Inside the 2009 IGF: Dark Room Sex Game

By staff [01.23.09]

Completely blacked out image (because the game has no visuals, ha ha)Spun from a game concept put forth at the Nordic Game Jam, Dark Room Sex Game is a Wiimote enabled game in which players try to climax with their partners - with no on-screen visuals whatsoever. The students from IT University Copenhagen who made the game submitted it to this year's Independent Games Festival Student Competition. GameCareerGuide caught up with them about the titillating title.

Game: Dark Room Sex Game

School: IT University Copenhagen

Dark Room Sex Game is an erotic multi-player rhythm game without any graphics, played only by audio and haptic cues. The game can be played with Nintendo Wiimote controllers or a keyboard.

In Dark Room Sex Game, the player works with his or her partner to find a mutual rhythm, then speeds up gradually until climax. In four-player "orgy" mode, players swap partners randomly and compete to reach orgasm the fastest.

The idea was that a sex game would in fact be even more erotic if it stripped away all visuals and forced players to use their imaginations. Our hope was to use a combination of humor and embarrassment to make players uncomfortable, yet strangely satisfied. Our aim was to get players looking at each other, rather than the television screen.

One could view the game as a commentary on the dull fixation on visuals in the spheres of sex and also video games. Or, you can just view it as a cool party game.

Dark Room Sex Game
began its sordid life as a project for the 2008 Nordic Game Jam, and was developed by a co-ed, multi-national team of students at the IT University of Copenhagen.

Dark Room Sex Game is obviously a little racy for the IGF, and I would venture to say it was never intended to be mass marketed -- is that right? Why did you make this game? You mentioned it came out of the Nordic Game Jam.

Robin Di Capua: Game jams are a good opportunity to think outside the box with something experimental and crazy. The theme of last year edition of the Nordic Game Jam was "taboo" ... the rest is history.

Dajana Dimovska: Our team was formed during the Nordic Game Jam, and Dark Room Sex Game is our first game together. The game creation was spontaneous and fun all the way. Our team's goal was to do an experimental, "classy" sex game and investigate how intimidating it is for two or more players to hear loud sex moaning sounds while playing in the same physical space.

Douglas Wilson:
You're right in that we never intended to market the game. Nevertheless, we've had some hilarious ideas about a potential iPhone version of the core concept. Sadly, I don't think Apple is a big fan of adult content...

GCG: Explain in more detail why the game doesn't have any visuals.

Lau Korsgaard:
Erotic games today are often overtly explicit, leaving nothing for the imagination. We wanted to counter that trend by proving that each player's imagination is a much more powerful generator of dirty images than any 3D renderer.

Completed blacked out imageRobin Di Capua: Not having visuals was also part of the experimental idea of the Game Jam.

Douglas Wilson: To be clear, the Game Jam did not specify that we should do a game without graphics -- that was our own idea. The idea was that innovation springs from constraint, so we wanted to impose our own limitations to challenge ourselves to come up with an interesting solution. This is why even the menu is not represented visually -- we wanted to take those constraints all the way.

GCG: What kind of research did you do into the area of sex and video games, or other sexually themed human-computer interactions? Did you find anything interesting?

Lau Korsgaard:
I have played my share of erotic video games, but I always get disappointed. One of the more interesting games I tried last year was Rez, the rhythm shooter sold with a vibrator in Japan. Trust me, it is a pretty powerful vibrator.

Robin Di Capua:
Erotic games tend to be extremely visual and try to visually copy porn movies. Dark Room goes in another direction using the properties of the medium about interaction and feedback.

Dajana Dimovska: We also did a research about different "moaning techniques and intensities," which included watching and listening to media with sexual content. This helped us with planning and doing the voice recordings.

GCG: In terms of mechanics, what existing games influenced this game? Can you explain here also in greater detail how the controllers are used?

Dajana Dimovska: Rhythm games were our main inspiration.

Douglas Wilson: Speaking for myself, I'm a little tired of Rock Band and Guitar Hero parties. Though fun, those games can be antisocial if everyone just ends up staring at the screen like zombies. By contrast, a game with no visuals forces the players to look directly at each other. The gameplay isn't tethered to the screen. This also helps increase the embarrassment factor.

As for the mechanics and controllers, the idea is that you and your partners take turns swinging your Wiimotes. You need to swing with enough acceleration, but that's it. No button presses or special gestures. We wanted to keep the game simple. So basically, the goal is to accelerate towards climax, but you can't do so too quickly or you'll be penalized. There's a kind of perfect acceleration you're trying to match.

Keep in mind that the game is really intended for four-person play ("orgy mode") in which you race another couple.

GCG: Technically speaking, what was the most difficult thing to develop?

Kennett Wong: It was getting the Wiimotes to work for the Mac version.

Our game is made in Java which means that it can run on multiple platforms. But the plug-in for connecting the Wiimote to the game is more stable for the Windows than for the Mac, which causes us a lot of trouble. We are still working on getting the Mac version to be as stable as the Windows version.

Douglas Wilson: And even on some Windows boxes, you often need a separate USB Bluetooth adaptor. Basically, like Kennett says, we need to find a more stable Wiimote solution. But I should point out, the keyboard version works just fine.

What about in terms of gameplay -- what was the most difficult thing to develop or balance?

Lau Korsgaard: We have struggled with hitting the right difficulty level in terms of reward and punishment in the pacing algorithm. It has been hard to make the game easy enough for first time players to be able to finish the game without ruining the challenge for expert players.

Douglas Wilson:
I think some players are so accustomed to standard rhythm games, such as Rock Band and Dance Dance Revolution, that they don't initially know what to make of a collaborative rhythm that accelerates and decelerates.

Dark Room Sex Game Team

Lars Bojsen-Møller, design and development
Robin Di Capua, design and development
Dajana Dimovska, design and development
Lau Korsgaard, design and development
Mads Lyngvig, design and development
Douglas Wilson, design and development
Kennett Wong, design and development
Lars Bojsen-Møller, music

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