Okay this is more of a commentary than a straight-up news story because there is a larger point I’d like to make here so here we go.
This week, a list of games Twitch has banned from being streamed on their server hit started spreading on the Internet. It was a pretty quiet affair until the developer of Yandere Simulator realized their game was on the list as well. The full list is as follows:
- Artificial Academy 1 & 2
- Battle Rape
- BMX XXX
- Cobra Club
- Criminal Girls
- Dramatical Murder
- Grezzo 1 & 2
- Kamidori Alchemy Meister
- Purin to Ohuro
- Rinse and Repeat
- Sakura Angels
- Sakura Beach 1 & 2
- Sakura Santa
- Sakura Spirit
- Sakura Fantasy
- Sakura Swim Club
- Second Life
- The Guy Game
- What’s Under Your Blanket?!
- Witch Trainer
- Yandere Simulator
To be honest, if anyone on this list that should be up in arms its Winged Cloud. I am noted for my critique of the Sakura series, but if you’re not playing the uncensored versions of these games, their only real crime is being creatively bankrupt spank material. However, if some fans who are watching a streamer become inappropriate in chat or if the stream itself crosses over into adult material, then I can see Twitch cutting off the source of the problem than just dealing with every individual case that pops up. It’s harsh reaction and one that can reasonably be debated on both sides.
Yandere Simulator, on the other hand, has no such luck. The developer has said on Twitter that they don’t understand why the game was banned and want to discuss the matter with Twitch. Several gaming outlets, as well as Yandere Sim fans, are also calling for Twitch.TV to explain their decision. And while I would love to see what Twitch’s reaction will be, I can also read and put two-and-two together so it isn’t necessary. So, let’s start from the top; what is Yandere Simulator? The developer’s site gives a detail description of what you’ll be able to do in the game:
The gameplay is similar to the Hitman series; you are put into a large environment filled with many NPCs, and you must track down a specific target and eliminate them. You can use stealth to kill your target without any witnesses, stage an accident that leaves no evidence, or just slaughter anyone who gets in your way. If you don’t dispose of corpses, clean up blood, and destroy evidence, then the police might be able to link you to a murder and arrest you.
If you don’t want to get any blood on your hands, you can use social sabotage to get rid of a girl; frame her for one of your crimes, get her expelled from school, or ruin her reputation. If you truly want her to suffer, convince every other girl in school to bully her until she commits suicide and saves you the trouble.
If the boy you love witnesses you committing murder, he could never love you, and the game would be over.
Okay, Japanese school girls meet Hitman. Considering Hitman can be darkly comic and indulgently violent, that’s a yellow flag but you can still pass Twitch standards as long as the characters are a certain age. That brings us to our next question, ‘How old are the characters in this game?’ From the Yandere Simulator FAQs page comes this tidbit:
How old is Yandere-chan?
To prevent the game from being banned in countries that forbid the depiction of minors in certain situations, Yandere-chan’s age might only be written as “??” and might never be revealed. Senpai is 18, and is one school year above Yandere-chan.
So the main character is under the age of eighteen. How far she is under the age of eighteen is arguable, but she is under the age of eighteen. The developer her mentions that the main character has a little sister and will become a rival and potential target for her later in the game, so that means that there is a good possibility a good percentage of this game’s cast is under the age of eighteen. Is it still workable? Yes, actually. You can have a someone under age and in a violent game. Case in point: Clementine in Telltale’s The Walking Dead. However, the question then goes from age to portrayal.
Going back to Clementine, she can die in Season 2 of the series depending on player input. However, her deaths are never portrayed in any real detail. You know she dies, but it’s not nearly as graphic and camera usually cuts away or has any potential wound blocked from view. The same goes for most games that have underage characters. You can, and many do, rail about the excess violence of Mortal Kombat and how it never seems to get caught in the same rules and regulations other games do. However, if Mortal Kombat had a character under the age of eighteen getting disemboweled or decapitated, people would be screaming bloody murder and the game would be pulled from shelves automatically.
With all of that in mind, let’s see just how Yandere Simulator portrays the violence between the underage characters in their game, and from there what happened with Twitch should be self-evident. Again, from their FAQs page:
Can you decide whether to feed or starve kidnapped victims?
I think that this should be a feature. It’s a low priority for now, but will probably be implemented in the future.
Is dismemberment still a planned feature?
Yes. I haven’t had the time to implement it.
With dismemberment, can Yan-chan leave some body parts laying around school?
I think that this will most likely be possible. NPCs will probably react to corpses similarly to how they react to corpses (running away, telling a teacher, etc).
Will I be able to strangle people?
I would like to implement strangling weapons, but I don’t have the animations for it.
Where can you drown rivals?
Currently, Yandere-chan can drown girls in three places: in toilets, and in a fountain on school grounds. In the future, it should be possible to drown girls in the school pool, as well.
How often can Yan-chan poison people?
There should be at least 1 opportunity to poison each rival. Skill should be required to find or instigate these opportunities.
Is there a way to get rid of the teacher when she guards a corpse?
