As a warning, this blog post will briefly touch on the subject of rape and assault. Please read at your own risk and stay safe.
You may have heard about this game, "Rape Day," recently. The game was being reported by PC Gamer for it nearly passing Steam's "anything goes" policy that was implemented in 2018. Recently, Valve has denied the game to be allowed in it's store. Just in time too, as the game was apparently slated to be released in April of 2019.
For a little more information about the game, it is a visual novel that tkaes place during a zombie apocalypse. The game contained in it, according to the Steam page before it was taken down: violence, sexual assault, non-consensual sex, necrophilia and incest. Honestly, even Grand Theft Auto knows when they've gone too far.
In any case, if it wasn't obvious where the controversy lies it falls into a freedom of speech issue. At what junction does trying to ban a game like this, become trying to ban all games with similar themes? This question and others like it is what I was met with on Twitter trying to argue this point. And while I agreed to disagree with a lot of these people, I still find the need to get my thoughts on this down somewhere.
The game's developer, known as Desk Plant, actually begins the conversation on the game's website, with a "common questions" section. The first question being "what is your opinion on free speech?"
Essentially, the developer was apparently beaten by their father for saying things that would snap their father into a rage. And that is absolutely terrible, and no one should have to go through that. That being said, I'm not sure that is what is going on. The internet's response to this person's game is not violence against them. It's merely "we don't want this here".
The developer also seems to relish in the attention and attempts at banning the game, as there is a page dedicated to the "news" of the game being banned or controversial. Likely as a selling point for the game.
For what it is worth, I think the developer and others may have a point. The thin line between what is accepted and what isn't can be hard to find. But I also think that when it comes to the morality or ethics of a company or an individual, then that in itself is a representation of free speech. You should find all the freedoms in the world to create a game like this. Simply because no one is truly going to stop you, because we can't. However, I should be able to use my own free speech to tell others that this game is a bad idea or to ask the entity in charge of selling it to reconsider.
That being said, however, I think this line from the developers Question & Answer section of their website is quite telling:
Q: Why can’t you rape guys in your visual novel?
A: Because I’m not gay, and every frame takes a huge amount of time to render (real lighting simulation) so I had to limit the project in some ways. If you would like to make a game where you can rape guys, then you should go ahead and do that. Seriously, nothing is stopping you.
Ah. Yes. You're not gay. But, this isn't about that, right? Because the zombies in your game are also raping people:
Q: Why do the zombies rape people?
A: Being a zombie takes you down to your basic animalistic desires, which are eating sure… but also sex. Rape is common in all animals.
So is this really about free speech? Or is this some fantasy of yours? I really have to wonder. Because it seems like this game is catering to a group of people around the world who think it's okay to do this.
Perhaps this game doesn't encourage others to act on the depictions of sexual assault in it, in the same way that me playing Grand Theft Auto doesn't mean I'm looking to go run people over in a car. What introducing a game like this to the public does do, is attempts to make a subject such as rape, seem like a fun thing to do.
Need we be reminded of a certain game in which you are a school shooter that was also kicked off of Steam?
In any case, I suppose the point I'm trying to make is this. You are of course entitled to any opinion you want and when you want to make those opinions and ideas known, you are free to do as you please. However, you shouldn't be surprised or upset when people make an uproar about it. Freedom of speech is certainly a right, but your speech still has consequence.
These games make light of an absolutely terrifying experience and subject, and if I or others feel the need to use our freedom of speech because we are offended by these games, then we're going to do so.
Valve, you're not off the hook in this by the way.
As I said earlier, I think as an entity, if nothing else, Valve would want to make some of the more heavy decisions about what games they allow and what games they don't--sooner rather than later. They ultimately did want to protect their brand and figured that the risk and reward from a game like this just didn't factor out very well, and thus the game's release on Steam was halted. However, they dodged really digging deep and telling their customers truly why they decided to keep it off the market. Was it pressure? Did they really care that this depicted some heavy scenes of rape and assault against women?
I can't say that I know what their intentions truly were, but something tells me that this was a monetary decision. I won't fault them for that though, I suppose.
I know that there are people out there who really believe that this will lead to other games being banned on Steam and there being no line in which games won't be banned, and I have to say, I think that is wholly untrue.
I do not think it costs us anything, including our freedom of speech, to dismiss and admit wholeheartedly that a game like this does more damage to gamers and gamer culture, than good. Even if you're "ignoring the game". Once it is there, it's there. Even the "if you don't like it, don't play it" excuse will not keep it out of the broader conversation.