Electron Dance
4Oct/11Off

Not Safe For Work

Warning: This week's post is NSFW. Proceed with caution.

[screenshot: "but it attracted many men"]

Nicolau "Calunio" Chaud's blog, June 2011:

"Making this game has been a very interesting and weird experience. Researching sexual preferences, googling for pictures, spriting 24x32 sex, reading and writing porn, getting e-mails with naked pictures from players... it's all very weird. Fun, at first, but gets somewhat unpleasant after a while, and the feeling of numbness I'm getting towards the theme is disturbing."

A Hard Act To Follow

Brazilian psychotherapist Chaud is well-known, perhaps infamously so, for two game projects written using RPG Maker 2003.

One is Marvel Brothel, a brothel simulator using Marvel characters that led to an explosion of internet fame as well as legal action from Marvel. It's neither erotic nor sexual, but scores high on the weird scale, laced with zany humour. It has an unexpected charm that will beguile the persistent player.

The other is Beautiful Escape: Dungeoneer, a difficult game for many players to stomach but offering one of the cleverest game narratives of 2010. The protagonist is a sociopath who, as a member of an underground fraternity of "Dungeoneers", torture vulnerable people to death or insanity - and share videos of the results. And at its heart, it's a love story. Beautiful Escape has been listed as a finalist in the Best Indie Game competition for the Game Music Brasil festival being held in Rio de Janeiro this week.

But where does taboo-breaking Chaud go from here?

[profile for Belaud, character in Beautiful Escape: Dungeoneer]

Coitus Interruptus

In April, Jordan Rivas broke the story that Chaud was working on Polymorphous Perversity, a game "about sexuality". Chaud has been secretive on actual details but his blog states:

You are [insert your name here], a young male with an unknown sexual disorder captured by some mysterious agency and thrown into a bizarre parallel reality where everything gravitates towards sex. You're set on a sexual quest to explore unknown lands, meet strange people, and learn more about your sexuality.

We do know that an important character attribute is how "horny" the protagonist is - reminiscent of Marvel Brothel's horniness rating - and he will die if he gets too horny. Further, the RPG Maker 2003 combat mechanics have been adapted so that "attack" is now "fuck", evoking Molleindustria's Queer Power which framed sexual pleasure as competition, as combat.

[queer power screenshot]

Although Chaud hadn't intended to go public so early, he ran with it and threw open the doors of the Polymorphous Perversity blog. He invited the people of internet to send him private sexual material: nude images and personal fantasies. The images would be cropped and de-personified for in-game avatars; the fantasies would be used to add reality and depth to the game's sexual tapestry.

In May, Chaud's mood was ebullient: "I had a very weird insight today: I treat my game like a girlfriend... Yeah, I know, weird. But the good thing is: it loves me back."

But his posts were infrequent and in June he made a quick remark that this special relationship was fast becoming dysfunctional: "Making this game has been a very interesting and weird experience. Researching sexual preferences, googling for pictures, spriting 24x32 sex, reading and writing porn, getting e-mails with naked pictures from players... it's all very weird. Fun, at first, but gets somewhat unpleasant after a while, and the feeling of numbness I'm getting towards the theme is disturbing."

He explained this was why he wouldn't give interviews after the game was done, because he just wanted to finish the project and put it behind him.

I got in contact with him anyway, curious as to the extent of the game's impact on Chaud himself.

"Violating Myself"

"It has definitely had some impact on me," he told me. "But that's the tricky thing about feelings: sometimes you can't name them, and that's when they're harder to deal with. I don't really know."

There is some irony here; the psychotherapist wrestling with his own feelings. "I think in order to succeed in what I'm aiming for, I have to keep some sort of neutral attitude, some degree of emotionlessness, because I don't want the game to be purely a reflex of my own sexuality. I have to try and understand other practices, and if I do this without lowering my own barriers, it won't work. But at the same time these barriers exist, I am human and I have tastes and repulsions. So while I'm playing the neutral man and getting exposed to all sorts of perv stuff, I'm also violating myself.

"The effect is noticeable because it's cumulative. So, yeah, receiving a picture of some random person's dick, resizing it, recolouring it and using it in a game is not really a disturbing process by itself, but after you do things like this for hours, days, months... it gets weird."

The word "weird" seems incongruous, as if a placeholder for something else.

[Options: Turn around, Be my dog, Spread your legs]

I ask if he is serious when he says he won't want to talk about Polymorphous Perversity after release.

"It's just not really pleasant. I'm constantly searching the internet for material, not only photos, which I use in the game as facesets, but also texts to read about people's sexual preferences. The underlying assumption is that it's all sex, there shouldn't be a distinction from normal to pathological, from acceptable to unacceptable. The behaviours are different, but the drives are the same. No single human being's sexuality is like that of an animal, so we are all perverse."

