Update: The creator of Rape Day, who says they’ve tried to make a game for sociopaths, has posted another update on Steam. It’s ready for launch, they say, but the review process is “taking longer than expected”.
“I learned that because the game contains sexual content and content that may be illegal in some countries, the review process will take much longer than expected. Unfortunately, I was not able to get a more specific time estimate for you guys.”
That sexual content is rape and murder, and it’s hard to imagine how anyone can brush it off as “in some countries it may be illegal” unless they’re just trying to piss people off. The more the developer says, the more the game appears to only exist to cause outrage, which is one of the few reasons Valve could actually kick it off the store. It’s still there for now, though not released.
Original story: Valve has been grappling with the issue of which games should and should not be allowed on Steam for the past several years. Now the largest PC games distributor faces a major test of its content rules, as the focus is on one of the most objectionable games to appear on the platform: Rape Day, a visual novel in which the player “controls the choices of a threatening serial killer rapist during an apocalypse zombie.”
“Verbally harass, kill, and rape women as you choose to progress the story,” reads the official description of the game on Steam, which Polygon reported on this morning. “It’s a dangerous world with no laws. The zombies enjoy eating the flesh off warm humans and brutally raping them but you are the most dangerous rapist in town.” The page, which cannot be viewed unless you’ve logged into Steam and set your store preferences to allow ‘Adult Only Sexual Content,’ includes a trailer and screenshots of 3D-modeled characters which depict the scenes described.
“Murder has been normalized in fiction, while rape has yet to be normalized,” writes Rape Day’s creator on the game’s website, itself essentially an FAQ defending the project. The only other section of the website is a bibliography of sorts that points to six academic studies and articles that refute a connection between violent video games and real-life violence.
The unnamed creator of Rape Day says they have spent two years developing the half-hour-long game. In the first blog update on Rape Day’s Steam page, its creator offered a puzzling defense of the game: that its intended audience includes sociopaths. “Despite what people are saying in the discussion, the game is marked as adult. It’s for a niche audience; If it’s not your type of game you definitely don’t need to play it but as other’s [sic] have said I tried to make a game that I would enjoy playing, and there are other people like me. 4% of the general population are sociopaths and the type of people that would be entertained by a story like this is not even limited to pure sociopaths. I understand that it is however it is not the majority of people; again the game is for a niche audience.”
Rape Day is already generating backlash: several discussions are calling for it to be removed on its section of the Steam Forums. It is not clear, however, whether the game is trolling under the rule of Steam, which suggests that intent is the issue for Valve, not the content itself. The developer explains in the latest update on the Steam page that they have removed a “baby killing scene” to avoid being accused of including “content that exploits children,” which is prohibited in one of the seven guidelines that a Steam game must meet, mostly related to legality.
Rape Day’s eventual fate will provide a test case for Steam’s current set of rules on acceptable content viability. Valve has a few options left: apply the’ trolling’ rule, remove Rape Day on other grounds, or take no action, indicating that Valve considers games where one is encouraged to’ verbally harass, kill and rape women’ to be acceptable under the current Steam policy definition.
Released or not, however, Steam already hosts several still images from the game (we have used the least explicit of them in this article). This indicates that either Valve does not moderate submissions before store pages are posted, or that it did not find Rape Day too objectionable to host. Rape Day has been on Steam since at least February 19. We know from another game, Boobs Saga, that games are in some cases listed on the Steam store before being approved for sale.