by Bob Reinhard
It’s the age-old marketing slogan: Sex sells. Perhaps it’s a base animal instinct to reproduce, or maybe it’s our own psychological perversion developed in a time when stimulation is present in everything. It’s in our advertisements. It’s on our TV. It’s in our movie theaters, music, books, whatever medium you indulge in frequently, there is a good chance you’ve come across sexual content. And video games are no different.
However, since video games are the younger of the mediums, it’s no surprise we’re still working on how to present sex and sexuality in a mature way. We could go on and on all day talking about the ridiculously sexualized female characters or the terrible sex scenes (Hot Coffee, anyone?) that are abundant in video games today. It’s easy to see why people are somewhat afraid of putting sexual content into a game for fear of being lumped in with the Dead Or Alive’s in the industry.
But maybe it’s time we started talking about sex in video games as a potential positive? I mean, sex is a part of most people’s lives at some point or another, so it would be silly not to give it proper representation in an artistic medium such as video games, right?
For the sake of this conversation, I present to you Love Hotel by 3 Silly Hats, the freeware indie game I fired up today that got me thinking about sex in video games.
Love Hotel is a rather addicting little simulation game, like a 2d Pixel-Art Sim City, where you get to build and run your own Love Hotel. For those of you that aren’t familiar, love hotels are pretty big in Japan (since sex in your tiny home is sometimes quite difficult). They’re specialized hotels you can go to to… well… let’s not split hairs here: You fuck in them.
However, these aren’t the smutty cheap motels that you hear about on an episode of Cheaters, these are usually more classy joints with special rooms designed to heighten the mood and give the best sexual experience. And that’s your job in Love Hotel: To build a hotel that fulfills the needs of your many sexually frustrated clients.
You start with a small two-floor hotel with only enough space for a couple rooms, but eventually you can expand your hotel into the “Hump Tower” so to speak. As you add more rooms, your hotel’s star rating goes up based on how pleased your customers are, and as you reach higher star levels, your options for what you can add to your hotel increases. You start to unlock specialized rooms such as the “balloon room” (do I even want to know?) and even other things like condom machines.
Of course, it’s not all fun and games, you do have to make sure your hotel stays clean and the maintenance gets done. So you also get to hire a staff! Let me tell you… you better be paying that cleaning staff top dollar…
Balancing financial responsibility with kinky fun makes for a surprisingly engaging experience. Watching your money go up every time a satisfied customer walks out of the heart-themed Missionary Room is satisfying. You know, for more than just the patrons.
The game tops things off with a tongue-in-cheek achievement system that rewards you for various things. Such as an achievement I received when a couple decided they couldn’t wait and took to the utility closet for some exciting public sex… yeah. It’s quite an amusing game.
All in all, this is a solid game for fans of simulation building games. It’s not as deep or complex as mainstream games of this genre, but it’s enough fun and challenge to be worth a couple hours of play. Plus, watching little pixel-art people walk into a room to make love is just funny no matter how you spin it.
So, what is it about this game that I find worth talking about? it’s very easy to quickly dismiss this game as juvenile and immature. It’s basically just a bunch of dick jokes in pixelated form. But something about it’s hold-nothing-back approach to sexual behavior makes me somewhat hopeful for the future of video games.
Being able to approach sex in a game without worrying about how it’s perceived is somewhat liberating, I’d imagine. To show the side of sex that games usually only use for a quick laugh (See: Saints Row the Third. Nothing wrong with it, but it was played to as a joke!), and to turn it into an engaging experience that doesn’t feel cheap and dirty? That’s quite impressive.
The game shows real stuff that isn’t talked about in every-day conversation. And while I don’t think you should run out and tell your co-workers in casual lunch-break conversation about your dominatrix who smacks you on the ass with a rolled up newspaper and calls you faggot, it’s nice to see some game developers aren’t afraid to approach the secret side of the human condition.
Does that mean I think we should have vibrators and sex dolls in every game? Of course not, but being able to address something such as human sexuality without fear is something that could benefit the game industry. We can show sex in a game much like they would in a Shakespearean play or a romantic novel without it coming across as awkward and out-of-place.
Sex, just like violence, is part of human life. The less fear we show towards representing that in our art, the more likely it is we’ll stop seeing stupid juvenile takes on the subject matter. If we can shed the societal shame heaped on our sexual desires and needs, and represent it in a more real, human level, we could start making games that implement sex and sexuality in a way that doesn’t feel like weird fan fiction on a higher budget.
So thank you 3 Silly Hats for giving us Love Hotel. Sure, it’s silly fun, but it’s also an important step towards being unafraid of the possibility of sex in our medium.
On a fun side note: Did you know Nintendo, before becoming a major video game company, owned a chain of love hotels in Japan? Pity they didn’t keep them going today. I’d imagine a series of Mario and Zelda sex rooms would go over huge with 20-somethings who grew up on Nintendo games. Not… not saying I want to have sex in the Hyrule Dungeon room… just… some people might be in to that… some people who aren’t me…
Swing on over to 3 Silly Hat’s website and download Love Hotel for yourself. It even has gamepad support if you want to play with a controller like I did. You can even donate to the company to support them. Also, check out their Facebook page and throw them a Like!