A video game journalist has indicated their intent to deplatform an indie title due to their own personal grievances regarding the game’s subject matter.
Two years after it’s original release on Steam in March 2017, pixelated adventure game Beat Cop recently saw a widespread release across the Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch consoles. On the games’ Steam page, the game is described by Polish developer Pixel Crow and Polish publisher 11 bit Studios as “A retro, pixel art style adventure in New York, inspired by ’80s cop shows.”:
“New York, more like a beast than a city. Explore it’s darkest corners and uncover its secrets as Jack Kelly, a former detective who has been framed for a murder. Degraded and forgotten by old pals, it’s your last chance to find the truth behind this whole terrible mess. The thing is, your new boss treats you like shit, your wife is a money sucking spawn from hell and the local mafia wants your head on a plate. I guess you could say, that things are complicated down here, in the middle of Brooklyn. Oh, and don’t forget about writing tickets, reprimanding pedestrians & such. You’re a beat cop after all.”
The game, which was a nominee in the 15th Annual International Mobile Gaming Awards, is heavily influenced by the craze of cop-related movies and television shows which swept America in the 1980s, such as Miami Vice, Dirty Harry, and Magnum P.I. This genre inspires the game not only visually, but also thematically, as the game’s writing features off-color humor and less-than-politically-correct scenarios (such as rampant, discriminatory racism and misogyny in law enforcement) as tongue-in-cheek depictions of some of the harsh and uncomfortable realities of the 1980s social and political atmospheres. This inspiration and attention to detail is even used as a selling point in the games’ official description:
“THE ESSENCE OF ’80 COP SHOWS
Have you ever dreamed of being one of the heroes of cop movies? Of course you did, like we all. Now you have a chance! Be sexier than Sonny Crocket and tougher than Dirty Harry. And if witty comebacks won’t work, you can always do some old school ass kicking. It’s ’80s after all!
THE HUMOR THAT YOUR MOM WOULDN’T APPROVE
Be sarcastic. Be gloom. Be whatever you want. There are thousands of things in this world you can laugh at, and even more you shouldn’t, but who cares. It’s jungle out there baby, and sometimes you just need something to release the stress.”
Despite the game’s inspiration and themes being publicly addressed and noted by Pixel Crow as intentionally uncomfortable and reliant on dark humor, Game Critics reviewer Brad Gallaway was personally offended by the game, and took to Twitter to condemn the game and call on Nintendo of America to remove the game from their Nintendo eShop digital retail service:
A full @GameCritics update is coming later today, but for now I Do Not Review the indie switch title Beat Cop. It’s full of unacceptably racist and sexist content. @11bitstudios should be ashamed and @NintendoAmerica should remove it from the eShop. https://t.co/hcuhTGxxG3 pic.twitter.com/M0Bavd3kaa
— Brad Gallaway (@bradgallaway) March 30, 2019
In place of a review for Beat Cop, Gallaway instead links to a piece he has written decrying the game, “This Is Not A Review: Beat Cop”. In his piece, Gallaway makes it clear that his main issue with the game are the depictions of racism and sexism featured within Beat Cop:
“My fears were validated almost immediately — after hitting the street with my officer, I was gobsmacked to see how much offensive racial content was on display.”
“There were also several obvious visual displays of racism as well. In addition to the black background character eating watermelon below, the first criminal the game wanted me to arrest was black. The second one was also black. The third criminal? You guessed it, black again.”
“A Mandingo reference came later, and at that point, I’d seen enough of this racist trash and had decided to not play further, but I saw a few other awful things before I deleted it. No surprise, the game doesn’t think much of women. From this throwaway dialogue…
[A screen is shown of a male officer with a word bubble that states “It is a good morning, ‘cause I got some snatch last night.”]
…to the way they ridicule a fellow female officer who doesn’t fit whatever standard of beauty the devs are applying.
[A screen is shown of a male officer speaking to a female officer with a world bubble that states “I knew it, your make-up is way too caked on”.]”
It is apparent, that despite Gallaway’s closing statement wherein he claims to understand the intent behind the creation of Beat Cop, that Gallaway’s personal sensibilities have misrepresented the content of the game:
“The premise of being a cop on patrol is fine and creating an homage to television the ’80s could be great, but both of those things can be done without the unacceptable, inappropriate content that’s front and center in Beat Cop. If the game was critiquing something or offering commentary, then perhaps a case could be made, but there’s no such attempt here, it’s just indulging in the content.”
The game is not indulging in the content; players are not rewarded for being overt racists or misogynists, but rather the racism and misogyny appears in an incidental manner, much like it did in the 1980s. The game is instead acknowledging that while these offensive actions and perceptions were rampant in the 80s, and polite society has grown to better recognize and rectify offenses like those depicted in Beat Cop, these prejudices were so pervasive in the actions and media of the 80s that what may have been acceptable back then is now radically and obviously offensive to more respectable sensibilities.
However, Gallaway’s call for Beat Cops’ removal did not go unnoticed, as Beat Cop game designer Maciej Miąsik brought Gallaway’s tweet to the attention of the /r/KotakuInAction subreddit. In the resulting thread, Miąsik would respond to questions from curious users asking why he believed the game was being targeted. He stated that the negative attention brought upon his game is due to his refusal to follow trends and the game’s ‘problematic’ content:
“I made a game that doesn’t follow current trends. That was enough to be avoided by most of the US press and YouTubers. The game took a lot of flak from usual suspects but players seem to like it (83% positive on Steam). But the fact that the game is considered problematic definitely affected the sales and overall exposure.”
Miąsik also responded directly to the accusations of sexism and racism lobbied against Beat Cop by Gallaway:
“Are there racists and sexist characters in the game? Probably, especially if your criteria are very sensitive (or you follow the rule ” everything is sexist, everything is racist”). Were people in 80s sexists and racists – hell yes, they are often nowadays. Does it make game sexists and racist? I don’t think so.”
“Well, this always was an entertainment piece, not social commentary (if it would, it wouldn’t be to their liking as well). I condone telling the truth even if uncomfortable.”
Billy D of OneAngryGamer also reached out directly to Miąsik for comment, who replied that Beat Cop is based on the reality of the 1980s and criticized Gallaway for using his personal grievances as the basis of a call for censorship:
“Well, this is especially for someone who grew up in the 80s in the communist country and still remembers the times when how the world was officially described was very different to how it really was. For some reason, there are people now in supposedly free countries (with constitutionally protected free speech) that think the reality can be changed if we change the way the reality can be described. We wanted the game to be as close to the 80s era as we remembered it and this is now used against us. I respect anyone’s right to dislike our game but prohibiting others from making their own opinions is a different matter. It doesn’t matter that this guy probably thinks that he’s are a noble social justice warrior, but in reality, he’s just a noble totalitarian, exactly as our communist rulers were.”
Despite Gallaway’s attempt at personal activism, Beat Cop remains available for purchase on the PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch platforms.
What do you make of Gallaway’s criticisms? Do you think the game should be removed? What about Miąsik’s response? Do you agree with him?