Note: This article covers a game that contains sexual references and what could be seen as sensitive themes outside of the context of the developer's intent. There is also some strong language.
The upcoming Super Patriotic Dating Simulator is a visual novel in which you play as a 19 year old CIA operative named Elodie who must infiltrate ISIS...and for some reason, she's able to date seven different ISIS operatives. Your choices include a suicide bomber, a beheader, and a caliph. The Kickstarter for the game recently launched on Tuesday.
And to clarify: yes, this is a completely legitimate Kickstarter campaign. Karlee Esmailli, who is the Head Of Accounts at Blackbox and Cards Against Humanity, is the creator and programmer for the game. The game will be the first produced by her new company, Immigrant Father Studios.
Super Patriotic Dating Simulator might make you think it's supposed to be incredibly smutty. In the trailer for the game, Elodie mentions how horny she is. The ISIS flag is shown at one point in the video, which is comprised of dildos, cock rings, horses, and vibrators.
But Esmailli promises that graphically, the game will be very tame. Any violence will be depicted as "cartoonish," and she writes, "we're definitely not going to show penetration or anything explicit, so this 100% counts as respectable art and my parents aren't allowed to get mad at me."
So why would someone make a game like this? Esmailli writes about her love for her Iranian heritage but also her love of being an American, yet at times she's felt anxiety towards these identities. She writes, "These mixed relationships of love and anxiety are the foundational components of The Super Patriotic Dating Simulator."
She also wanted to bring more of a female gaze into the genre of dating sims, and "subvert the sexual oppression that characterizes so much of I***'s politics."
She specifically included ISIS in the story because of American perception of the Middle East. Esmailli explains, "The Super Patriotic Dating Simulator is a satire about this American perception. It's a satire of the dehumanizing, inaccurate, atrocious politics of American perception of middle eastern people."
While the game certainly has a shock factor to it, Esmailli writes that her goal is not to make fun of Muslims.
"This game is anti-I***. We're mocking I*** itself, and we're mocking American racism that uses I*** as a representation of Islam and all middle eastern people. This game is NOT making fun of Islam or Muslim people," she clarifies on the Kickstarter.
She also confirmed on the Kickstarter that there will not be any depiction of Mohammad, the most prominent Islamic prophet. (For those of you who don't know, it's extremely offensive to depict Mohammad in any form.)
The Kickstarter goal is at $42,069, and by the end of the first day, over $3,500 had been met. The campaign lasts until August 25. There are three pledge options right now, with the most expensive one letting you be in the game. Of the first two, one lets you purchase the game, and keeps your name in the credits. The second "Identity Protection" pledge allows you to purchase the game and choose if you want to keep your name in the credits or not.
Reactions to the game are surprisingly positive so far. One Kickstarter user commented, "Amazing," with another exclaiming that they couldn't wait to play it. Twitter has been particularly active.
My incredibly smart Iranian-American friend @KarleeEsmailli just launched a Kickstarter for a satirical dating simulator that successfully swings at ISIS, American racism, and the male gaze in gaming. Don't sleep on this one. https://t.co/QIOecDGV2T
— Amy Dracula (@amydracula) July 24, 2018
Sometimes it's hard for us old timer devs to imagine what new dev voices can bring bc we're so used to what games have been. Then new+fearless+personal projects like this sprout and take my breath away. Congrats on the KS launch @KarleeEsmailli and team! https://t.co/4SoV9skkqO
— Jane Ng (@thatJaneNg) July 24, 2018
While you might be laughing as you read this article and while Esmailli hopes that you do laugh while playing the game, she also explains in the Kickstarter video that she wants players to understand a few important messages.
"I hope players walk away from this game reminded that ISIS is not representative of Islam, and that ISIS f***ing sucks," she states, "and reminded that not all women orgasm from penetrative sex."
In conclusion: "If you like satire, or clitorises, or telling ISIS to go f**k themselves, then feel free to back this campaign."