After requesting a mobile code for Beat Cop, an 80s set point and click game about catching criminals and writing tickets, I was excited to install it. I hadn’t heard of the game before, with no idea it had come to PC in 2017. I was looking for a deeper experience on mobile and thought something from those who’d published ‘Moonlighter’ (one of my favourite games last year) and who’d developed ‘This War of Mine’ and ‘Frostpunk’ could give me that. If I had read some of the PC reviews however I would have thought twice before requesting a code. This isn’t because the game is buggy or boring. Other reviews have said it captured the tense balance of hitting your goals as a cop on the beat. It’s hectic and throws a lot at you, which I can attest to and I agree that it’s a competent point and click mobile experience. The issue I have and the reason I wouldn’t have requested a code is because Beat Cop is derogatory.
I hadn’t played much more than 5, maybe 10 minutes before I read the first racial slur. It stopped me in my tracks and produced a loudly exclaimed ‘wow’ from me. I was shocked that the game featured derogatory language thrown about so easily. I’m doubly shocked after the realisation that the mobile release is a year after its PC version and this hasn’t been addressed. It wasn’t long after this that I saw it again. I decided then I’d played enough for the day. I think the thing that hit me most was the origin of the dialogue. It came from a random npc walking the street. It targeted another npc, one you can interact with but who I’d yet to encounter at that point. I then saw the same dialogue from another npc. I’d perhaps seen 1 or 2 other random pieces of dialogue from npc’s on the street. To double down on the derogatory language just turned me off.
I did go back to the game after that sour taste had gone. I thought I’d try and give it another chance. Of course this language and its use exists on a day to day basis. Racist people exist but I thought I’d give the developer the benefit of the doubt; perhaps they were oblivious to the actual meaning of the word or didn’t think it was that offensive. Another slur came up soon after. Then the constant, targeted sexism, not on the street but in the police team meetings. The one female officer feeling the brunt of one particular colleague. I’m sure this kind of thing happened at work but there are no repercussions for there characters (as far as I’ve played, but I can’t see one coming).
Beat Cop starts out by telling you it’s inspired by 80s American police shows. I can see that in a lot of the setting, the cuts between shifts and the cast of characters but I can’t remember watching any American cop show which was just racist. Sexist sure, many shows depiction of women in the 80s were sexist but society has, mostly, learned and changed since then. Some shows exist of course which use derogatory language. They depict certain parts of society and their views of others. Just because certain words are used in modern shows doesn’t mean they’re any less offensive. But usually with TV there is context. In Beat Cop you’re just presented with the words and its use. No scene setting, no exposition. Beat Cop doesn’t bother to think about the current climate it’s been released in and how as a society we’ve moved on from the standards of past decades. This game could have captured the 80s perfectly fine without the use of this language or by toning down the sexism. It’s almost as if Beat Cop is trying to say something but never actually does.
I can’t say if the developers think this use is acceptable or if it’s just lazy. Throwing it in because that’s what people said at the time but not showing consequence, not having a deeper meaning to its offence. I gave them the benefit of the doubt for a little going back to the game a few times but I can’t give it enough to finish it. It’s repeatedly pushing into my face with no deeper thought behind it.
Having written my thoughts down on this topic I took to the Internet to see how much this had been raised. It was discussed and I’m glad it was. Notably In its review on Rock Paper Shotgun which I wholly agree with. The game throws out offensive words and sexism but doesn’t deal with those issues with John Walker saying “why is it being depicted? So far as I’ve been able to discern, the most realistic reason here is because it was thought fun to do so”. Spot on.
The controversy has been addressed by the publisher too as Patryk Grzeszczuk, marketing director at 11 but studios, gave a talk at Digital Dragons, as reported via GamesIndustry.biz. It’s good to see from the quoted text that the publisher is trying to learn from this, to see what was wrong and how to resolve that in the future. However with certain terms still remaining in the mobile version of the game, especially with the ability to make changes post launch perhaps they’re not doing enough. At least for me.