Unimaginative Sex Acts

Racy title eh? It’s because I don’t feel like I have anything awesome to say, so I’m trying to cheer myself up with some title foreplay. But no, I’d wanted to say something about the process of designing a sex game with no sex, and particularly the mapping of sex to coffee making, and the failed attempt to make the game feel gender and sexual-orientation neutral. Heteronormativity, here I come.

So when I started Hot Coffee I was pumped (you’ll have to excuse every single word sounding like innuendo, I don’t mean it) about the idea of making it this totally “all comers” (oh god) game. So women could play it and imagine the other person was a man, or a woman, and men could play it imagining the other person was a woman or a man. And any other combinations I’m missing. And all would be happily feeling awkward together. But in the end I don’t think I’d want to deny that the game pretty much reads as having a male “avatar” and a female NPC engaged in entirely heterosexual coffee preparation. Which saddens me, because it indicates a lack of imagination.

Part of the blame could conceivably be shifted onto the game’s frame of reference: the Hot Coffee Mod of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. In San Andreas the main character is a guy, and the mod involves him having sex with a girlfriend, no negotiation. So it may be that the male-female dynamic was somehow “implied” to me by the inspiration of the game itself.

But that’s an extremely lame excuse, not least of all because I explicitly thought about wanting to make it agnostic on such matter and, at least for a time, actively tried to achieve that. Ask Rilla, I was constantly bugging her about these things during development. No, in the end, it was a failure on my part to be able to envisage gameplay (and, as a consequence, dialog) that could be read in all the different ways. The short answer is quite possibly that I didn’t try hard enough.

Because at least as I’m thinking about it now, male sexuality and performance does seem (and feel) more obvious (I’d rather not say “crude”) than female sexuality and performance does. And, frankly, its obviousness feels like it lends itself to awkward, blatant metaphors/analogies in a way that female sexuality doesn’t, at least to me. All apologies to the Tantric gentlemen out there, of course. Plunging the cafetiere, spilling the milk, jerking the coffee grinder, these are all overly physical, repetitive, and non-subtle motions that lend themselves well to cheesy simulation in a game. Games themselves are usually pretty blatant, after all. And so that’s what I did.

Could a woman make a Hot Coffee that worked the other way around? It’s entirely possible – I’d like it if someone did! I did think about movements and mechanics that might work more from a female perspective, most of them involving smaller, more subtle motions on a track-pad, but I couldn’t make them fit the world of the game like I’d wanted. (This is partly why I’d like to make another sexual innuendo game in the future.) And even those seemed lacking somehow. It may simply need a woman’s touch? (I’m sorry, I’m sorry.)

I’m sure it’s possible to make this kind of game with a more female sexuality behind it, anyway. Perhaps a large part of the problem is just that the dream of making the game agnostic to sexuality and gender was never going to work – that we experience sex so differently that you can’t generalise to “just sex” but have to come down on one side or the other when translating to a game. I simply don’t know. It’s a frontiere. We need to send our best men and women – straight, gay, and anything else – out there. Maybe something like Flower could serve as a potential counterpoint, all that swirling… anyway…

Now I will crawl away from this post feeling about as awkward as I have ever done! Thanks, racy title!

8 May 2012
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