Yandere Dev, the developer of Yandere Simulator, recently concluded what he calls the "Twitch Saga" by posting a final update video on the matter after he received a response from Twitch. I covered the release of this video and detailed its contents earlier in the week. We covered the following responses from Yandere Dev in this news piece; this article is my thoughts on their content and the situation.
If you're unfamiliar with the game, Yandere Simulator is a video game that is currently being developed by Yandere Dev. In it, the player character portrays a high-school girl in a Japan that is an example of the yandere archetype. In short, a yandere character is sweet to the target of their affections but can turn vicious (and potentially violent) to anyone else. The game focuses on eliminating "rivals" for their beloved Senpai's affections through a variety of different mechanics. Players can set a rival girl up with another boy, spread rumors about them to ruin their reputation, or simply outright murder them to solve the problem at hand.
In January of 2016, Yandere Simulator was banned from being streamed on Twitch. No streamer, regardless of whether or not they set their stream to 18+, is allowed to stream the game. Yandere Simulator is on Twitch's List of Prohibited Games. It shares space with titles that were banned for easily guessable reasons such as RapeLay and Suck My Dick Or Die! as well as games which I find are more puzzling choices such as HunieCam Studio, a game that contains no nudity whatsoever (but nonetheless has sexual themes; it's a tycoon game about running a camgirl operation).
A bit over a year after the ban, Yandere Dev released a video called "A Warning To All Game Developers". In it, he details the issues that he was having with getting his game removed from Twitch's List of Prohibited Games.
Shortly after, Yandere Dev released the "In Defense of Twitch" video and followed that up with "Response from Twitch" a short time later. We picked up coverage at that point and I reached out to Yandere Dev and Twitch for comment. Yandere Dev responded in a big way, stating, "Yes, there are some other things that I feel like saying about the Twitch situation."
What followed was a lengthy and comprehensive e-mail from Yandere Dev that expanded and clarified on his public thoughts about the Twitch saga. As for Twitch, the only reply I've received from the two requests for comment that I've sent was simply, "We don't comment on terms of service violations." Unfortunately, this means that we'll only be able to hear a detailed account from one side of this particular story.
To start things off, we'll go over the first e-mail response from Yandere Dev. Following that, we'll go over his responses to a few direct questions that we asked him as a follow-up to his first e-mail. My analysis of his response and my thoughts, opinion, and commentary will be interspersed with my analysis; treat that is an opinon piece that is examining a piece of content.
This is not the absolute full content of the e-mail; general pleasantries, back and forth conversation, and unrelated commentary have been cut. We are publishing the meat of the e-mail (and the responses to our direct questions) otherwise unaltered.
Yandere Dev begins by talking about his "In Defense of Twitch" video which you can see here:
My "In Defense of Twitch" VideoWhen I try to look at the situation from an objective perspective, I think that Yandere Dev's public actions surrounding the "Twitch Saga" indicate someone that is more concerned with getting his game back on Twitch rather than smearing a company. If he were out to do any sort of damage or gain publicity, it would probably be a bad idea to publish a refutation of many of his points. He seems to use the principle of charity in the "In Defense of Twitch" video; that is, he gives Twitch the benefit of the doubt and assumes good intentions for the sake of argument.
First, I'd like to explain why I created the "In Defense of Twitch" video. After creating my "A Warning To All Game Developers" video, I was contacted by an employee of Twitch. He wasn't speaking to me as an official representative, and he couldn't tell me why the game was banned; he just wanted to give me some advice on how to reach a solution. He suggested that it was possible that Twitch wasn't responding to me because it seemed like I was only trying to generate publicity for my game by dragging Twitch's reputation through the mud. He said that I was more likely to receive a response from Twitch if I made it clear that my goal was to reach a solution, not to attract media attention. I decided that it would be smart to take his advice, and so I created a much less confrontational video. I genuinely wanted answers, NOT publicity, and I was willing to make an entire video just to prove this to Twitch.
It was very difficult for me to make a video where I had to backpedal on my own words, invalidate all of my own points, and excuse Twitch's poor customer service...but I did it anyway, because I hoped that it would make Twitch more willing to speak with me. In the end, Twitch did actually respond to me, so maybe it really was the right course of action.
I think that Twitch was fully aware that the game was banned for no good reason; I think they knew that they couldn't possibly justify banning Yandere Simulator while allowing games like Stick of Truth. I think that they were silent for 13 months because they knew that they didn't have any kind of satisfactory explanation whatsoever.
On top of that, there was something else, too: Twitch knew that if they ever publicly named a reason why Yandere Simulator was banned, people would scrutinize their reason. If they stayed silent, nobody could scrutinize anything. They would prefer to be criticized for a lack of communication, rather than be criticized for whatever reason they decided to give, so they stayed silent for a year, until I started calling them out for it.
