- “Rape Day” is an upcoming indie video game about rape and murder during a zombie apocalypse.
- The game is scheduled for an April release on Steam, the most popular platform for PC gaming. “Rape Day” is under review, but its Steam store preview page features images of sexual violence.
- Steam sells thousands of games regardless of their content, including sexually explicit games, as long as they aren’t breaking the law. The company earns 30% of the revenue for each sale in the Steam store.
- Many are calling for the game to be removed from the store for glorifying rape, but the creator of “Rape Day” says the game is within Steam’s rules and is not a danger to the public.
“‘Rape Day’ is a game where you can rape and murder during a zombie apocalypse.” That’s the no-frills description of “Rape Day,” a game scheduled for release next month on Steam, the most popular storefront for PC video games, and the most commonly used video game platform in the world.
As the name implies, “Rape Day” is centered on graphic depictions of sexual violence. As a digital-only release, the game has no official rating, but it would fall deep within the realm of ESRB’s “Adult Only” rating. Like other games with explicit sexual content, “Rape Day” is hidden from regular Steam search results unless the user has allowed those sorts of games to be shown.
Those without a Steam account cannot see the game at all, but when logged in, a search of the word “rape” alone will show that the game has been excluded from the results. Steam gives the player an option to reveal unfiltered search results and preview the game for themselves, if they’re of age. The preview page for “Rape Day” shows 25 screenshots of the game, which include nude women being sexually assaulted and held at gunpoint.
Members of the press and the larger video-game community have only recently become aware of “Rape Day,” but the game has been live on Steam for weeks and is scheduled for an April release. In the past, Steam’s policy has been to allow games as long as they work properly and don’t break the law.
A game called “Active Shooter” stirred controversy after the Parkland shooting last summer for its depiction of a school shooting. Steam eventually pulled the game before it was released, but also put out a statement saying that games that were viewed as problematic would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis to determine whether they violate international law.
“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,” a company statement read last June.
With “Rape Day,” Steam is facing a new wave of criticism for profiting off a game that glorifies rape and sexual assault. While the game hasn’t been officially priced, Steam takes 30% of all sales made on the platform. The game is under review for its content, but is still available for preview and can be added to a user’s wish list.
“Rape Day” is a visual-novel game, meaning players choose from options in a prewritten story to progress through the game. “Rape Day” isn’t animated either; each scene is told with a sequence of still images, with written dialogue and story choices. The game is more like a choose-your-own-adventure book with multiple paths, compared with a traditional video game in which a player controls their character.
Steam sells dozens of visual-novel games with a variety of sexually explicit content. The genre was popularised by Japanese developers who used the style to weave layered stories on top of basic dating simulator games. While some visual novels choose to emphasise the visual rather than the story, the genre has produced plenty of engaging games.
Indie developers can use the visual-novel format to create compelling mystery or romance games without spending a ton of extra time and money on animation and voice acting. Others developers who are more interested in capitalising on players’ basic desires for raunchy content will use visual novels as a cheap vehicle for selling pornographic images with fictional characters.
On the preview page, the game’s creator, who goes by the handle “Desk Plant,” promises more than 500 images in total, more than 7,000 words of written story, and “evil choices.” While there are different story paths, Desk Plant says the game should take about an hour to complete. The project has been in development for two years.
On the site, Desk Plant describes “Rape Day” as a dark comedy and power fantasy. The creator compared the “Rape Day” to best-selling games like “Grand Theft Auto” and “Hitman” that glorify violence, stating that most people would not be influenced by its depictions of sexual assault. The “Rape Day” site includes a page linking to multiple studies that deny a link between video-game violence and real-life crimes.
“Most people can separate fiction from reality pretty well, and those that can’t shouldn’t be playing video games,” Desk Plant wrote. “The point of games is to do things, or experience things that you can’t or shouldn’t in reality. If games and movies were just like real life, they would be pretty boring.”
Desk Plant said that “Rape Day” followed all of Steam’s policies and he disclosed the game’s offensive content before it was publicly listed in the store. The creator understands that Steam has the right to ban the game if it chooses, and will look for other ways to sell and distribute the game if that happens. If Steam bans Desk Plant from publishing other games in the future, the creator plans to start a new platform for pornographic video games.
“If both my game is banned and I am banned, then I will ensure that a content platform for all kinds of legal, quality porn games exist.” Desk Plant wrote on the “Rape Day” site. “I will ensure that it provides the stable foundation for the porn gaming industry to grow and flourish to be the billion dollar industry that basic biology would have it be.”
“Rape Day” puts Steam in a compromising position; the game unapologetically glorifies rape, and has little to offer in terms of actual gameplay. Even if Steam isn’t promoting the game, it would profit from every sale. While Steam has been reluctant to restrict content on the grounds of free speech, there’s not much moral wiggle room left in this situation.
More than 2,000 players are discussing “Rape Day” on the game’s Steam Community Hub, with clashing opinions on censorship, free speech, and the overall legitimacy of the game. We’ve reached out to Steam for further comment on the status of “Rape Day.”
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