Recently, Twitch has banned Radiator 2 , a collection of three games with highly suggestive sexual themes. Twitch has not given any reason for this, and the developer of the game, Robert Yang, has been quite vocal about his displeasure. Yang claims that Twitch has provided no clear mandate as to why his game was taken down, as it is not explicit enough to be under their prohibition of games rated Adults-Only according to the ESRB’s Rating Guide. Otherwise, Twitch’s Rules of Conduct include clauses against nudity and “overly sexual behavior”.
If you’ve played Radiator 2 , you know that these games walk very close to the edge of Twitch’s rules. I would even say that Radiator 2 defines the line, rather than blurs it. It is the precise example of what Twitch’s rules should allow at their absolute limit. However, I think the problem is more than just Yang’s games being banned, it’s the the existence of the rules in the first place.
There are definitely games I think are too violent, like Mortal Kombat , but I would never wish that they be censored from the people who do like it. There are plenty of games prohibited from Twitch and not all of them make sense, like Second Life , or even Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy – Director’s Cut. I realize Second Life can get nasty, but why not only ban those parts and not the whole? Director’s Cut is out there too, but it isn’t nearly as bad as Mortal Kombat . I think that a rating system would work so much better for these situations. Each episode would be tagged with relevant warnings, and as they say, viewer discretion would be advised.
Let me put this forth: Twitch has every right to use whatever made-up censorship and rating system it likes. It’s a website owned by people that hold the right to control their content. That said, I do think that Twitch’s rules on which games/content should be prohibited are extremely misguided. Twitch is a service, much like Twitter, Facebook, and Google (all of whom have similar rules). As such, if Twitch’s owners would like to ensure that they are not held responsible for the fickle actions of their customers, I suggest they make better use of their rating system. Much like our coffee is now labelled “hot”, games can be labelled “adult-only” and if you lie about your age to see it, it’s your own fault. They obviously already have a system in place to detect rated titles, why not use it to support an age gate, like sites like Youtube do?
If they really want to go the whole nine yards, they can use a tagging system so that users can be required to include specific warnings. Again, the customer would be required to give their consent to these warnings. My point is, games are made by people and people can be pretty wild, sick, perverted, and downright psychotic. Depending where you are in the world, it might be something to be socially ashamed of, or it might not be. Call it an exploration of the human psyche, but I think the emphasis should be on a rating system, not censorship.