Twitch's list of games banned from broadcast has just 17 titles on it, including aggressively offensive fare like Hatred and RapeLay. It also has two free games from Robert Yang, Cobra Club and the recently released Rinse and Repeat. The former game is a virtual "dick pic" photo studio; the latter is a first-person game where players soap up buff men in the showers after gym class. Both feature frontal male nudity.
Yang responded to the bans in a blog post yesterday, taking Twitch to task for a system that would classify his work alongside more clearly distasteful titles.
"On one hand, it is extremely validating as an artist to be acknowledged as 'dangerous' -- thanks, Twitch. On the other hand, the Twitch policy about sex and nudity is shitty and I'm going to complain about why I hate it and feel it's unfair, and also really unhealthy for video games as an art form," Yang said.
The official Twitch rule about nudity in games is that it "can't be a core focus or feature of the game in question... Occurrences in game are okay, so long as you do not make them a primary focus of your stream and only spend as much time as needed in the area to progress the game's story."
Yang says that rule ignores the context of nudity in a game in order to focus on the quantity of nudity instead.
"That means Twitch treats my games exactly the same as the disgusting RapeLay, a game that I won't even bother describing here," Yang said. "This equivocation is offensive to me, when I focus heavily on ideas of consent, boundaries, bodies, and respect in my games."
Yang went on to say that Twitch's policy effectively means that sex in games is acceptable when it is used for titillation and crass exploitation (as in the Dead or Alive series), but not when it is essential to a game's value as an artistic work. Given the somewhat tame activity of showering on display in Rinse and Repeat, Yang also suggested the ban raises a question of systemic homophobia in Twitch's policy.
"Gamers want so desperately for games to function as art, to witness games about the depth of human experience -- and here is Twitch, a crucial platform in games culture that had 44 percent livestreaming market share in 2014, insisting 'NO' -- games should only ever snicker about sex and nudity, like some stoned tweens clutching smuggled Hot Pockets in the back of a movie theater," Yang said. "The idea that nudity and sex are allowed on Twitch, only when it's tangential and exploitative, is a fucking disgrace. It sends conservative messages for what is allowed to be a 'real game,' and discourages artistic experimentation from developers for fear of being banned from Twitch."
Yang later amended the post, substituting "rather regrettable policy" for "fucking disgrace" in the above paragraph. He also called for Twitch to revise its policy to make artistic consideration a factor when deciding what games should be banned from broadcast. A Twitch representative had not returned a request for comment as of press time.