This is why I threw them some bones in my "In Defense of Twitch" video. I gave them some excuses that they could use; the nudity, and the fact that there weren't any pacifistic elimination methods at the time. I provided them with a few plausible excuses for banning the game, so that they'd finally be able to say something. This was supposed to be the starting point of a dialogue, but instead, their reply made it clear that they had zero interest in discussing conditions for unbanning the game, or re-evaluating the game anytime in the near future.
The fact that they didn't reply to me for 13 months - and don't want to re-evaluate the game until it's finished 2 years from now - paints an image of a very lazy company that doesn't lift a finger to do anything unless it's absolutely necessary.
As for his speculation on Twitch's motivations, they make a good degree of sense. It is understandable if Twitch were to be reluctant to detail the specific reasons that a game was banned. Any Dungeons & Dragons or Magic: The Gathering player worth their salt can tell you at least one horror story about a rules lawyer that bickered about the wording of rules and tried to make their case why as to it didn't apply to them. Twitch deals with thousands of games, tens of thousands of streamers, and tens of millions of viewers; this is a can of worms that would be unwise to open without very careful consideration.
One thing is clear to me; based on the e-mail conversation I was forwarded by Yandere Dev, Twitch did indeed fail to respond to him for approximately 13 months. This is not just poor form, this is bad business. At the bare minimum, a status update ought to be given at least occasionally. How long or how often it should be I can't rightly say, but I'm pretty comfortable in saying that 13 months between responses is far too long.
Yandere Dev posits that it gives the appearance of Twitch being a "lazy company." I don't necessarily think it's fair to say that's the case; there are any number of reasons a response could have been held up. The least charitable interpretation is that it was a deliberate decision made in the hopes that Yandere Dev would give up. A much more charitable (and, in my opinion, more likely) reason is that this particular matter was either held up or lost in the bureaucracy of the Western world's largest video game streaming platform.
In the next section, Yandere Dev disputes the reasons that Yandere Simulator was banned from streaming in an e-mail reply he received from the company. This particular e-mail reply was covered in the "Response From Twitch" video which concluded the "Twitch Saga."
Disputing Twitch's ReasonsI have a difficult time considering a charitable interpretation of Twitch's reasoning for the ban simply for the reasons stated here by Yandere Dev. At the time of the ban, all of these things were true to the best of my knowledge. On pure objective standards, if this was Twitch's reasoning for the ban, it doesn't seem to hold up very well.
I tried to provide Twitch with a list of plausible reasons why they might have banned the game, so that we could start a dialogue. Their reply featured some of the reasons that I suggested. With that said, everything on their bullet-point list was such a flimsy reason to ban the game...
No nipples or genitals were visible; the characters were like barbie dolls. It shouldn't count as nudity. Besides this, many other games also involve actual nudity, and those games aren't banned.
- Two gameplay modes depicting characters in the nude.
This feature is in other games that aren't banned from Twitch.
- A mechanic in which the player takes panty shots to use as currency for favors from others.
This is actually quite a silly reason to ban a game; in many games, violence is the only way to advance.
- The only method of eliminating rivals was to murder them.
There is nothing in Twitch's terms of service that forbids games that involve violence in a school setting, or violence against underage characters. Additionally: sexual harassment isn't the focus of the game, it's a completely optional feature.
- The setting, intent of gameplay, and age of victims indicate the game is about violence against and sexual harassment of underage characters in a school setting.
In other words, Yandere Sim never should have been banned in the first place. Its content is not any worse than anything that can be found in other games that are permitted on Twitch. South Park: Stick of Truth is a prime example.
I'm a big believer in applying the Terms of Service of a website fairly and accurately. Selective enforcement will, at best, generate a sense of unfairness and bias. Redditors, for example, might know that asking for upvotes is against the content policy of the site; specifically, it's considered as vote manipulation. ("Asking people to vote up or down certain posts, either on Reddit itself or through social networks, messaging, etc. for personal gain.") Even so, you'll sometimes see multiple posts on /r/all that say "UPVOTE THIS SO..." or "SPORTS TEAM VICTORY UPVOTE PARTY" that aren't banned, so when someone is banned for asking for upvotes it feels to me an awful lot like selective enforcement when there is such blatant and rampant breaches of the rules on the front page on a near-daily basis that go unpunished.
What is altogether more worrying is the final point. As Yandere Dev points out, this is not covered anywhere in the Community Guidelines. If I were to present a bulleted list containing the specific objections on something to a concerned party, I don't think it's necessarily a good idea to bring in something that isn't disallowed by the rules. Of course, damn near every modern business has what amounts to "We can do whatever we want, ultimately" clause and this would be covered by it, but I certainly feel that this was a misstep and it's in poor form.
