HARDCADE: Sex in Classic Video Games

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I smiled when I wrote that title. I admit it. My lips curled mischievously to the right as my thoughts drifted over the array of images and descriptions to come. I reveled in glee, smiling in anticipation like a troll fingering the influxes of constructing a first sentence –the fuse– if you will, of keyboard pyrotechnics.

I was so tempted.

Sex in video game media, especially if it’s discussed from a woman’s perspective, often ignites a mixed session of fireworks ranging from the delighted oohs and ahhs of enlightening rhetoric, to winces from those who grimace at the annoyance of a loud aerial salute. As a feminist I was tempted to make this into a very different article than the amusing direction I intend to go. I could easily have carried on incendiary comments about how the past still affects the future, how female sex roles today are still misrepresented by the video game industry via the same misguided and antiquated mindsets it began with in 1973…and I’d be right by all accounts. But, no. This is an article in which you can make up your own mind regarding what is offensive and what is not. Enjoy. Have a laugh.

You’re welcome.

steve martin
“I believe that sex is one of the most most beautiful, natural, wholesome things that money can buy.”  -Steve Martin

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Sex looks ridiculously stupid in classic video games. Although controversial at the time and without the technological advances of today, getting it on in 8-bit looked like two stick figures with craggy, old Salmon-faces cranking one out. Most of them were supposed to be funny, the kind of thing you’d pull out at a bachelor party to amuse your guests, while others were obviously used as a tool for arousal.

joy ofIn The 70s, with the sexual revolution in full swing and books like The Joy of Sex and Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know about Sex (But Were Afraid To Ask) selling 150 million copies worldwide, people -and especially women- were grooving easily into casual sex without the burden of social hang-ups. Funky and guilt-free sex was as fashionable as ever.

So with moral-meters off, early programmers went hog wild expressing what had for so long been inexpressible without legal ramifications, got dirty-mindedly creative and followed their new-found sexual expression headlong into the waiting arms of… controversy.

Gotcha

hard 2I don’t know if the weed was particularly killer that week or what but Atari’s decision to make this game after Pong, Space Race and Pong Doubles gives the impression that it most likely was.

Created as the very first maze game and designed in part as a payback to female employees joking that the joysticks looked phallic, a female game was made. Good thing they didn’t get creative with the coin slot, eh?

Squeezing “the boobs” to control the action, two players tried to find their way through a maze and catch each other…GOTCHA! The lame promotional flyer didn’t help matters as it featured a man pursuing a woman and catching her. Note that it doesn’t appear that she minds. Frankly, I think it looks like they’re doing the Bunny Hop. Nonetheless controversy ensued as feminist groups and moral watch dogs shrank in horror at the thought of a game sporting two perky pink D-Cups to fondle. So the boobs were replaced with standard joysticks, ruining the charming design of the game but ridding an uptight community of “sex games”….for a while.

CusterCR

No game in the history of adult games ever sold as much or created as much instant controversy as this one.

Custer’s Revenge, made by Mystique, operated as a subsidiary of porn film manufacturer, Caballero Control Corporation, the company that gave John Holmes his start. Perhaps that’s why ol’ Custer seems to be sporting some serious yardage. After all, what worked for John might work for Custer, right?

Well, sort of.

Traversing a desert bare naked save for only a hat and boots, Custer dodges rows of arrows with a huge erection to meet with a Native American woman tied to a cactus. Once there, he has sex with her, or rapes her as popular opinions attest, with each thrust gaining points until an arrow hits him and he loses his erection, giving new meaning to the term “little big horn”.

Although selling moderately well at first, sales dipped low until someone tipped off the media, igniting the wrath of feminist groups, moralists and Native American councils across the country. An immediate jump in sales ensued, rocketing the numbers up from a few thousand to 80,000 copies sold in just three months.

To date 7 million copies have been sold worldwide.
Geronimo! All the way to the bank.

beat em
EBThere aren’t any hot redheads licking ice cream cones in this game. Just a creepy, naked dude on a rooftop working an enormous penis that looks and resembles a jackhammer.

Below him two naked Salmon-faced bimbos race back and forth, collecting the semen in their mouths. Simply disgusting. If they miss a drop, they lose a life or, as the manual warns, the possible seed “of a famous doctor or lawyer.”

Now how in the name of scientific accuracy one actually impregnates a woman orally escapes me.

Nonetheless according to this game the future of mankind is precariously held in these women’s mouths which, by the way, awards the player with an extra life if they catch 69 drops of semen in their gaping yaws. 69. Oh, how clever. Would have made more sense if the bimbos got a breathe mint as bonus, don’t you think?

