This Game Simulates Creepy Online Sexual Harassment

redshirt ss 1

Redshirt is a game that will make many Star Trek fans snicker, just by reading the name to themselves. The game is exactly that, a parody/homage to sci fi shows and entertainment in general. A major feature in Redshirt that sets it apart from other games is that you only interact with other characters through the in game social network, Spacebook.

This is where things got really interesting – a playable race within the game, the Asrion race to be specific, is a classic green skinned, sexualized alien female, from an all female society of Asrions. There’s a catch to playing as an Asrion: you’ll get constantly assaulted by heterosexual male NPCs who want to jump your alien bones, even if you list yourself as only being interested in other females.

A player of Redshirt described how she felt after coming to the conclusion that there was no way to stop these comments, as there is currently no way of blocking people on Spacebook:

“I wanted to like this game, and the concept of the game, but wow. It’s supremely fucked up and I still feel kind of triggered and tense after trying it out last night,” said Elle, who describes herself as a “survivor of sexual abuse and rape.”

Naturally this got to the creator, Mitu Khandaker, the sole member from developer The Tiniest Shark. She was very apologetic, and went on to explain why she went with such a risky gameplay mechanic:

“The way that Redshirt deals with sexuality is such: while our profiles define how we choose to present ourselves to others, whether or not other characters respect this is up to them. Asrions get the worst of this deal, being the male-wish-fulfillment-sci-fi-trope that they are. As implied by their species description, they are the typical green/blue-skinned ladies of science fiction, perceived to be an empowered, matriarchal society, when actually, they are objectified by everyone else. As such, the game aims towards slightly different dynamics (and therefore, an additional layer of intended social commentary) for when you play as an Asrion. They will tend to receive unwanted attention from heterosexual male NPCs who are explicitly “bigoted”, and this attention will increase their perceived relationship with that NPC (at least according to that NPC), but also lower their happiness at the same time.”

Khandaker went on to explain that there is a way to stop these annoying, sleazy NPCs from bothering you, which is in the form of the bigotry slider. This setting can only be set at the beginning of a game, and Khandaker promised a future update that would add appropriate labels to warn players of what to expect if they choose to play as an Asrion, and that she is looking into a block feature for Spacebook.

Khandaker closed with a formal apology to the female gamer who had been upset by the experience:

“Again, I’m really, genuinely sorry to Elle, and anyone else who has been triggered by the existence of this particular dynamic, and I will definitely take steps towards ensuring this doesn’t happen again.”

So, do you guys think Khandaker pushed it a little too far with her portrayal of the Asrions?

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