This evening I finally decided it was time to release Hot Coffee. So now it’s released. Did some final passes through the innuendo levels, and deemed them high enough. Changed some background colours. Added a preloader. The usual. It was a pretty fun game to make, perhaps most fun when I thought of the idea (on the same flight from Athens that I came up with PONGS actually), and when I started drawing the graphics is a faux-ANSI style. I thought I’d say a couple of things about my intentions with it. “Spoilers” ensue.
So, Hot Coffee is kind of a “sex game” that features no sex. Its name is in reference to the “Hot Coffee” sex scandal that surrounded the release of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Basically, that edition of the GTA series had a secret minigame where you get to have super awkward-looking polygon sex by pressing the buttons on your XBox controller. It was actually almost totally inaccessible and buried deep in the code, but people being people someone dug it out and wrote a patch to allow people access. Importantly, the sex sequence implemented in the “hot coffee mod” is meant to show you what happens when your character is invited in for “coffee” by a girlfriend. In the normal version of the game you don’t see anything, they just go into the house and “sexy” sounds come out.
Naturally, it occurred to me that it would be pretty hilarious to make a game that traded on the scandal somewhat, and if possible to make kind of a “sexy” game, or at least one that felt suitably awkward and dirty to play. But the catch was to make the game without mentioning or representing sex at all, so that it would simultaneously be totally innocuous and really filthy. Thus, in Hot Coffee all you do is actually make a cup of coffee, but in a highly suggestive and innuendo-fueled manner.
I’m not sure if I succeeded in making a game that genuinely feels awkward or dirty, and it almost certainly doesn’t feel at all “sexy”, but it’s also true that I’m a bit blind to how it feels to play having spent so much time with it. I do think it works in terms of the basic premise of being implicit porn instead of explicit porn, and that was really the core idea, so I’m not unhappy with it for that reason. It’s really a tension that interests me a lot in game – sex is just so rarely dealt with at all, and the question of what it would take for a game or part of a game to be “sexy” is just so fascinating. I’d love to play around with the ideas involved a bit more.
There are also some really difficult issues surrounding gender and heteronormativity (big word!) in Hot Coffee that I didn’t resolve but which I might write a little more about next week. All in all, it was, as ever, a deeply interesting experience to make for all kinds of reasons I didn’t really suspect when I set out. Everything from the inane business of “tuning innuendo” and figuring out just how phallic a coffee grinder can look to those more serious issues of wanting but failing to make the game gender neutral and searching for sexiness in 80×80 pixels.
Anyway, it’s out there now, so take a look if you like. More on it next week!