The worst person at a party might have once told you that all technology, from different media formats to telecommunications to rubber asshole viscosity, is driven by pornography. This isn't really true, but it's especially not true for video games. In a world with an endless appetite for tits and entertainment, erotic games were never anything more than unwanted garbage for unapprehended sex criminals.
And as the decades went by, they somehow got worse. Improved technology and design tools only allowed perverts to produce weirder, moister games. So let's take a look at some gross and forgotten porn games from the '80s, alongside their modern equivalents, and see what happened after an industry of lonely masturbators soaked in its own untested sperm for 35 years.
Before we begin, let's go over the four main genres of erotic games. They are, regrettably: Desperate Poontang Hunt, Gluing Dongs to an Existing Game, Criminally Insane Depravity, and of course, Sexual Assault. I urge you to make sure this knowledge will never be useful, but here is a chart if you'd like to know more:
Getting laid involves establishing chemistry, building relationships, and maintaining abs -- all of which sound like things you'd scream at TV's Ken Jeong to get him to guess "Things video games are very bad at" on $100,000 Pyramid. So no one should be surprised to find that games about trying to de-panty potential sex partners are weirdly unrelatable. You don't meet a lot of real women who stand still all night while strange men hand them objects from their inventory until they find the fuck one.
That was the basic gameplay of the Leisure Suit Larry franchise, which seemed to think sex was a cartoonishly embarrassing thing that happened after eight hours of dad jokes and scavenger hunting. But I want to talk about a game that predates even Larry's EGA nipples: the 1981 text adventure Softporn Adventure.
Since there were no graphics, the cover art for Softporn Adventure had to do a lot of heavy lifting. Which is unfortunate since they went with three cranky women hot tubbing next to a 13" black and white television. What kind of party is this? Are we going to watch M*A*S*H on that thing? Are we going to pull it into the water and end our nude sadness?
Even before you saw the truly uninviting scene on the box, the name "Softporn" was setting erotic thrill expectations pretty low. The last thing you want in an entirely evocative sex story is reassurance that things won't get too graphic. Are they only going to describe the top half of the boobs? When ladies get entered, do they "Choo-choo!" instead of moan? Is the narrator going to type out a wink and tell us to guess what happens after we find a butt in the ladies room? My point is, if it's only words, I think everyone can handle reading about full penetration. I mean, the sentence I'm writing this very moment is about to describe a human penis going into and out of the birth canal of an unmarried horse, and until four words from now, it's rated PG as fuck.
Most people playing Softporn Adventure probably never got to enjoy its tasteful descriptions of casual sex. Like all text adventures, it was nearly impossible to know what to do or how to communicate that you'd like to do it. And since there was no internet, the only way a player could get unstuck was to run into a public place and yell, "Does anyone here play carefully non-obscene erotic text adventures for the Atari 800? I can't get out of the taxi after the strip bar!" Of course, if you said something that sexy, you'd have to be ready for every nearby woman to charge directly at your dick.
The game dumps you in a bar where drinks are $100 and your fate is controlled by a narrator who only knows the least-common synonyms for ten verbs. This type of limitation wasn't uncommon for the genre, but as you'd expect from a porno knockoff, everything in Softporn Adventure is just a little bit worse than it should be. The game's interface feels like you're arguing with a dog representing you in a murder trial. Something as simple as paying a bartender might take ten minutes of failed commands. Pay bartender? "I CANNOT DO THAT." Give $100 to bartender? "THERE IS NO GIVE HERE." Buy drink? "BUY? THIS IS NO WORD. YOU ARE UNDER ARREST FOR INSANITY. GAME OVER." Still, it told a nearly coherent story about a drunk trying to meet women and talk them into bed with only $2,500 and a ten-word vocabulary. Now I want to show you what this type of game looks like today:
In Lust Epidemic, you play a virgin living in a world where EVERYONE ELSE IS GETTING LAID BUT YOU. A storm hits, and you're forced to take shelter with a group of older ladies, including your hot sister-in-law and a giant-tittied nun doing academic research on sex. It is wish fulfillment for boys whose best-case scenario for a relationship is coming upon a woman with her head trapped in something. This is a game where one of your erotic conquests is secretly masturbating into someone's food. Unless you're a very specific type of monster, it's all really uncomfortable. Though I take some comfort now that I know every seventh Crunchwrap Supreme I eat is satisfying some Taco Bell employee's dark sexual appetites.
Like Softporn Adventure or Leisure Suit Larry, the gameplay involves checking and rechecking rooms, struggling through puzzles that always feel either stupidly easy or completely impossible, and then getting rewarded with little bits of pornography. Lust Epidemic feels different from those other games, though. For instance, one of the first pieces of sexy material I earned came when I distracted a guard to steal a key card to find the wire clippers to turn off the power to sneak into a restricted area, and my reward was a toilet-cam photo of a nun peeing. I'm not exactly a prude, but I think jamming a camera up the peehole of a nun is a pretty clumsy swing, erotically speaking. It's like showing up to a party with an anchovy and found underpants pizza. Maybe someone there will be into it, but not a good person who deserves pizza or happiness.
