A video game was announced for the Nintendo Switch and circulated around news sites this morning. Normally an announcement of a game would be good news. This game, however, has an unfortunate objective and more specifically a title that should not be promoted on a family-friendly system. Suicide Guy is a game about solving puzzles by killing yourself. My reason for voicing concern is mainly regarding the title, and not as much about the gameplay. Why would I separate the title from the related gameplay? I am highlighting the title of this game because while I am not normally an advocate of censorship, society at times allows for expression at the cost of dignity.
Suicide Guy was originally released in July of last year for Steam. Developed by Chubby Pixel, it is categorized as a first-person action puzzle game by the developer and is rated “Very Positive” on the site as a result of submitted reviews. A summary and trailer from the developer website is detailed below:
Trapped in his own dreams, Suicide Guy has to escape from these ones.
The only way to do this is by killing himself in the imagined worlds, but it’s not a simple task… The game is a first person puzzle adventure in which you’ll have to interact with all the elements in the environment
in order to be able to pass to the next dream level. Explore the vastity of Suicide Guy’s inner self during his journey in order to wake up to reality! Even though he finds himself in incredible places meeting the most bizarre of creatures, Suicide Guy has only one objective: wake up in the real world.
The Features section from the Steam page highlights the following:
– 25 levels set inside Suicide Guy’s mind
– Story-driven game
– Physics based levels
– Ultimate moves: be able to pick up items, throw them, activate mechanisms and even burp.
– Funny creatures to annoy
– Vehicles to drive
– An important mission to accomplish
– Collectible items to find
Gamers will have to use different items in every kind of situation by solving original brain teasers.
Despite the title, the game is NOT at all about suicide or depression.
The trailer does not depict any ways that Suicide Guy kills himself. This is fine either way, as it is the way you complete each level. Though I said my problem is primarily with the name and not so much the game, let’s take a look at the presentation. The objective for completing the levels, and to get the main character out of his nightmares, is to kill yourself. As a game in first-person perspective, the players are seeking out ways to suicide their character – as it is the name of the game. With promotional images vaguely resembling Wreck-It Ralph, the game description ends with iterating that “Despite the title, the game is NOT at all about suicide or depression”. So despite the player’s objective being glossed over in the description, Chubby Pixel seems to realize the controversy they have contrived. Regardless, my problem is not with the content of the game. Though I do not care for it, I am all for freedom of expression. Even in their developer blog, Chubby Pixel touches on their story design: “Since the main concept to pass the levels is to kill yourself, we wanted to create a motivation to it.” Mind you, it is the developer that has the words “kill yourself” in bold on their blog. If this is what they consider fun, fine. I like twisted humor, and mature-rated video games. A ratings system exists for a reason. No rating exists for Suicide Guy that I could find on Steam or the ESRB.org website. I am sure the rating is either being addressed or will be soon. My problem is with the title.
What’s in a name, you ask? The name alone is reason enough it should not be on the system. Now here is where people that have already tossed around the tired snowflake insult will think that I should simply not buy the game if I don’t like it. The title itself is actually more controversial than the gameplay. We promote suicide awareness around the world. The month of September is Suicide Awareness Month in the United States. A YouTuber who sparked a public backlash three weeks ago after posting a video in Japan’s “suicide forest” has since published a video about suicide prevention. Having served in the military, I am quite aware of the suicide rate among veterans. This is not an issue that we should take lightly in society. Now I do not get offended easily. I position myself staunchly in the middle of issues often, and I try to see things from an unbiased perspective when situations cause people to get offended while others say they are “pissed off” about other issues when they are actually just offended. People get upset about a lot these days. The current events I see on the social networks and news organizations — of which I partly blame themselves on manipulating the public’s emotions — often irritate me. I try to not let what I cannot control affect me. Books and video games are my two chosen mediums of entertainment to allow me an escape. This is why I am writing about why the title of Suicide Guy should not be on the Nintendo Switch platform. Our entertaining means of escape should not use a taboo means of escape as a way to entertain.
A review from GameNews+ praises the game, saying, “Suicide Guy offers a fun gameplay while making you kill yourself. It is not a dark and gloomy at all, on the contrary, it is a cute little game with beautiful art work. It reminded me a little bit of Firewatch when it comes to art design and environment.” I disagree with their stance. A “cute” game using suicide as a way out should not exist in the public market when efforts are made against the very objective that game promotes. Suicide Guy might be fun. You might be telling me to lighten up. With its 25 different levels (excluding DLC), it could be a solid addition to the collection of puzzle games on the Switch. With its 25 different ways to kill yourself, it is a game called Suicide Guy viewed as just an innocent thing. Here is where I will counter the slippery slope of why this particular game should not be allowed when others should. Supposing that this will be rated M, and knowing that Nintendo is reportedly eager to get more mature-rated games on the system, if we do not allow this game, what would be censored next? We simply don’t allow this game, period. The Switch already has several mature-rated games, both of the larger retail and indie varieties. From the widely-praised port of DOOM and the anticipated Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, to the upcoming and intriguing indie horror game Layers of Fear: Legacy, the system is seeing more adult-oriented content and the response has been positive. This is great for appealing to a wider audience. Making light of suicide, however, is not a topic that should appeal to any demographic. The slope down could argue that games with guns and demons and other mature-rated material should therefore also not be allowed. That direction only reinforces the point that regardless of the content, an existing ratings system is in effect for a reason. When a game is titled something controversial, however, that goes beyond the reach of the ratings. It muddles the storefront, making light of a dark topic.
I thoroughly enjoy the entertainment that video games provide myself and my family. The thought of playing a video game that uses suicide as a gameplay mechanic is a choice consumers are free to make. The Parental Controls app is on my phone. I do not hover over my kids but I do monitor their activities. The request I make is that Suicide Guy not exist on the Switch unless some points are addressed. If a different name were used, I would have a different opinion. Also, the game should be given a mature rating regardless of its appearance. If our culture is such that people want to entertain such a game, as many currently find it appealing elsewhere, so be it. But as my kid likes to discover along with me the new content available on the Nintendo Switch, I do not want to see such a game viewed as light-hearted entertainment. I do wish that others in my gaming community, those that might possibly have their own personal demons they are dealing with, would not see this as entertaining. While Suicide Guy might be viewed simply as fun and a brief escape, the act of killing yourself should never be featured as a way out.