[Trigger warning: this interview involves discussion of depictions of rape and sexual violence. Links may be NSFW. Medium Difficulty does not endorse the views contained here, but believes that they are worthy of presentation and discussion.]
Could you describe Kurovadis?
Kyrie Ru: It’s an action rpg platformer which could be best described as a cross between Megaman and Metroid, meant to resemble games of the snes era. However, it also contains adult content, depicting scenes of rape involving enemies and the player.
Has Kurovadis been financially successful?
I’ve made around $30,000 so far in the 8 months since it’s release, and still make around $1500 per month.
The credits for your game only list one person: Tara Stalter, the voice actress. Did you create the rest of the game content?
Yes, I did all the graphics, programming, and composed the music as well.
Are you working on games full time now?
Yes, I’m currently self employed.
What did you do before making Kurovadis? Was it in your chosen industry?
I dropped out of two different college courses, and had since decided to become an indie game developer instead of trying to get a job at a development studio. I was working in customer support for less than a year afterwards, while working on games.
How long did it take you to make the game?
Around four months, working on it off and on.
Describe Ryona in your own words.
Ryona is a japanese term, it refers to a sexual complex that revolves around violence towards women, be it physical or psychological.
Can you put into your own words what draws you this form of fetishism? In other words, what turns you on about it?
Nothing about it turns me on, actually, because I don’t like Ryona. In general I don’t like violence for the sake of violence, and I dislike adult content involving sexual violence towards anyone, let alone women.
I’m sorry for the confusion, then – would it be fair to say that your game has found some overlap in terms of audience with Ryona? And then how would you describe the sexual content in Kurovadis?
It does overlap with the audience, but then so do a lot of games with female protagonists and combat, like Resident Evil, for instance.
As for the sexual content in Kurovadis, at its core it’s rape fantasy but without the sexual violence. The fighting in the game is more or less a pretense for sex scenes, and remains separated from the sexual content. It isn’t meant to reflect reality, by any means.
Do you consider yourself a misogynist? Why or why not?
By definition, a misogynist is one who “hates, dislikes, mistrusts, or mistreats women”, none of which apply to me, so no.
The player avatar in your game is a woman, and the pornographic content is typically tied to fail states; Kuro is raped when you play poorly. Is it important to identify with the victim in Ryona, or rape fantasy games? If so, why?
I think it depends on the game, as well as the interests of the player. Some people find that when they sympathize with the protagonist it makes the sexual content more satisfying, whilst others find that it makes the concept of losing less desirable, instead becoming a motivator to do well.
The other thing to keep in mind is perspective, since in rape fantasy the protagonist can be Male or Female, as the genre is not gender specific. The player may imagine themselves as the rapist, the protagonist, or nobody at all. Similar to how a male or female can still be sexually drawn to homosexual content of the opposite sex, despite the fact that there may be nowhere to place themselves in the fantasy.
So player identification is meant to be fluid, then?
It’s not really that it’s meant to, it’s just that when it comes to sexual content the player will always perceive it in the way most satisfying to them, regardless of the artist’s intent.
I was somewhat surprised to see that much of the sexual content was based in sprite animation; for whatever reason, I assumed that the game world would exist separately from the pornography. What does it do to the experience of the fetish to have the action of the game contain the sexual content?
It’s hard to say. It could be that the player wants the sexual content to be consistent with the rest of the game world, otherwise there’s too much of a disconnect. Or perhaps, it’s simply a fetish revolving around games, and the fact that some games contain a lot of content which appears sexual in nature, even though it isn’t, and they want it to cross that line.
I noticed that your game is inspired by Metroid not only in terms of design, but also in terms of the oppressive atmosphere of much of the game. Do you suppose that video games may have shaped your fetishes in any way? For instance, the fear and discomfort of an alien environment?
Metroid didn’t actually inspire me all that much in terms of gameplay, Kurovadis is a very linear game, by comparison. However the music of the first two areas was very much inspired by it.
I would say that video games have shaped my fetishes somewhat, though. As I mentioned earlier, there’s a lot of sexual tension in video games, but in a weird sort of way. For instance in Castlevania (more than one of them) there are enemies that can grab you, and you have to struggle to get away. As a kid, I found myself somewhat interested in games with that sort of thing, and I think it’s because it appeared sexual at a time when otherwise, I had not been subjected to any other sexual content. I think games that have that same tension but with actual sexual content satisfy that fetish for some people.
Your game is rather difficult in places, especially when tight jumping is required in spike laden passages. Was this intentional? And does this have anything to do with Ryona? Is their a sexual element in the frustration of these sequences?
Was the challenge intentional? Yes. Does it have anything to do with sex? No. As far as the actual content of the game goes, the sex could be removed and I would have kept everything else the same had I developed it as an all-ages game. Although there probably would have been a lot less tentacles.
Sexual desire in your game seems to be figured only as pure sadism and violence, or pure passivity and being incapacitated. Why do you think this is?
People assume that those who enjoy rape fantasy must be misogynistic, or that their interests somehow reflect them on a psychological level, because the only parallel they can draw between the player’s fictional interests and real life is actual rape. But in reality, it appeals to different people for different reasons, and rarely is it because they find the real act of rape appealing.
Okay, but I am asking in particular about the representations about the game, which do tend to reflect these two poles. I’ll add that these two portrayals are not strictly male/female, but that there does seem to be an aggressor and an aggressed upon in the scenarios you’ve portrayed. Does this fuel the fantasy of the game in some way?
Of course, but then, that’s what rape fantasy is, an aggressor and a victim. Whether the relationship between the two is one of domination and submission, temptation and resisting temptation, or something else entirely, that’s up to player and what interests them.
Do you think this game sold more by catering to the niche audience for Ryona than if it did not have explicitly sexual content?
The only reason it sold at all is because it has sexual content. But I don’t consider the game to be Ryona.
Unlike most Ryona, Kurovadis makes a clear distinction between sex and violence. There is no beating, torture, or gore. Sex is just sex, which makes it appeal to a completely different audience than someone who wants to see a woman crushed into a bloody mess while being raped. To hell with that.
Do you believe that depictions of rape are permissable in a way that depictions of physical violence against women are not? Is one simply fantasy and the other not?
There are those who say that rape is a worse crime than murder or violence, so who am I to say that one is permissible in fiction while the other is not, when I know perfectly well that my interests in rape fantasy are harmless?
Anything is permissible in fiction. Any sane person will make the distinction between fantasy and reality, and any sane person will be morally capable of restraining themselves from something they know is wrong, even if it interests them on a sexual level.