The big difference between this game and the ones that came before it is that classic poontang quests like Leisure Suit Larry starred sad sack losers designed for players who hated themselves, but Lust Epidemic is 100% designed for players who hate women. The women in this game are naive, cruel, stupid milk cows waiting to be tricked into a footjob by the first horny teen to hand them a suspicious drink.
And speaking of suspicious drinks, you discover early in the plot that the dweeb inexplicably good with women is actually slipping them a secret serum to make them as horny as men. How horny is that? Well, according to these talented designers, it means immediately yanking off your clothes and jumping mouth-first at the nearest crotch, no matter the gender, circumstances, or location. That's how mind-consumingly horny these people are. They've created a world in which their wildest carnal fantasies can come true, and they settle on a magical serum that makes everyone suffer like them.
Now that we've talked about the boner-shriveling ways madmen tried to mix pornography and games, let's look at some adult games that were trying more for "hilarious parody" than arousal. Developers have had such outrageous ideas as "What if Banjo Kazooie had more shit?" or "Maybe a game where you attack your mother-in-law's asshole?" or in the case of 1987's Astrotit, "What if Galaga, only with tits and a dick?"
At first glance, it seems like mere lunacy, but the creator of Astrotit, Jan Wesener, created a backstory to explain why a turgid wang would be killing space tits. I'll try to summarize it here, though it may be too zany for most audiences. See, in the Astrotit universe, hamsters developed a psychic link and decided to kill mankind. Their plan was to pee in the water supply so everyone would hallucinate their favorite things: *giggle* boobs fighting a boner!
The gameplay and graphics demonstrate a weird amount of effort for such a careless dick joke / Galaga knockoff, which implies a legitimate mental illness at play. If you heard a fart in an elevator and produced a three-hour musical about it, followed by a film adaptation and amusement park ride, the developer of Astrotit would ask why you didn't explore the concept further.
I don't know what Jan Wesener is doing 32 years after Astrotit, but with a sense of humor like his, I'm sure he's somewhere adding "I LOVE LAMP" to nearby conversations. It's hard to picture anyone who isn't too good for Astrotit, but it's arguably the right kind of crude. It's unashamed of its immaturity, stupid as shit, and seems to have no illusions about of its creative bankruptcy. What do you think this kind of game would look like today? Probably something like Candy Crush, only with titties, maybe?
In Titty Crush, you match three or more fruits to unlock nuder and nuder cartoon children. They stand on the side of the screen, sometimes restrained, and scream disturbing things at you while you play a substandard version of the world's most generic game. This is already more than anyone should think about or talk about Titty Crush. It makes no sense that anyone would allow it, much less consume it, but I do have a theory.
Japan is a country of focused, proud, industrious people, capable of tremendous technological innovations. There's a good chance they developed anime as a way to dull the minds and sterilize the balls of the West's nerds, probably as revenge for the atom bombs. The alternative, that something this unappealing exists for people to simply enjoy, is absurd. Absurd.
Some adult games manage to avoid compelling gameplay, sexiness, and raunchy comedy altogether, leaving just a bunch of shapes smashing together in a vaguely naughty way. In 1982, a company called Mystique released a series of porn games for the Atari 2600, and almost all of them fit that description. Especially one called Beat 'Em & Eat 'Em.
In Beat 'Em & Eat 'Em, you control two nude women scurrying along a sidewalk while a man on a roof above with a four-foot penis masturbates. I can't tell you if the naked ladies work for the CDC or if they're contractors trying to protect the concrete they just poured, but everyone's lives literally depend on them catching all the falling ejaculate with their faces.
I've led an adventurous sex life, during which I've indulged the fetishes of many neurodivergent partners, but I can't even begin to wrap my head around finding this erotic. If a woman opened her mouth like a baby bird and asked me to go up on a roof and jerk off, I'd pull a gun and say, "You almost had me. You creatures may be able to look like us and sound like us, but you made one small mistake: You'll never fuck like us."
The main flaw in the game's premise is that semen is like sushi, in that once it's been in the open air for too long, it's no longer sexy to eat. If you disagree, fine, I'll see if I have any 30-year-old socks you can suck on. What I really want to get across is that this game is gross and has no pornographic or cultural value. I understand it's hard to design a game without projectiles of some kind, and there aren't a lot of mainstream sex acts that involve projectiles, but what were the other ideas in the Mystique brainstorming meeting if they decided to go with "guzzling sperm rain"? Threesome with two jugglers? Peeing on three jugglers? Running from the ghosts of three jugglers and the man who peed on them? You fool, that's just Pac-Man.
For the modern equivalent of bizarre gameplay combined with unsexy strangeness, let's look at a disaster called AHEGAL. It's a 2018 PC game named after the Japanese word meaning "Bury my soft corpse with its dishonor and virginity."
In AHEGAL, you control a tiny heart skittering around the bodies of girls. You avoid bullets and cute food while rubbing her in certain spots to remove her clothes. You can't return fire at enemies, which makes it a bit passive and dull, but there is some excitement knowing your relationship with any person who catches you playing this will be destroyed.
