The Tearoom is a ‘historical public bathroom simulator’

We’ve been teased for months by Robert Yang, creator of Radiator 2 and Cobra Club, with 3D models of high-grade urinals and promises of pee physics but now the game he’s been working on is out. The Tearoom [itch.io page] is a “historical public bathroom simulator about anxiety, police surveillance, and sucking off another dude’s gun”. You might think that’s a euphemism – and, I mean, it is – but also: no, it really is a gun.

As you can see, it’s basically a game where you go into a public toilet to pee while trying to make eye contact with other visitors until both of you reach the implicit understanding that some fleshy firearm fellatio is in order. The police also feature. The reason all the penises are swapped out for guns is to get around Twitch’s consistent banning of the developer’s games (something he has previously explained) while making a very clear point about that at the same time.

“I still have to deal with Twitch banning my gay games by secret trial as if they’re the fucking game police,” says Yang. “So to appease this oppressive conservative gamer-surveillance complex, I have swapped out any pesky penises in my game for the only thing that the game industry will never moderate nor ban – guns.”

You lick the guns. They shoot their blanks. You collect each dong-gun and they hang in your toilet stall as achievements, bringing whole new significance to the term “gloryhole”.

You can read the creator’s own thoughts and reasons behind the game in an accompanying post. Even if you don’t take a trip to the Tearoom itself, it’s worth a read for its observations on both games and gay culture. This, on the reproduction of bathrooms in blockbuster games, is a good example:

“Few video games feature peeing or pooping, but still frequently feature bathrooms for the sake of completeness. To make the bathroom “useful”, level designers often stash powerups or ventilation ducts or forgotten keycards in them, but those are all secondary to the bathroom’s ultimate function in a video game: to signal expense and production value. In immersive sims like Deus Ex Human Revolution or Prey (2017), the player can turn on showers and flush toilets, and each fixture sports a complex effects setup with swirling particles and refracting water shaders. This “wasteful” use of draw calls and texture memory helps assure you of the game’s high budget and huge production team.”

And truly, this does have some incredible water effects, which are also totally pointless. But my favourite passage is when he explains the design decisions behind the ritual of eye contact and “sealing a contract” while at the urinal, and how he had to add icons just to communicate what was happening to the player.

“This segment was hard to design because decades of male heterosexual hegemony have trained gamers into thinking of “looking” as a “free” action, with few consequences or results. After several mildly disastrous playtests, I noticed players still weren’t understanding that looking has power to it, so in the end I had to implement some really obvious iconography and prompting. I literally had to add flashing “eye” icons everywhere to try to get the idea of “gaze” across. Some players still don’t get it, but I think I want to stop short of a big flashing text bubble “LOOK AT HIS FUCKING DICK OK??””

The Tearoom is on Itch.io for pay-what-you-wanna.

Disclosure: Robert Yang has written for RPS occasionally, as the author of the excellent Level With Me series.

62 Comments

  1. comic knight says:

    If i were twitch i’d ban this game too.

    • DrazharLn says:

      Why?

      • TychoCelchuuu says:

        Well, you see, comic knight hates gay and bisexual men.

        • comic knight says:

          I work in Boystown, Chicago and have a lot of gay friends there. Not agreeing with someone has nothing to do with loving or hating a person.

          • AngoraFish says:

            Ah, the old “I have gay friends so I’m not a homophobe” defence!

          • Esin12 says:

            Huh? Yeah, maybe for something like “Hey, I don’t like fish but you like fish and that’s cool.” But “not agreeing” with somebody’s essential characteristics and who they are as a person is a little different.

          • MikoSquiz says:

            He didn’t say he “doesn’t agree with being gay”. He said he doesn’t agree with Robert Yang.

            I’m gay and I always feel second hand embarrassment about Yang’s juvenile, edgy, freshly-out middle schooler bullshit. “I have swapped out any pesky penises in my game for the only thing that the game industry will never moderate nor ban!” Please stop, Robert. We can all see you and it’s not pretty.

          • Nogo says:

            Always fun meeting an “I’m gay, but can these gays stop gaying it up so gayly” gay guy.

            Keep fighting the good fight for our self expression and autonomy!

          • Nogo says:

            And if you don’t like juvenile satire I think we have to strip you of your Max (or is it Sam?) avatar.

          • MikoSquiz says:

            Dear Nogo,

            I am sorry to hear that you are unable to distinguish between the concepts of ‘gay’ and ’embarrassingly childish’.

            I hope your internalised homophobia eventually clears up.

            Warmest Regards,
            Miko

      • damnsalvation says:

        Cuz it’s basically pornography?

  2. Chunkylord says:

    I can’t see this game not gettin the ole twitch ban, despite the efforts.

  3. Freud says:

    I have to hand it to Robert Yang. He’s sticking to his guns.

  4. Michael Fogg says:

    Wow, the protagonist must have drunk like 20 beers. Seriously, if the guns were regular gunmetal gray guns I think this would actually go around the Twitch ban.

  5. satan says:

    The way he’s (Yang) just put a flesh coloured gun skin over the penis is hilarious to me. Oh my god there’s a shotgun penis, and a SAW penis! This is genius.