It would be wise to ascertain that feminist groups and moralists would have been far more outraged had they seen this game instead of Custer’s Revenge as it is far more demeaning to women and, frankly, pretty gross.

 

In 1982 the feminist movement was creating a maelstrom of anti-porn petitioning, so if Mystique had called the media on themselves it would have caused the high probability  of igniting a profitable controversy for them, right? Nope. Mystique knew by this time that this game and many of their other game titles now pushed the line of violating newly enforced obscenity laws  on video games from The Custer’s Revenge Incident. Plus with the company already in the throes of financial failure, let’s say they just didn’t give a wank anymore.

phill flasherPFTwo fapping freaks and a lactating witch. Great.

From the ashes of Mystique rose Playaround, the company that went on to produce the worst games, if not the worst depictions and most arcane examples of sexual kinks ever put into 8-bit. Gotta be proud.

Philly Flasher is actually the same game as Eat ‘Em and Beat ‘Em only instead of Jack Hammer you get an Old Witch running along a rooftop, desperately in need of a nursing bra. Below, two union suit wearing convicts I call “The Union Jacks” catch the drops of milk in their mouths, then masturbate vigorously in celebration when they reach their quota…and you guessed it- 69.

Contrary to information that this game was made for women, what this game really represents is a creative work for the erotic lactation market, or lactophilia as it is known in the clinical sense.

Lactophilia, the act of experiencing sexual arousal by breastfeeding, is often the psychological precursor to adopting yet another weird kink,  Paraphilic infantilism, otherwise known as Adult Baby Syndrome, a sexual role-playing fetish that involves regressing to an infant-like state. Scores of magazines in the late 70s and early 80s exclusively published content geared toward both of these kinks, boasting a worldwide readership doubling that of the New York Times.  Talk about issues…

Flynnt“Most of these so called ‘sex games’ are just downright stupid.”
Larry Flynt, Hustler Magazine, 1984

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Xmanxman coverSome guy wants to nab “a sexy blond” so bad he’s willing to run naked through a maze of penis-eating teeth, ball-snipping scissors and infectious crabs to reach the willing woman in the center of the screen who just happens to look like Barney Rubble getting nailed by the Incredible Hulk?

Call me crazy but I think you’ve been cheated.

Created and published by Universal Gamex as its first and only release, X-Man was nothing short of being a castration themed game where the player’s reward was to screw a man-faced woman but only if he made it through the maze with his penis intact. Moving the joystick back and forth the player controls X-Man’s performance, usually about 20 seconds, before scoring a climax that ends in an audible explosion if he moves fast enough.

20 seconds? Oh, boy.

He may be no lady killer in the bedroom but this guy gets around and doesn’t suffer from a shortage of willing partners who think he’s pretty cool running through the streets naked, being chased by crabs and sharp instruments. Includes three “positions” including an oral session and a BONUS ROUND where you can score with all the other Barney Rubbles, one right after the other. Yabba Dabba Doo!

 

interview_todd_rogers_1“Yeah, it had to be in ‘83 or ’84; something like that. Playboy contacted me (for an endorsement). It was one of the things I flat-out wouldn’t take someone up on. They had a joystick shaped like a penis. I just had to say no. The money was fine. I just couldn’t see myself jerking that penis back and forth, playing Decathlon or something.”

Todd Rogers, a.k.a. Mr. Activision,   Professional Gamer

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Home Computing’s Naughty Secrets
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Like the unexplored regions of Africa depicted in the novel, King Solomon’s Mines, most of what is known about classic sex games is on but a small portion that’s barely been mapped.

Spanning the years between 1978 to 1988, hundreds if not thousands of adult games were made by fly-by-night publishers and rogue programmers, mostly students, looking to make a few extra bucks simulating the nasty. Atari 800, 2600, Apple and IBM all saw games released on their formats as early as 1981. By 1982 it had become quite clear to the underground porn connoisseur that home computing had a lot more to offer than what initially met the eye.

By far the most popular platform for sex games was, believe it or not, the family-friendly “study buddy” Commodore 64, responsible almost exclusively for keeping more than just grades up. In fact, the C64 boasts so many sex games that a total count has never been wholly assembled. There’s just too many.

Here some of the most notorious computer “sex games”:

Stroker
2220724-g_stroker_01Laying down the ol’ Five Knuckle Shuffle was never so complicated until some programmer decided to lend a hand. Created by Magic Carpet Software and using the Commodore 64 as a platform, this masturbation simulator raises some serious questions, namely ‘why‘ and ‘what the fuck?‘ No doubt this is the reason for the game never making it past demo status. Only a couple hundred copies were ever released. However it’s clear that the company did have plans to release it because they signed a contract in 1983 to have an R rating on the game which would have made them  the first video game company to ever do so had they completed the mission.

