Interview: Kyrie Ru of Overture Interactive

The screen in the background appears to be recording explosions.

[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.

Further Reading: Octopus Sashimi: Examining the Polemics of Tentacle Bento (Medium Difficulty)

“I’m Not Offended”: The State of Discussion and Contagious Ideas (Medium Difficulty)

Pandora’s Lunchbox: Deregulating Decency with Dorks’ Dollars (Medium Difficulty)

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  • Nathan Blades

    This interview is interesting, but also kind of a problem. Since interview questions are (here and traditionally) neutral in tone, it feels like this gives this guy an unscrutinised platform to give his awful ideas about rape. Which I’m pretty damn sure isn’t your intention, but it’s awkward all the same.

    Talking about the existence of games (and people) like this is important, but I don’t know if his stance on things should go without comment like that.

    • http://www.mediumdifficulty.com/ Kyle Carpenter

      I agree, but I don’t think they will go without comment – I hope the interview stands as an example of a certain perspective and some of its ramifications, and will generate discussion. I hope that doesn’t come across as washing my hands of complicity in rape culture, but I would like to think that an honest interview with fewer guards has its advantages for discussion.

      • http://twitter.com/Dan_Solberg Dan Solberg

        I don’t have any objections to this approach, but to have a productive discussion, it’s necessary for the premise to clearly define the terms. That’s really difficult in this case when the use of the term “sexual violence” is somehow disconnected from its synonym “rape.”

        • http://www.mediumdifficulty.com/ Kyle Carpenter

          Except to note that it IS disconnected here.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=122700611 Karl Parakenings

          He’s speaking specifically about the ryona fetish culture, which is about emphasizing the violence implicit in rape. Almost to the point of becoming guro. So it’s much less “rape is not sexual violence,” because it is, but rather “[his] brand of sexual violence is much less violent than theirs.” He’s interested in rape fantasy and explicitly not “beaten to within an inch of their life” fantasy, which is what most ryona is (from a cursory survey of related fansites).

          Research for these articles takes some stomach-churning turns.

          • http://twitter.com/Dan_Solberg Dan Solberg

            OK, I wasn’t really understanding it before. Not something I voluntarily wanted to spend time looking into, you know?

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=122700611 Karl Parakenings

            That’s probably for the best all around.

  • http://twitter.com/kaittremblay Kaitlin Tremblay

    I think the concept of trying to explore rape fantasy, in a medium that is largely about fantasies and can be about subjectivity projection, is incredibly powerful. There’s often talk conflating rape fantasies with actual rape, whereas that’s not what it’s about at all (a rape fantasy is about trust and consent), and it sounds like the developer is exploring how we relate to our more controversial fantasies. It may be fraught, but the potential for cultural critiue and awareness is profound, I think.

    • http://twitter.com/brunodion Bruno Dion

      I think there’s a difference between a rape fantasy between two consenting adults (which is about trust and consent) and a “fantasy of rape”, where someone fantasies about raping someone. I think that most people playing that game fall in the latter category. I haven’t played the game (and can’t right now, I’m in a pretty public place), so I can’t comment on how it approaches the subject, but I agree that there’s a certain potential in talking about rape in games, considering how both center around the idea of control.

      Unless I’m mistaken, isn’t Anna Anthropy’s Lesbian Spider-Queens of Mars about rape. I mean, a couple of her games are about rape fantasies, but somehow they feel more like the first type of fantasy. I wonder why.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=122700611 Karl Parakenings

        Do you mean to suggest that most rape fantasies are consensual? If so, that kind of invalidates them as fantasies about nonconsent, doesn’t it? Having done my share of research about the subject, it strikes me that this is precisely what fantasy is for – the idea of the safe expression & exploration of dynamics which are dangerous in reality. Maybe I’m reading the comment wrong, and it’s about “those who fantasize about rape vs those who put it into practice (and are scum)”.

        • http://twitter.com/brunodion Bruno Dion

          Maybe I didn’t express myself clearly. There’s having those fantasies and there’s acting upon them. In one case, like the one Kaitlin was talking about, the act is two consenting adults playing out their rape fantasy, and that is totally okay. Then there are those whose idea of acting out their fantasy would be to actually rape someone, and yes, they are scum. The game as a fantasy is a “safe expression & exploration of dynamics which are dangerous in reality.” But I still wonder about the people playing this game and what fantasy they are fuelling.