Tentacle Bento Puts the Tentacle In Kickstarter

So a couple days ago there were a couple articles on Kotaku and Insert Credit and as of 15 hours ago Kickstarter canned Tentacle Bento’s project. They have since then move to their own site, as they were overfunded by a lot. That just means people wanted to buy this game.

For one, I applaud more tabletop games with anime-style themes. It’s unfortunate that rape makes such an interesting…plot twistgame mechanic and it is kind of a joke in the scene. It isn’t unfortunate, however, that it is funny. There are a lot of sad and twisted things in this world that are funny. Humor, especially the dark sort, is some of the best gifts God gave to mankind to cope with those sort of tragedies (eg., actual rape). That silver lining often is ironic.

I think the moral/rights/nonsense part of the issue is kind of straightforward. Kickstarter can choose to allow or not allow any kind of project. Here is what they say. I bolded the potentially relevant items:

[]There are some things we just don’t allow on Kickstarter.

Alcohol (prohibited as a reward)
Automotive products
Baby products
Bath and beauty products
Contests (entry fees, prize money, within your project to encourage support, etc)
Coupons, discounts, and cash-value gift cards
Drugs, drug-like substances, drug paraphernalia, tobacco, etc
Electronic surveillance equipment
Energy drinks
Exercise and fitness products
Financial incentives (ownership, share of profits, repayment/loans, etc)
Firearms, weapons, and knives
Health and personal care products
Heating and cooling products
Home improvement products
Infomercial or As-Seen-on-TV type products
Items not directly produced by the project or its creator (no offering things from the garage, repackaged existing products, weekends at the resort, etc)
Medical and safety-related products
Multilevel marketing and pyramid programs
Nutritional supplements
Offensive material (hate speech, inappropriate content, etc)
Pet supplies
Projects endorsing or opposing a political candidate
Pornographic material
Raffles, lotteries, and sweepstakes
Real estate
Self-help books, DVDs, CDs, etc
Promoting or glorifying acts of violence

I mean, it’s offensive? I guess any kind of rape anything can be offensive? Who is the judge? And violence! Tons of games with violence on KS go untouched. I suppose those are not “inappropriate content”? I guess it’s okay if they don’t really come up with any objective standard, personally. It’s going to have consequences, but so be it.

In as much I think the Insert Credit article is wrong to compare the allowance of funding for one project versus actually creating a project, it is a valid argument in terms of “does world class organization should be associated with XYZ”? I think that is a stance ultimately bad for free speech, but since Kickstarter is a private sort of thing and isn’t like, say, a publisher like Apple is (BTW they are totally content Nazis), they can probably get away with it. By the way that was the only valid argument in that Insert Credit article that I can really get behind. And that is also unfortunate.

When I first learn and read about this Tentacle Bento KS ban, my initial reaction was more like, “well too bad so sad.” But the second reaction was, “can someone sue Kickstarter for its association with a project that got into legal problems due to content”? Actions have long, fetching consequences. And I think you can. Moreover by censoring a game like Tentacle Bento on the basis of content, just because it’s vaguely borderline to project guideline as far as I can tell–it might be evidence of KS’s involvement in knowingly selecting or condoning specific projects. That is potential litigation fuel–hopefully fuel that will never get used.

The other thing I thought about is just how given the increasing diversity of subgenre and scenes for online nerd scenes, and the deep-drilling niche prjects that Kickstarter enables, there’s a huge risk in terms of misunderstanding the context and nature of, say, tentacle rape. Because that term carry very different meaning between people. Which word speaks louder: tentacle or rape? As the database animals march on, what used to be acceptable interpretation of potentially offensive material may get meta-twisted into parody spinoff games and what not, and I guess those things should not count on Kickstarter for funding from now on. Yes, I’m saying the Insert Credit article just doesn’t quite get it (especially in 2012 terms) but his view is probably common enough to represent a large group of people who will run into more weird situations like this as more niche things find ways to emerge from obscurity.

The more I think about it as an instance of cultural misunderstanding, the more I wonder if the problem isn’t so much how society views rape, but how westerners view Japan. I mean, most Japanese cultural coverage in English media is along the lines of “Oh you silly/weird country/people group” and there is really no real attempt to understand it by the mainstream. I mean, it’s almost hypocritical of Kotaku to talk down on tentacle rape, despite having some of the best tools to be able to get deep into this otaku crud, and rely on it for hits. I probably learn more about Japan from the New York Times than Kotaku, and that is not exactly a shining example.

PS. If you want to read about a cool Kickstarter that breaks a few guidelines, check this out. And do you understand by what I mean by lawsuit? Like, Kickstarter is ripe for some enterprising plaintiff’s attorney to take them to court? Oh yeah.

8 Responses to “Tentacle Bento Puts the Tentacle In Kickstarter”

  • Tony Yao

    The game does bother me to a certain degree. But as long as people don’t hurt each other, then whatever makes them happy.

    Plus, even the fine print on their site says they don’t support bad treatment of women!

    This does make me wonder about Kickstarter’s standards on content…..

    • omo

      The whole premise to the game is ludicrous, that it is just as ludicrous that people find it offensive. This is not at all like Rapelay or nukige or anything like that. This is more like an internet meme about bizarre Japanese things.

      I mean is a game making fun of Rule 34 inappropriate for Kickstarter now, assuming it isn’t actual pornography?

      That said, I’m okay if Kickstarter want to avoid hosting projects that are inappropriate for them. It just has to be something they need to be fair and reasonable with, and communicate it to the community as to what their standards of appropriateness are.

      It’s safe to say that there’s a degree of inappropriateness about Tentacle Bento, and I’m not a big fan of a game which plays mostly on the concept of tentacle rape. I’m also a fan of appropriate things at the appropriate places. The game itself also looks pretty derpy, that the only redeeming aspect is just the artwork (and barely so). It’s pretty obvious that this is just a gag.

      People upset about this are definitely the type of people who are too stuck up to see it.

  • vendredi

    “can someone sue Kickstarter for its association with a project that got into legal problems due to content”?

    This is the big sticker that I’m not sure Kickstarter realized. Yes, the funds aren’t actually *there*, but the site’s requirements (bonuses for contributors, deadlines, etc. etc.) means that developers have to get moving on certain arrangements – negotiating printing contracts, making future commitments, and so on and so forth. If your funding suddenly dries up as the result of an arbitrary decision by your investor, that doesn’t change the fact that you might still have bills to pay.

    Canceling the project on such short notice and with nary an explanation is heavy handed does not reflect well on the Kickstarter team. A suspension, or even some sort of letter being open about the public discomfort of the game would be helpful. Even better would be some sort of negotiated settlement with Soda Pop (even a “please take this somewhere else” plea).

    It certainly didn’t help that (if I’ve read the coverage correctly) the game itself was nominated as a staff pick a few weeks prior.

    • omo

      The scenario you posited is possible I guess, but that seems unlikely unless your project starts with the letter P and ends with “ebble.”

      I’m thinking more like, if someone wants to sue some product–say an iPhone holder failed and broke something or someone, and then a class action suit took place, I’m sure as hell that KS will be one of the defendants.

      At least that seems like the more common case. It’s also possible that you can have some rogue Kickstarter project that end up causing some kind of harm as one of its stretch goals or some such, or broke some kind of patent/copyright thing, what have you…

  • jpmeyer

    I mean, it’s almost hypocritical of Kotaku to talk down on tentacle rape, despite having some of the best tools to be able to get deep into this otaku crud, and rely on it for hits.


  • omo

    I left a turd in Gizmodo’s comments.

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