Now before one thinks that this game is easy, it’s not. It’s hard. No pun intended. Beginning with a flaccid penis, the player controls the up an down motion of the hand using either a joystick or keyboard arrow. If the speed and rhythm is sufficient the penis will lengthen. Get too gung ho and it will change color, warning of a premature event and you’ll receive a low score. Scale back and gain control and, as the penis length increases higher and higher, a high score becomes imminent.  Once “orgasm” is achieved (ol’ Mt. Vesuvius makes a cameo here) your score is rated on The Peter Meter. Yes, not only in real life do you get judged by every woman you ever have sex with but now there is a game that can do that for you, too. Any man who plays this game must be a glutton for punishment.

This game was clearly made with humor in mind but who would have really thought it was funny but teenagers and immature adults? I couldn’t imagine any one sitting around with their buddies playing a game of STROKER unless there was a signed pact of secrecy with the threat of death attached if anyone ever talked. But then I read about how some New York frat boys held a gaming tournament on Stroker in 2003 and 2004 –The Annual Stroke Off: Fist of Fury, with the grand prize being a case of hand lotion and a golden bronzed massage glove. No kidding.

roald
“A lot of these games were made by companies coming in to make a quick buck and get out. No one was ever truly proud of having worked on them. It was the equivalent of washing dishes in the programming world. They were complete crap as an art form. Everyone knew it.”
Roald Denney, Programmer, 1981-1983

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soft orn ad
soft porn adventure game 1982“Honey? Remember when you said you’d do anything for the company..?”

I can understand an early gaming company cutting costs by using volunteers as models in advertising photos for marketing. But when those volunteers happen to be the company’s bookkeeper and both of the owner’s and the programmer’s wife all naked in a hot tub with a local bartender who rumors claim wasn’t wearing anything below the surface except water, I’d have to deduce On-Line Systems was probably a swinging place to work. By the way, that’s future game designer and owner of Sierra On-Line, Roberta Williams, on the far right, getting loose in the hot tub.

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In this text-based game, some total dweeb who hasn’t gotten any action in a while goes into a sleazy, cock roach infested bar for a drink. Realizing his pathetic chances of getting laid aren’t going to increase if he doesn’t get some cash, he must find things like candy, flowers and jewelry in order to entice the woman of his dreams. Of course in a cock roach infested bar all he finds are “funky hookers” and pimps selling poison poontang all which run the risk of giving him the “dreaded atomic clap” if he doesn’t find a “rubber” first or, wiser yet, wait for something better to come along.

His goal in the game is to have sex with three women. But he actually has sex with four if you count the hot little piece of PVC – a sex doll- he nails to get to the last level. Yes, that’s right. He has to screw a blow up doll to get to the last girl who incidentally he pays for with just an apple.

Cheap bastard.

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fuck man
Fuckman_1Never start anything you can’t finish.

This crudely titled game from SGL and GA is solid proof that no matter how blatant a name you slap on a product, that if you don’t give the buyer what the title claims to deliver, expect to be lampooned miserably.

Fuck-Man, starring Fuckin’ Freddie and Lolita, was a real let down to the buyers who purchased the game expecting something truly pornographic. What they got instead was a supremely poorly designed game that didn’t live up to its name at all.

The object of the game is much like Custer’s Revenge only the player has a very limited amount of time to line his boner up just right to do the deed before he dies. Pretty boring action here. Frankly she doesn’t look too enthused, either. In fact, she never moves but just stands there, completely immobile while he waddles up to her like a drunken sailor trying to walk through a door. Honestly he looks like he rocks out with his cock out… by doing the Maracrena? It’s really quite silly and tediously boring.

Originally intended to include more tantalizing gameplay through a changing landscape with alternate characters engaging in a myriad of other acts, production on the game ceased when funding ran out, prompting the developers, in the bold act of ripping off the buyer, to slap a crude yet provocative title on the unfinished game, release it, then quickly close shop. In spite of its poor gameplay consisting of one single awkwardly rendered scene it sold moderately well. About $150,000 worth just on the title alone. One of the most brazen  marketing rip-offs in early video game history, Fuck-Man sold to thousands of people who bought it thinking it was going to deliver the goods. It didn’t.

red_lips_by_kiiss_mee_oo-d3954io“Most of the sex games had a ‘no return policy’ even if they didn’t work. Or sucked, which was more often the case.”

