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Sex: That Time I Designed a Hentai Game


Why do you all start out this way? And Jesus Christ, is that girl even in High School yet?

Dreams are weird, man. They're supposed to communicate all of these ideas of the subconscious, our deepest desires and fears visualized into some crazy experience. There are books on how to interpret your dreams, hyperbolic references to Sigmund Freud translating your dream as a desire to have intercourse with your mother, and people that believe they are communications from God.

Which makes it all the more curious that the only dreams I can remember for the past ten or fifteen years are all tied to video games. A couple months after the E3 demonstration of Halo 2's single player, I had a dream I had played it. Freshman year of College I had a dream I got to playtest a new 2-D Zelda game where Link wore chain mail and a kilt, and the sprite set resembled the original Wild Arms but with larger and more detailed characters.

So, this, only with bigger and better sprites.

Recently I found myself having a dream where it was a bunch of my friends in a real life Capture-the-Flag game on a theme-park style pirate ship against a group of cosplay girls I met at Escapist Expo. The next day I had a dream where I was in an Assault (from Unreal Tournament) game, again in real life, taking place at the bank near my house.

All I dare to interpret from these dreams is that I really, really love video games. What everything else means in my most recent dreams I don't care to interpret, because it doesn't matter to me. I just know that even in my sleep, my mind is on my favorite artistic medium.

Yet there is one dream that still lingers in my mind as a curiosity. Towards the end of my Freshman year in College I had dreamt that I was tasked with leading the design and development of a dating and hentai game. I don't recall who had tasked me with this project. All I know is that, at the time, I was an active member of the College's gaming club and I was sure (in that stupid, naive sense that all Freshman are sure) that I wanted to be a game designer. So when I was given this task in my dream, I took it as a test of my abilities. Anyone can say "I want to make a shooter" or "I want to make an epic RPG like Final Fantasy".

Do you have the mettle to design a dating/hentai game that doesn't suck, though?

Now, my only exposure to this genre was a playthrough in High School of a game called True Love. I found it laughably bad and tedious at first, though after using a FAQ I discovered there was a surprising amount going on behind the scenes of the game. There had been perfect strategies developed in order to romance every girl in the game, and that focusing on building certain statistics early on pays off later. I imagine most players discovered this sort of thing after replaying the game multiple times, kind of like learning the correct pattern to fight the Robot Masters of a Mega Man game in.

There's no way the artist sketched this, said "yeah, that looks good" and started inking. They just don't care anymore.

Even so, the story was still poorly written with unbelievable fantasy archetypes. Not only that, but the sex scenes were rather ridiculous looking. At times it made me cringe, other times it made me laugh, and on occasion it made me raise an eyebrow.

Aside from True Love, the only exposure I had to hentai games was a series of reviews on SomethingAwful.com. Y'know, back when people thought the writing on Something Awful was good. Oh, high school and freshman year at College. What blissfully stupid times.

In any event, this was all the knowledge I had to go off of when I was tasked with making a dating/hentai game. There were two major requirements, though. The first was that, yes, there had to be sex in the game. The second was that it had to take place at the College. In fact, now that I think on it, I believe I was assigned this game design duty by the College itself, which made it all the more confusing.

I always found Final Oxymoron VII to be a tad over-rated in the story department. Final Oxymoron IX is where that franchise really hit its stride in oxidizing morons.

Now, because of the nature of dreams, I remember segments of a false reality, but not a continuous story. Nonetheless, I am surprised at how many ideas I not only had while in the dream, but was able to retain when I had woken up. The first priority on my mind was who the female characters would be (because I was young and couldn't fathom a woman wanting to play a dating/hentai game at the time to provide love interests for). I wanted them to have personality. Sure, I wanted to build off of an archetype, such as what you'd expect a female film major to act like, or a girl in your programming class, or one of the girls that worked for the school magazine. Yet I wanted them to have believable aspirations. I wanted you to believe that you could actually meet that girl on campus.

