When I started playing Witcher 3, I expected a lot of things. Sex on the back of a unicorn, I can honestly say, was not one of them. Gone are the days when sex in a video game meant “Woo-hooing” (Thanks, Sims) to a 70s soundtrack with a whole lotta pixel. Though incredibly difficult to animate and attracting no end of controversy (I’m looking at you Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas), sex in games is fast becoming a serious business, with a host of AAA games allowing characters to get themselves into compromising positions. That’s not to say sex in games has been lying dormant until now, though. It’s hit its peak in the indie gaming community, with smaller developers displaying a strong commitment to diversity and education, without sacrificing entertainment value.
Despite the fact there are more examples of sex in games than ever before, sifting through the good, the bad and the ugly to find content that’s not only great to look at, but also enjoyable to play can still be difficult. But fear not, help is at hand!
Meet Blushbox: a group of Australian-based game developers whose core mission is to promote and generate discussion about sex, romance and intimacy in video games. Founded in 2016, the collective aims to create prototypes and curate resources, as well as host events and exhibitions, such as their XXXhibition at PAX 2017 and the recent three-day symposium, Heartbeat. Taking some of the most unique voices in gaming, along with delegates of all disciplines, Heartbeat was a brilliant addition to the 2018 gaming calendar. Inspiration came to the Blushbox team from a similar event, the Lyst Summit held in Norway last year.
Sex and romance as a genre and a component of modern game design is rarely the focus of conversation, more often than not tacked on to packed rosters at existing events. Blushbox sees the immense value in creating events revolving around these topics. I was lucky enough to be asked to speak at Heartbeat about what games can teach us about consent, and I joined a roster of phenomenal speakers, with discussions that ranged from the technical to the philosophical. The final two days of the symposium were devoted to a game jam. For the uninitiated, a jam involves planning, designing and developing a game in a short space of time, usually 24 to 48 hours. This was my first jam, and I was lucky to be sorted into a team with a skill set that ranged from coding through to sound and music design. Our game, UFO, STI, WTF is about an alien taking their first visit to a human STI clinic. Jams are a pressure cooker of ideas, with many gaming success stories starting out at events like Heartbeat. You can find my team’s game, along with other games from the jam at Blushbox.itch.io
A visit to the Blushbox website will lead you to the Love Collection. Described as “an evergrowing collection of games with themes of intimacy, love, sex and romance.” Whether you’re after some no strings fun or a longer commitment, you’ll find it here. You can find out about upcoming events by following @blushboxcltv on Twitter. The collective regularly teams up with Bar SK in Melbourne and events such as PAX to showcase games from the Love Collection, with plans for another exhibition coming soon.