In the future, if you have a high enough PE stat, you will be able to fight back against teachers and kill them.
Oh and I almost forgot about ‘Info-chan’. Info-chan is a character in the game that will provide certain undercover favors for you in exchange for getting panty shots of other girls. So, between the gratuitous murder of underage high schoolers and the fan service of underage high schoolers, the reason Twitch banned Yandere Sim isn’t a mystery. Even if you don’t outright say the age of the supporting cast, if they’re younger than the main character and the main character is younger than eighteen, it doesn’t take much math. Add to that the unfortunate instances of in-school violence in America and, yeah, I cannot say if I was on Twitch’s management team that I wouldn’t come to same conclusion.
Now, I know the fans of Yandere Sim are already up in arms about Twitch censoring the game and that is the main reason I decided to cover this story. Howling about ‘censorship’ is a near jerk reaction in certain circles of the Internet when their preferences are not embraced outside of said circle. It happened when Senran Kagura and DOAX3 (which had no chance of being brought to American anyway, but that’s a story for another day) and now it’s happening with Yandere Sim. I doubt my small voice from this particular corner of the Internet will gain any headway, but it’s the best platform I got. So to those screaming about censorship on Twitch both now, in previous months and in the future when the service undoubtedly bans something else you love, may I point out the freakin’ obvious?
You are not entitled to stream on Twitch.
The fact that I even have to say that out loud is ridiculous, but regardless it is something that needs to be reiterated. Twitch.TV is a private enterprise that allows people to use their services for profit. They’re well within their rights to determine what their services are used to broadcast. By screaming ‘censorship’ whenever they decide on how their services are used, many people are inferring that they have a right to stream and view what they want and like on a service they do not own or have a financial stake in. There is no grey area in this story: Twitch is in the right and the people complaining are wrong.
‘JP nothing that is shown in Yandere Sim is any different from, say, Mortal Kombat.’
You can, and many do, rail about the excess violence of Mortal Kombat and how it never seems to get caught in the same rules and regulations other games like Yandere Sim do. However, those who try to make this apples-to-apples comparison forget two things. 1: If Mortal Kombat had a character under the age of eighteen getting disemboweled or decapitated, people would be screaming bloody murder and the game would be pulled from shelves automatically. 2: Yandere Simulator is about a high school student commits violent acts against other students and teachers in her school. Considering recent American history with gun violence and school shootings, anything that portrays mass murder in a school setting is going to be treated with caution and anyone who developers a game in the West already knows that.
That last bit really is the key to this thing. Yandere Dev, as he calls himself, knew exactly what he was getting into. And yet his reaction so far has been to capitalize on the sudden publicity by requesting for a ‘dialogue’ from Twitch. You can read and see the video and statement here, but the most revealing piece for me is here;
I would only be willing to change minor and insignificant things that aren’t part of my vision for the game, such as the skin texture during Titan Mode or the size of steam clouds on a nude character’s body. I would not be willing to remove gameplay mechanics or change parts of the game that are essential to my vision, such as torture, bullying, panty shots, erotic manga, the ability to kill students in a school setting, etc.
So yeah, there is no way to read this statement and assume he doesn’t know what’s controversial about his work. He just doesn’t give a damn; which is his right at as a dev. But whether or not he and his fans like it, Twitch has a right to take that behavior into account along with their game’s questionable content. They have a right to protect their own business from anything or anyone that could damage its profitability and reputation and everything about this statement screams ‘liability’ from a business standpoint. It also screams something else, but I barely know Yandere Dev as it is and there’s no reason to make any further assumptions.
The larger point is for the EVN community at large. If you look at the banned list, the majority of the games are either visual novels or originate from Japan. As this particular genre begins to grow, it will be met with honest trepidation. Yes, there is far worse than the games on this particular list out there, but to someone who isn’t desensitized to some of the harsher material coming from, and inspired by, Japanese works, that isn’t a counter-argument; it’s a warning.
How EVN developers react to that trepidation will not only determine how far their projects get in the larger gaming market, but how far other projects after theirs get. I’m not saying they should fit into some universal standard of ‘tame’, but I am saying that developers need to be willing to think long term. Controversy sells for a moment, true, but a scorched Earth policy that allows you to maintain the ‘purity of your vision’ sends this very niche corner of gaming several steps backwards. When to fight and what hills to die on are just as important as your story and presentation and will only become more important in the coming years.
Most importantly, always remember a little respect goes a long way. No one reading or writing this is entitled to the property another person or group. No matter how hard you yell, Twitch.TV isn’t public property. Even if this upsets you to support or build your own streaming site to cater to a niche following, how on Earth do you expect it to actually succeed if you do not respect private enterprise and the free market at its inception? Short version: it won’t work out.
It’s just something to keep in mind because this will happen again. The rage will eventually subside and fanboys and girls across the West will brood until another of their favorites imports get the block from Twitch. But hopefully, just outside the noise the more rational-minded will continue to build bridges and grow the market others take advantage of. And when people realize that not everything that they love is under siege, they’ll put down their torches and support the developers who think beyond a single moment in time, or notoriety, or money. One can dream, right?