The next section covers the thoughts of Yandere Dev on Twitch potentially having a bias against against anime and the possibility of "SJWs (Social Justice Warriors)" banning the game.
Anime Bias Theory and SJW TheoryWhether or not Twitch has a bias against anime-themed games is something I can't really say for certain. I think it may be a possibility considering the cases of Yandere Simulator, HuniePop, and HunieCam Studio all being banned despite not really having any content that clearly breaks any rules.
In my "A Warning To All Game Developers" video, I described five possible reasons why Twitch may have banned Yandere Simulator. A lot of people said that two of those reasons sounded very outlandish - "Twitch has a bias against anime games" and "Twitch has been taken over by SJWs". I think I should take a moment to explain exactly why I mentioned those things.
Over the past 13 months, I was contacted by several people who had firsthand knowledge of Twitch's corporate culture. Because I didn't have any official statements from Twitch to work with, I had to base my theories on the bits and pieces of information that people shared with me over the course of 2016. Some of this information insinuated that members of Twitch's moderation team had a strong bias against anime, and a tendency to act as cultural authoritarians. Because Twitch wouldn't actually have a conversation with me or answer my questions about Yandere Simulator's ban, all I could do was theorize using the scraps of information that were shared with me by people who had firsthand experience dealing with Twitch. If Twitch was actually willing to speak with me at any point over the past 13 months, I wouldn't have had to base theories on hear-say.
As for the allegations of Twitch having been "taken over by SJWs," this requires a short explanation for the uninformed. SJW is short for "Social Justice Warrior," a term that used (oftentimes pejoratively) to describe a certain archetype of thought and behavior. There are millions upon millions of words and hundreds of written pieces discussing the term and the surrounding culture. To the best of my understanding, in short, it describes a person who takes the ideology of Social Justice and perverts it to an oppressive extreme. The best short example I've ever read comes from an Anonymous Tumblr post that's shown on this Know Your Meme page:
The difference between a SJW and an activist: An activist tries to get a ramp added to a building for easier wheelchair access. The SJW tries to get the stairs removed because they might offend people who can't use them.In my opinion, people who fit the Social Justice Warrior archetype would take severe issues with the game. They might say it is misogynistic because you can take panty shots. They might say its transphobic because the game does not include any trans characters. They would likely have a list of complaints a mile long, and one of half of the list would probably contradict the other half.
If Twitch did have a culture that followed this kind of thinking, it would be easy to see why Yandere Simulator would be banned. Aside from hearsay, neither Yandere Dev nor myself has any clear cut evidence that this is what it's like at Twitch HQ. However, I think it's reasonable to at least acknowledge this is a possibility in the wave of attacks on video games and gaming culture put out by Social Justice Warriors and other cultural authoritarians (that is, "my way or the high way" types in regards to what's acceptable) in the last few years. (Thankfully, from my perspective a goodly portion of the gaming community is cottoning on to the insanity and we've hopefully ridden out the worst of it.)
The first e-mail from Yandere Dev finishes up with his closing thoughts:
Closing ThoughtsI don't have much to say here as it essentially summarizes the preceding sections. At the end of the e-mail, Yandere Dev stated that we were free to publish it if we so desired and stated that he was open for more questions. After consulting with my editors, I sent him four questions on this topic. Here is my mini interview of sorts with Yandere Dev:
My final thoughts on the Twitch situation are as follows:
- I've asked numerous Twitch streamers and viewers if they think that Yandere Simulator deserves to be banned, and they've all said "No". Twitch should ban games based on what they hear from their users, rather than ban games based on how someone in the moderation team feels about the game.
- Yandere Simulator's development is not moving at a lightning-fast speed, and I always post changelogs and videos detailing all of the newest content. It would take about 5 minutes per month for Twitch to re-evaluate the game's content. It's not something that would actually cost them an inordinate amount of time/money/resources. It's a flimsy reason to deny unbanning the game.
- Yandere Simulator has 1.3 million subscribers on YouTube. Yandere Simulator has been played by big-name YouTubers like Pewdiepie, Markiplier, and Jacksepticeye. Yandere Simulator was downloaded somewhere between 7 million and 10 million times in 2016. If Yandere Simulator was some kind of gross sexual child porn game, would any of these things be true? Twitch's perception of the game is probably based on a cursory glance, and not a complete understanding of the game's actual focus.
TechRaptor: What did you hear that led you to believe there is an anime bias at Twitch?
Yandere Dev: The abundance of anime-themed games on the banned list, and the lack of western games with similar / worse content on the banned list, was almost enough to make me draw the conclusion myself. However, a few anecdotes made the theory seem more plausible.
