My heart pounds in perfect rhythm with the oscillating clicks of the timepiece behind me. The modem connects with its familiar sequence of chirps and squawks. The house is empty. The shades are drawn. The lights are off. I’m ready to masturbate.

That’s the premise of You Must Be 18 or Older To Enter, a pay-what-you-want PC game from developer Seemingly Pointless, about watching porn on an old computer for the first time. It is exactly as awkward as it sounds.

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“Seeing naked people is a normal experience for adults,” designer James Cox says. “But when that experience is new, it’s uncomfortable. We don’t know what sex is, or what porn is, or why people think about them.”

To capture that sense of surreptitious exploration, You Must Be 18 is structured like a horror game. You play as a kid delving the early internet searching for what is framed as arcane knowledge. As you click through different sites, you can probe them with a rotating roster of search terms. There’s always four options like “MILF” or “orgy,” plus a fifth choice of action that’s offset from the others: “Look behind you.”

Some sites have auto-playing pop-ups that will blast you with the stereotypically exaggerated moans of porn. Should you be playing without headphones, as I was, you’ll frantically try to close the windows out of a primal sense of panic. Cox calls it “tangible horror”—experiencing a fear common in daily life, rather than zombies or violence.

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Sexual curiosity is a nearly universal experience. It’s innately human to wonder about others and figure out how we feel about different sorts of naked people. Cox and his co-developer, his brother Joe, wanted to play with that by focusing on the fear of being caught.

You Must be 18 builds tension with a dark screen and slowly scrolling text, set in time to a gently ticking clock. As you play you’ll see real porn—well, real porn rendered in ASCII art, that is. The goal isn’t to titillate, but to embody what it feels like to try to understand sexuality through this lens and without guidance.

“The fear works because there is a certain terror to it,” Cox says. “That makes [it worse], because the porn lacks context… That fear that [we’ve discovered] something horrible is real and it keeps us from seeking advice.”

The ASCII art also helps reinforce the looming terror of being caught by a parent who understands what you’re seeing better than you do. It’s sort of like porno pointillism: For the player close to the screen, it’s hard to make out what’s going on in the text symbols. But someone over your shoulder at a distance can see it more clearly.

The choice of graphics divorces the game from the physicality of sex and shifts the focus to how porn makes us feel. Many experiences with it aren’t positive, and the porn industry and its practices are part of a larger social context that we can’t see as adolescents. Cox says he wants more people to have these conversations.

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“I was frustrated that when we tried to demo the game at shows, we’d often be placed away from where kids might see it,” he says. “And that’s kinda weird, right? We have all these games about people killing each other, but you can’t show an ASCII game about sexual curiosity.”

And he had to have some of those talks while making the game. Not only did James work together and play the game in front of his brother, but audio designer Julie Buchanan had some uncomfortable moments when recording moans for the game. Still, that’s worth it to Cox, who believes we need to start discussing sex more openly.

“I hope it gets people talking about what they need to,” Cox says. “Once we do, [this game] won’t have a point.”

After seeing The Matrix at the age of nine, Daniel Starkey has been fascinated by the idea of mediated intimacy. They see people as floating through the void of existence, eager to bridge the gap by connecting with others. These days, they’re drawn to looking at the myriad ways people share themselves and what forms that takes.