Many of you enjoy the eroge genre , the Japanese term for “erotic game”. We cover a lot of them here at LewdGamer; we review them, we write the news about them, and we play them. Eroge is a successful genre in its own right, producing many games for different tastes, incorporating different styles and gameplay elements. Some may be driven by their narrative, while others may use the gameplay as a vehicle for it.
Whichever category the game falls into, it’s part of a diverse and creative industry that produces some great titles. You probably have your own idea of what makes a great eroge game, which is fine. As with anything, opinions rule supreme on what rises to the top and what falls down flat. Some opinions are positive, some are negative, and some can just be rather outlandish or uninformed. There is a scientific term called the Dunning-Kruger effect, which you may or may not have heard of. The Dunning-Kruger effect stipulates that among unskilled individuals, there is a cognitive bias where they mistakenly assess their own abilities to be much higher than they really are. In simpler terms, this has also been described as “Mount Stupid”.
“Mount Stupid” is often climbed by ignorant individuals who mistakenly believe they know much more about a topic than they actually do, and in general are far more vehement than those who are knowledgeable. This can be seen in a lot of places, to the point that you may perhaps know someone who has a very strong opinion on a subject that they know little about. This often comes with a kicker, where the speaker will not only opine verbosely on the topic, but will not offer any alternatives or solutions to improve the perceived inadequacies. As many of you may know, this has happened recently in gaming news. Polygon, a prominent video game review site, published an article by Phil Owen in which he discussed and advertised his own book. Naturally, this drew attention. It didn’t help that the original article was published “by Polygon Staff”, preemptively attempting to bypass any conflicts of interest. Of course, this only exacerbated the problem due to the suspiciously written piece, and was eventually changed – causing even more controversy.
The book in question, WTF is Wrong With Video Games, discusses the notion that modern gaming is in dire need of change. Those changes range from the usual claims of sexism and racism, to changing the way gameplay fundamentally works by removing unrealistic mechanics. The example used is the way a shiv breaks in The Last of Us, mainly that it breaks after a single use and requires four blades to craft. Adrian Chmielarz, the co-director of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, wrote a very astute review of the book that comes recommended, as it breaks down the points of discussion that will be reflected here. Adrian discusses the idea of the “gaming metaphor”, the reasons behind certain gameplay choices and directions. The shiv, returning to the prior example, breaks easily and requires multiple blades because the developers intended to reflect survival. Things don’t come easy in a post-apocalyptic world – foraging, gathering materials and so on are arduous and lengthy tasks. Gaming is full of these design choices, and much like any other medium can serve a purpose to the player.
This brings us back to the eroge genre, and how these games are built. HuniePop, a game where the player solves puzzles in order to sleep with NPCs, incorporates those puzzles as a metaphor. Trying to flirt and successfully date someone can be a mine field, and it can be tricky to do everything right and make that great impression. HuniePop’s intense “Match 3” gameplay is a reflection of that struggle – it serves a purpose for the narrative. If there were to be any type of game that is told to grow up however, it would be this. This doesn’t just happen to purpose built eroge games though, but any game with a semblance of sexual imagery. Dragon’s Crown for example, the side scrolling beat-em-up game came under intense flack, with people suggesting that “developers need to stop letting teenage boys design their characters.” The game, however, was wholly unrealistic in all its design choices, but is still something which many people take issue with. There is this stigma in the video game industry, one that Phil Owen points to, that it is somehow inherently directed at teenage boys.
This is of course false, and is usually discredited every year during The ESA’s demographic study . Women aged 18 or older actually represent a significantly greater portion of players than teenage boys, and while this is far from true across every game, the notion stands. In fact, it would seem that video games are primarily supported by adults over 18, so what really needs to grow up here? The varying demographics that make up our awesome and diverse industry or those who would place blame on others for their own shortcomings? As Adrian notes in his review, if you fail to see how these games use all the techniques at their disposal to create epic sagas, “that’s really your problem, not the game’s.”
The idea that “the gameplay is merely a substanceless activity that just exists” and detracts from the game is absurd. The problem with art is that there is no one correct assumption of what art is, or can be. Visual Novels in particular are incredibly story driven, and are comprised of both visual artwork and writing. WTF is Wrong With Video Games tries to make a compelling argument that film is more art worthy, or literature, when in fact a VN has those same things incorporated. G-Senjou no Maou is a crime thriller VN full of plot twists, intense action, and well written characters. The game uses drama to its benefit – you feel connected to it, which in turn improves the eroge scenes. People will of course argue that VNs are not games, or are not at the same level as films, but that doesn’t really address the elephant in the room – VNs have all the same pieces in a different puzzle.
Of course, more interactive games involve more gameplay than a VN, but that doesn’t make them any less valid. Is there anything intrinsically wrong with involved gameplay, and does it really hurt the overall “art”? Games like Demon’s Sperm, a game based on the heralded Souls series, are a perfect example of this. Demon’s Sperm is a very fun little game by Fullflap, and serves as a 2D eroge cousin to Demon’s Souls. When discussing the art direction and design of Dark Souls,Miyazaki said “it’s tied in with the difficulty.” In the Souls series, the difficulty feels like a consequence of the world, something that is created from it rather than for it. Demon’s Sperm follows that ideology; the world is full of things that will rape you in an instant, it’s desolate, and the bosses hold a reasonable challenge. The game also makes you lose clothing with consecutive hits, an eroge mechanic that is fuelled by and validated by the gameplay. It makes sense that armour would be damaged; it makes sense that in a desolate world beasts would have little sympathy for you. The gameplay serves a purpose for the creative goal, while also proving to be enjoyable to keep the player interested.
Video games will never be films, literature, or music. They are still a young medium, and as with anything new, receive undue criticism. Comic books also went through growing pains, and while they still are in some ways, video games are simply a reflection of older times. People such as Jack Thompson would argue that they cause violence, while countless studies consistently find no link between violent behaviour and gaming or sexism and gaming. A lot of video games, and eroge games in particular, touch on adult topics quite commonly. As adults, we generally feel comfortable enough to engage with these themes. We understand the difference between reality and fiction. It’s arguably less adult and more childish to think that such things have real world implications, and even more so to try to dissuade discussion on tough topics because it might upset someone. At the same time, we suspend disbelief for things in film the same way we would for “arbitrary game things” – we don’t complain when Superman stops a meteor, as we don’t complain when HuniePop has a fairy girl or a giant Bejeweled grid in her room.
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