    As commentary about the gun culture in games this is brilliant. Wonder if he’d have any interest in some kind of multiplayer-fps-post-defeat intimate horizontal extended teabagging simulator as his next project.

    • satan says:

      And of course there’d be scripted encounters with NPCs posing as other players:

      Bro1: Dude he’s taking that really seriously, and the other dude isn’t dead, and he seems really into it, they both do… is that guy on top really teabagging the other dude or… are they gay?
      Bro2: Dude of course not, the dude on top is still holding his AK, and the dude under him has his SPAS-12 right next to him, AND they both have deagles on their belts.
      Bro1: Oh yeah yeah I see the guns now, not gay at all.

  6. Premium User Badge

    steves says:

    It’s sad that this game needed to be made, but it’s some amazing satire on how fucked up everything to do with sex still is.

    “I had trouble finding a country band that wanted to be associated with my weird gay sex games”

    No shit. Glad he found one. They ain’t bad either.

    link to thelonesomebillies.bandcamp.com

  7. flashlight_eyes says:

    While I agree that male hedgemony makes it that openly staring at women/anything on the street can be seen as normal, I dont necessarily think this is the reasoning for his problems playtesting. Staring in videogames has always been allowed, you know so you can look and actually see the game. Simulating that kind of anxiety you get when you stare into a real persons eye’s and you arent sure how they feel about is really difficult.

    I do kind of remember being weirded out for the first time by this in idea in a video game in half life 2 where the npc’s eyes would actually meet yours.

  8. Synesthesia says:

    This is brilliant. The guy is a global treasure.

  9. Zenicetus says:

    First bathroom graffiti the camera focused on was “Kilroy was here.” Do people still do that after 75 years?

  10. TychoCelchuuu says:

    Haha, I love it. I follow him on twitter so I’ve seen glimpses of the thing but I didn’t hear about the gun twist until now. Pretty brilliant stuff.

  11. Premium User Badge

    MajorLag says:

    This guy has really great artistic sensibilities and I’m enjoying his blog immensely. I’ll probably buy his games even if I never play them (I’ll just pretend its a Steam sale) just to encourage his work.

  12. batraz says:

    Yeah ! Scatology is so subversive and artistic at the same time !

  13. sagredo1632 says:

    This would have been fascinating as a multiplayer game. What kind of visual signals/cues would players read in other players’ behavior? What’s the fidelity of virtual gaydar anyway?

  14. Towerxvi says:

    Christ, the game makes sense to me, but that dudes blog post was painful. Other people here seem to be into it, but…

    Well, let’s look at the two snippets posted here. We can debate the worth and effectiveness of bathroom details on a big-budget games verisimilitude (or “immersion”, if you must). Maybe it is pretty worthless. But implying that game designers do that as some sort of arrogant, idiotic posturing is groundless and rather hateful. Game designers are almost always just people who want to make a good game. They don’t always hit the mark, but that’s no reason to turn them into some kind of idiot caricature.

    Or directly implying that, during playtesting, people didn’t interact with his game intuitively purely due to instinctive, unconcious anti-gay bias. It’s like, really, dude? You can’t think of a single other plausible explanation? One that doesn’t totally demonize some unlucky individuals , once again groundlessly?

    Also, does twitch have a stated rule on explicit sexual content? Because if so, I’d rather them just enforce a blanket ban than have them act as arbiters of what is worthy or not. If they’re singling him out, though, then yeah, that’s messed up.

    • Alberto says:

      It’s not “anti gay bias”, but simply heterosexual etiquette. When you go to a public toilet you’re not interested in penises and maybe would feel awkward if someone stares at yours.

      But if you go to any gay bar / cruising hotspot, the casual or purposeful appreciation of other men’s dicks is common.

      His twitter was pretty interesting about it.

      Also, “how to be sure heterosexual players don’t try to avoid the ejaculation” was a pretty hilarious topic.

      • Towerxvi says:

        I think I put that part poorly. I more was trying to say that I think it was kinda shitty to imply that the reason people didn’t interact with the game the way he was hoping was because there was something wrong with them, whether bias or a contemptible sort of ignorance.

        • ChefSquid says:

          Yeah, the bits from his blog made it seem like he thinks everyone who doesn’t instantly get how his game works is homophobic or something.

          • Alberto says:

            Oh, might be that, then. His twitter was a lot more light hearted.

            Also, having no experience in cruising, I wanted to experiment and try to discover the proper way to look a guy to get his gun out. The icons felt patronising.

        • laiwm says:

          I got a strong impression that he was being tongue-in-cheek (gun-in-cheek?) with those comments.

        • April March says:

          I agree that it is possible that he’s off the mark with that point, but I’d also say he argued the point quite cogently. And while people failing to realize how his game works may not be due to deep-seated heteronormative biases, those certainly do exist and affect more things in people’s lives as you might think. To say that someone who’s pointing them out in a given behaviour is ‘demonizing’ people who exhibit such behaviour is not a good way to identify and reduce those biases.

    • sneetch says:

      Twitch do have a state rule on sexually explicit content, it’s banned on twitch.

