Meanwhile, in the gaming community there has been some controversy about an upcoming game. Well, actually it’s been more like a huge fight. You see, there is a game developer called, “Desk Plant” and they are planning to release a game in April called “Rape Day.”
If you think the name of a game Rape Day means that you get to play a game where you … you know, rape women. Well, then you’d be right. That’s right - some douchebag company honestly thought it would be a great idea to market a game where you could rape women.
But who would be dumb enough to release such a game (you might ask)?
Enter Steam. For those that do not know, Steam is website developed by Valve Corporation. The site is used to distribute games & related media online and provides the user with installation and automatic management of software. Steam has a lot of games. And I mean - a lot. I use it all the time. In fact, 90 million active members use Steam every month, just to give you an idea how big the game site is.
Steam is no stranger to controversy. They sell a huge variety of games that cover a huge variety of topics up to and including - controversial topics. There has been game drama. Which led Steam to come up with an official response and, they kind of washed their hands with policing games they sell on their site. They feel that folks should be able to tell stories and create games about any and all controversial topics. It’s the free speech argument. Which is totally fair, so they basically said that unless the game is illegal - we’ll sell it. From their official June 6th, 2018 blog post:
“...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.”
Okay. Fair enough. The “straight up trolling” comment is the interesting part because that could mean … well, a lot of different things.
Cut to Rape Day. The developers call it an interactive graphic novel. What this means is the game is not a traditional animated movement game as your characters walk around, interact with objects and fight bad guys. Instead of that, it’s more like you (the player) are flipping pages of a comic book and get to make choices in order to reveal specific drawn pages.
The premise of Rape Day is simple: it’s a zombie apocalypse. And in the zombie apocalypse you play a sociopath. And you get to kill zombies. You also get to murder survivors and rape any and all women you encounter!
As you can imagine, the ridiculous premise brought the gamer social media house down. Multiple petitions and almost ten thousand emails flooded Steam Sales owner Valve Corporation with a universal cry of “WTF?”
After a few days of deliberating, Steam released this as their official word on the matter:
"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."
I’m fine with Steam’s decision here. Now, this doesn’t mean no one will be able to find the game anywhere. Desk Plant will probably just sell it off their own site, or something. But not getting on Steam will certainly restrict its findability, for sure.
BUT .... like all controversial things … controversy breeds sales. And I know I am part of the problem here. For example: It’s highly likely that, had I not written about this game - you may have gone your entire life without ever hearing about it. And I wouldn’t have ever heard about it had several game sites not written about it. Had the game just been released on Steam it might have come and gone and the overwhelming majority of us would have lived in blissful ignorance. Which, probably, would have kept sales for Rape Day, very, very low. And then the game and the company that developed it, probably would have come and gone and faded into obscurity.
Alas, now it’s out there. It’s not even just on the game sites any longer as Variety, Business Insider and Fortune all have articles about it. What probably began as some legitimately concerned women and/or parents sending a message or two to Steam asking them, “Is this seriously what you want to sell on your site?” has now blossomed into free advertising for a game that most folks would have never, ever heard about in the first place.
Which makes me a little sad. I mean, technically, these guys aren't doing anything illegal (as far as I am aware) but the idea of trying to "normalize rape" (that's the game developer's words, not mine) frankly, is kind of disgusting.
So, while Rape Day, as a game, might be legal - at least it won’t easily accessible and found on Steam. And I'm okay with that.
Although, I am suddenly playing Devil's Advocate here and thinking, "But if it remains on Steam, you could see which of your friends are playing it and then you could sit them down and be like, "Dude - WTF is wrong with you!?"
Nah. I guess I'd just rather just have it off Steam, go find it somewhere else, Incel Troll.
If you’re a gamer you are already well versed in Twitch and know the name Ninja like the back of your hand, but for most folks, mentioning either will make them say, “What, who?” and “Ninja’s are cool.”
Well, I mean - obviously that’s what they’d say because ninjas are cool (and by cool I mean, totally sweet!). And also, because - Ninja’s have real ultimate power!
But I digress.
So, what is exactly is Twitch and how does one make $10 million dollars on it?
Well, according to Wikipedia:
“Twitch is a live streaming video platform owned by Twitch Interactive, a subsidiary of Amazon. Introduced in June 2011 as a spin-off of the general-interest streaming platform, Justin.tv, the site primarily focuses on video game live streaming, including broadcasts of eSports competitions, in addition to music broadcasts, creative content, and more recently, "in real life" streams. Content on the site can be viewed either live or via video on demand.”
Um, okay. But where exactly did this Twitch thing come from?
Well, Justin.tv used to be a site where anyone could broadcast a video about … well, whatever they wanted. They idea was supposed to be - broadcast about life. And people did. And Justintv kept adding new content, eventually expanding and including all the good and bad content you can expect when you allow anyone to broadcast anything they want. Then, in 2011 Justintv added a “broadcast about your gaming experience” section, called - Twitch.
And Twitch was popular. I mean, hugely, mind bendingly popular. Far more popular than anything else on Justintv. Suddenly, Justintv exploded upwards of 45 million unique monthly viewers. The company saw opportunity and rebranded as Twitch Interactive and most of (if not all of) the content outside gaming - was shut down.
And then, megacorporation Amazon snapped up Twitch Interactive for a measly $970 million. Now, Twitch has about 27 thousand partner channels, approx. 2.5 million broadcasters, approx. 15 million daily users with about 100 million monthly viewers.
