Thursday, November 10, 2011

Player sexual involvement

One of the main questions I raise with this game is how much can a player get sexually involved with it. Or even, can someone get sexually involved with the game at all?

Well, I can anticipate a yes answer to the second question. But I'm writing this post to remove some weight out of this assertion.

In one of the comments on RockPaperShotgun's piece on Polymorphous Perversity, someone said it would be too pretentious to me, as a developer, to expect players to learn more about their sexuality by playing a game like this. Though I never made such claim (that one could learn about his sexuality playing Polyperv), it could be true depending on the weight you put on that.

For instance, if you go to the market, try a fruit you had never tried before (like this), and end up enjoying it, you'll have learned something about yourself, won't you? That's as far as my pretension goes.

For that matter, there are many things you can do in Polymorphous Perversity that have very little impact on the game itself. For instance, once you learn the masturbate skill, you can use it anywhere (literally, anywhere). Though it has an impact inside battles, it's purely aesthetical outside of them.

Still, I expect players to do it. Maybe a little, maybe a lot. But if they do it, it will be for purely sexual reasons.

Another example, based on things I've been reading about balloon fetish, I added some balloon stuff in the game. There is a balloon item that is somewhat difficult to obtain, and you can sell it for money. Or you can just pop it, which does nothing but visual and sound effects of a balloon popping. I expect some people will pop it. Maybe once, maybe twice, maybe more. Why would they do that?

There are really a lot of instances in the game where players can opt to do sexual stuff. Sometimes they have an impact on the story, or game mechanics, but most of the time they don't. Still, players will do those things, and it's safe to say, to me, that it's out of sexual reasons. They might do it without thinking, they might do it consciously, or maybe self-consciously. And then they may go "what the hell am I doing?", and that's the point where you can start... observing yourself.

I shouldn't be making a post about this, because it can bias player's behavior inside the game... like I was there watching, saying "told you so". But not many people have been reading this blog anyway, so... eh.


  1. I was thinking of tweeting this until you wrote "I shouldn't be making a post about this, because it can bias player's behavior inside the game... like I was there watching, saying "told you so". But not many people have been reading this blog anyway, so... eh."

    Should it be tweeted? Is this information just too dangerous?

  2. No, it's not too dangerous, go ahead. :D

  3. Hah. I like the idea of dangerous information for a game.

    It's an interesting idea that players' behaviour would be *necessarily* for sexual reasons. I guess I buy that to the extent that the game is about sex and the interaction are sexual and so you'd do things for "sexual reasons" almost by definition? But I also wonder, in games, to what extent people perform actions, even ethically problematic or sexually adventurous, simply for the old Edmund Hillary reason "because it's there"?

    Maybe some people will masturbate in the public square because they wonder what'll happen. Purely interactive, rather than sexual, motivations?

  4. Yep, I'm aware that could happen. But
    1- He could do it more than once.
    2- He could do stuff that other people wouldn't because... well... gross?

    People should behave differently, and I guess the "interactive instincts" are more universal, while the sexual ones aren't.

  5. Nicolau, what do you mean by your "People should behave differently" comment?

    Pippin, your observation seems sad but true. I'm not sure why gamers tend to interact with games in that way. Maybe games are generally created and played amorally: the game rules are set and the player follows them to win: it makes little difference if you're killing soldiers, slaying slimes, or completing Tetris rows. With this sort of interaction, it is presumptuous -- if not "pretentious," like the RPS comment claimed -- to expect players will learn about themselves by playing a game. But when those conventional rules of a game are lifted, alert gamers start to notice that they are making choices. Their first choice was to begin playing.

    I was very impressed by how Beautiful Escape gave me a sense of volition within the game. Little things helped. The "This is your world" text helped me imaginatively engage with the game. I was also shocked every time I had to seduce an NPC right after they'd been humanized by their human photo and life description. And the first time the game screen read, "Uploading Video," I had a sneaking fear that it really was uploading what I'd done. At each step I had to ask myself if I wanted to do what the game asked me to do.

    I'm here reading this blog because I hope that, like Beautiful Escape, Polymorphous Perversity can engage players in a similar way. A game can't force players out of amoral interactivity but it can raise the proverbial mirror to alert gamers.

    Nicolau, do you think that players of this game might imagine they are simply interacting with the game when they are actually exposing sexual attitudes about themselves?

  6. I basically said: there are stuff to do in the game. Players may: 1) not do it cause they're grossed out or just not interested, 2) do it because they think it's fun or just because they want to know what will happen, and 3) do it many times, because they enjoy doing it. Different players will behave differently. And you have to wonder what to think of someone who does the same act repeatedly with no practical effect on the game. Like I said, if players start wondering about their own behavior (in this sense), I think they may see it as exposing their own sexual attitudes.

    It's awesome that you noticed the "little things" in Beautiful Escape. They're all deliberate.

    I really don't know how to compare this game to BE:D though. They're completely different.

    My approach to this game is very experimental, a shot in the dark, and I actually gave up on anticipating player's reactions. Now I'm just curious about how it'll be.