Rub-A-Dub-Dub: Robert Yang’s Rinse And Repeat

It’s late in the year, but between Shower With Your Dad Simulator 2015, Metal Gear Solid V, and now Robert Yang’s Rinse and Repeat [official site], might 2015 become known as The Year of the Video Game Shower? Maybe. You know. It could happen.

A game about scrubbing a hunk in a gym shower, Rinse and Repeat is the latest in Yang’s fascinating series of free sex games exploring physical intimacy, boundaries, body image, gay male culture, and waiting. It’s also his second Twitch have banned.

Rinse and Repeat takes place in the shower room of a gym with macho-sounding sessions like Tactical Zumba and Apocalypse Cardio. The player character’s a pudgy dude with a crush on a hunky dream dude (so dreamy, he wears shades in the shower), and gets to scrub the hunk down. Bodypart by bodypart, he’ll ask you to help with his back, abs, biceps, bottom, waving your mouse around to soap him up. He’ll rate you and eventually leave, then it’s time to wait.

Interestingly, the game runs to a real-world schedule. Randomised class times are posted on the wall, and after the first visit you’ll need to come back during a one-hour slot to catch the dude again. Miss it, and you’ll miss your chance for that day. The story draws to a conclusion after a couple of showers, confronting infatuation and desire and longing and being alone and unloved. It makes great use of full-body awareness, letting players look down and see… not their legs, because the guy’s legs are hiding beneath his belly – a far cry from the toned chap he’s rubbing down.

Yang’s blog post about making the game and its themes is very good. It follows on from Hurt Me Plenty, Succulent, Stick Shift, and Cobra Club, exploring issues of gay masculinity, the “platonic gay male ideal”, desire, patience, consent, and fantasy.

Less fun is his other recent blog post, about livestreaming service Twitch putting Rinse and Repeat on the very short list of games users are forbidden from broadcasting – joining his dick pic ’em up Cobra Club. He writes:

“On one hand, it is extremely validating as an artist to be acknowledged as ‘dangerous’ — thanks, Twitch. On the other hand, the Twitch policy about sex and nudity is shitty and I’m going to complain about why I hate it and feel it’s unfair, and also really unhealthy for video games as an artform.”

Do read.

Rinse and Repeat is pay-what-you-want for Windows, Mac, and Linux from Itch.

[Disclosure: Robert Yang has written for RPS before, producing the excellent interview-o-game-make Level With Me series.]

41 Comments

  1. GameCat says:

    Tactical Zumba made me laugh, because I’ve imagined fully equipped soldiers doing zumba dance moves, probably to distract the enemy forces.

  2. Pantalaimon says:

    His games are great and he’s clearly a very interesting creator. However, I’d like to think that the powers at be at Twitch don’t embody the homophobic sentiment that he and others have apparently pinned on them for blocking his game. There’s just too many progressive people working at that company for that to be a policy decision. I don’t think his games should be blocked from broadcast, either, but I don’t really see it as homophobia, it’s mostly just general squeamishness towards open discussion of topics of sexuality in general. Certainly, the list of games that aren’t blocked are curious in their inclusion of sexual content, but people don’t get anxious about things like aliens getting their kit off in the same way as they do adult discussions of sex.

    • Pantalaimon says:

      (to wit, if you remade the game with a female shower room and female cast of characters, I would expect that to also be blocked from broadcast – it would be an interesting experiment, though).

      • DrollRemark says:

        Perhaps, but do you not think it’s a little weird that your hyopthetical female version of this game would get banned, and yet Mass Effect, or Fahrenheit, or the ridiculous titillation of Quiet in MGSV, don’t? Because there’s pretty heavy sexualisation in all of them, it’s just that R&R is completely open about it.

        I don’t actually think anyone’s argued about Twitch being homophobic (you’ll notice Yang’s blog entry never once mentions it), but rather that banning it for containing nudity is desperately sad. I mean, Twitch even has an Adult’s Only section, why couldn’t it just be put there?

        • Distec says:

          But all those other games you listed only have sexuality or nudity in small doses relative to the rest of the content they’re providing. Mass Effect has some sexiness, but 99% of the game content is dialogue wheels and shooting things. Ditto on MGSV for the most part (‘cept the wheels). I think there’s a pretty distinct line between that and Yang’s game.

