Nomada Studio’s lovely Nintendo Switch and Windows PC game Gris is artwork in motion — an interactive mood board, or a canvas awash in watercolors that convey a deep, trenchant melancholy. It’s the last game that anyone with a strong aesthetic eye would expect to offend, but publisher Devolver Digital says Gris has done just that. Facebook passed on a trailer the company requested to run on the platform over what it called “sexually suggestive” imagery, a decision that Devolver says is “really stupid.”
“Facebook rejected a GRIS launch trailer ad for this ‘sexually suggestive’ scene so this year is going great so far,” reads a tweet on the official Devolver Digital account from this afternoon. The attached image is of a statue of a woman, her body obscured by shadows and darkened shades of blue. There appears to be no nudity, as nothing beyond her shoulders is visible; the rest of her torso takes on the look of a tower. This figure features prominently throughout the game, and even in differently colored settings, the amount of her body that’s visible remains the same.
Facebook rejected a GRIS launch trailer ad for this ‘sexually suggestive’ scene so this year is going great so far. pic.twitter.com/frVaYOXIHe— Devolver Digital (@devolverdigital) January 7, 2019
At first, second, and all subsequent blushes, there’s nothing particularly incendiary about the screenshot. Stephanie Tinsley, who represents Devolver Digital, tells Polygon that Facebook refuses to accept that argument, however.
“This is really stupid,” Tinsley says. “We appealed and [Facebook] said the appeal was rejected based on the grounds that Facebook does not allow nudity. First of all, she’s a statue and second, absolutely no nudity is shown in that photo, nor is this what any reasonable person would consider ‘sexualized content.’”
To hammer in that point, Tinsley attached several pictures of sculptures depicting nude men and women, which she found through a casual Facebook search. These are publicly available to view, she says, suggesting a double standard on Facebook’s part.
The platform’s community standards include a policy on content involving “adult nudity and sexual activity.” It specifies that Facebook allows “photographs of paintings, sculptures, and other art that depicts nude figures” as exceptions to its otherwise steadfast rules. Therefore, the photos Tinsley sent over to us as examples would classify as acceptable by Facebook’s guidelines.
What is prohibited, however, is “the display of sexual activity also apply to digitally created content unless it is posted for educational, humorous, or satirical purposes.” The screen from Gris doesn’t include any sexual activity, implicit or otherwise; it also is “not sufficiently detailed and only body shares or contours are visible,” which Facebook notes would not result in a ban.
We’ve asked Devolver Digital if it intends to submit a different version of the trailer for use on Facebook, and reached out to Facebook about its reasons for rejecting the trailer. We’ll update when we hear back.
Update (Jan. 10): A Facebook spokesperson told Polygon that image in Devolver’s tweet is not what got the trailer rejected from the platform; instead, a link out from the video to Devolver Digital’s Instagram did not comply with the platform’s advertising policies, leading to the Gris ad’s rejection.
Facebook’s ad policies differ from the company’s community standards, and offer less leeway. Adult content is prohibited if it includes sexually explicit imagery, but also if there’s “nudity or implied nudity,” “excessive visible skin or cleavage, even if not explicitly sexual in nature,” or a focus on “individual body parts, such as abs, buttocks, or chest, ... even if not explicitly sexual in nature.”
One of the most recent posts on Devolver’s Instagram is from the game Scum, with a naked man (and his bare booty) seen front and center. The image violates Facebook’s ad policies, even if it wouldn’t go against the community standards.
All that said, it wasn’t Gris that pinged Facebook’s radar, so much as it was the landing page out to Devolver’s slightly racier Instagram. We’ve asked Devolver Digital if there are plans to adjust its Instagram accordingly.