“I’m on a perpetual hunt for a sex game targeting women,” says Brenda Brathwaite, a game industry veteran and featured speaker at this week’s Women’s Game Conference in Austin, Texas.
She’s not the only one.
One of the questions I get asked most frequently is “where can I find good cybersex?” And one of my answers is games, with the caveat that you shouldn’t join a MMPORG just for sex. Rather, games are places to meet other people who share at least one interest with you, and sometimes the relationships that arise lead to flirting and cybersex. Sometimes they don’t.
Yet we’re finally glimpsing games on the horizon that support relationship building and sexual interaction as part of the game play. What’s more, these game developers recognize that a crucial part of attracting gamers is to appeal to all gamers — not just the half of the population with penises.
“The Sims is hardly the ‘No. 1 sex game,’ but that game is all about relationship formation,” Brenda says. “It’s no surprise it’s a huge hit with women.”
What might surprise you is that Leisure Suit Larry’s early adventures were also popular with women. “Larry is nonthreatening, he constantly fails and he’s funny,” she says. “Games that use sex and humor are fun and funny. Other (adult) games don’t work so well right now.”
Brenda, who just left her position as senior games designer at Cyberlore Studios, has been in the video-game industry for more than 20 years. She has worked on 21 published titles, including the Wizardry and Jagged Alliance series of role-playing games.
She was also the lead designer on Playboy: The Mansion and is currently the chairwoman and chief author of the International Game Developers Association’s sex blog. She has become the guru of women and sex in games, speaking at conferences and colleges all over the country about this next level of game evolution.
“Erotic content for women is the fastest growing segment of the adult market,” she says. “It stands to reason it’s a growing segment in the gaming market as well.”
It also stands to reason that if you want gamers to subscribe to an interactive sex game, you want to appeal to both men and women. In fact, if you can get women to sign on, the men will follow.
Two games scheduled to launch next year are taking this woman-friendly approach, although both companies are shy about describing exactly what the new games will entail.
Spend The Night will offer a graphically rich space where you can meet people, go on virtual dates and have cybersex. It might be the precursor to avatar-based online dating — or at least, online screening of potential dates.
Naughty America (a working title) is so coy it doesn’t have a website yet. It’s a complete role-playing game in which you can choose whether to enter a “sex mode.”
Both games recognize that they need to offer a variety of tools players can use to meet each other, develop relationships and interact sexually. And both are bending over backward to appeal to women.