Chaud's problem is that while he wants his game to open people's minds to the entire carnal spectrum, he carries with him his own definition of normal. "Googling for pictures of trannies, zoophily, fisting, bondage... not pleasant. Reading personal testimonials of people who enjoy having sex with amputees... not pleasant."

And finally, the word "weird" gives way and Chaud allows himself to characterise the experience as "volunteer sexual mind rape". Even though he will see the project through to completion, part of him just wants it to end.

Tale of a Flower

So Chaud is on a mission to create a serious game about sex, but this mission is costing him.

It's unclear what the game will be when complete although it's likely to be as divisive as his previous successes - repelling and fascinating its audience at the same time. In addition to a number of screenshots, Chaud has posted a video of one scene from the game which reveals its fearless embrace of pornographic imagery. And a healthy shot of black comedy.

But I cannot tell whether this is a visual metaphor for a string of failed consensual encounters - or simply gang-rape. As I turn this question over and over in my mind, something else occurs to me. Maybe it's Chaud who is the flower, putting himself through a gauntlet of unpalatable sexual research, all for his new baby, Polymorphous Perversity.

Nicolau Chaud is looking for people to test the game prior to release. If you're interested, please get in contact with him via his blog.

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Posted by HM

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Comments (14) Trackbacks (3)
  1. Cool. I’m following this project then. I think it would be neat to test it, but I am clearly strange.

  2. Super interesting! Definitely putting my hand up to test. Thanks for posting about it – hadn’t heard.

  3. @Amanda, we are all strange!

    @Pippin, yes it flared up briefly a few months ago but sort of disappeared much to Calunio’s chagrin. Spread the word if you think you know anybody up for the beta test when it comes around.

  4. Wow and whoa.

    I still haven’t played Marvel Brothel or Dungeoneer but this sounds very much in the same vein as his previous work. I can’t imagine having to search through all that stuff though. Rule 36 and all that. I mean, think of the things Chaud can’t unsee.

    Anyway, it sure does look interesting and uh, weird. I’ll be keeping an eye on this.

  5. Excellent read. I can’t imagine what it must be like for the developer, though I think I can understand how tough this might be.

  6. Fantastic write up. As always Nicolau has a kind of honesty that’s rare and valuable. I’m grateful to have seen this project from it’s origin because it’s evolving in ways even I didn’t expect. Can’t wait to see how it comes out.

  7. @HM I’m in for the testing now (well, later). Will certainly promote it as I gradually work out what it is!

  8. What Chaud is attempting to do is really epic in scope. If he manages to pull through this will most probably become a point of reference. A huge, quality, porn games that explores human sexuality while being funny.

  9. I hope he gets through this one okay. Though even something less taxing on him would still be pretty damned interesting.

    @gnome:
    You think Sexy Beach doesn’t speak to the human condition enough? Picky!

  10. @BeamSplashX: Not only picky, but also ignorant I’m afraid. Sexy Beach you said?

  11. Ooh, lots of comments. Thanks everyone.

    I’m sure Nicolau will be fine, but the actual process right now is not fun. I’m not surprised; even mundane games can send their developers insane after several months of programming grind, a sense of repetition and slow, crawling progress. The fact that this is about sexuality, though, pushes that kind of mental strain into all-new territory.

    But Nicolau is off to Rio de Janeiro this weekend, I have my fingers crossed he wins the indie award for Beautiful Escape although he’s pleased just to have made the final shortlist of three.

    I’m not Googling “Sexy Beach” while I’m at work, so I’ll leave that one to Beam.

    Nice to see posting again Jordan! I spotted your review of the Book of Living Magic…

  12. If you remember the scandal about someone selling a game called RapeLay secondhand on Amazon (http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/89398-Rape-Game-On-Amazon-Triggers-Anger-Outrage), well, this is the same company. Though apparently it’s rape-free, so… yay?

  13. Given the somewhat difficult and contradictory relationship all of us have with our urges, I can imagine that the cumulative effect of working on a game like this can be quite harrowing.

    Thanks for writing about this, by the way, because I’d completely missed it.

  14. @BeamSplashX, Calunio picked up on your Sexy Beach reference over on his blog.

    @Jonas, I didn’t write about this earlier because Jordan pretty much had it covered. I tweeted it and forwarded on to RPS and considered my job done =) But checking up on Calunio’s blog a few weeks back I realised there was another story here that was worth writing about. Until recently, I’ve had this rule that I would only link stuff through writing, because I’m not convinced people click links all that much without some proper encouragement – but I guess this is another example where I should’ve been more forthright!