This past week, the discovery of a controversial video game being distributed on the Steam platform led to the game being pulled from the platform due to outrage from the public.
The game by indie developer Desk Lamp, bluntly titled Rape Day, heavily focuses on the concept of morality in the midst of a zombie outbreak, according to a short Q&A hosted on the game’s official website:
“Q: Where did you get your inspiration for Rape Day?
A: As a child I grew up on horror books. Books like goosebumps, scary stories for sleepovers, and scary stories to tell in the dark. As an adult I enjoy horror and psychological thrillers, and am a big fan of zombies. Zombies on their own, can be boring but they are a fun backdrop to add a bit of danger to the world in which your story takes place. I also really love stories that follow the villain’s perspective, such as “Mr. Brooks” and “Nightcrawler”. Morality is subjective and depends a great deal on our basic perceptions and beliefs on what is happening, and while we think we are fighting great wars against evil villains, they believe the same about us. Movies that show the hero as a villain are more real in that sense, more complete. And as most people, I love porn as well. So I decided to combine all of this, originally I set out to make comics and eventually decided on making this visual novel. I also grew up reading choice driven books, and really loved that form of fiction. Rape Day combines the best of all of this.”
On Steam, the game’s official page touted that it was a ‘choice driven visual novel’ with over 500 images and 7,000 words:
Control the choices of a menacing serial killer rapist during a zombie apocalypse. Verbally harass, kill, and rape women as you choose to progress the story.
It’s a dangerous word 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.
Rape Day is a choice drive visual novel. It does not include grinding or any other time wasting activities. So skip the foreplay and enjoy your Rape Day: you deserve it.
RAPE DAY – THE VISUAL NOVEL GAME CONTAINS:
More than 500 images
Over 7 thousand words
Unsurprisingly, as word of the game’s content and themes began to circulate on social media, many users were outraged that such a game would be allowed on Steam’s platform. The game garnered the attention of mainstream news outlets, such as the Daily Mail, The Sun, and PC Gamer, who reported on the game to the general public. Multiple Change.org petitions were started to ban the game from the Steam service, each of which garnered thousands of signatures.
The outrage put Steam in a precarious position. While public pressure demanded they remove the game, doing so would be hypocritical in the face of their own philosophy regarding what games would be allowed on the Steam Store (a philosophy adopted after Steam faced backlash from the banning of the controversial Active Shooter game in 2018):
So we ended up going back to one of the principles in the forefront of our minds when we started Steam, and more recently as we worked on Steam Direct to open up the Store to many more developers: Valve shouldn’t be the ones deciding this. If you’re a player, we shouldn’t be choosing for you what content you can or can’t buy. If you’re a developer, we shouldn’t be choosing what content you’re allowed to create. Those choices should be yours to make. Our role should be to provide systems and tools to support your efforts to make these choices for yourself, and to help you do it in a way that makes you feel comfortable.
With that principle in mind, we’ve decided that the right approach is to allow everything onto the Steam Store, except for things that we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling.
Ultimately, Steam would make an announcement on March 6th, announcing through a blog post that they would be removing Rape Day from the Steam Store:
Over the past week you may have heard about a game called ‘Rape Day’ coming soon to Steam. Today we’ve decided not to distribute this game on Steam. Given our previous communication around Who Gets To Be On The Steam Store?, we think this decision warrants further explanation.
Much of our policy around what we distribute is, and must be, reactionary—we simply have to wait and see what comes to us via Steam Direct. We then have to make a judgement call about any risk it puts to Valve, our developer partners, or our customers. After significant fact-finding and discussion, we think ‘Rape Day’ poses unknown costs and risks and therefore won’t be on Steam.
We respect developers’ desire to express themselves, and the purpose of Steam is to help developers find an audience, but this developer has chosen content matter and a way of representing it that makes it very difficult for us to help them do that.
According to the developer, this is not the end for Rape Day, as the developer implies on their official website that they will be looking into alternative distribution methods:
This game was banned from Steam on 3/7/2019 for “posing too great a risk to Steam, Customers, and its Developers”.
Rape Day will be available soon.
Following the banning of the game from the Steam Store, members of European governments called for a review of Steam, its business practices, and the entire video game industry. First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon called for government regulation within the industry as a preventative measure:
“Violence against women, whether it is sexual or of any other form, is not a game and should never be treated in such a way.
It is serious and must be treated in that way, so I hope that the game is not promoted.
In my view, the matter should not be down to the individual decisions of companies.
It is time for the regulations governing the area to be reviewed.
Perhaps the whole Parliament can unite on the issue and call on the UK Government to do that without delay.”
A similar call to action was raised by Hannah Bardell, a member of U.K. Parliament:
“I’m glad that it has been pulled by gaming site Steam, but their response was woeful. It did not even accept or acknowledge the risk it could pose. At a time when 1 in 5 women will experience sexual violence in their lives, and in a week when it’s International Women’s Day, will [the DCMS] work with me and others to launch a review into how this game even got to the development and approval stage and make sure it appears on no other platform?”
What do you make of Steam dropping ‘Rape Day’? Do you think Steam should be regulated by European governments?