The XX Factor

In Its First Week, PlayStation 4 Played Host to Apparent Sexual Abuse

Sony might need to make some changes to its new Playstation 4 game Playroom.

Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

The Playstation 4 has only been out a little over a week, but Kotaku reports that users have already figured out a way to ruin a virtual reality game called Playroom, which uses the console’s camera to film you in your living room and impose, onscreen, virtual objects, which you and others viewing you can “play” with. Playroom is supposed to be used for playing games, but gamers are an ingenious bunch, and some swiftly started using it for more exhibitionist purposes, including creating a call-in TV show. Most people who went off-script with Playroom did so for harmless pranks, but it seems one man has already put the service to use broadcasting what appears to be sexual abuse. Game Revolution reports:

And then there’s Darckobra. He and his wife sat on a couch drinking, and drinking, and drinking. Eventually, the wife passed out. So the man did what any man deserving of divorce papers would do: he showed the internet some breast — and not his own. Yes, live on Twitch TV, via The Playroom on PS4, a man lifted up his unconscious wife’s shirt and exposed her breast. After 15 or 16 post-boob minutes, the channel went dark briefly; upon its return, the wife was completely naked, presumably stripped by the husband.

This is more than grounds for divorce. If what it seems like happened actually happened, then it’s a form of domestic abuse. As with the problem of revenge porn, it’s hard to say how and if the law should get involved, but it’s important not to downplay the seriousness of the incident. 

Luckily, Twitch, the company that runs the livestream of people in Playroom, immediately suspended the man’s account, but as Owen Good at Kotaku notes, the larger problem here is that there isn’t really a way to prevent such content from getting out in the first place. Good’s main concern is that children tend to use game consoles like the PS4 more than they do other gaming services with streaming video, like PCs, which means if people are getting naked onscreen, kids might have a higher chance of seeing. That’s an important issue, but it’s equally important to point out that if someone thought it delightful to use the service to broadcast an apparent sexual assault within the first week, Sony and Twitch may have a much bigger problem on their hands.

Because most people keep their consoles in the living room, console gaming lends itself to social occasions much more than PC gaming. Flipping on the console to play games during a party is already a widespread practice. Now that Playroom allows users to project the goings-on in their living room for others to watch, it’s unlikely that Darckoba will be the only man who is tempted to stand out from the crowd with on-camera sexual abuse.