Audiosurf was a computer game released back in 2013. It created race tracks from songs in your hard drive and populated them with scoring blocks and obstacles. The difficulty and speed of the tracks was directly related to the beats of the music. The neat part was that if you played “Jolene” from Dolly Parton’s greatest hits album, and your friend played the same song, then it was the exact same track. This lets people play somewhat competitively against each other.
It was a very addictive game for me. There is something about riding along a track that is in sync with music that really immerses you into the music. I would often pick a favorite album and just lose myself for an hour. It was a meditative experience for me.
2013 introduced the sequel, Audiosurf 2. I was resistant to trying it because I adored the first one so much. 8 years later, curiosity won over nostalgia and I gave it a try. I am glad I did. The graphics are much improved and the pace has been greatly enhanced. There is more customization which helps tailors the experience you prefer.
But deep down, it is still a game about getting up and close with music. Whether it is a fast song with sharp turns and too many damn obstacles, or a slow thoughtful song that runs along a course that resembles a late nigh drive. AudioSurf 2 engages you with the music directly in ways that always feel intimate.
Leisure Suit Larry is a computer game franchise that had a huge impact on me as a writer and pervert. I played the very first game way back when I was a teenager and a bit too young to understand all the dirty bits. The puzzles were far too hard for me but I still loved it. It was a gamechanger ( pun not intended) for me as it never occurred to me that you could make games dealing with sex. I immediately started making my own computer sex game using BASIC. I didn’t have a computer, but I would fill notebooks with the code. These early programs were the ancestors to the interactive porn I write today.
Leisure Suit Larry will always have a soft spot in my heart and I have played every game in the series. Like most comedy from the 80’s/90’s, the older games haven’t aged well. There are way too many homophobic jokes and the less said about they treat transgender characters the better. The games are also guilty of the trope of giving the right puzzle piece to women in order to have sex. This is often alleviated by the fact that Larry’s objectification of women makes him the butt of jokes and a person everyone scorns, but still, quite problematic.
Which brings us to Leisure Suit Larry: Wet Dreams Don’t Dry. Published in 2018, this game starts with Larry waking up in a strange laboratory underground. He goes to the surface and realizes 30+ years have passed and he hasn’t aged a bit. This new world baffles him but he still wants to get laid. Aided by an experimental cell phone Artificial Intelligence, he tries to navigate the new world of dating apps.
This version of Larry manages two miracles. One, it might be the most woke of the entire series. The one transgender character is portrayed positively and several homosexual characters are depicted as real people instead of something to ridicule or be afraid of. The ethnic characters are real people and not stereotypes. It might be the first Larry game that I didn’t wince at.
The second miracle is that it is actually funny. Humor can be hit or miss and sexual humor is even harder. This game made me laugh out loud several times. The art is lovely and every background has great details that make studying the game worthwhile.
If you were ever curious about the Leisure Suit Larry games, then I can’t think of a better one to start with than this one.
Money Shot is a comic set in the future of Earth. Written by Tim Seeley and Sarah Beattie with beautiful art by Rebekah Isaacs, this book dives right into the action. Science is unpopular! The President is an anti-intellectual! We met aliens but our douchebro President tried to hit up the ambassador for a blowjob! The aliens decided they wanted nothing to do with us!
Christine Ocampos and her band of scientists have figured out a way to teleport into the cosmos, but they can’t get the funding from the government or academia. Desperate to raise money, they decide to fiance their space travels by performing sex with aliens and then selling the porn to their subscribers back on Earth.
Porn Scientists/Performers in SPAAAAAAAAACE!
Clearly, this is relevant to my interests. The book is always balancing between comedy and action, with some healthy sprinkles of personal relationship drama. Even porn scientists/performers have to deal with romantic triangles. The science fiction is much better than you would expect from this kind of book and the aliens they meet are really neat.
The book always walks an interesting line of how explicit it can be. Sex and performing sex is constantly front and center, without actually showing graphic sex. This is a softcore book and after years of reading graphic comic porn, it is almost quaint to read comic sex without genitals touching. Adjust your expectations accordingly.
