By Joe Sigadel / April 6th, 2015
I’m going to tell you a story of my channel’s origins on Twitch, but I’m not going to go into too much detail because there’s a larger issue at hand that I want to go over. I just want to relay to you a quick anecdote from our early days, back when we experimented by playing the most obscure and strange games we could find in order to build a foundation of viewers. One of the games I decided to play was Rusty, a PC-98 clone of Castlevania with a sexy lady heroine instead of a Belmont.
Sadly, we weren’t able to get the emulator working very well, and it was a really difficult game. After the cast, Jared, my friend who helps me run my Twitch channel (and keeps me from going insane doing it), took me aside and shared his concern with me that I’d get banned for playing it. I scoffed at him at the time, because the worst I saw was very poorly pixelated nude female bosses that you’d really have to squint at to tell if they were naked anyway. Aha! There’s your moral outrage!
I have a strong passion for Japanese games in general, which I’ve shared here, on my medium blog, and writing reviews for passthemsticks.com. There have been more than a few games I’ve covered which have been the subjects of various controversies. Akiba’s Trip was one of those games. Akiba’s Trip was banned on Twitch for a short while, which I didn’t discover until after the fact and another streamer told me of it. “How could this be?” I wondered at the time, since the game has built-in chat interactions, and those commands have remained on my channel ever since I streamed it directly from my PS4 to test them out. They’ve been sort of an in-joke since then, because we sometimes use it as our raid call when we bring our viewers over to another caster when we’re done.
I’ve played through Akiba’s Trip twice now, once on PS3 and PS4. For a Mature-rated game, it’s honestly pretty tame. I’ve asserted before in my review that the stripping was not only equal-opportunity, since you can do this to both men and women, but that it was played for comedy rather than pure fan service. Granted, there are moments in the game where you get that, but they are so few and far between that I think most of us might wonder why it’s got an M-rating in the first place.
I don’t claim to know the inner workings of how Twitch curates the games it chooses to ban or not, but it’s a problem I’ve personally tried to deal with before. I’m not going to name names here, but, a few months ago, a very popular streamer broadcasted HuniePop shortly after its release, and this was the Steam-censored version. Unfortunately for him, he came across one of -those- scenes, one of the girls was unmistakably pleasuring herself through her panties. I witnessed this happen, and the chat’s reaction. The caster was horrified, but I knew he wasn’t going to get punished because, hey, he draws tens of thousands of viewers playing this game and he probably makes Twitch quite a bit of dosh. A few of his viewers were enraged when he cut off his stream and set out to get very small channels banned themselves. Not the most sporting thing to do, because it’s possible they didn’t know any better and instances like this should be investigated thoroughly before slamming down the Banhammer. But this is basically how HuniePop came to be banned on Twitch, to the best of my recollection.
I thought Twitch made the right call banning the game for that reason, because it was indisputably sexually explicit, and there are plenty of minors who use the site whose parents would be furious if they saw that image sitting on their son or daughter’s computer screens. But in the wake of the HuniePop hysteria, there was a sentiment of disgust as well towards the visual novel genre as a whole. I grew afraid that Twitch would take a heavy-handed approach to visual novels and just ban them all outright without attempting to understand what they were about. It would seem that my fears have come true, as of a few days ago it was widely rumored and reported that Twitch has banned Senran Kagura: Estival Versus.
For the moment, our own Benny Carrillo has yet to be banned for streaming Shinovi Versus, so things may not actually be what they seem.
But let’s back up a bit, because I want to relate to you my personal encounter with Twitch Support, because I wanted them to alleviate my concern over not allowing us to stream visual novel games.
In response to Twitch’s ban of HuniePop on January 21, I wrote the following two tweets:
For example, we were under the impression that Nekopara was allowed, yet Sakura Spirits was not. Is that no longer the case? @TwitchSupport
— Eritach (@EritachTTV) January 21, 2015
Now I was talking about the Steam-censored versions of those games, obviously. I was trying to avoid getting myself into trouble and others getting banned without knowing any better. The response I got was… interesting.
@EritachTTV Nekopara Steam version is allowed because low level of nudity/sex. Sakura Angels is ok, but not Sakura Spirits due to content.
— Twitch Support (@TwitchSupport) January 21, 2015
Can you see what’s wrong with this answer? I can. It’s vague and it doesn’t explain everything we need to know about Sakura Angels/Spirits. How am I to know what’s in them if I haven’t played them? Has a Twitch Support staff member played them, and are they able to confirm what’s so wrong with Sakura Spirits compared to Sakura Angels? To be fair, I can’t fault Twitch Support, because, honestly, to elaborate they would need far more than 140 characters. Looking back, I should have pressed them harder about it, but I just wanted to know which games I could play at the time. What we can infer from this is that Twitch has a sort of internal barometer that they use to determine a line between what’s appropriate and inappropriate. The problem is, we can’t see it in spite of their repeated assertions that the Rules of Conduct are ‘cut and dry’.
Not long before this, many Twitch users were outraged because they allowed an EDM event to be broadcasted with topless women on their site in spite of asking female broadcasters to cover up more and not show so much cleavage. It is this selective enforcement of their rules that is at the heart of the issue, and it sounds very much like a case of “do as I say, not as I do.” If you look at the actual terms of service, it is legalese with nebulous statements which are open to personal interpretation. That’s to be expected from a large corporation, but disputes will happen despite it being there for everyone to read.
Now, as for the actual e-mail exchange between Hassan Bokhari and the user making the inquiry, the anonymous user makes the point that Estival Versus received a CERO D rating, which is the equivalent of a Mature rating here in America. It’s somewhat lewd, but, theoretically, not lewd enough to make you instantly want to pull the plug if you were to stream it for others, provided you were to put a warning on your channel that the game was for mature audiences.
Mr. Bokhari responds:
Our rules of conduct are pretty cut and dry. We do not allow games of this nature on our platform. If you would like to look for other streaming platforms to stream these types of visual novels that have adult content, then please feel free.
This is not something we will allow on our service.”
Players of Estival Versus, as well as gamers who follow Japanese titles regularly, should immediately be able to refute the notions that the game is a visual novel and has adult content. Yes, the gameplay involves you playing a busty ninja girl doing battle with other busty ninja girls and stripping their clothes for battle damage, but nothing is explicitly shown, and that’s where the whole argument falls apart.
But this answer is telling, because it makes you wonder how exactly Twitch makes these determinations if the staff questioned clearly hasn’t played the game under ban. Is it just Estival Versus, or the entire Senran Kagura series under potential ban? We’ve sent out our own inquiry to Twitch hoping they’ll make an official statement on the matter to settle things once and for all.
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