          Besides, sexualization is not the same as straight-up nudity, which is probably where Rub-A-Dub got hung up.

          For the record, I’m all for Twitch changing their policies to allow these kinds of titles to be streamed.

          • DrollRemark says:

            Right, but that’s a bit of a weird distinction to say that you can have sex as a side-game but not as the main focus, isn’t it?

          • Distec says:

            More a difference in… ummm… “scale”, I guess? Rub-A-Dub is a lot more forward with its depictions. Mass Effect’s sex scenes are really just a bit of titillation with all the good stuff either obscured or out of view. Y’know, “tasteful” depictions in the vein of Hollywood films. And from a broadcasting standpoint: If I were to tune into any random Mass Effect stream to see the meat of the game, it would most likely consist of a lot of talking and alien-blasting. The sexy bits are just less likely to exposed and for less time as well.

            At the same time, it could certainly be argued that a tame, milquetoast sex scene is closer to “porn” than mere showering in the nude. :)

            To answer your question: Yes, it is weird. But it’s not really Twitch itself being weird so much as the cultural values (and pressure) they’ve inherited from the larger society. We – at least the West – love riding sexuality up until somebody shows a nipple for reasons that don’t make any sense to me.

          • jrodman says:

            Is that really a rule of the West, or an anglophone thing?

          • Distec says:

            Good distinction.

        • LionsPhil says:

          He does mention it as an aside:

          (While we’re at it, let’s add a dash of systemic homophobia into the mix.)

          Not exactly the crux of the argument, though.

          • DrollRemark says:

            Ah, my mistake, I completely missed that.

          • waltC says:

            The Internet is already chock full of porn…don’t really care for it in my games. And if I see the non-word “homophobia” again I’ll start using the other non-word “heterophobia” to describe those who use it…;) And then you say, “Well, the porn is only there in small dollops…” and I say, “Well, good, they can remove it and no one will know the difference, right?”

            And who said that heterophobia doesn’t lead to pedophilia? Eh? “Shower with your Dad”…??? Gag…EEEEeeeeewwwwwww….

          • ansionnach says:

            As far as I’m concerned the post is an unconvincing diatribe good for nothing more than drumming up publicity (which it has done). Things that reading this and looking at the game’s own website do not convince me:
            * How is a dating sim art? Just because the creator promoting it says so doesn’t make it so…
            * He’s charging Twitch of homophobia and trying to pretend his games have been singled out even though they clearly contravene its existing policy, while those that haven’t been banned (e.g. Mass Effect) don’t. There’s no unfairness here and he’s looking for a special exemption.

            I don’t think it makes sense for Twitch to give this game a special dispensation as everyone and their granny will be looking for one then. Introducing an age gate so that all “mature” content can be treated in the same way and broadcast might make more sense. This should suit the author – no need for him to go around ineloquently venting his spleen and slinging mud.

            I know there’s a disclaimer at the bottom, but considering the wrong-headedness of this guy’s arguments I do question their uncritical coverage of this.

          • jrodman says:

            “non-word homophobia”

            Unfortunately this says a lot more about you than you probably would want. I doubt all it implies is really true. I suggest you think deeply on this.

          • ansionnach says:

            …and your going straight for the straw man attack knowing very little about me says quite a lot about you… as does invoking “homophobia” – resorting to character assassination as a first resort. The game’s author does this also. Such behaviour trivialises a serious issue – much worse than crying wolf seeing as it also attempts to smear another.

    • MaXimillion says:

      They ban games they think might cause trouble with getting advertisers onboard, and that they can afford to ban. So if you’ve got sex in your ESRB-approved AAA game that’s going to get a massive amount of views and would cause people to go to competing services if banned, it’s OK. If you’ve got sex in a niche indie title, it’s banned.

      It’s not homophobia (especially seeing how much heterosexual content they’ve banned, or the Hatred case) or prudishness as much as it’s corporate cowardice.

      • NotOscarWilde says:

        It’s not homophobia (especially seeing how much heterosexual content they’ve banned, or the Hatred case) or prudishness as much as it’s corporate cowardice.

        I agree, and yet I think there is a case to be made that if cowardice dictates homophobic tendencies, you should be blamed for homophobia as well. The fact that Quiet sells to a large gaming audience and the aviator of R&R does not still doesn’t force Twitch to ban one and allow the other.

