Thoughts and Ramblings

Thought Police Pull Plug on Tentacle Bento – An Honest Look

Ah yes, the story of Tentacle Bento… I’m sure plenty of folks already know the story behind the successful funding run Soda Pop Miniatures put together on Kickstarter only to be followed by KS cancelling the project after receiving complaints from an ad hoc write in campaign due to the subject matter of the game. These complaints, for the most part, came about because of a post from Brandon Sheffield of insert credit and echoed by Luke Plunkett of Kotaku. If you don’t know the underlying theme of Tentacle Bento I’ll let you in on the fact that shokushu goukan is pretty much what the proceedings are all about. This isn’t to say the theme is completely spelled out, but anyone with an ounce of brains can understand that’s what’s being implied.

If you aren’t familiar Shokushu Goukan is, for all intents and purposes, “tentacle rape” although the term is actually a bit broader in the Japanese lexicon and can refer to sex with some sort of penis-like appendage of a creature but not an actual penis. This sex could be consensual but, in reality, is rarely ever portrayed in this way. From here on out, I’ll just refer to the genre as “tentacle porn” as I have in the past on our show.

I should mention those who want to read further need to take a moment to put on their big-boy or big-girl pants because I’m going to write about a few things that might make some folks a bit uncomfortable. On the show we like to toss out the line about “younger and more sensitive gamers” and that no doubt applies here. I do promise to keep this all within our self-imposed guidelines of using language in the same realm of what you would hear on prime-time American television. Or, possibly, what you could be exposed to on basic cable. Also, these are my thoughts and they certainly don’t reflect those of anyone else involved with The Gaming Gamg. I’m also pointing out there are no additional images or videos involving Tentacle Bento outside of what was needed to present the post in order to fit the format of our landing page and nothing more – there are no embedded videos, images, or anything else to possible garner interest in the title. I will include links in order for readers to follow the conversation and nothing more.

Let me begin by saying I was aware of the Tentacle Bento project on Kickstarter. Yep. I saw it, caught the video, read the description, understood what was being implied, and decided it was not something I was going to talk about in any way, shape, or form. I’ll guess Elliott ran across the project as well – seeing he tends to spend more time than I checking out table top game projects on Kickstarter – and decided to not promote the project either. I can’t purport to know why Elliott decided to ignore the project but I can say I took a pass because A) I found the game to be in poor taste, B) as I may joke from time to time, on the show, I only watch “tentacle porn” (as opposed to any other television) it’s only a bit of a running gag as the appeal of that genre boggles my mind, C) it didn’t strike me as a very good game regardless of the subject matter, D) the videos struck me as a little creepy, and – most importantly – E) I don’t think rape or any kind is something to make light of regardless if it’s a person, creature, robot, tentacle hummingbird, or what have you perpetrating the act or the victim of the act.

I’m going to give our readers full disclosure – something neither Messieurs Sheffield or Plunkett may be willing to do on their respective websites – and say I have watched  and do watch adult entertainment; this reminds me of the old joke about that whole topic of masturbation: one percent of the population does it and the other 99% lies about it. I’m sure there are adults out there who have never seen pornography but they are going to be few and far between regardless of what they want to admit or may have felt seeing that film or video. This said, I don’t buy into the mantra pornography perpetuates violence against women (as scientific studies have determined the opposite to be true or, at worst, don’t correlate a propensity to violence) while, at the same time, I do believe a lot of people have a very overblown fixation with porn that can establish a lot of unhealthy expectations for both men and women. Just as women aren’t all about experimenting with every conceivable orifice, or willing to receive bodily fluids in those same said orifices, neither is every man walking around carting ICBMs in their pockets with launch codes locked on a forty-five minute mark.

That’s just a huge reality disconnect.

Just as someone who thinks some silly ass card game, about taking on the role of some horny cartoon tentacle creature looking to leave their mark on equally cartoony female characters portrayed on a playing card, constitutes some kind of rape manual is equally disconnected from reality. I’m surprised Brandon or Luke were able to control their knees jerking long enough to write op-eds and take to their favorite social media to campaign against a product of which neither of their respective websites devote any time. Are inner credit or Kotaku hotbeds of table top gaming news or reviews or opinion? Abso-freaking-lutely not!

Which leads me to the aspects which infuriate me about the whole Tentacle Bento fiasco.

There are two things in this world which will chap my ass to no end: Censorship and Hypocrisy.