Jerad, Adult Video Store owner, 1986

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Sex game satisfaction was to come only a year later in the form of another game created with just the right amount of action and perversion needed to quell the desire for something that gave more bang for the buck. Coveted by collectors who happen to find a rare copy, or by others who download it from over a thousand different websites run by fans fascinated by its crudeness, the next game unlike Fuck-Man actually went farther than any game had ever gone before.

sex games

What do a German Physicist and an unemployed Programmer have to do with porn?

Sex Games, created by Lsex games imandiSOFT, a company comprised of a German physicist and an industrial programmer, took the porn game world by storm when they released SEX GAMES in 1985 while both  were still in college. Little is known or recorded of their pre-career histories in gaming but one thing is clear: They had naughty imaginations.

 

NOTE: Various videos are available online for this game but will not be posted here due to pseudo-graphical content.

Anything goes in this game, from plain old fashioned missionary to fellatio to a full blown bi-sexual gang bang consisting of one woman and four men. Thing is two of them appear to be homosexual as they make no qualms about hopping in right behind you and going to town on you while you complete the level. Either way, in Sex Games, according to the programmers, it’s all good. Fun for the whole gang!

Gameplay is relatively simple: Beginning with a couple of warm up sessions one on one, the player eventually graduates to higher levels and more action by moving the joystick skillfully to raise the Lust Meter where then a bell appears, rings and off he goes into the next scene/level. You have to be fast and precise as you have a limited amount of “potency” to go around. Go too fast and you essentially run out of time. Go too slow and you won’t get that bell ringing to continue to the next level.

Note: There’s no music to the game but this hit from 1979 would have worked.

Anyway, this guy is a machine, just pumping away like his hips run on hydraulics. Pretty dumb. But a surprising thing about this game is the female caricature gets into it, too. Prior to 1985 it was an almost unheard of concept to depict a female character as an active participant in sexual activity. Sex in video games always used the woman as a tool, a prop or even worse, a victim. So as smutty and stupid as this game is at least the female caricature is willing. Heck, she even helps get the bell ringing.

Now you’d think after all his hard work playing Pavlov’s horny dog that the last room would be filled with women just waiting for his all his lovin’. Nope. It’s four dudes and one woman…and, guess what? You gotta take one for the team, buddy.

Sex Games was featured in the obscure 1988 Japanese film, Too Beautiful To Die, a dramatic film about a sex addicted serial killer in Milan, Italy, who preys upon young fashion models.

ron“Why play a game when you can have the real thing? Personally, I don’t think these games turn anyone on. I mean, look at them? Would you fuck that? If so, why?”

-Ron Jeremy, porn star, 1984

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The manufacturing of adult themed games continued on in this vein for a while, with more and more of the same redundant sex scenes and poorly crafted story lines arriving in games stores only to be eclipsed in sales by increasingly more graphic content arriving from competing countries.

The Japanese and European market had long been in pursuit of giving to the public more lascivious content that, for want of a better word, was increasingly perverted. In fact, many of the titles and screen shots are so lewd and shocking even by today’s standards, that most writers and journalists are reluctant to even mention them in detail, including me. Titles, like Fuck-Man, although lewd, pales in considerable comparison to others so crass and dehumanizing that, after viewing them, one can completely understand why they’re better left in history’s closet. Games, like Sodom, Sex and Violence, Scat Man, Blood Fuck, and the thoroughly disgusting, Fuck ‘Em and Snuff ‘Em, deserve to be kept in obscurity.  Due to deep restrictions in The 80s on more base forms of sexual (mis)conduct, very few copies of these games ever reached the open market in the USA. However, contraband squeezes through whatever cracks it can slime through, hiding its mangy presence in the shadows of the underground market…even the neighborhood game store.

In 1985, Los Angeles’ Games Galore owner, Ned Thompson, was arrested and his business seized when it was discovered he was illegally importing foreign manufactured “snuff games” for sale to trench coated perverts who hungered for the extreme. Much to the owner’s dismay, Fuck Em and Snuff ‘Em had been sold by him to an undercover agent. A court battle ensued with Thompson citing entrapment. Although Thompson was eventually cleared of criminal charges his business never recovered from the hefty fines he had to pay. Five months after his arrest, due to continued public backlash and protest, he quietly closed his doors and moved away.

In three years time hundreds of video game stores were forced to pull adult themed games off their shelves or risk fining if it were discovered any were considered “unlawful”. Due to the fact many video game stores did not like the idea of feds sniffing around their places of business, many of them removed adult themed games from their inventory altogether rather than take the risk.

Things became quiet in the adult game division. The sex game market sagged, then almost crashed. Frat boys went back to playing “Quarters”.

