June 16th, 2006

At long last, a few moments for some retrospective thoughts on the Sex in Games Conference:

First off, let me set the scene for you (cue melodramatic music… now).

The third floor of a classy hotel right off Union Square, a floor normally designated for “The Elks Club”–whatever that means.  So you have to remember, all throughout, that there are indeed elks’ heads lining the walls.  A veritable masonic temple, really.

Ten(ish) round tables; fifty(ish) people; a video camera; two booths in back; one nurse in a bikini.  A small(ish) but cozy(ish) crowd.

In my opinion, the conference started out somewhat slow.  Brenda’s intro was solid, Dave Taylor’s presentation kept all ears perked, and Regina Lynn’s energy was endearing — but a mire of business talk (mire?  Who actually uses that word?) and somewhat lethargic discussions kept things from really picking up until day two.

Sheri Graner Ray’s talk, though limited in scope, was excellent for it’s pragmatism, if nothing else.  Personally, there are a lot of things I would dispute with her, but her explanation of learning styles made my fiance turn to me and say, “Oh, that’s why you play like that!”, and for the moment at least that’s enough for me.

I also got a chance to interview nearly all the conference presenters–most of whom (cough, cough, no names mentioned) were really pleasures to chat with.

You have to keep in mind too that the entire conference, save a few hours, took place behind a big black curtain–a see-no-evil, hear-no-evil sort of deal meant to bleep out the affront known as constructive conversation about sex from the delicate ears of the Elks Club regulars (mostly octagenarians drinking gin-and-tonics at 10 in the morning, from what I could tell.  There was definitely some form of pinocle going on).

In the over all, I’ll repeat some of what’s been noted on the Sexuality SIG mailing list and say that it was a very hetero-centric event.  I also think it could have used more critical thinking and less suits (though, of course, I admit I’m biased in that direction, and it was supposed to be a business-oriented event).  Also also, a little more variety and careful selection in the panelists–some people participated in up to three panels–might have offered the conference more bredth.

As far as the games go, I can’t say I saw anything that blew me away.  The team from VirtuallyJenna was incredibly friendly, but after playing the game the other night… I have to be honest and say it’s still another “poke the doll,” and an often awkward one at that.  Virtual Hottie 2 isn’t even playable yet — plus their cocky.  Naughty America, Erotasy Island: I can’t say I have high expectations.  And Rapture Online?  I’m hearing good ideas, but it’s still too early to tell.

I had a business-type approach me at the very end of the conference — very eager to talk up a sex game for the cell phone his company was developing.  While the game itself seemed less than unique, his angle caught my attention: a more intuitive way to control sex.

If we’re really going to get somewhere with sex games, I think this is crucial–a re-thinking.  Right now we’re on such a linear track: take normal sex, making it more and more and more realistic.  But sex in a new medium becomes something new.  We need to re-evaluate what makes sex important to us in real life, and translate it, not transfer it, to virtual environments.  Only then will sex games have some significantly different to offer than porn, or even real-life sex.

Tags: Blog

12 Responses to “Grandma, Cover Your Ears”

  1. Patrick Says:

    What do you think of using the Wii-mote as an interface for a sex game?

  2. Noche Kandora Says:

    Funny thing about the Elks. Perhaps we owe them a bit of gratitude, since it seems they were the only ones in the city who would take us in and allow us to use their facility. That is, if they had a say in the matter. I imagine they did. I'm guessing they rent that space from the hotel and probably had some input as to whether us pervs could use it for a sex-related conference.

    By the way, I posted two pictures to Flickr showing the notorious "black curtain" that sought to shield the rest of the world from the conference’s salacious goings-on. Pics here and here.

  3. MD² Says:


    Back from the dead (i.e back on the net) now that my exams are over.

    Lots of catching up to do.

    Before I forget, just stumbled upon this while searching something completely unrelated (google bugs are good sometimes), thought you might be interested, if it’s not old for you.


    (About your last point:
    My problem with sex (in) games is that it tends to be representative/derivative of the sexual act, and rarely something new and in itself signifying… or something like that. Sex is a game in itself. What can our new tools bring to it that’s worth the chat ? Novelty, ok. [i]Et quoi d’autre ?[/i]
    In other words: we are expecting sex games to be part of sexual life, it is needed if they are to become anything more than a cosmetic prop or convenience tool, yet most sex-games are to sex what Track & Fields is to actual sport.

