I almost didn’t want to write about this because the whole situation has given me a near migraine with the number of times my head has hit my desk since first hearing about it. For those of you just catching up, Kickstarter recently pulled the plug on a campaign by Soda Pop Miniatures to fund their title, Tentacle Bento. What is Tentacle Bento you ask? In a nutshell, it’s a creeptastic game “spoofing” anime (but made by a crew from the West) where the end goal is to rape as many cute ladies as possible. The whole thing is done in lovely pastel colors so it’s totally not violent or gross or anything like that – it’s, as it’s creators would have you believe, subversive, edgy, fun! (Is your head on your desk yet?).
As usual the Borderhouse crew is on top of things with an insightful and poignant analysis about why the game’s existence and appeal is damning and damaging not just for gamer culture but for popular culture at large. You can check out contributor Alex’s insightful write up about the whole affair here.
Rather than recap Alex’s excellent take on the whole mess, I’ll add my own two cents to the mix. The most chilling aspect of Soda Pop Miniature’s marketing of Tentacle Bento is their own obtuseness about the fact that they’re making a rape game. Simply put, they really just don’t get it. These folks seem to be so blinded by their own privilege that they can’t possibly conceive of the fact that they’re making a game that trivializes rape. I mean the core object of the game is literally raping (oh I’m sorry, “snatch and grabbing” to use their words) as many girls as possible. If you can’t see how that’s royally fucked up I don’t think I can have a meaningful conversation with you.
The developers haven’t, as of my writing, commented publicly on the critiques to their game. They did, however, include this statement on both their kickstarter and website’s funding page: “We are firmly against the depiction of violence against women in any regards.”
If you are, in fact, against the depiction of violence against women – in ANY FORM – how do you not understand that a game that involves “collecting” women and using assault as a mechanic is a form of violence. I mean seriously Soda Pop Miniature crew – read your OWN WORDS.
The company calls their game “cheeky satire” but it seems that they don’t actually understand what either of those words means. (Much like how most of the privileged internet doesn’t grasp the true and appropriate usage of the word “censorship.”) As far as I can tell, there’s not a trace of irony or sarcasm present in the video for or pitch for Tentacle Bento. If this game is meant to satirize the genre of anime that fetishizes tentacle rape then why are players rewarded for subduing and conquering as many women as they can – that’s not satire, that’s just literally the genre they claim to poke fun of. (I’m not seriously trying to “fix” the design of this awful game, just attempting to keep my palm from smacking my forehead again).
Moreover, if your game is actually supposed to satirize this genre, then why is one of the donation incentives an opportunity to have a WOMAN YOU KNOW DRAWN INTO THE GAME?!!! You read that right – one of the prizes for funding this game is getting your own wife or girlfriend (or potentially non consenting woman because how the hell do these folks know) drawn in as a character in the game! Yup, with or without their consent you can include the women in your life as fodder for the “mischievous” rapey monster villain in this game. All in good fun right?
Here’s the thing – I know there are those who will read this and wonder why I, or others aren’t up in arms about murder in games or violence in games in general. The thing is, I can’t, for the life of me, think of a game where the primary objective is to murder children or where murder is normalized and trivialised in the way that rape is in Tentacle Bento. And while video games, especially, are rampant with violent content, I can’t think of a game where, even as a villain, my primary core gameplay objective is the destruction and assault of totally innocent parties as it is in Tentacle Bento.
And the thing is, we know, and it’s culturally accepted, that murder and violence are wrong. They’re abnormal – they’re scary. The same is not so true with rape. We still live in a cultural climate where most victims don’t report their rape, where rape is not seen as a big deal, where victim blaming is prevalent, and where, yes, in 2012, some folks still think women are asking for it. As Alex so rightly pointed out at the close of her piece, “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.”
While I applaud Kickstarter for pulling the campaign, to me, common sense dictates that it shouldn’t have even been up there in the first place. I don’t know what I’m more bothered by, the fact that Tentacle Bento exists, that gamers are defending it, or that there’s enough of an audience for it that it’s on its way to being funded….