Monday, December 10, 2018
(UPDATE AS OF DECEMBER 21, 2018: the game server has been patched to post to a Twitter account instead of a Tumblr. Feel free to follow @CobraClubPics for all your fake player-generated dick pic needs.)
If you haven't heard the news, Tumblr plans to ban all adult content on their platform starting on December 17th. As many point out, this will have disproportionally adverse effects on marginalized people, especially trans and queer creators, who have relied on Tumblr to build and maintain communities to explore their sexuality and identity. Now it's not really a surprise that this is all happening, but it's certainly cruel and harmful to the communities that can't easily pick up and move elsewhere.
I have some strange skin in this situation: my dick pic photo studio game Cobra Club involves a networked component that links with Tumblr. This had resulted in amassing what is technically the biggest gay porn blog across all of Tumblr, with over 100,000 user-generated CG dick pics uploaded from the game. (The nearest competing gay porn blog I could find had only 30,000 posts.)
However, this whole ordeal has made me much more reluctant to build any social network integrations into my games for the foreseeable future. What's the point, if these platforms are just going to devour everything in a few years?
I now see this is a difficult technical problem with making art on the internet: our current internet is heavily privatized and incorporated, and so to comment on the internet, we have to invoke these other platforms and brands in order to say anything at all -- and as many libertarian web programmers will love to remind you, these private platforms can do whatever they want without any accountability or compassion to anyone. Building art with their APIs is like building a house on quicksand.
Back in 2015, I had chosen Tumblr because it seemed like it was queer-positive and sex-positive, with a large enough infrastructure and community. But then in early 2018, Tumblr instituted a mandatory "safe mode" block on all adult content blogs, which basically broke my game already. And yes, Tumblr does have very real problems with abusive porn bots and revenge porn, but it seems they've given up on actually targeting these problems, and instead they've decided to raze their user base instead. So much for tech solutionism's bid to save the world, huh?
As for what will happen to Cobra Club, I'm evaluating whether I should try to patch the game to integrate with another social network, to preserve the game's functionality and meaning. Some have suggested that I hook it into Twitter, but honestly, how much longer do you think Twitter will tolerate adult content and queer community?
(To continue mourning what once was, check out Lydia Morrish's "How Tumblr became a sanctuary for outsiders"... I also spoke to Vice, twice.)