Mechaphilia is one of those fetishes that tends to be swept under the rug – or indeed left in the garage. Somebody somewhere must have truly feared and hated it; it’s illegal in a number of countries including the United Kingdom.
So if the feel of a sleek, factory-assembled body against your skin gets your engine running, then Stick Shift – the most recent release from indie games developer Robert Yang – could well be the key to your ignition.
The player controls an unnamed night rider taking a moonlit drive down some city streets. Except this is no typical journey. Using your mouse or mousepad, you are essentially jerking the car off via the gear stick. Feel the engine roar as you hit its sweet spot over and over. And that’s pretty much it… except it does run a little deeper than that.
Robert has also developed and released two sister games: Hurt Me Plenty and Succulent. The former lets you spank a willing guy over and over – or until your arms gets tired – and aims to teach about the formal attitudes and notions of trust and consent in the BDSM world. Succulent lets you guide some buff dude’s mouth around an ice lolly for a while. It’s not graphic but it’s more than innuendo. It’s also interesting, uncommon and raises a few laughs too. It’s fun. What’s more, Robert’s ‘pay what you want’ model acts as a lure to the curious (and the cheapskates!).
It won’t have escaped your attention that these games are male/homo-centric. Gay gaming is not exactly cracking the mainstream just yet, but progress is being made. Does the sexuality of a game matter? Should it? I caught up with Robert for a brief insight into that world.
What message – if any – are games like Stick Shift, Succulent and Hurt Me Plenty looking to convey?
There’s a lot of talk about what indie games, or even queer games, are supposed to look like and how to know one when you see one. On the most basic level, these are queer indie games that look like high production AAA games from 2010, they seek to culture jam your first impressions about who made these games and why. Indie, or even queer, are not “aesthetics” or “styles”, but rather they are ways of seeing and thinking about the world, which can take many different forms. The new Mad Max movie is vaguely similar, where all these nerds are screaming about how a big budget summer action blockbuster has feminism in it, as if feminism can’t look expensive or be mass market.
Have such games proved popular?
They’ve gotten a lot of attention from the YouTuber shock jock circuit, which is a mixed blessing. I understand their personas are about being “outrageous” and obnoxious, but when they numbly perform the same rote gestures on my games, they look less like someone performing a character, and more like a real asshole trying to pass off piss-take homophobia as a “harmless joke”. I wonder if they’re capable of any other reactions or responses? If you’re a performer and you can’t change up your shtick, you’re worse than offensive — you’re boring.
What kind of feedback do you receive? Anything particularly unusual yet?
I get a lot of requests/laments from straight dudes to let them spank women, or watch a woman suck on an ice pop, which is some pretty worthless feedback and totally misses the point of these games.
In regards to gay gaming who else on the circuit is worth checking out?
Three big inspirations here were Anna Anthropy’s Encyclopedia Fuckme, Merritt Kopas’ Consensual Torture Simulator, and Loren Schmidt’s and Jimmy Andrews’ Realistic Kissing Simulator. Naomi Clark’s card game Consentacle is an excellent card game, it’s like Netrunner plus Hanabi plus consensual sex with a tentacle monster. Benji Bright’s Fuck That Guy is some really fun gay erotica. Obscurasoft’s Coming Out On Top is a gay dating sim where you fuck a bunch of hot dudes. I hope people who care about gay games support these artists who actually center gay stuff in their work, instead of giving any fraction of a shit about a random cutscene in a Bioware game.