The following is Not Safe for Work.
Robert Yang is one of the most banned people on Twitch. The New York-based academic and developer has created more banned games than literally every person on the planet save for 2. This isn’t to say he’s happy about it, but it’s a status he’s content to play with.
Yang’s games are unapologetic. They’re the meeting of academia, design, and activism under the guise of the surreal. Among his catalog are man/car relationships, sexy popsicle music videos, and most recently -- the relationships of a race of gun-penised men. Based on the 1962 actions of the Mansfield police department, The Tearoom is a game about the danger gay men of the era faced in the guise of a stealth-blowjob game.
There’s something strange about licking a gun. There’s something even stranger about licking a gun coming out a man’s fly. By placing guns into this context, Yang is forcing us to consider not just the hypocrisy of policies like Twitch’s that allow depictions of violence but not loving relationships between two people but also the previously mentioned violence against the gay community. The artist statement that Yang posted alongside the release of the game dives into the motivation behind the development of the project. I won’t do the disservice of paraphrasing the piece, but it’s intensely informative and should be the standard by which all other statements of artistic intent are judged. Seriously, go read it.
The Tearoom also shows incredible restraint in its design. The whole experience takes place in one bathroom and feels like a strange oasis that represents all walks of life, but also an oasis with crocodiles in the water. Obviously it’s hard to completely understand the lives of the men portrayed in the game, but the desire to connect with another person is universal and it comes through in game. Everyone wants to connect, but it’s hard, scary, and occasionally illegal.
If you’re at all interested in games as an art form, there is so much to learn from Robert Yang’s games. They’re poignant, well crafted, intimate, and well worth your time. You can play his whole catalog here. The Tearoom is pay what you want and available now.