(Trigger warning: sexual assault.)
A few days ago, the existence of a project on Kickstarter–a card game where players take the role of a tentacle monster and attempt to rape high school girls called Tentacle Bento–started to attract some attention. After Brandon Sheffield at Insert Credit, and later Luke Plunkett at Kotaku, wrote negatively about the game, Kickstarter cancelled its funding.
Good on Kickstarter for doing the right thing. They have no obligation to host funding for a game that trivializes rape by turning it into a cutesy game (and also offers as one of the backer rewards the option to put “yourself or your wife/girlfriend” in the game as a target, just putting that out there), and when people spoke out about it, they took it down. I hope that in light of this, they develop more guidelines for screening misogynist and other hateful content in the future.
The story doesn’t end there, however. Unwilling to miss a chance to show his support for rape culture, Gabe from Penny Arcade tweeted in support of the company behind the game, Soda Pop Miniatures, who set up a donation page on their own website after their Kickstarter was closed. When someone tried to engage with him and explain the problem people have with the game, he insisted that “censorship… is wrong” (despite the fact that no censorship has taken place, since Kickstarter isn’t the government), and literally called the individual “a crazy person.” He also brought out the old “no one complains about murder in games!” canard, despite the fact that actually, people do, and murder in general is not treated as trivial or a joke in the same way that rape is. Great job, Gabe! Keep on taking a noble stand against those mean, powerful rape survivors and their allies who just want to keep nerds like you down.
(By the way: a quick perusal of the SPM website shows that they are recruiting women to volunteer as “booth babes” at conventions for them. If you’re going to have booth staff the least you can do is pay them.)
On her Formspring, anna anthropy points out the vast difference between games about sex, like those she makes, and games that trivialize rape like Tentacle Bento.
The point is, we live in a rape culture, a world where rape is constantly treated as trivial or a joke, where victims are blamed for their own assaults, and where the conviction rate for rapists is distressingly low. Games like Tentacle Bento further trivialize rape and uphold rape culture. Tentacle Bento may just be a drop in the ocean of rape culture, but every drop counts, and no individual or private company is obligated to support such a game. The fact that many in the game community spoke out against this game, and that Kickstarter listened, is a good thing.
Further reading (Updated 5/17):
A Tentacle Rape Game — Why are People Supporting This Again? — Alli Thresher at Think Progress
Tentacle Bento, the Card Game About Rape — Mat (@pillowfort) at Oh No! Video Games!
Penny Arcade, Tentacle Bento, A Summation — Mat at Oh No! Video Games!