Look at the websites that cover our hobby outside of BoardGameGeek (since that’s a dumping ground for anyone’s thoughts with very little editorial control) and tell me how many of those other sites were writing or talking about Tentacle Bento. Better yet, peek at the websites run by people you like and respect the opinions of and run those sites. Now type in a search for Tentacle Bento whille you’re at those sites. I will bet dollars to donuts the only reference you’re going to find is regarding the cancellation of the Kickstarter title. I’m not talking about websites who’ll post any press release that comes their way or aggregate other news in a vain attempt to score your traffic but the people out there who’re legitimately promoting the hobby and doing their best to provide you with serious information.

You wouldn’t see Jack about this title as none of us gave the slightest notion of coverage.

I’ll take a stab all of us knew about it and scoped the game out and collectively thought to ourselves (on our own initiative) Tentacle Bento just wasn’t our cup of tea. We didn’t lift a finger to keyboard to let you know about it while, at the same time, we didn’t go out of our way to inform you not to back the project. No one in the “gaming” media is qualified to make a judgment call about what you should or should not have the right to purchase just like we aren’t here to tell publishers what they have the right to bring (or not bring) to your table.

I’ll be the first to point out I brought up the topic of War on Terror during one of our earliest shows in 2010 and said I found the subject matter to be offensive to myself personally and I had no interest in playing it. I also made mention people had every right to produce that game just as I had every right to take a pass on buying it. Hey, I just gave you a link to the game because it’s not my place to tell you what you can or cannot buy! I even told Elliott I found the game as offensive to me as I would if someone would want to publish a “Date Rape” game; knock yourself out designing that one but I’m not going to look at it, play it, or review it. That’s one of the advantages of being a two man (now kind of a four man) operation – we can ignore anything anyone wants us to talk about, present things the way we see them, and sleep well in return.

Yet you have the freedom to being an asshole spending your money buying games like War on Terror or Tentacle Bento because a hell of a lot of men and women died to provide you with the opportunity to spend that money on just about anything your heart desires as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone or break any laws. There are no laws against being offended or finding something in poor taste in this country. That’s the way I like it because if I don’t dig something or am offended by it that makes me stop for a moment and ask myself why I feel that way. Once in a while it might even force me to reevaluate my stance in a thoughtful, adult, and responsible way which trails me into the second of my ass chappers…

Hypocrisy somehow doesn’t seem to carry as much of a negative connotation as it did when I was a kid growing up. Say what you mean and mean what you say was drilled into me and became ingrained into my very being just as I’m sure it’s the same for many of our readers; I can say with 100% authority that nothing you’ll ever read or hear on The Gaming Gang isn’t wholeheartedly what any of us think or feel is the truth. That’s not to say we’re always right, or you’ll agree with our opinions, but we do call it as we see it.

Which is why I’ll call bullshit on Kotaku and inner circle.

Here we have a couple of websites who focus on video games. These are not people who publicly state they play any sort of games outside of video games so they’re not well versed in the things we cover. If you surf through their websites to read any of the articles you’ll find there is absolutely no issue to be had by them regarding violence against women, men, children, whatever. Sure… there’s the typical hand wringing article from time to time about violence in video games but how can you take Kotaku seriously in their railing against Tentacle Bento when they have one of their own correspondents write “it’s one thing to let a woman get killed by a train (yes, I have “earned” this achievement, and yes, I felt really weird about it afterwards.)” regarding Red Dead Redemption? Really?

I’ve played RDR and thought it was a fantastic game. I even knew you could tie a woman up and leave her on the train tracks to watch her be killed by an oncoming train. Still, I didn’t “unlock” that achievement because that simply isn’t the kind of human being I am. I don’t give a rat’s ass if it’s a game or not, I just don’t play that way.

For a website that seemingly wants to concern themselves with simulated violence against women – in a card game no less –  they sure do seem to link to a lot of YouTube videos focusing on the “massacre” keyword. I do believe there are quite a few women being gunned down in these videos and my eyesight is pretty good so I know I’m seeing it correctly…

But you better write Kickstarter so they can pull the plug on some stupid tentacle rape game because you just know that’s going to be bad for the community since maybe one person within fifteen miles of where you live pledged support for the Soda Pop game while only just about everyone on your block has some sort of video gaming system. We don’t want anyone to look at some cartoon cards to fantasize about rape in a gaming genre we know nothing about but it’s just Jake with us if you visually kill a woman on your PS3 or X-Box since that’s obviously healthy. It’s all in perspective baby!