      “Sexually Explicit, Adults-Only, and Other Prohibited Games
      Nudity, pornography, sex, or sexual violence can not be a core focus or feature of the game in question, and gameplay with modded nudity is entirely prohibited. Occurrences of in-game nudity are permitted, so long as you do not make them a primary focus of your content and only spend as much time as needed in the area to progress the game’s story. Games rated Adults Only (AO) by the ESRB are not permitted in content on Twitch.”

      link to twitch.tv

  15. Chorltonwheelie says:

    A one man cottage industry…haha…no? I’ll get my coat.
    More of this sort of thing.

  16. TheDandyGiraffe says:

    I like Yang a lot, and his observation about the games treating looking as a “free” action by default is insightful af, but he sort of undermines it all when he quotes the heterosexism as the main/only reason of this state of things. It’s much, much more complicated than that, and arguably has much more to do with capitalism than heterosexism.

  17. Alberto says:

    Loved Radiator 2 (the car game has the loveliest prettiest guy I’ve seen in videogames) and bought this.

    Two main critiques: the graffities seem more modern than 1967. And I can’t see my own gun-dick.

    After Cobra Club dick extravaganza, I felt somewhat down having an invisible / nonexistant penis.

  18. wonkavision says:

    Why not a single post about Yandere Simulator?

    • Nevard says:

      Because it’s really, really old news and nobody cares.

      • wonkavision says:

        I’m not asking why they aren’t posting about it now. I’m asking why they have not once posted about it in the history of this site.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ghostbird says:

      Why choose the comments on this particular article to ask?

      • wonkavision says:

        “I still have to deal with Twitch banning my gay games by secret trial as if they’re the fucking game police,” says Yang. “So to appease this oppressive conservative gamer-surveillance complex, I have swapped out any pesky penises in my game for the only thing that the game industry will never moderate nor ban – guns.”

  19. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    “decades of male heterosexual hegemony have trained gamers into thinking of “looking” as a “free” action”

    What in the ever loving fuck does sexual orientation have to do with gameplay mechanics about looking around?

    I get that he’s mad about Twitch being stupid, or people in general being stupid. That’s fine and all.

    But he damages his own statement when he makes absurd sentences like that. Come on, man.

    • Ghostwise says:

      Yang’s sentence is entirely cromulent.

    • Jekadu says:

      It means that most developers put in eye candy for straight men that the player is free to look at as much as they want, when realistically, staring at someone would normally be noticed pretty quickly.

      • wonkavision says:

        It would be really funny if an NPC said, “Are you staring at my tits? I’m fourteen!”

      • Premium User Badge

        Drib says:

        Are you trying to imply that there are never attractive men in games that male players can stare at?

        I just don’t like the implication that there’s some global sexuality-based hegemony secretly controlling how looking around works in videogames.

        That kind of over the top nonsense just makes people look crazy, and makes their intended point look crazier by comparison.

        It’s not a good way to do things is all.

        • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

          “I just don’t like the implication that there’s some global sexuality-based hegemony secretly controlling how looking around works in videogames.”

          No one said anything about a conspiracy. His comments seem, to me, to be drawing on a well-established tradition of examining how systems of privilege and culture create learned behaviour without anyone needing to explicitly teach them.

          Maybe calm down a bit, don’t leap to assuming an argument you don’t immediately understand is the most extreme version of one you do (because you just made it up), and and consider whether the idea that “Your environment influences your actions” is really that insane.

        • Jekadu says:

          There’s more to it as well. “Heterosexual hegemony” is shorthand for a whole bunch of stuff. I’m not familiar enough with Robert Yang’s body of work to feel comfortable unpacking all of it, however.

      • Wulfram says:

        I actually think its the most “male gazey” games where characters actually do respond to where you’re looking. Those japanese pervert simulators like Dead or Alive Extreme or that VR things called summer lesson

        (This is where I add “or so I heard” and probably no one believes me)

        • Premium User Badge

          Martell says:

          /highlight
          /search Google for

          Huh. It is amazing the lengths people will go to for arousal in our porn-saturated culture.

          Oh, Yang has a point. Plenty of pointless, unchallenged eye candy for hetero males in video games. Why is this even being argued about?

          • Wulfram says:

            Your broad claim is uncontroversial, the specific claim by Mr Yang is dubious.

            Gamers are trained that looking is a free action in much the same way that we’re trained that jumping all over the place in our underwear with drawn weapons is a free action. NPCs tend to be oblivious to all but very specific things.

            edit: Possibly this reflects male hegemony in that it reflects a focus on violence rather than social interaction

          • Jekadu says:

            Wulfram, this seems to be the core of the argument. The medium has evolved along certain lines and trained the audience to approach games in very specific/restricted ways.

    • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

      en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Male_gaze

  20. Vilos Cohaagen says:

    The video made me chuckle most heartily. The pink pistol was amazing!

  21. Risingson says:

    I laughed a lot. Just saying, when I told myself that I was gay and I wanted to have some experiences (as there was nothing around me that could serve as a model for that), I thought, a lot, that it would have been great to find anywhere a user’s guide on the etiquette for cruising.

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