Independent video-game developer Robert Yang says he wants to give us “the messy gay sex games that we deserve.” As eccentric as this mission might sound to some, it’s not unique. A sexual revolution has dawned for indie gaming; a small but growing crowd of independents are publishing games that reject porn-y imagery and favor emotional dynamics. And they’re doing this with very little help from the mainstream, multibillion-dollar gaming industry, despite censorious attitudes from PayPal and Twitch – and succeeding anyway.
The point of these games is to trigger insight and discussions about how sex makes humans feel. This is a big leap from the traditional video-game approach to sex, which is often heavy on the mammaries (there is a research-backed correlation between sexist video games and sexist views) and light on the actual intercourse. What makes these games remarkable isn’t that they’re more explicit, it’s that they’re smarter. One might describe them as pro-sex rather than pro-masturbation. And, yes, that constitutes a revolution.
Here are the five best of the bunch, the games that will make you rethink your relationships — games that might even serve as sex toys in and of themselves.
The Realistic Kissing Simulator
A two-player game designed by Loren Schmidt and Jimmy Andrews, this is an experiment in kissing. Players are bulbous, consent-seeking faces who have to figure out how to make their tongues work before settling into the perfect kiss. Sometimes, your avatar may end up with a tongue in its nose.
Before the game begins, one player must ask permission to kiss the other. If yes, the maneuvering commences. If no, then the avatars simply do not kiss and the game is over — a swift reaction, as it always should be.
Yes, this is an amazing first date game. It is also an amazing 100th date game – if you’re dating right.
Created by Naomi Clark of the NYU Game Center, Consentacle is a card-based game in which players work to earn satisfaction points during a romantic encounter. In this scenario, one playing is acting the role of the human and the other is a sexy, tentacled alien. The goal is to coordinate a strategy and play combos that result in both players experiencing mutual “satisfaction”, without actually using verbal communication.
“My goal for Consentacle is to explore these themes — consensual sex, intimacy, and trust, different and othered bodies — in a game that’s relatively easy to learn, but also deep, re-playable, and expressive,” Clark writes on her website.
This game is all about dick pics. Players take photographs of their virtual penises and share them — controlling the angle, lighting, and ethnicity. Robert Yang designed the game to represent real, multi-ethnic bodies, empower men to feel good about their bodies, and encourage conversation about identity and context. The avatar’s face is pixelated, establishing a — as Yang writes on his blog — “safer place to explore dick pics.” It is, decidedly, NSFW.
“This is basically how I feel in nearly ever game with a character creator, where often the closest racial analogue to asian people is elves or some shit,” Yang writes, describing why his game includes all ethnicities and body types. “If these games are power fantasies, am I going to fantasize about being white?”
Can a dick pic game change the world? Who knows. But at the end of Yang’s game is a decisively political messages — after about 20 minutes of play, user’s dick picks and chat transcripts are uploaded to a pseudo NSA sort of site. So far, over 25,000 “stolen” pictures have been uploaded.
“This violation of privacy should scare players a little,” writes Yang. “Sex can be scary like that.”
Designed by Stephen Lavelle, Strip Tease is a tile-based game focused on a sex worker named Candy. Set up in three levels, it is an intense and brutal look at Candy’s life — the tiling procedure designed to break her body into parts, pealing back identity from a human avatar to a set of individual pieces. While it certainly only looks at one perspective within sex work, Candy’s life is a scary and vulnerable one.
“Striptease is a sensitively complex way to explain how women’s bodies are treated as commodities,” game reviewer Cara Ellison writes for Rock Paper Shotgun, “and how value is measured and placed upon them at a purely cosmetic level.”
This game is like Tetris only the objective is getting three people and a cat to fit comfortably on a bed. Created by Anna Anthropy and Leon Arnott, Triad is a puzzle game — brightly-designed, deceptively simple game, and pretty open to interpretation. Is it a commentary on polyamory and a break from the taboo? Is it trying to say that we don’t need to sexualize everything; that sometimes sleeping in a bed with three people can just be sleeping? The game doesn’t explicitly say, leaving you to determine whatever meaning you want. Which, when it comes to looking at relationships in games, is probably what we need most.