    To be honest I’m not sure any of us have anything more than a hunch on the direction to take)

    Back later when I’m done with the catching up.

  4. Bonnie Says:

    What do you think of using the Wii-mote as an interface for a sex game?
    It’s a start ;). Had anything in particular in mind?

    Funny thing about the Elks. Perhaps we owe them a bit of gratitude, since it seems they were the only ones in the city who would take us in and allow us to use their facility.
    Don’t know much about that. Did Brenda have a hard time finding a home for the conference?

    Back from the dead (i.e back on the net) now that my exams are over.
    Welcome back, MD^2! Hope your finals went well.

  5. Kelly Rued Says:

    I was one of the people on multiple panels (2 of them) and I moderated a third. I think part of the issue was that there is a limited number of people who know their stuff about sex in games right now. Not many game devs are specializing or have experience working on a sex-themed game yet and I think the organizers wanted to go with people they knew were really active in the space versus tourists or people with outside agendas. I know a conscious decision was made to exclude politicians and other hooligans. ;p

    I already heard that next year there are plans for multiple tracks and way more breadth, but for the first year I think the tight focus on business/developers was the right way to go. Right now we are the only people committed to the genre and working on things. Everyone else is theorizing, criticizing, or just a media hound or someone trying to sell their books, etc. in the space and so it wasn’t like Brenda has a rolodex of articulate pros like more general game conferences have- GDC probably has tens of thousands of international developers and professionals who could theoretically provide sessions of value.

    Also, with GDC the speakers organize their own panels/submissions and then the organizers review and approve them. With SiVG, Brenda, Kyle and the other organizers basically had to plan almost every session and recruit people rather than having people clamoring to speak at this event. As the event grows (and gets good buzz *cough*) better speakers will be unlocked and the conference will level up accordingly. Given the resources the event had, I thought it went really well. Some speakers or moderators didn’t show (last minute) or showed then forgot to stay or come on for their gigs, but that’s the thing with inviting people rather than having them come to you to participate.

  6. MD² Says:

    Welcome back, MD²! Hope your finals went well.
    My thanks ! Well things went not that bad, but since I’m still not sure of my administrative status, it mays not mean much.

    Anyway, couple of links I thought you might be interested in:

    NSFW Algorithmic projections

    Something that completely went under my radar.

    What do you think of using the Wii-mote as an interface for a sex game?
    It's a start ;). Had anything in particular in mind?

    How, come on: think Domina pet simulator instead of Castlevania, with real whipping motion detection and tamagotchi like interface. Sexy enough to stimulate desire to try it on, not grossly visceral (in the literal sense, yes) enough that it might hamper sales.

  7. Eric from Minneapolis Says:

    Maybe the laptop touchpad will become standard on game controllers. Its probably the best device to capture an ‘electronic caress’ curently out there. I can capture presure, stroke lenght, and other factors. Just a thought.

  8. Bonnie Says:

    Everyone else is theorizing, criticizing
    In my opinion, for what’s it’s worth, one of the biggest weaknesses of the sex in games world right now is a narrow world view. As with any art form, it’s not just the artists, but the commentators and analysts who take a work and give it meaning, importance. To say that no one counts but the developers themselves is counter-productive. Where do new ideas come from? From the responses and the thoughts of the world. And who’s to say, just because somewhere along the line coding needs to happen, that creativity and thought provoking design can’t come from “laymen”? It seems to me like there’s an undeserved (and unsuccessful) eliticism going on.

    I don’t mean to jump down your throat, Kelly–I apologize if I sound hostile. But being myself a writer and not a developer, I’ve encountered my fair share of this ridiculousness.

    Given the resources the event had, I thought it went really well.
    Oh, I’m not saying it didn’t. I’m just looking forward to expansions/improvements in the future. It can never hurt to be constructively critical!

    Wow, MD^2, math erotica. Who would have guessed.

    (Also, as for ideas for the Wii controller, I didn’t mean that as a general guestion. I simply meant, did Patrick have a specific idea in mind?)

  9. Cynthia Freese Says:

    I want to clarify a few things about the recent SIVG event. The black curtain was the idea of the catering company not Evergreen events or the Elks. As I mentioned in the opening remarks, it was difficult for Evergreen Events to find a venue that would let us do the first SiVG event. In moving forward for year two we are very excited about growing the event.

