Satire is a tricky thing -- if your goal is to mock something by embracing it, how far can you go until the mockery takes a backseat to the embracing? That's the current question facing Tentacle Bento, a card game focusing on Japanese tentacle rape fantasies which raised a lot of money on Kickstarter (and a lot of ire on the internet) earlier this week before Kickstarter cancelled its funding.
Tentacle Bento was to be a card game that places players in the role of a "horrid, tentacle flailing, slime oozing monster from outer-space", who, disguised as a student at an all-girl's school in Japan, sets after the other girls and "snatches" them in order to enact all manner of imagined tentacale-y violation.
The game proved to be quite controversial, and once word got around, Kickstarter cancelled funding from the project, even though it had hugely exceeded its initial funding goal.
John Cadice, the creator of Tentacle Bento, sat down with Brandon Sheffield, the Game Developer Magazine editor-in-chief and Insert Credit writer who had posted a highly critical op-ed about the game. The two had a lengthy, at-times confrontational conversation about the game.
"First off, we would like to apologise to anyone hurt or upset, rape is in NO WAY the focus or intent of our product and such detestable violence is not condoned or encouraged by Soda Pop or any of our products," Cadice said.
Throughout the interview, Cadice regularly comes back to the idea that Tentale Bento was intended as satire, though it could certainly be argued (as it is by Sheffield in the article) that he doesn't quite back claim that up. In his closing words, Cadice sums up his stance:
I am deeply sympathetic to the arguments presented, and intend no harm with our product, being deeply sorry for any hurt perceived or experienced.
I also very upset by the language used to brand my products, customers and supporters as something they are clearly not. A clear jump to conclusion was made without proper research, and in effect, have done more to drag people down a dark path than any we could possibly create.
We do not depict, peddle, or push sexual subjugation in ANY of our products. No more than the millions of (Insert Popular First Person Shooter) players should be relegated to slander for trivializing controversial military engagements, killing of unarmed civilians, terrorism, propagation of a "gun culture," or something..something…military industrial complex…something…
Sheffield remains unconvinced, saying that while Tentacle Bento plays with the clichés of Tentacle Hentai, it does so directly and not satirically. It may seem like a fine distinction, but I can't say I disagree -- especially when re-watching this video of Cadice pitching the game, in which he talks about grabbing a girl, dragging her into a classroom and having a "cram session".
Yes, it's an unfortunate on-camera moment by Cadice. And yes, art is art, and people have the right to express themselves however they please. Kickstarter, of course, can also pull funding on anything they don't wish to support. And satirical intentions or no, this game is… well come on, guys, it's pretty creepy.