Interview by Matt S.
There aren’t that many examples of game developers that look to take a serious, mature look at sex and romance in games. The topics show up often enough in a tokenistic or, at times, humorous manner, but few make these themes critical to the entire gameplay experience.
One standout example, however, is Tale of Tales’ Luxuria Superbia. A game that focuses entirely on giving pleasure to a woman, Luxuria Superbia was decadent, abstract, artful. Tales of Tales is, unfortunately, no longer working on games, in a traditional sense, but hopefully Blush Box can create material with similar impact.
Blush Box is a new Australian development collective, comprised entirely of women, who have made exploring sex and romance in a meaningful manner central to their mission statement.
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“Our intent is to explore how romance and sex can be content in games that isn’t there for the sake of it. It’s not necessarily just to look at a mature idea of relationship and sex but also to explore self-discovery,” Katie Gall, one of the Blush Box team, said.
“Looking at my history, my biggest inspiration for wanting to make these types of games is that innocence, the self-discovery you have when you realise maybe you have a crush on someone for the first time but you’re so awkward and you don’t know what to do or say.
I want to explore these moments more.”
Gall and her team; Bea Bravo, Shell Osborne, Lauren Fletcher, and Kim Allom, also wanted to use their work to address some of the continued misconceptions that are abound in the games industry, unwarranted as they have proven to be. “Currently I don’t think that people take content that deals with these topics as a serious pursuit,” Gall said. “I think people still see videogames as something that has to be for children, but romance and sex is a human experience we deal with from puberty and I want to see more people exploring the emotions that we go through as we grow up.
“I think sex in game currently is so focused on the physical act and often disconnects itself from the emotions associated with it. I want to show that, yeah, sex and emotion go together or even that intimacy doesn’t have to involve sex.”
The Blush Box team have yet to announce their first game, beyond outlining a very broad concept that they’re aiming for; “I can say it will be cute and casual and will be along the lines of exploring intimacy.” Gall said. First, though, her and her team want to look at ways to discover like-minded developers, and share notes on how they feel the topic can be addressed. Gall said the team was especially intrigued by the Lyst summit in Norway, and would look to bring something of a similar tone to Australia to foster the collaborative spirit.
“One of the key reasons that we want to attend the Summit is that we want to learn how it is run, and hopefully set up something similar here in Australia to give other people the opportunity to make romance and sex games here,” Gall said.
“I think an entertainment industry that doesn't look at sex and romance is doing itself an incredible disservice. I think we just haven’t figured out how to do it well yet because, unlike film and TV, you’re taking control of a character and experiencing things much more closely, either through their eyes or with control over them. That’s a very intense thing and we need to experiment to get it right.
“When you look at the film and music industry and even art you’ll see that the vast majority of it is in some way influenced or inspired by the topic of sex and romance. If we’re taking ourselves seriously as an industry I see no reason not to cover these topics.”
For Blush Box, the Australian games industry provides a good opportunity, not simply because of the business opportunities that it provides, but also because Australian developers enjoy a sense of community that helps to empower all developers that work within it.
“The Australian industry is so fantastic, it’s the best,” Gall said. “My past experiences with the industry have encouraging me to do this. Everyone I’ve spoken to has been incredibly supportive. There’s been several people who have reached out to ask if we have more places. That shows me that there’s such a desire in developers to have these conversations and be given a place to talk about them.”
Obviously, the team at Blush Box are aiming their work at a very targeted, specific audience. The team represents an emergent arthouse games industry that is really exciting to get behind. Much like arthouse films, these games are not necessarily intended to be major commercial hits, but rather, in exploring ideas, taking creative risks, and pushing boundaries, these developers often end up very influential indeed, as the ideas that are provocative or effective within them are adopted and refined by more mainstream developers.
And, if the influences on Blush Box are anything to go by, we have a lot to get excited about regarding the future of this development collective.
“I’m personally really inspired by games like Cibele and I know Kim, our producer, is inspired by Consensual Torture Chamber.” Gall said. “I do think that Bioware games do a fantastic job of getting players emotionally involved with characters but I would love to pare that right back and just focus on one tiny part of those connections.
“I’m also a big fan of Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime. I think that game does a beautiful job of creating connection and friendship.
“Adriaan De Jongh’s games, Fingle and Bounden, also do an amazing job of this.”
- Matt S.
Find me on Twitter: @digitallydownld