  3. Arthur ASCII says:

    Wait a minute… Rub-A-Dub-Dub is an exact phrase from Paul Rose’s Digitiser. Now, this isn’t the first Mr Biffo reference I’ve seen you type here, Alice. There’s been a few now. Are you really Mr Biffo? Or are you living with Paul Rose??

  4. X_kot says:

    I’m always intrigued by real-time clocks in games. Three things come to mind: Pippin Barr’s The Artist is Present, Animal Crossing, and microtransaction-based mobile games. Yang’s game reminds me most strongly of a mix between the Barr’s game and Viscera Cleanup Detail (Hmm…I wonder if Rinse and Repeat could be re-combined with Viscera Cleanup Detail and incorporate VA-11 HALL-A). But it uses the anxiety and anticipation playfully, like Animal Crossing. I fondly recall waiting to meet K. K. Slider at night on the weekend. Unlike mobile games, which exploit that emotion and charge players to artificially alleviate it.

    • pepperfez says:

      (Hmm…I wonder if Rinse and Repeat could be re-combined with Viscera Cleanup Detail and incorporate VA-11 HALL-A)
      I’m assuming these things are all being licensed for inclusion in Star Citizen.

  5. LionsPhil says:

    Rinse and Repeat takes place in the shower room of a gym with macho-sounding sessions like Tactical Zumba and Apocalypse Cardio.

    I can’t believe you noted these but failed to include Blood Pilates.

  6. Juan Carlo says:

    I like how the men all enter, walk directly to a shower, then stand in one position, with their arms out to their sides, not moving while the water sprays them. It’s like they are getting a spray tan or something.

    • pepperfez says:

      Presumably that strange compulsion is why they need the player character to lather them up.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      They’ve been banned from twitching.

    • HERP DERP NANOMACHINES says:

      Their movement would be a distraction, focusing on one particular NPC is just clear game design.

  7. pepperfez says:

    The whole Twitch conduct/content policy is a dumpster fire of arbitrary nerd-prudery.
    I especially like that they insist women wear tops even if the camera only shows their faces. That’s approaching, like, transcendent fear of bodies.

    • jrodman says:

      The policy doesn’t seem very impressive, and the cited vimeo etc rules seem superior. However, there was a fairly real problem of twitch growing a significant number of boob-channels, with soft-core porn performers moving over to the new revenue stream. I’m okay with an attempt to keep the focus on the games, while agreeing that the current policy is somewhat hamfisted.

      I’m also in pretty violent agreement with Yang that no-sex-in-games (save maybe throw-away titillation) weakens games pretty significantly, but I’m not sure what a good solution for a site like Twitch looks like. An opt-in toggle? That would kind of rankle to me too actually.

      • pepperfez says:

        The worst thing about it is you can see in the rules what they’re trying to address but then instead of addressing it they’re just weird. How did they not end up with “Don’t do anything that would get you arrested on the street in a small town” or something? It’s like they were deliberately avoiding reasonable solutions.

        As for sex in games, I dunno. “No explicit sex acts” and a warning before viewing M+ (violent or sexual) material? That seems sufficient to me, certainly more sensible than a tiny, arbitrary banned list and “mod nudity is banned in its entirety.”

        • jrodman says:

          A click-through that doesn’t require an account would be reasonable. I just expect them to use an account requirement as a self-protection measure, and that would rankle to me, making the content sort of second-class.

          • pepperfez says:

            I was thinking the click-through notice they currently have, which I’ve only seen when streamers are conspicuously smoking pot.

    • Geebs says:

      Oh for goodness sake stop trying to analyse them. It’s embarrassingly juvenile. Twitch probably have a specific rule about videos containing real violence, does that make them transcendently afraid of death?

      Cams are huge on the Internet, people were already running strip shows on Twitch, what do you expect them as a corporate entity, with an audience containing a significant proportion of children, to do?

      • Kitsunin says:

        If they had a rule about videos recorded while violence was occurring silently offscreen, then yes that would make them transcendentally afraid of death.

  8. Geebs says:

    I for one celebrate Robert’s relentlessly bold and inventive approach to having a bit of a whinge. He’s like the Roger Waters of man-rubbing simulators.

    • jrodman says:

      I have now been compelled to look up a picture of what Roger Waters looks like for the first time in my life.

      (beat)

      This is a slightly more unsettling juxtaposition than I had expected.