Which means it was probably a $1 billion dollars well spent.
Okay. But how does it work?
Well, you or me, or anyone - create an account on Twitch and then you play games and stream them online. And Twitch broadcasts the game. Live. And folks can watch. And then folks can choose to give you money - so you play more games. Online. So that folk can watch. And give you more money. So you can play more games. Online. On Twitch. So folks can watch. And give you more money. So you can play more games. Online - you know what? I think you see where this is going.
Basically, Twitch provides the platform for you to stream games online. And if you’re good enough, or entertaining enough, or cute enough - you can build an audience. And your audiences pays you. Or not.
And you become a success. Or not.
But that’s how you make money (or not). And Ninja (Tyler Blevins) just happens to be the number one earner on Twitch. At one point Ninja had almost 250 thousand subscribers to his Twitch account. Most of which paid him $5. To watch him play games. Some quick math tells me - that’s $1,250,000. After Amazon and Twitch took their fee Ninja still cleared over $800,000.
He’s so popular- he has advertisers. Lots of them. He has merchandise. Lots of it. And he’s sponsored by Red Bull. He’s Red Bull’s official gamer.
Now, Ninja is an extreme example. Not everyone is as popular, or makes as much money as Ninja. But still. There is actually a thing now, that’s out there where you, or me, or your kid - can make $$ - by playing video games. And, I kind of love that.
And that's not ALL because of Twitch. But it mostly is.
From their website:
“Welcome to Twitch. We are a global community of millions who come together each day to create their own entertainment: unique, live, unpredictable, never-to-be repeated experiences created by the magical interactions of the many. With chat built into every stream, you don’t just watch on Twitch, you’re a part of the show.”
Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller might be the greatest gamer thing ever. Certainly so for gamers with disabilities. As you may or may not know - gaming controllers are a beast to handle. They have two small joysticks, one D pad, four top buttons, two trigger buttons and two bumper buttons. “I’m not really good with a controller” is a common complaint from able bodied gamers. I’ve been gaming for decades and I still find myself going, “Whoops! That was the wrong button - and now my character is dead.”
But the point is clear - you pretty much need both hands to finely manipulate the controller and the stamina to handle it for many, many hours. Which puts disabled folks at a colossal disadvantage just to play a console game. What if said person only has one hand? Or can’t use either hand. Or doesn’t have the strength to push the buttons or pull the triggers. Or doesn’t have the motor functions to properly handle the control. Or what if they are quadriplegic?
Their options are limited and usually expensive. There are some third party companies that manufacture controller accessories that help those with physical disabilities, but no company as large as Microsoft has tackled this effort. Until, obviously - now. And they spared no expense.
So what is the Adaptive Controller?
From Phil Spencer’s (the Head of Xbox) May 15th press release:
“By taking an inclusive design approach and considerations of gamers who might not be able to reach all the bumpers and triggers or hold a controller for an extended period of time, for example, we were able to design a controller that provides a way for more fans to enjoy gaming. On our journey of inclusive design, we have taken a wider view of our fans and a more inclusive approach to designing for them.
For gamers with limited mobility, finding controller solutions to fit their individual needs has been challenging. The solutions that exist today are often expensive, hard to find, or require significant technical skill to create. A number of individuals and organizations are creating custom solutions, but it has been often difficult for them to scale when most rigs need to be so personalized.
Joining the Xbox family of controllers and devices, the Xbox Adaptive Controller was created to address these challenges and remove barriers to gaming by being adaptable to more gamers’ needs. It was developed in partnership with organizations around the world, including The AbleGamers Charity, The Cerebral Palsy Foundation, Craig Hospital, SpecialEffect, and Warfighter Engaged. We worked closely with them and directly with gamers who have limited mobility to assist in our development. Our goal was to make the device as adaptable as possible, so gamers can create a setup that works for them in a way that is plug-and-play, extensible, and affordable. In addition to working with common adaptive switches that gamers with limited mobility may already own, it has two large buttons built in. These buttons can also be reprogrammed to act as any of the standard controller’s button inputs via the Xbox Accessories app.”
The Adaptive Controller releases in September and will retail at a very reasonable $100. There is already a whole array of accessories available on the Xbox site. The nice thing about the controller is that it has nineteen 3.5mm ports and two USB 2.0 ports of external inputs. A lot of those third party accessories that disabled gamers use to “hack” the regular Xbox gear will be fully compatible with the Adaptive Controller. So one wouldn’t have to buy all new expensive accessories as your old ones will allow you to just plug into the Adaptive Controller. For example, foot controllers or even mouth controllers will be able to plug directly into the Adaptive Controller, etc., etc.
According to worldbank.org, fifteen percent of the world’s population (approx. 1 billion) has some form of disability and between 110 and 190 million people experience some kind of significant disability.
I am certainly not going to suggest that the Adaptive Controller is about to save the world by allowing much, much easier access to Mass Effect or Tomb Raider via Xbox One. But - this is certainly a step in the right direction.
As an avid gamer I often want to share this AWESOME experience I just had with game X! It never even occurred to me that this simple pleasure of game experience was extremely difficult for such a large number of folks. I mean, if you’re able bodied and you just don’t want to game - that’s all good. But if you’re physically impaired and you really, really want to game - but you are unable to do so because of your disability - that fucking sucks.
And Microsoft is doing something about that.
Well played, Microsoft. Well played, indeed.