And then something interesting happened: an aging program was resurrected by a company who still believed that adult themed games had a place in the world. In 1987, a 33-year old virgin, Larry Laffer, arrived, pimped out in an aging disco suit and “JohnTra’ed” his way back into the video game world to single-handedly save the adult video game industry from self imposed banishment altogether.

 

larry
larry“Hi. I am required by law to ask first if you have a weak heart or are allergic to total, unrestrained pleasure.”

He’s dweeby, socially awkward and unfashionably dressed yet  managed to goof his way into America’s hearts so much that millions of players couldn’t help but try to get this loser laid.

He’s Leisure Suit Larry, a bumbling, double-entendre dropping, 33-year old virgin whose exploits in The Land of The Lounge Lizards entertained and amused more people, male and female, since Custer’s Revenge. And all without any graphic depictions of sex, mind you. Other than some hilarious jumping around in bed most of the sex is limited to words you type in, cleverly by-stepping the laws on obscenity at the time.

So at first it may not be clear why this game was so popular and remains so today. Perhaps it was its underdog character, always a theme just about anyone can identify with, that drew people in. No doubt many video game enthusiasts felt some kind of kinship, even brotherhood, with this surprisingly adorable dork who, facing the pressures of wanting to be part of the social scene but lacking any real social skills, tries any way. I can think of many Larry’s one may have encountered in real life, the ones who balk at casual conversations with the opposite sex yet who feels hopeful regardless of the rejection they fear and may have even gotten used to.

But that’s the magical attraction of Larry Laffer, who seems to simultaneously fly the finger in the faces of haters while flying the freak flag for losers everywhere.

In Leisure Suit Larry the player gets to experience that sense of isolation and desperation from the perspective of another character and savor the thrill when he actually scores. Vicariously living through Larry, the player also receives the satisfaction of watching embarrassing situations happen to someone else for a change.

Using a parser interface, like Soft Porn Adventure, which means you must type in the commands to tell the game what to do, Larry begins in a seedy bar just like the aforementioned game.

The object is Larry must get laid in the town of Lost Wages by a real lady and not a hooker before midnight and, man, that’s pushing it. For not only is this guy clueless about how to speak to women, he’s also  handicapped by having some real bad luck. This poor loser gets caught up in some harrowing scenarios along the way, like, getting tied up by a hooker and being robbed; having to screw a sex doll; having to score pills to keep another hooker happy. If you play the prompts in order and type in the right words Larry can get through the game rather quickly. But unless you use walk-thru cheats chances are you’re going to get stuck standing on the street, where a dog is going to wander out and piss on your leg until you figure it out. That’s what happened to me.

If anyone playing this game wonders why it closely resembles  Soft Porn Adventure, there’s a reason. Leisure Suit Larry was made by the same company, by the same owners and using many of the same scenarios. Why? I am not sure but perhaps creators Ralph Roberts and Al Lowe made some improvements on Soft Porn Adventure and then, when it was discovered that the hands of creativity had fashioned a totally new concept, they ran with that and renamed it. One can never tell. First run out the gate only sold moderately. Then, as word of mouth spread the news, it grew to proportions almost cult-like today. It’s actually a fun game. Seriously.

Larry has been featured in several game sequels since, mentioned in TV shows, movies, countless newspapers and received several awards. Not bad for a dork who needs your help getting laid. Looks to me like he’s making out just fine. Oh, and Larry says, ‘Thanks’.

official_portrait_of_president_reagan_1981“I recently learned something quite interesting about video games. Many young people have developed incredible hand, eye, and brain coordination in playing these games. The Air Force believes these kids will be our outstanding pilots should they fly our jets.”

-Ronald Reagan, 1983

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I doubt when President Reagan said that in a speech, on August 8, 1983, he was aware of teens and college students increasing their hand/eye coordination by playing Stroker or Sex Games. I also believe today, that if he could see the way games have evolved, he would not be so inclined to offer any favorable opinion of them. His War on Drugs might likely be a War on Games. But one can only guess.

Today’s games have evolved in ways no one ever imagined, from raging battlefields where you can almost feel the heat and smell the blood, to rich and lush tapestries of detail where you can actually experience the peace of a rain forest and walk in raindrops. We’ve come a long way in 3 decades, farther than anyone ever dreamed or expected. We’ve faced failures, successes, crashes and negative legislation attempting to level laws of censorship. We’ve seen platforms evolve, transmute and reformat. But one thing has never changed. Sex in video games. Sex sells.

And it always will.

-Cat DeSpira/Retro Bitch

*Originally published in Retrocade Magazine 2012 

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