths. It was my own failing, my own weakness as a writer, and I apologize for that. In any case, these characters and stories truly gave meaning to E5's subtitle, Winds of Change.

Self-censorship nearly ruined this, too. Wald (Helga) was a closet cross-dresser in the earliest stages of the plot, and over the years this diminished to nothing. Later on, I revisited this plot point and fleshed it out while searching myself. Again it left my mind as I struggled internally, and at one point, I seriously considered deleting all documentation on the matter. I could never have lived with myself. Thank goodness, I didn't, and instead poured more of myself into it than ever. I'm glad I did.

What about the opposite end of the spectrum? Can self-censorship backfire and give birth to rebellion instead? Indeed, just as the superiority complex stems from an inferiority complex (the same kind I bitterly suffered), I witnessed it firsthand. In E2, I felt compelled to shoehorn some dirty jokes (and that one irreverent enemy in Castle Dragonheart)... because, as I wrote in my coming out essay, I was trying so hard to be something I wasn't, and it sorely showed. I was overcompensating for my apparent lack of "masculinity" or "machismo" that I felt the pathetic need to prove how edgy I was (but really wasn't). Thankfully, when I came to terms with myself, this burden was also lifted. I had nothing more to prove. I am what I am, and it shows in my work. It always has, and I'm happy about that now. But as these musings attest, it wasn't always that way.

In closing, I hope this has provided a little insight into my creative process, and revealed just how toxic the concept of self-denial is. It doesn't only affect you, it affects the way you treat other people, the way you see the world itself. By exploring these integral themes of psychology and processing the associated emotions, I was able to gain insight into what I had been dealing with, and ultimately heal from the distress I'd harbored for years. Another person's healing process may be quite different. Regardless, it's never good for you to suppress any part of yourself, especially your creative output. For many, myself included, it could be the only outlet you have.