UFO STI WTF is a short, visual novel browser game, built by a team as part of a game jam during the sex, love, and relationship-focused Australian games festival Heartbeat. The game attempts to remove the shame and fear that come with the process of getting tested by walking the player through a dialogue-based STI clinic scenario as someone who needs to have an STI check-up, for reasons you decide.
Sexually transmitted infections, or STIs, are contagious infections that are spread by sexual activity. Just like you can get a cold sore by kissing someone who has the herpes virus, or catch the flu from someone on the bus, STIs can happen, and do happen, to a lot of people. The World Health Organization estimates that one million people get an STI every day.
And yet, there is a stigma around STIs that doesn’t exist around most other contagious illnesses. No one’s going to shame you for picking up the common cold, but get chlamydia—which is easily treatable, and one of the most common STIs with over 131 million cases worldwide a year—and many people will think something’s wrong with you, even though there really isn’t. Other than the chlamydia.
Yes, you are going to have to answer awkward questions about your sex life. Yes, a doctor or nurse might potentially have to put their fingers and hands in private places. Yes, an STI check-up is not exactly what anyone might call a “fun time.”
An STI check-up is, however, necessary if you care about your own health and the health of your sexual partner or partners, and UFO STI WTF wants to help ease your mind about the whole process. If you’re afraid to go into a clinic because you’re afraid everyone knows your dirty secret, and the doctor or nurse will judge you, it’s infinitely easier to do so when you know what to expect.
Also, you play as an alien. Hence the “UFO” part of the title. (I hope I don’t need to explain the “WTF.”)
The health practitioner tells the player at the start of the game not to be embarrassed, because “taking care of your sexual health is something to be proud of.” So far, so relatable. It’s only when later questions ask the player to explain their sexuality, including Panspecies and Tentacle-Only—and when the symptoms include “my arse-eye is leaking pus”—that it seems like UFO STI WTF is not exactly what one might expect from the clinic.
UFO STI WTF is, naturally, limited in its scope by its nature as a game jam submission. A game made in just a few days is never going to be able to address the full list of possible STI symptoms. But having the character be an alien means that the symptoms and sexualities listed in the game can be broad enough that anyone playing might be able to imagine themselves in the alien’s shoes. Assuming the alien has feet.
Two mini-games give the player an idea of what might happen in the clinic: one has the alien peeing into a cup (and all over their hands, claws, whatever) and the other has the alien swabbing their aforementioned arse-eye. Anal and vaginal swabs are par for the course in IRL STI clinics, but if anyone reading this has an actual eye in their b-hole, STIs are the least of your worries.
Yes, UFO STI WTF covers some of the tamer aspects of STI check-ups. There are no fingers-up-bums, there is no speculum (ugh), and no blood tests done with needles. The aim here is not to cover all potential check-up types, but to demystify a scary process. At the end of the game, UFO STI WTF presents the player with a wall of text that reassures them not to worry, and that most medical professionals will be happy to help and explain what needs doing.
It’s quite unfair that STIs carry the stigma they do, because that’s one of the largest hurdles to overcome when you need to get checked out. The worst thing anyone can do with an STI, though, is ignore it, as it can cause complications and spread to even more people. Perhaps it’s time to ditch the shame that comes with having an STI and treat it just like any other infection, and we’ll all be much healthier aliens. Er, humans.