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An eroge (エロゲー or エロゲ erogē , a portmanteau of erotic game: (エロチックゲーム erochikku gēmu )) or Ero-ga is a Japanese video or computer game that features erotic content, usually in the form of anime-style artwork. Eroge originated from galge, but unlike galge, they feature nudity or sexual content.
Japanese eroge, also known as H-games or hentai games, have their origins in the early 1980s, when Japanese companies introduced their own brands of microcomputer to compete with those of the United States. Competing systems included the Sharp X1, Fujitsu FM-7, MSX, and NEC PC-8801. NEC was behind its competitors in terms of hardware (with only 16 colors and no sound support) and needed a way to regain control of the market. Thus came the erotic game. The first commercial erotic computer game, Night Life, was released by Koei in 1982. It was an early graphic adventure, with sexually explicit images. That same year, Koei released another erotic title, Danchi Tsuma no Yuwaku (Seduction of the Condominium Wife), which was an early role-playing adventure game with colour graphics, owing to the eight-color palette of the NEC PC-8001 computer. It became a hit, helping Koei become a major software company.
Other now-famous Japanese companies such as Enix, Square and Nihon Falcom also released erotic adult games for the PC-8801 computer in the early 1980s before they became mainstream. Early eroge usually had simple stories, some even involving rape, which often led to widespread condemnation from the Japanese media. In some of the early erotic games, the erotic content is meaningfully integrated into a thoughtful and mature storyline, though others often used it as a flimsy excuse for pornography. Erotic games made the PC-8801 popular, but customers quickly tired of paying 8800 yen ($85) for such simple games. Soon, new genres were invented: ASCII's Chaos Angels, a role-playing-based eroge, inspired Dragon Knight by Elf and Rance by AliceSoft.
In 1992, Elf released Dōkyūsei. In it, before any eroticism, the user has to first win the affection of one of a number of female characters, making the story into an interactive romance novel. Thus, the love simulation genre was invented. Soon afterwards, the video game Otogirisou on the Super Famicom attracted the attention of many Japanese gamers. Otogirisou was a standard adventure game but had multiple endings. This concept was called a "sound novel".
In 1996, the new software publisher Leaf expanded on this idea, calling it a visual novel and releasing their first successful game, Shizuku, a horror story starring a rapist high school student, with very highly reviewed writing and music. Their next game, Kizuato, was almost as dark. However, in 1997, they released To Heart, a sweetly sentimental story of high school love that became one of the most famous and trendsetting eroge ever. To Heart's music was so popular it was added to karaoke machines throughout Japan—a first for eroge.
After a similar game by Tactics, One: Kagayaku Kisetsu e, became a hit in 1998, Visual Art's scouted main creative staff of One to form a new brand under them, which became Key. In 1999, Key released Kanon. It contains only about seven brief erotic scenes in a sentimental story the size of a long novel (an all-ages version was also released afterward), but the enthusiasm of the response was unprecedented, and Kanon sold over 300,000 copies. In 2002 a 13-episode anime series was produced, as well as another 24-episode anime series in 2006. According to Satoshi TODOME's A History of Eroge, Kanon is still the standard for modern eroge and is referred to as a "baptism" for young otaku in Japan. Although many eroge still market themselves primarily on sex, eroge that focus on story are now a major established part of Japanese otaku culture. Katawa Shoujo, an international collaborative visual novel, features disabled students and eroge elements.
An eroge's gameplay is basically a bishōjo game, with the exception that the character has sexual intercourse with the girls in the story. The gameplay is often in the style of a visual novel, with choices or "flags" that the player can make along the way in order to, in some cases, There might be a special girl which the character may have sexual intercourse with at the end of the story if the player has chosen the right flags, which is in some form of a reward for completing the game.
There are also numerous other games that have included other genres and extra storyline to spice up the gameplay and to make it harder for the player to get the ending he intends to. An example of such an eroge, is the popular Little Busters Ecstasy!, related to the visual novel Little Busters!. In this game, the player is able to play numerous mini games such as baseball and fighting championships, and by incorporating the genre of baseball into the game, the player also has to come up with a winning baseball strategy against another team for the story to progress onwards, increasing the difficulty of the game.
Boys' Love (BL) games (also known as yaoi games) usually refers to eroge oriented around male homosexual couples for the female market. The defining factor is that both the playable character(s) and possible objects of affection are male. As with yaoi manga, the major market is assumed to be female; in addition to BL games proper, many otome games have incidental homoerotic content. Games aimed at a homosexual male audience may be referred to as bara. A 2006 breakdown of the Japanese commercial BL market estimated it grosses approximately 12 billion yen annually, with video games generating 160 million yen per month.
Only a very few BL games have been officially translated into English. In 2006, JAST USA announced they would be releasing Enzai as Enzai: Falsely Accused, the first license of a BL game in English translation. Some fan communities have criticized the choice of such a dark and unromantic game as the US market's first exposure to the genre. JAST USA subsequently licensed Zetta Fukujuu Meirei under the title Absolute Obedience, while Hirameki International licensed Animamundi; the later game, although already nonexplicit, was censored for US release to achieve a 'mature' rather than 'adults only' rating, removing some of both the sexual and the violent content. The lack of interest by publishers in licensing further titles has been attributed to widespread piracy of both licensed and unlicensed games.
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