    Here at Evergreen Events we are currently building the SIVG 07 advisory board and extend our thanks again to this years speakers, advisors and chair. Anyone interested in being involved in the 07 event is free to contact me.
    Cynthia Freese, CEO – Evergreen events

  10. Bonnie Says:

    Hi, Cynthia. Sorry, didn’t mean to imply anything bad, just found the set-up amusing (and thought it better in the overall to be honest in my commentary here, and offer constructive criticism). The catering company’s suggestion? How strange. Sorry also, I missed you’re opening speech, as I was interviewing the VirtuallyJenna team: thanks for the additional info. I’ll be sure to spread the word about getting involved with next years event!

  11. Kelly Rued Says:

    >In my opinion, for what's it's worth, one of the biggest >weaknesses of the sex in games world right now is a narrow >world view.

    IMO, the biggest weakness is a lack of people willing to fund anything with decent production values. ;p

    But the problem with press covering the event showed that fundamentally the people writing about these games don’t play them. I think ApogeeVR writer Noche is going to make an effort to try/play more than SL (he alredy tried RLC on the blog over there) and that is a good sign. But most sex in games articles are hopelessly (and obviously) written by people who don’t play sex games– solo or multiplayer.

    >As with any art form, it's not just the artists, but the >commentators and analysts who take a work and give it >meaning, importance.

    A lot of artists would vehemently disagree. I think it’s the consumers and the artists, and the relationship between the media and its audience that matters the most. Critics and commentators are, at best, go-betweens that bring more people to a particular experience so they can form their own opinions and have their own experiences. And I don’t have a problem with sex in games media coverage except that it’s typically done by tech/sex writers without gaming experience OR game writers without sex play experience online. I think you might be a lone type in this niche, Bonnie.

    >To say that no one counts but the developers themselves is counter-productive.

    It’s not that no one counts but you can’t really stock a conference full of press and expect devs to pay to see it. GDC has non-dev speakers but the majority are people who work in companies that make games. It’s just an issue of making a conference meaningful for the attendees. I think a sex in games con can and should host more attendees than just game devs but obviously you won’t have much to talk about without sex games to discuss… so it kinda does come back to the primacy of what is being produced.

    >Where do new ideas come from? From the responses and the >thoughts of the world. And who's to say, just because >somewhere along the line coding needs to happen, that >creativity and thought provoking design can't come from >"laymen"?

    Well, first up most news today is more editorial than I care for from my news sources. If a news person is at a games con and sees their presence as a potential source of game design ideas… that really explains a LOT about game press. ;p The creative industries have no shortage of good ideas. We do have a shortage of money though, and a shortage of promotional outlets (where do sex games get covered and reviewed? think on it and see what I mean about the sex in games press not really existing yet– it gets spotty editorialized coverage here and there). The notion that game designers need ideas is just not true. From press they need coverage and criticism (after actually playing the games, not just seeing a poster and deciding it has not merit because it’s not your style). From conferences, well they need the same business, networking, and practical dev resources and info that they’d get from GDC but with a focus on their unique challenges and markets. I was actually suprised that they had panels about what the players want. You don’t see that at GDC very often unless it’s by marketing professionals. ;p

    >It seems to me like there's an undeserved (and unsuccessful) >eliticism going on.

    I think you’re assuming the lack of quality or range in sex games is due to lack of good design ideas. The truth is there is a lack of commercial backing for this area of entertainment publishing. And there is no elitism. As I said, the whole ‘bringing in experts from other fields’ bit was very strong in the conference with multiple sexperts and press speakers totally outside of the narrow developer/business framework. Maybe sex game developers are undeserving of a conference built just for their needs? Given that there seem to be only a handful of us operating as a business, I might agree with that. :)

    All in all, there was much more benefit at GDC than there was at this con for a game developer- adult or otherwise. But it was still a good conference. After getting flamed by Violet Blue afterwards (and having a ripple effect that broke off a small portion of my sex game network) I am personally unsure if I’d ever participate in presenting at an event like that again. The cons may have outweighed the pros.

  12. Bonnie Says:

    I think, Kelly, maybe one thing we can agree on is that we approach this from different angles–and that we want different things out of a conference. You, as a developer, want a pragmatic, developer-oriented event. I, as a critic, want a intellectually-driven event. Granted, your approach is much closer to what, I think, the conference strove to be. But if I seem frustrated, just keep my side of things in mind ;-).

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