Yeah, so long Kotaku argument. Enjoy that fleeting time you had on your high horse.

The inner circle argument is a little stickier to tackle but no less asinine. Brandon brings up very valid points, while at the same time not promoting links to what’s effectively video game snuff flicks on YouTube all the while jerking you off about video game violence. I get the feeling this guy’s heart is in the right place but his argument is misguided as well. BTW, if you’re an old school video gamer this is actually a website worth your time; Kotaku to me smacks as one step above the sleaze of the internet – the dreaded aggregator as I don’t have the feeling that site’s posted an original thought on the outside of a paragraph in length…

So, as a personal point to Brandon Sheffield, I have to say this:

I’m right with you on 98% of what you write. I’ve looked through your site and it’s obvious you post what’s on your mind and you believe what you have to say. Rape isn’t funny, it’s nothing to make light of, and it’s certainly not something to base a game of any kind upon. You state statistics about rape because, I’ll guess, you don’t know someone who has been raped or someone you know hasn’t shared that fact with you; people who have no clue normally turn to stats to back whatever their claim.

You should bless your lucky stars if you’ve never known someone who’d been raped because, for a lot of victims, death at the hands of their attacker would have been a hell of a lot more preferable to what they had to live with in the aftermath and continue to wake up and function with every day. Yet, the most powerful argument you bring to bear is one out of three women is a victim of some sort of sexual abuse. Nice going nitwit, but you can’t sit at the adult’s table until you actually reside in the adult world.

As much as you may want to slam the door closed on Tentacle Bento all you’ve done is let the genie out of the bottle. In America we can’t legislate good taste. I can’t have a court of law tell you the kind of things you should be morally comfortable with just as you can’t do the same with me.  Just as Soda Pop met all the requirements to post on Kickstarter, and didn’t overstep the terms and conditions of launching a project, regardless of what right thinking human being might have thought about their game.

We in the non-video gaming media – yes the people who write about the hobby on a daily basis and not only when someone shares a link to something that makes us mad – had the situation under control as far I could see. Regardless of TB coming from a company like Soda Pop or from some mom and pop, we weren’t talking about the Kickstarter project – we just weren’t. I’m not aware of any vast conspiracy of any sort but those of us who tackle this thought to ourselves Tentacle Bento wasn’t worth the time of day. That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t have been funded but we weren’t actively looking to get it funded either. It also didn’t mean we were willing to turn a blind eye to a piece of crap game like this either as we understand how Kickstarter works.

Information embargoes on game companies work wonders. You just have to shut the hell up for a while – who cares if you’re not getting the latest scoop out there from a company producing something which you’re diametrically opposed – and censure as opposed to being the censor. That way you can still feel good about what you do instead of being an info dump whore simply to score a handful of new visitors.

Cries are now ringing out about how could a company like Kickstarter (as massive and well respected as they are – NOT!) could let a project about rape make its way past their vetting process. Are you really asking that question? Do you know who processes the payments for Kickstarter pledges? Do you see what’s available for purchase on Amazon?

Are you that naïve?

Did any of these video game blogs stop for a minute to think Soda Pop is a mighty small player in terms of our hobby and when I say “our hobby” I mean one which their websites don’t cover, unless they need to vent some faux outrage. Maybe being all bent out of shape about the subject matter of Tentacle Bento played right into the hands of Soda Pop?

All this fiasco has done is damage an industry I have great love for while, at the same time, insuring the publication of a game title for which I have great disdain. Sure, people who know nothing about table top gaming have brought a lot of new visitors (who care nothing about our side of the gaming tracks) to their websites to promote censorship of our games while they revel in a higher level of violence and a promotion of violence to women than any board game designer could ever dream.

Nicely done asshats.

Bravo.

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Jeff McAleer

Founder/Editor-in-chief of The Gaming Gang website and host of The Gaming Gang Dispatch and other TGG media, Jeff tackles any and all sorts of games but has a special fondness for strategy, conflict sims, and roleplaying games. Plus, he's certainly never at a loss for an opinion...

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One Comment

  1. Well put Jeff! The less said about the game the better but those two websites pretty much handed over free advertising. It looks like Soda Pop is well on their way of getting the game out there on preorders now.

    I looked at Inner Circle and Kotaku and they don’t cover board games at all. Maybe they should have left this topic to the pros.

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