This public bathroom sim swaps wangs for guns to make a point about censorship

The Tearoom is a free game by Robert Yang based on the persecution of gay men by the Mansfield, Ohio police department in the early ‘60s. Back when, the department set up a surveillance camera behind a two-way mirror and filmed men having sex with one another in a public bathroom. With that secret footage, the police imprisoned men for a year or more based on Ohio’s sodomy laws at the time. 

In the game, you play as a man looking for sex in such a bathroom. You stand at a urinal with a view of window outside, the urinals, and stalls. Your goal is to piss idly in the urinal while you listen for fellow pissers to shift around and create a chance to make and sustain eye contact, then once consent is established, they whip out their fleshy gun and you ‘load’ it by licking its shifting erogenous zones. All this is set against a ticking timer and the ever looming threat of cops sneaking up to the scene. If you listen carefully enough or check the window from time to time, you’ll see them parked, at which point you have to bail. 

It’s a silly concept for a serious topic, and the contrast between hokey piss physics game with gun dicks and the actual history works in The Tearoom’s favor. While it recaps awful abuse of power and homophobia, it simultaneously highlights our cultural aversion to the portrayal of sex in games and how that’s reflected in its most popular gatekeepers—Twitch in particular.

The Tearoom has the Call of Duty of piss controls. 

Yang breaks down the development and intent of the game on his blog, describing how bathrooms are typically used as decoration in big-budget games ("the pointless expensive video game bathroom," as Yang puts it), how ‘looking’ is treated as a free action, and a brief history of the LGBTQ’s relationship with violence. It’s smart, fascinating stuff. He also makes a good case for swapping out the dicks with guns on The Tearoom’s page, citing Twitch’s inconsistent content restrictions as the impetus. 

“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. Now, there's nothing wrong with guys appreciating other guys' guns, right?”

According to Twitch, “Titles may be restricted if they are sufficiently extreme by a single element of the game (e.g. sexual content, violence, intent) or several elements in aggregate violate our policies.” They don’t really offer up a veritable measure for what gets banned and why—’one beheading equals one quick peek at genitalia’—so it’s easy to see why Yang is so frustrated. "[I]f they still ban my game, then it will be the first time in history that the game industry regulates and bans a game about guns," writes Yang.

Despite games like Rust and Conan Exiles scooping up social awareness almost entirely through their rendition of a wobbly dong and brutal, bloody dismemberment, Yang’s games have been banned from Twitch in the past for their more realistic and focused depiction of a penis. The penis is a sex organ a lot of people have and look at often. I see mine all the time. It’s cool. I think the last time I saw a gun in person was at my dad’s in Montana. It was locked in a chest, covered in dust, and smelled like an oily fart.

James Davenport

James is stuck in an endless loop, playing the Dark Souls games on repeat until Elden Ring and Silksong set him free. He's a truffle pig for indie horror and weird FPS games too, seeking out games that actively hurt to play. Otherwise he's wandering Austin, identifying mushrooms and doodling grackles.