Denmark’s Lovable Hat Cult has always made experiences that deal with taboo subjects.
The studio rose out of a group of local developers called Copenhagen Game Collective. The projects coming out of this initiative deal with risqu subject matter. One multiplayer title, Dark Room Sex Game, had no visuals. The title saw players moving Wii Remotes at the same rhythm until they reached a climax. It was a sensual and intimate experience which has bled into Lovable Hat Cult’s subsequent titles.
It was interesting as it showed that games could do a lot of things that they weren’t doing at that time,” designer Patrick Jarnfelt tells MCV.
They could be very social, they could touch upon subjects that can be taboo. This is what we are trying to explore.”
Lovable Hat Cult has recently made headlines for its latest mobile game, La Petite Mort. The title has playerstouching the screen in response to audio and visual feedback in order to reach the experience’s climax. Just to drive the game’s message home, ‘La petite mort’ is a colloquial term for ‘orgasm’.
It’s an interesting way of approaching this subject matter. But Apple was not on-board, removing the title from the App Store for being ‘excessively objectionable or crude’.
We suspected that something might happen,” producer Andrea Hasselager says. But then we also were like: ‘Come on, there’s nothing explicit in what we have done, it’s really subtle’. Also, we put an age limiton it. It’s not like we targeted seven year-olds.”
Jarnfelt adds: There’s nothing explicit in the game, but on top of that it’s a very positive experience. It’s trying to be about pleasure and happiness. It’s strange how something positive like this can be ‘objectionable’. It’s so easy in games to kill – you press a button in a game and you can take a life. That has somehow became super accepted, which is so crazy.”
When the studio saw its game had been removed it reached out to Apple for an explanation and was told the tech giant was trying to reach a broad market and wanted content to be family friendly.
"La Petite Mort is about pleasure. It’s strange that Apple thinks it’s ‘objectionable’. Yet in games it’s so easy to kill – that has somehow become accepted."
Patrick Jarnfelt, Lovable Hat Cult
Not everybody is a family. There are so many people who don’t have kids, it’s really absurd,” Hasselager say. It’s sad for Apple as it’s cutting itself off from a lot of unique things. It could be a really interesting platform. There are so many things it could do, but it seems to be so conservative.”
Apple can obviously sell what it wants: as a retailer, that is its prerogative. Ultimately the tech giant knows its audience better than anyone. But by taking down experimental and taboo games like La Petite Mort, a negative message could be sent out to the development community: don’t try anything different if you want to reach our massive mobile market.
Definitely, that’s such a valid point,” Jarnfelt says. I’ve actually had developers say to me since that we are really daring because we are trying to do these things – it takes time to develop a game and if Apple says no, we’ve been locked out of more than half of the market on mobile. Just like that, half of your income is gone.”
Jarnfelt also questions the hold that Apple and Google have on the games space.
People are taking what happened to us seriously and questioning why it is like this,” he says.
I’d love it if something could happen to this weird monopoly right now. Why are Apple and Google the gatekeepers of art basically, of reaching an audience? It’s two American companies and they are the main powers in play.”