Online social and video networks have taken action to limit discussion of , a new simulation game focused on building a business empire to sell the drug. Videos of the game have been demonetized on YouTube and the game’s Facebook page has been restricted to prevent ad sales, according to a representative for publisher Devolver Digital.
, launching today on Steam and GOG, includes -style business-growing scenarios that focus on both the legal and illegal sides of the marijuana trade during what developer Vile Monarch calls the “semi prohibition-era” for the drug. Situations where you have to conceal grow rooms from cops exist in the game alongside legitimate lobbying efforts to legalize the drug in more jurisdictions through two distinct story scenarios.
Despite the nuanced and decidedly artistic take on the drug war, though, Devolver says its partners on YouTube are reporting their videos about the game have been blocked from receiving any revenue from advertising. And Devolver’s ad manager tells Ars that “basically they’ve said we can’t advertise on [Facebook or Instagram], restricted the page (still trying to find out what that means exactly), and they completely banned my personal ad account because why not I guess.”
“We have been absolutely stunned with the amount of resistance this game has received in trying to market it,” Devolver’s Mike Wilson told Ars. “[Developer] Vile Monarch and Devolver went above and beyond to produce a thoughtful game devoid of the typical cliches, and totally agnostic about the subject matter. It’s meant to be an educational look at the fascinating dynamics of building businesses…
“We knew there might be some fear reluctance over the subject matter, but assumed those would be related to ideas of either promoting drugs or the typical ‘bitches and bongs’ misogyny and cliches,” he continued. “We made this game because these games are fascinating studies of industries for those curious about it… not to promote marijuana. And today’s restriction by Facebook, where Nazi propaganda, and endless stream of fake news, and live snuff films proliferate, is especially insulting. It’s all just so fucking ridiculous.”
What are the rules?
YouTube’s advertiser-friendly content guidelines page does include a section on “drugs and dangerous products or substances.” That section prohibits ad sales on “video content that promotes or features the sale, use, or abuse of illegal drugs, regulated drugs or substances, or other dangerous products.” There is a general exception for video that show drug use “educational, documentary, and artistic” contexts, though, which would arguably apply to
“We have clear policies that govern what videos may show ads, and content that features the sale or use of illegal drugs or regulated drugs or substances is not suitable for advertising,” a YouTube spokesperson told Ars. “If we find a video that violate our policies, we remove ads.”
Facebook’s advertising policies prohibit ads that “promote the sale or use of illegal, prescription, or recreational drugs.” That includes ads that use “images of either recreational or medical marijuana” or “images that imply the use of a recreational drug,” by way of example. A Facebook representative did not respond to a request for comment from Ars as of this writing.
Though YouTube has recently begun cracking down on videos focused on guns and gun violence, the site’s guidelines contain a specific carve out to note that “violence in the normal course of video gameplay is generally acceptable for advertising.”
Devolver representative Stephanie Tinsley called out that distinction on Twitter, pointing out that “murdering people is also illegal in every state and country around the world but there’s still a billion videos showing games that do that on YouTube, so it’s really less about what’s legal and more about hypocrisy, I think.”
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