National Endowment for Arts ‘Cannot Say’ If It Will Rescind Federal Grant Backing Consensual-Girlfriend-Slapping Videogame

By Lauretta Brown | December 16, 2014 | 1:41 PM EST

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(CNSNews.com) – The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which is a tax-funded agency of the federal government, “cannot say” whether it will rescind a grant that was awarded in 2013—but has not yet been paid out—that would promote a “marginalized” videogame designer’s game about “consensually slapping her girlfriend in the face.”

In its 2013 Spring Grant Announcement, published on April 23, 2013, the National Endowment for the Arts said it was awarding $24,000 to the Polytechnic Institute of New York University.

The announcement said this grant was: “To support the production and exhibition of video games created by the Different Games Fellows. The four fellows are artists/game-designers who will be selected from a group of women, people of color, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ community members groups who find themselves marginalized both as designers and characters in video games.”

In 2014, the Different Games website announced who these federally-funded fellows were. “Through generous funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering is excited to present the 2014 Different Games Fellows, who will be sharing about the creative process producing original games at our opening reception on Friday, April 11th.”

One of these fellows, according to the same webpage, was Anna Anthropy, who “is a game creator, writer, artist, teacher, historian and gay witch. She makes games about polyamory, kink, Dan Savage, space adventures, and is currently using government money to make a game about consensually slapping her girlfriend in the face.”

CNSNews.com asked the NEA about the fact that one of the NEA-funded Different Game fellows was, as the Different Games website said, “currently using government money to make a game about consensually slapping her girlfriend in the face.”

“How is this a responsible use of taxpayer money?” CNSNews.com asked the endowment.

The NEA responded that the grant money in question had not yet been distributed.

“The National Endowment for the Arts awarded a $24,000 grant during fiscal year 2013 to the Polytechnic Institute of New York University to support the production and exhibition of video games created by the Different Games Fellows,” said Victoria Hutter, NEA’s assistant director for press, in an email.

“This amount includes $1000 for each of five game designers to showcase the work of emerging artists utilizing games as an artistic medium. To date, the Institute has not requested any funds and no money has been distributed. So the Polytechnic Institute has not received any NEA funding to date for this project.”

CNSNews.com followed up, asking Hutter: “Is there a possibility the NEA will refuse to pay the grant money for the video game developer who is developing a 'game about consensually slapping her girlfriend in the face' because of the nature of this particular game?”

Hutter responded via email: “We can’t answer that question now but we’re looking into the grant. That entails a number of required steps that must be completed before a final decision is reached.”

CNSNews.com then asked Hutter to clarify whether there was a “possibility that funding would be rescinded due to the fact that you say you are ‘looking into the grant’”

Hutter replied: “The Polytechnic Institute’s NEA grant was to support a project with several components. The NEA will be looking into the full project with the grantee and cannot say what will or won’t happen.”

The NEA’s grant description says that the “grant period” for this particular award is “06/2013-05/2015.”

Before becoming a Different Games Fellow, Anna Anthropy was featured in a March 30, 2012 story on “Personal Video Games” broadcast by National Public Radio. On that broadcast, Anthropy discussed a game she developed called "dys4ia." In that NPR story, the reporter asks Anthropy: "What is 'dys4ia' about?"

Anthropy responds: "It's about the past six months of my life. I decided to go on hormone replacement therapy. I'm a transwoman."

CNSNews.com repeatedly e-mailed Anthropy over the past two weeks requesting more details about the game that the Different Games website says she is “using government money to make" and that is “about consensually slapping her girlfriend in the face.” Anthropy did not respond.

Over the course of two weeks, CNSNews.com also repeatedly asked the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering: “Does NYU approve of the content of this proposed video game? Does it approve of the promotion of it on an NYU-affiliated website?”

Kathleen Hamilton, the school’s director of marketing and communications, replied that she had passed the questions along to the conference organizers, adding that “this isn't an NYU organization. We are one of several conference sponsors.”

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