Polymorphous Perversity, for those of you that don't recall, is the sex game whose development may have crossed lines. Nicolau Chaud, the mind behind the title, had his relationship with intimacy altered in peculiar ways during development. Nonetheless the game was released into the wild earlier this week via the game's blog. Those of you interested in braving the risque title should do so: it's free.
Curious to see what Chaud came up with after a fascinating development journey, I've tried a bit of the game. From the get go, the game pulls no punches about its subject matter. It starts off with a cutscene of your character masturbating, only to be interrupted and kidnapped by mystery assailants. They take you to a strange place where everyone walks around naked and is hungry for sex. That includes you, though by necessity: if you don't have sex, then your character dies.
The game works like a run of-the-mill turned based RPG: you take turns attacking each other until someone dies. Except you're not 'attacking', you're, uh, fucking. The "attack" animations reinforce this, awkwardly.
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It seems that even for a game focusing entirely around sex, capturing a semblance of eroticism is difficult. I'm no game designer, but thinking about it, I'm not sure how much room there was to capture titillation through a turn-based system. There's something clinical and obtuse about the way turned-based games require you to navigate through menus during combat. There's something detached about the way a player approaches a turn-based game, too: you're not controlling the action 100%.
Curiously, at the end of 'battle' your lovers just kind of...disappear. The only explanation that I got was that your lovers had fulfilled their purpose. What does that even mean? Couple that with a gamey proclivity to throw endless enemies at a player (or, in this case, lovers), Polymorphous Perversity seems to mirror the desensitization towards sex that its creator underwent. After a few women, I was concerned thinking about how many people I'd have to do not just to finish the game, but just to move forward.
This is thought provoking: mechanically, the game functions exactly like an RPG, but the context is tweaked enough that my reaction is completely different. I might have not noticed that I battled a dozen enemies in a row on a normal RPG. Apparently I'll notice that I just slept with just a few women in a row, though. As they say, sex changes everything.
I'm not sure if this is intended, but so far I'm reading the game as a commentary on the societal pressures put on men to be promiscuous. I mean, you die if you don't have frequent and constant sex! I found myself feeling kind of hollow after a few women.
Even outside of the confines of masculinity, the culture around sex—especially for people near my age, the twentysomethings—is that we should be able to have lots of casual, perhaps meaningless sex. Obviously, the capacity for casual sex to be pleasurable is there, but fulfillment is difficult to find when you're looking for it out of pressure. What exactly would it mean for the game to deliver 'fulfillment', anyway? Arousal?
In any case, the game tells me to let go and give in, but instead all I feel is stress. My character needs to have sex, or else. If Freud is right about how we're all repressed and are innately craving to engulf ourselves in pleasure, is this demanding mechanic even necessary?
It's difficult not to question the validity of Freud's ideas while playing the game, given that they are the reason for the game's existence. Turn-based games exude the idea of mediation, we're in utter control. That's by design. Freud thought we force ourselves to follow rules dictated not by game designer, but by society.
I have a problem with that, since it validates the aspect of rape culture that states that men are not at fault when they assault someone. It's just natural urges, you know? We're in control until it's convenient, or until we need an excuse. I hate that idea.
But beyond that, I'd like to have faith in my fellow human being. I'd like to think that things wouldn't be utterly different if we didn't have to be responsible for our actions and could really just ‘let go.' Maybe that's naive.
I can't say the game plays in a particularly captivating way, though I'm not very far in. Still, Polymorphous Perversity provides no shortage of things to think about, and that may be enough to motivate people to see what it has to offer.