According to AHEGAL's backstory, you're the last man alive on the planet, which is worth mentioning, because it means in a world where you're the only option for all these hot girls, you're just some weird creep pawing at them and hoping to see a nipple before they escape. If a beautiful woman gave the developer of AHEGAL her hotel room key, his only thought would be "Jackpot! If I hurry, I can get in and out before she realizes I drank all her toilet water!"
To add another layer of sadness, I learned AHEGAL was a shameless and half-assed knockoff of a game called Deep Space Waifu, where you also fly around on the bodies of giant star women. Only Deep Space Waifu let you shoot the enemies and date the girls. So someone saw what was already a deranged shrine to underage cameltoe and said, "Let's copy that idea exactly, but lose the fun and the relationships." So knowing this, let me amend my toilet-water-drinking joke from earlier. If a beautiful woman gave the developer of AHEGAL her hotel room key, his only thought would be "Jackpot! If I hurry, I can drown myself in an unrelated outhouse!" Oh, great. Now it makes no goddamn sense. See, this is what happens to the human brain if it thinks about anime for too long.
You might be familiar with the famously unthinkable 1982 game Custer's Revenge by Mystique, the esteemed creators of Beat 'Em & Eat 'Em. You play the role of General Armstrong Custer, running through a barrage of deadly arrows because he has to, at any cost, sexually assault a Native woman tied to a cactus. It was dark. If Hemingway was alive today and you asked him to write the saddest six-word video game premise, he would say, "Custer's Revenge six times, you fuck." He then might add, "Now can I drink in peace, or do you have more cute little challenges to pester Ernest Goddamn Hemingway with? Oh, I've got one. It's the most toothless six-word anything: Your nerd-ass little bitch mouth."
Custer's Revenge was released for the Atari 2600, so you could lock it away from anyone who might judge you for simulating rape at home as early as technology would possibly allow. But the very next year, a game was released in arcades that would let you pretend to be a sex predator in front of everyone. I'm not qualified to diagnose how and why it was made, but it's so easy for me to explain what it is. It's Pac-Man, only with a naked flopping-dong maniac, and instead of ghosts you chase panicked women.
You run much faster than your victims, as this is not a challenging game, and if you catch them, it cuts to a graphic, uncensored scene of what any lawyer would consider a first-degree felony. The game also seems to know it's wrong, because your enemies are the police. And there's no crazy '80s game backstory about how you're undoing space curses with your sperm or something. You are nothing more than a serial sex criminal. But instead of calling it Run 'n' Rape or Please Let The Police Kill You, they called it Lover Boy. That's gruesomely misplaced whimsy. That's like calling Red Dead Redemption "Hug Pioneer" or Schindler's List "Factory In Naughty Town." It's like watching your parents get run over by a Safeway truck and calling it "Free Frozen Pizza Day."
The standard model for modern adult games is to design a fake woman and have it do whatever you want. A Japanese company called Illusion produces hugely popular titles like Sexy Beach and Honey Select, in which users can create a girl, adjust the boob physics, dress her up, determine how much pee they want, from some to SCUBA, and go to town on her. This might be closer to directing a movie than playing a game, but no good will ever come from expressing nuanced opinions about Japanese porn.
The point I'm building to is that whenever these people step outside the virtual sex slave world and try to add a narrative or interactivity of any kind to their games, their first and only idea is sexual assault. Something about gamers and their long history of publicly hating women gave these developers the idea that players might find some appeal in mixing horrible acts of violence with their computer sex. So let's talk about PlayHome, a very disturbing 2017 game from the makers of, holy fucking shit, Rapelay and Battle Raper 2? Oh my god, what is wrong with you, Japan?
PlayHome is about a man using a long series of sex crimes to try to destroy the family of someone who accused him of being a molester. You've definitely guessed this already, but you do NOT play the part of the family being destroyed. You play the rapist, and there doesn't seem to be a redemption arc. But one of the most troubling things is the overall technical achievement. I've worked on enough games to recognize how much talent and effort went in to creating PlayHome's realistic facial sadness, and the work it must have taken to keep customizable pubic hair from clipping through butthole polygons.
There's an entire science fiction genre about stopping crime before it happens with time travel or gooey psychics, yet we live in a world in which you can produce and sell a game only a rapist would buy, and not a single cop is using it to fight future crime. But maybe it's good we allowed Japan to build a Matrix where broken gamergaters can indulge their darkest fantasies away from real victims. There are multiple studies demonstrating that criminalizing sex work increases violent crime, and you could interpret that data to mean sex maniacs go full murderer if they don't have a sex maniac outlet. Which means ... holy shit, I think it means this fucking nightmare game made exclusively for the worst people to ever live has saved more than zero lives.
So never play it, ever, unless you're a monster, in which case you should play it as often as you can. All I know is I've been researching porn games all week, so I have a lot of credit cards to cancel, hard drives to format, and newly discovered cactus fetishes to explore. Bye!
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Most rich kids just want to be pop stars.
How did these hyper-specific tropes spread so quickly?
The Hollywood rumor mill has been playing games with celebrity deaths for at least a century.