I also thought of having girls that weren't actual romantic interests. I know I considered having more than one girl that would lead to sexual encounters, potentially multiple, because College is a place where people express their sexuality more freely. I also wanted to make sure more than one girl was willing to have no strings attached sex because I didn't want any of the characters to be viewed as a slut.


I also wanted the possibility of sex with all the characters to be present multiple times depending on personality. It seemed weird to me in True Love that sex was often a pay-off, and interactions with that character reduced once you completed that encounter. I still have this problem with the Bioware method of interactive dating, where it seems like sex is treated as a virtual reward to the player. I don't remember why I felt this way when I was designing a game in my dreams, however. At the time my thoughts on sex were a lot more immature than they are now. It could have been as simple as "hey, why not reward the player multiple times?" as opposed to "in a relationship, sex is not a 'one-and-done' thing".

Whatever my motivations, that was certainly a goal. That meant the game would also have to be long if I was going to give the options that other dating and hentai games provided. For some reason I felt like the player should be given a way to date as many characters as they want, just like in True Love. Looking back, I feel it would have been better to design the game so that, as time progressed, your interactions early on began to lock you out of later options, and if you tried to be a player with the wrong girls then you'd get nothing at all. If you interacted with the girls with a more sexually open personality, on the other hand, you'd remain rewarded. It all depends on what you want, and thus who you approach and how.

What every 30 year old Professor fucking her student aspires to be.

Of course, this is aside from the point. The most interesting thing about this dream is that I remember very little of the actual gameplay. I know I wanted to include a lot of mini-games in there, such as representing certain competitions in clubs or exams with a small little video game challenge. I wanted the player to have more to do than read and click, and those results would have a real effect on the outcome of the game. I wanted to take influence from Harvest Moon, a franchise that works as either a farming simulation with dating gameplay or vice versa.

Yet in the end, I do not recall if there was ever a finalized product. I awoke, I wrote the dream down, and I pondered it curiously for a time. Then, I stopped thinking about it altogether.

Now that I am older and have learned a lot more about sex and sexuality, more than my eighteen year old conservatively raised brain could handle at the time, I find myself pondering the challenges of making a game about dating and sex. I know there are independent games out there designed to explore things like love, but is there anything that is designed to fulfill some level of eroticism without being cheap virtual porn? Even in Japan these dating games don't have much of a budget, suggesting that even in their society there is something degrading about working on a sex oriented product.

Okay, seriously, there cannot be so many busty bosoms in such a small population of characters. This is Japan. People there are tiny, tiny things.

I know games represent sex in an immature manner. This is true of all media. Yet I do ponder what it would mean to create a game focused on dating and sex, allowing for a level of eroticism while still bringing with it a quality of writing and design. Can a game be fun and have meaningful characters while allowing you to get your rocks off, too? Why not have an option to turn such eroticism off, or have a separate version that takes those scenes out? Allow the game to stand on its own, so that people could have fun even if sex wasn't a part of it.

The question is, would our society and culture be ready to accept such a thing as an artistic endeavor? My guess is no, and as a result we probably won't know what it is like to play a dating/hentai game with good writing, design and structure, and as a result won't know what more can be learned from the experience.
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About ccesaranoone of us since 1:39 PM on 07.08.2009

After a little over a year's hiatus I have returned to the Destructoid Blog fold. Despite how thinly-spread my writing efforts have become, I still sometimes feel the need for a canvas in which I can sloppily splash the paint of my thoughts upon in hopes to have something resembling a thing.

So who am I? Right now I'm a writer over at GamersWithJobs, a blogger, a YouTuber and a Podcaster. I specialize in games analysis and criticism, and would like to use the Destructoid blog to share in some of my experiences working on these projects.

Note that I will be linking things I've been working on, but I will do so with the intent of embellishing on thoughts unsaid or detailing some of the work for any interested in also being content providers. Perhaps some of my experiences can help you out along the way.
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