by Shakesville Moderator Scott Madin
[Content Note: Rape, rape culture, rape apologism/trivialization, misogyny, racism/Orientalism.]
Recently a company called Soda Pop Miniatures launched a Kickstarter project to fund a card game called "Tentacle Bento". The game features anime/manga-style art, mainly of busty young women in stereotypical "schoolgirl" uniforms, and is set at "Takoashi University"*, a fictional school in Japan. (Note here that John Cadice, the owner of Soda Pop and lead artist on the game, is a white American.)
The game riffs on the conventions of tentacle hentai, with players taking on the role of the monsters, and competing to "snatch" the most "girls". As I understand it, there is no actually explicit or graphic art or language in the game, nor is the action of the game referred to as "rape" at any point — what's happening is conveyed by innuendo and an assumption of prior understanding of the genre's conventions.
Games journalist Brandon Sheffield (@necrosofty on Twitter) was the first person I saw publicizing that Kickstarter was hosting a project that trivialized rape for entertainment, and after further commentary and complaints to Kickstarter that this violated their terms on "prohibited content", Kickstarter canceled the project. (For those unfamiliar with Kickstarter, when a project launches a funding deadline is set, and Kickstarter users can pledge to back the project; projects offer backer rewards at different pledge amounts, but no one's credit card gets charged unless the project reaches its funding goal, and then only once the deadline arrives.)
(At the $500 pledge level for Tentacle Bento, a backer could choose to submit a photo of "yourself or your wife/girlfriend" to be used as a model for a victim card; as far as I can tell these special cards were only going to be included in promotional card decks sent to backers, not the retail product. Eight people had pledged at the $500 level when the project was canceled.)
Sheffield and other critics fielded a lot of backlash after Kickstarter canceled the project, in all the predictable forms. Then Mike "Gabe" Krahulik of Penny Arcade (who I'm sure you all remember from the enormous mess that erupted over their "dickwolves" comic strip) decided he'd support Soda Pop — who moved their fundraising efforts to their own website after Kickstarter pulled the plug on them — by tweeting a link to their donation page.
I'm sure everyone can guess how things went after that.
Following are the main links I know of about the game, its cancellation on Kickstarter, and the controversy that's followed. Please feel welcome and encouraged to drop additional links into comments.
The Kickstarter Page. (The pages for canceled and unsuccessful projects, as well as successful projects remain up — I'm not sure for how long.)
Trailer Video. (In this trailer, as @diannapevensie noted, exclusively white actors portray the students and staff of a purportedly Japanese university.)
Brandon Sheffield: Tentacle Bento and Kickstarter: When No Regulation Is Bad Regulation.
Anna Anthropy (@auntiepixelante): Do You Really, Really, Not Get the Difference?
Alex Raymond (@elenielstorm): Kickstarter Cancels Tentacle Rape Card Game.
Shawn (@Counterpower): Why I Didn't Attend PAX East.
Mat Jones (@pillowfort): Penny Arcade, Tentacle Bento, A Summation.
Alli Thresher (@AlliThrasher), guest-posting at Alyssa Rosenberg's blog: A Tentacle Rape Game – Why Are People Supporting This Again?
Sheffield: The Boundaries of Humor: An Interview with John Cadice, Creator of Tentacle Bento.
Dianna E. Anderson (@diannapevensie): Making a Game of Rape.
* I don't speak or read Japanese, but from what I can gather "tako" means "octopus".