PSA: Why is There an UltraViolent, M Rated, DRM Laden, EA Game in Humble “Indie” Bundle 4?

shankHumble Bundle, we have a problem.

The inclusion of the game Shank in the latest Humble Indie Bundle is flat out wrong for many reasons.

For starters, I believe the screenshot over there on the left should provide some food for thought. While the game’s store page on Steam is age gated due to content (ESRB rated M for “Blood and Gore, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, and Violence”), there is no such warning anywhere on the Humble Bundle 4 site. Let’s take a quick peak at what Wikipedia has to say about Shank’s depiction of violence, shall we?

 

 

The game's gore and graphic display received mixed reception among critics. GamesRadar's Carolyn Gudmundson called it "Embarrassing attempt at "Mature" rating".[33] Joystiq's Justin McElroy was more forgiving, stating that the blood and gore has "a great Americanime, Samurai Jack-esque style that makes the murder look cool but never so real that you wonder about the families of the people you're beating to death."[29] 1UP.com's Scott Sharkey expressed approval, stating Shank is "bloody, violent, adolescently indulgent, and absolutely beautiful in execution."[25] Tom Mc Shea of GameSpot stated it is "a savage game that revels in the brutality of street fighting."[26] The reviewer from GameTrailers called Shank "a savage Saturday morning cartoon filled with blood, boobs and Berettas.[27]

And no one thought to put a warning up? "A savage game that revels in the brutality of street fighting,” didn’t set off alarm bells for anyone over there at Humble Bundle, Inc? So much for sending these out to the kids this year. Sadly, this level of irresponsibility is trivial compared to the other issues involved with the inclusion of Shank.

Secondly, I was under the impression that the Humble Indie Bundle program wasn’t simply a charity fund raiser, but also an opportunity for independent artists to gain some recognition they might otherwise not be able to generate on their own. Shank is a title developed under a publishing contract from Electronic Arts (EA), one of the largest video game publishers in the world (and, currently THE largest publisher in Western markets). Originally revealed to the public during the Penny Arcade Expo September 4-6, 2009, developer Klei Entertainment signed with EA six months later on March 4, 2010. The game would not be released (on it’s first of 3 major platforms) until August 24, 2010. Hardly an “Indie” title.

This smells even fishier with Shank 2 having been shown a couple of months ago. Of course, the sequel is also an EA published game.

Finally, there is a rather large issue with the Humble Indie Bundle 4 being publicized as DRM free. The version available for download directly from HumbleBundle.com (a rather user unfriendly .zip file that contains no installer, a .exe file buried in the bin folder, and an out of date readme.txt for an altogether different version) is DRM free. Should a customer choose to install Shank via Steam using the code provided by HumbleBundle.com however, they install a version is positively loaded with it. It also requires the acceptance of a lengthy and restrictive licensing agreement. The Steam store page for Shank (which Humble Bundle customers will probably never see) contains the following warning:

INTERNET CONNECTION AND ACCEPTANCE OF END USER LICENSE AGREEMENT REQUIRED TO PLAY. EA ONLINE PRIVACY POLICY AND TERMS OF SERVICE CAN BE FOUND AT www.ea.com.

While not relating directly to Shank, I also have one other bone of contention with this newest member of the Humble Bundle family. I am shocked to see the removal of the EFF as a charity this time. Certainly, the American Red Cross is a fantastic organization, but to pull support from the Electronic Frontier Foundation at the EXACT moment that they are fighting against the potential of Internet censorship from SOPA and the threat of constant surveillance from Carrier IQ is unconscionable. I mean, it’s not like Child’s Play isn’t linked to darn near every charity fund raiser involving gamers. Why cut a charity at all? The Humble Indie Bundle 4 made $1 million the first day. Even if this could not be foreseen, the Humble Indie Bundle 3 made $1 million in its first week! Is there really not enough money to support those fighting for our freedom of expression and right to privacy?

I have decided to remove our previous post showcasing the Humble Indie Bundle 4 from both this site and our Facebook fan page. I believe that the inclusion of an EA published game on the eve of an EA published sequel in this “indie” bundle is a misrepresentation of the product and a misuse of the program. The inclusion of DRM on the Steam copy stands in direct violation of the promise made on HumbleBundle.com.

While still a good product for a worthy cause, Growing Up Otaku cannot endorse the Humble Indie Bundle 4. I hope that the hard working and generous folks Humble Bundle, Inc. are more careful in selecting future titles for the Humble Indie Bundle. I look forward to supporting a product more in line with their original vision, or at least appropriately represented, in the future.

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