Several individuals attempted to help me discover the reason why the game was banned by speaking to Twitch staff/admins/global moderators whenever they were spotted in a channel's chatroom. There was never an official statement from [a] Twitch spokesperson, but there were a few offhand remarks like "Lol, that dumb anime game is never getting unbanned." If the remark had been "Lol, that dumb game is never getting unbanned", without any reference to the anime-themed nature of the game, then I would be far less likely to suspect an anti-anime bias at Twitch. Aside from a handful of second-hand anecdotes involving passing remarks made by Twitch staff, there is no cold, hard, solid evidence of an anti-anime bias.
TR: What advice can you offer to developers in a similar situation?
YD: There is no advice that can be given. Twitch has no obligation to be consistent, no obligation to be fair, and no obligation to be helpful. It doesn't matter how you try to contact them, how willing you are to cooperate with them, or how persistent you are. If they don't feel like speaking to you, they won't. This is the impression that I have come away with after my experience with Twitch.
TR: Do you think there are other unfairly banned games on Twitch (other than what you have already mentioned)?
YD: This is a [gray] area. Some games (like RapeLay) are very obviously intended to be pornographic. Other games (like [Genital] Jousting) involve [genitalia] but aren't meant to be sexually arousing. Other games (like What's Under Your Blanket) involve sexual acts, but don't display any visible genitalia, and were created for humor/novelty value, rather than to be pornographic.
Instead of only "Banned" or "Not Banned", there should be a third category; "18+ only". There is already a checkmark in the Twitch dashboard that allows streamers to denote that their streams should only be viewed by adults. I feel that it's reasonable to ban pornographic games, but I think that non-pornographic games with sexual themes or genitalia should merely be limited to an 18+ audience, instead of being outright banned from the platform.
TR: You've been a longtime supporter and fan of Twitch. Has this experience changed or will it change the way you use the site?
YD: My opinion of Twitch has dropped, due to their failure to answer my inquiries over the course of 13 months, and their unsatisfactory reasons for banning Yandere Simulator. I can't shake the feeling that they banned the game because they personally dislike it, and I believe that they are very hypocritical for banning Yandere Simulator while permitting other games with even more extreme content.
13 months ago, I began boycotting Twitch's paid services (Twitch Turbo, channel subscriptions, bit donations) with the intention of doing so for as long as Twitch was failing to respond to me. Immediately after Twitch responded to me, I subscribed to several of my favorite broadcasters. I don't respect Twitch's decision regarding my game, and I don't like putting money in Twitch's pocket, but I am very fond of many users and broadcasters in the Twitch community, and I intend to continue using Twitch to interact with the people I have befriended on the site.
That concludes the communication I've had with Yandere Dev on the "Twitch Saga" of Yandere Simulator.
Yandere Dev expects that his game should be feature complete in around two years. Twitch has stated that he can essentially request a review of his game's streaming ban at that time. Considering the way that they appear to have handled this matter, I'm not sure I'm terribly confident that it would pass muster. In my opinion, the game did not break any of Twitch's rules when it was originally banned and, in all likelihood, it won't break any rules in the finished version two years from now.
When I was in my early 20s, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas had come out. The previous title, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, had used some coarse language that a game probably wouldn't have been able to get away with if it weren't as wildly popular. GTA:SA pushed the envelope so far that it got mailed to Alaska; it had about as much swearing as you would expect to hear from a bunch of gangsters (and probably a bit more on top of that). When it first clicked that they were casually letting the F-bombs fly like it was no big deal, I had hoped in my heart of hearts that we had finally gotten to the point where video games would be treated no differently than any other entertainment. (After all, who would chew out a movie or a book for using excessive swearing or exploring an uncomfortable topic)?
Unfortunately, that battle is not yet over. I think that Yandere Simulator and Yandere Dev are casualties in the great war to see video games recognized as entertaniment that's enjoyed by adults. After all, according to the Entertainment Software Association, the average age of a gamer is 31. By a curious happenstance, I've turned 31 myself just recently. I sure as shootin' don't have any problems with playing a game about a murderously psychotic yandere girl in a high school setting, and even if I didn't I'd have no problem with other adults playing it or watching other adults play it. I hope that one day we'll be able to look at events such as these as a shameful blip in the history of gaming before it was finally acknowledged as a proper medium of entertainment.
What do you think of how Yandere Dev handled the "Twitch Saga" of Yandere Simulator? Do you think Twitch was justified in banning the game from their service or do you think that they had other motivations? Do you think Yandere Simulator will be removed from the List of Prohibited Games once Yandere Simulator is feature complete in two years or so? Let us know in the comments below!