A Married Couple Who Has Sex And Makes Games About It

The page is called TMI. We were bound to tackle sex eventually.

Cara Ellison has written up a fantastic profile of a developer the gaming industry has no idea what to do with: married art game duo Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn, aka Tale of Tales. That doesn't mean no one plays their games, however. Quite the contrary: art games like The Graveyard and The Path are some of the most cited in their field.

But each time the two release a new experiment from their mad science lab of burbling human chemistry, the same questions come up. "Is this even a game? How do we review this? Is it fun? Is it supposed to be?" My personal response to all of those: who cares? Harvey and Samyn make interactive work that intrigues, teases, and titilates. Is that not enough?

The profile piece touches on some especially interesting subject matter, largely in regard to Harvey and Samyn's most recent game, Luxuria Superbia. It's about pleasuring a tunnel-like environment that responds to your touch and... well, you probably know where this is going.

There's a uniquely sexual dynamic to the way the two view and create games, though, and it stands to broaden the way we view both games and sexuality. I think it's best summed up in this GDC anecdote:

"We had a great experience at GDC where we had the four controller version [of Luxuria Superbia]," Auriea says, "and there were three other people who were all playing together on the last circular level. Everybody was working really hard, and I joined to help, and they were like 'we can't get the thing to finish, we've been doing this for ten minutes and our fingers are getting tired!' And I was like okay everybody, just pick a direction, and go there, and don't move. All four of us were there not moving, and all of a sudden the thing went [hand gesture] and started like, coming, and we were just like 'HOLD IT HOLD IT HOLD IT YEAH DON'T MOVE DON'T MOVE OKAY' and we were all just standing there like… 'Yes yes yes yes yes…'"

A Married Couple Who Has Sex And Makes Games About It

The short version? Sex is sometimes spectacularly un-sexy. It's awkward, it's painful, it's boring... or it's just plain funny. But sex is necessarily cooperative—you're (thankfully) not in it alone. As a result, it becomes an act of experimentation and play. It is, in that respect, a lot like—dun-dun-dun—a game.

"There's always a layer of humour," Michaël says. "Usually when sex is in a game, it's about a challenge, winning – a reward. That's not what sex is, you know? Things go wrong when you have sex -"

"It's often quite embarrassing, awkward," Auriea says, laughing.

"But you love each other, so it's really not a problem," Michaël says rather optimistically. "In fact, it's really kind of funny that it happened, that you came too soon. That you farted. It's all part of the experience. And everybody knows that… Games are so much about getting a 10/10 score or something, but sex is very playful, but it's not about perfection. …A game doesn't even have to be about sex, but the way people play, the way people play with each other in bed or wherever, is very interesting in terms of design, and it really makes you think why are all these games so rigid? So non-playful?"

It's a pointed question, but one well worth asking. At what point do games—sex-centric or not—become too cold? Too removed? Too analytic and systemic? Moreover, I could see a world in a more play-centric view of sex in games might take pressure off people in the bedroom, which can—depending on circumstances—be a downright terrifying, suffocating place.

There's a whole lot more good stuff in the article, if you're interested in an alternate perspective on sex, games, and life. Or, in tldr speak: Tekken as a sex game? Go on.

S.EXE: Auriea Harvey & Michaël Samyn [RPS]

TMI is a branch of Kotaku dedicated to telling you everything about my adventures in the gaming industry (and sometimes other offbeat and/or uncomfortable subjects). It's an experiment in disclosure, storytelling, interviewing, and more. The gaming industry is weird. People are weird. I am weird. You are weird. Why hide that? Let's explore it.