December 08, 2005

Lapis: virtual bunny/orgasm game

Virtual bunny from Lapis game demo This is lovely: a prototyped virtual pet bunny called Lapis, designed to teach about female sexual gratification. I love the way this game gets down to basics: exploring a variety of pleasant touching.

From a CanWest news item:

The prototype teaches how to reach orgasm by simulating the effect of pleasurable sensation on the cartoon. Players tickle, touch, tap, and stroke Lapis using the touch screen of the Nintendo DS, a hand-held video game device. They can also talk, sing and blow on the bunny’s fur using the device’s built-in microphone.

The more they stimulate the bunny, the happier he becomes until eventually he begins flying through the air. But Lapis is also an unpredictable creature who needs a variety of sensations. Sometimes, no amount of stimulation is going to work.

I’m impressed with the methods of stimulating the bunny! Blowing on the bunny’s fur is a great verb to have available in a video game. It reminds me of all the imaginary pets I had when I was younger (I was big on imaginary nuzzling of neck fur). And I’m always happy when someone puts an emphasis on diversity and variety.

Designer Heather Kelley says she effectively “outed” herself as a feminist game designer when she presented this game at the 2005 Montreal International Games Summit (where her concept won the sex in games challenge). I think that’s the word I was looking for yesterday when I was rambling about honesty being freeing.

This write-up from MIGS criticizes the Lapis game for reducing sex to physical stimulation, but I am most taken by the effective modelling of tension, pleasure, exploration, variety and other concepts that people often have trouble understanding about sex. Anybody can learn positions or techniques, but making it feel sexy is harder— and that’s what this bunny could explore, if it actually had complex desires.

I wish I could think of other kids’ toys or stories that model sexuality in subtle, sophisticated ways; it seems like such a classic situation. I remember a discussion in high school English class about the sexual subtext of rocking horses (faster, faster, faster-- enough!), but I feel like I’m forgetting some obvious examples. Ideas?

Someone needs to start a company to produce all the fantastical games that win game design competitions. This is the third time this fall that I’ve fallen in love with a game that will never be made. The IGDA Sex & Games blog is giving me a little bit of hope for this one.

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