Tentacle Bento and Kickstarter: When No Regulation is Bad Regulation

| brandon

A card game was recently brought to my attention. It’s called Tentacle Bento, and it is currently overfunded on kickstarter by $10,000. Go on and watch the video.

This is a game about tentacle rape – you are meant to “get your slimy tendrils” on as many girls as possible within the given number of cards. But there are other tentacle monsters out to rape girls before you can! And dastardly school officials who can get in your way! Just choose some girls (sexy, sporty, smart, et cetera), a location, and a “sneaky snatch” to grab them with.

The style is a cute, lighthearted, pastel-colored look at the wonderful world of forcing your way inside a female against her will. There are, to my mind, a lot of things wrong with this.

For one thing, rape is not cute. Amnesty International states that 1 in 3 women is molested, sexually assaulted, or otherwise beaten in her lifetime. I’ve heard many advocates say this number is low, due to under-reporting. And it’s not cute, and should never be depicted with such saccharine sweetness as Tentacle Bento does. It is terribly damaging to anyone it happens to.

The more troubling thing is how many people are supporting it without thinking about it. Or even worse, maybe they are thinking about it.

Jokes are jokes, and they are relative to taste. To me, Tentacle Grape Soda is in poor taste, and I think the women who shill it at conferences demean themselves. Others don’t think the joke is bad at all – poor taste maybe, but funny to them. Tentacle Bento takes the joke a step even further by making it an action.

Now we get into a similar territory to games. People have called GTA a rape or murder simulator, and blame crimes and moral decay on its depiction of sex and violence. But we know that influence or interaction does not equal causation. Tentacle Bento won’t force anyone to go out and rape people, and it is clearly couched in fantasy – there are no real-life tentacle monsters that rape human girls, that I know of. It is a fetish, and it is a fantasy for some. What’s more, I do believe sex has a place in media – it’s a natural part of life, and it makes me crazy that people try to ban games because there are boobs in it. Everyone has seen a boob! Even with all that though, there are some things I don’t think should see prime time.

I am not everyone. I am offended by the game, but some may think it’s funny, or that there are more important things to focus on. Still others might be turned on by it. But regardless of personal opinion, this is not something a world-class organization like Kickstarter should be facilitating.

Moving back to games for a moment, if Capcom, say, were to make a tentacle rape Street Fighter game, certainly many people would support it. And they would be happy to play it! But Capcom as a company would be heavily criticized for its insensitivity toward women, and to me that would be the correct response. And that’s why they don’t do it, even if it might please a section of their audience, and it might make them some money. They are a professional company.

There are shades of grey everywhere, and that makes my argument against this card game difficult. How do we decide what is proper and what is improper? The U.S. Constitution says people should be able to say and express what they want. We just won a major court battle granting video games free speech protection. But do you feel good about rape being looked at as cute, even so? What of the actual rape simulator, Rapelay? I used to cover that company on this very site, because they were pushing the boundaries of what games could be. But I do not think these games are good examples of what our industry should be.

Many people have argued to me that I shouldn’t care about this. “What is so bad about this compared to games about violence?” That’s the biggest argument. I counter that violence and sex are a part of life. It happens around us and shouldn’t be ignored. But torture and rape should not be part of life, even if rape is a subset of violence. I would no sooner support a cute game about torture in Guantanamo Bay, even if the torturing protagonists were space aliens. Making fun of suffering is not acceptable to me.

Again, Tentacle Bento won’t make anyone rape a girl, or even encourage them to. Some might argue it is a healthy outlet for unhealthy desires. In a sense, my problem with this game is more a problem with the view of rape and molestation in current society.

I understand, yes, that games and movies trivialize violence all the time. But in real life, very few people trivialize violence, and the ones who do are regarded as psychopaths. On the other hand, people trivialize rape and molestation all the time. Priests cover up their rapes, and apologists say it’s no big deal. Women in many countries are put in jail or killed by their own justice systems, after their own rapes (see here). If a woman was raped, people will think, “well, at least she wasn’t killed,” not realizing the terrible and permanent damage that does to a person. Soldiers get PTSD. So do rape victims.

Tentacle Bento’s Kickstarter success is the product of a society that doesn’t take sexual assault against women seriously enough. It shows that enough people think it’s “not a big deal.” The argument comparing a game about rape to games about violence is limited by the fact that murder is almost universally penalized in our culture, meaning there is a clear line between fantasy and reality there. With rape and molestation, that line is not so clearly drawn, and it results in “cute” games like Tentacle Bento.

I have been told the game isn’t overt about its scenarios, and is more about innuendo than obscenity. But there is no doubt where it comes from, and what it’s drawing on. And molesting girls “just a bit” or through innuendo does not make the game much better.

I’m not the morality police, but I’d like to make a citizen’s arrest. Do not support Tentacle Bento. Instead, write to Kickstarter (the link at the bottom), and complain about the content. Kickstarter is a big enough company that it should be filtering this sort of thing. The company should not help to facilitate the idea that rape is no big deal.

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