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Pop open an incognito tab, NSFW games have never been better

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Here's how indie game developers made it happen

Ever since the first pixely penises flopped onto Atari screens in the early 1980s, erotic video games have earned a mainstream reputation of being heteronormative and, well, bad. A lot of erotic video games came from small software companies without the resources to create truly steamy and/or remotely attractive graphics, and most storylines remained within “ooh, a sexy lady… don’t you want to put a big, veiny penis inside of her?” territory. By the mid-2000s, video game sex became a natural part of mainstream storytelling, but the clunky bed-rattling of God of War or absolute unhinged freakiness of a Grand Theft Auto pseudo-rape scene isn’t what one might identify as “awe-inspiring” or even remotely “horny in a good way.” Now, though, things have changed. Now, we’re now living in a sex games heyday.

This erotic halcyon is largely thanks to indie game developers utilizing grassroots platforms like Patreon, itch.io, and Steam to put out complex, compelling, heart-and-also-sometimes-cum-filled games giving audiences what they actually want. Just like with real sex, virtual sex shouldn’t be limited to vanilla, dead-eyed woohoo’ing. Recent games like the tender lesbian robot sim Hardcoded, crossdressing rom-com Ladykiller in a Bind, and uncomfortably nostalgic You Must be 18 or Older to Enter make sure it isn’t.

“I feel like NSFW games are at a great spot right now,” Cookiedraggy, who works on sci-fi furry platform game Kincaid with his partner Nullbunny, told me over DM. “Steam allows them without censoring and patching and itch.io also has a great collection of fun H-games. Porn games are in the process of becoming more accepted and mainstream as a medium for adult entertainment and I think that’s a good thing.”

But how do indie developers avoid the silly, sometimes harmful pitfalls, like sex as reward or depictions of assault, of the games that came before them?

According to Cookie and Kenzie Vermiform Moonsneak, Hardcoded’s creator, humor and honesty really help. As Kenzie put it in her DM to me, “I don't assume that hets are having the type of humorless sex often depicted in porn,” she continued. “But for some reason, they rarely stray from that stereotype while writing [sex scenes].”

But “humor has the highest potential to evoke emotion and to make a scene seem more authentic,” she said. Avoiding being “problematic” can get more tricky, even when writing queer stories as a queer person. “I often have to remind myself that I'm making this game for me,” Kenzie said. “It's enough to just write around my own triggers and let the people who click with the content come to me.”

And, according to Kenzie, the key to making a sex scene good? “Emotional connection and Equine Megacock.”

For the Kincaid creators, understanding a character helps guide their sex scenes. “When we design a sex scene, we start with the characters,” Cookie  said. “Kincaid is a very curious, sex-positive and self-confident protagonist and we try to match the action of our scenes to what we think the action between her and her partners would look like.”

And like Kenzie, Cookie mentioned humor as “another big consideration.”

“Since we want the game to feel light-hearted, cute, and maybe a little bit kinky, we usually brainstorm ideas for ‘How could this be a little silly or funny?’” he said.

An emotional, personalized approach to sex scene scripting leads to scenes that developers and audiences are both attracted to for their authenticity and quality. Cookie, for example, was pleased with a “saber tooth tiger scene” that appears in the game, from “both from a pixel-art and narrative view.”

 “Anatomy on a pixel scale is quite challenging, and I like how heavy and at the same time gentle the tiger [looks],” he said. “In the corresponding CGs and story, we also focus on that contrast — the big primal prowler who hides a gentleness underneath his thick fur.”

Kenzie’s favorite scenes in Hardcoded are more personal, and correlate with her robo-disassembly kink. But mainly “I'm just really pleased that I made something that feels both wholesome and a little bit brutal,” she said. And as for outside inspiration, Kenzie named Ana Valens’ queer horror erotica, She Hungered. “[The first chapter] was dope as fuck and it makes me wanna write more monster-fucking content.”

Although mainstream video game sex, despite its occasional efforts, still sharply skews white, conventionally attractive, and heterosexual, you are now armed with some of the secrets that make NSFW games such an exciting genre today. While pushing big companies to employ diverse developers and writers, you can use this knowledge to your advantage — give some indie games a try, relish in their boundless, immersive possibility, and leave a tip for your local monster porn provider.

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Ashley Bardhan
Ashley BardhanColumnist   gamer profile

Ashley Bardhan is a writer from New York who covers culture, sex, and other things people like. Her journalism can be found in Pitchfork, Mel Magazine, and Bitch, among other places. She thinks a... more + disclosures


 


 



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