On the other hand, this is a very sex positive book, which is something you don’t get a lot of. Every member of the team has sex with every other member of the team regardless of gender without playing it for laughs. The act of being a sex performer is never considered to be something to be ashamed of. There is no jokes about gender misidentification. This box prides itself on being sex positive by example and it shows.
Money Shot is a monthly comic that got out two story arcs before taking a pause. Both arcs have been collected into separate trades. If the series never returns, the second trade works well as a closer for the series.
When I was seven, the first book I remember reading cover to cover was the D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths. It was beautifully illustrated and filled with the bonkers stories of the Greek myths. I fell in love. I never forgot the majesty I felt as I read stories of Gods, Heroes and Monsters.
Those same emotions are evoked when I read Bloody-Handed Name of Bronze by Joshua A.C. Newman. It is a role-playing game for two to four players, and it is set loosely in a bronze age of Names and Gods. Players take on the roles of legendary Heroes, or legendary Tricksters/Magicians/Wisemen. Everything comes down to your relationships with Gods, spirits and sometimes, geographical locations. Like I said, it is mythical.
The engine is more story-based than simulationist like Dungeons and Dragons. I admit that my old-school sensibilities took a while to get my head around the rules but once it clicked, oh my Goddess, it was like the burning bush was speaking to me.
For example, there is no gamemaster or referee. There are players and sometimes you feel the need to Speak for the characters that are not controlled by players. This lets you contribute to the story in a free form way that I really like. It takes the pressure off one person to create everything and opens it to the group. If Sally, Hunter of Star-Beasts, has a cool idea for a problem to confront Brad, Priest of the silent, then Sally can take control of the narrative as needed and throw a few problems Brad’s way. It works really well.
When it comes time to determine the result of something interesting, dice are rolled. The system is so straight forward, that giving any examples would give away the rules, so just know that it is really easy to pick up and really flexible for anything you need.
I bought the game expecting to play Gilgamesh type characters, but the NameDealer class is a work of genius. You know the Names of things, letting you communicate and make deals. So you can be making deals with rivers, the sun, the Queen of Lions or whatever else you encounter. It is part holy man and part swindler. It essentially lets you play Moses or Merlin, and holy crap, is that the kind of characters I want to sink my teeth in.
The book is crammed with examples in the form of fiction. Each story is something that can happen in play. My only niggle is that I wish there was a sidebar breaking down what happened in the story into how it might play out with dice and players. It might have been a space issue, but it would have been nice to see.
Speaking of fiction, this is one of the friendliest LBQT rpgs I have seen in awhile. Some people use semi-historical settings as an excuse to go pure cisgender but not this book. There is much diversity in the fiction that feels wonderfully inclusive. Myths are for everyone.
The other thing this book has is art. The D’Aulaires’ books were an art inspiration and it was executed perfectly. This feels like a loss book from the D’Aulaires’ series and I can’t think of a higher compliment.
So yeah, even if you don’t have a gaming group, I highly recommend this book. It is a masterpiece of concept and a wonderful expression of theme.
Voyeur Mode Engage by Amanda Close is a clever porn book. The premise is that in the future, people will plug into a virtual reality simulation called Exotica allowing them to explore sexual fantasies that would not be safe, sane or legal in real life. Customers play some of the roles, but actors employed by the company play other roles. In addition, some roles are played by the computer programs. This creates a layer of distance where you never know if the hot biker guy pushing you up against the wall is being controlled by a real person or not.
That is an interesting idea on its own, but Voyeur Mode blurs the lines even further by turning the book into an anthology of sexual fantasies. The frame is that you the reader are engaging in Voyeur Mode allowing you to switch between different characters and scenarios. This lets the author tell four distinct stories with no connection between them except the illicit sex. It also lets the author do some smart bits like rewinding a scene or fast-forwarding the scene to get to the sex. This reinforces the idea that you, the reader, are one of the users of this virtual system.
You don’t just watch the scene, you experience it from the point of view of one of the characters. Is that character real? Maybe. Are you just watching computer programs go at it? It is hard to say. Does it change how hot a given scene is? That’s an interesting question asked by the first story which is centered on an Exotica actress. There are no easy answers.
This is a really arousing book that is worth the read just for the sex alone. The premise is clever enough that I would read entire series done in this style. Probably the highest compliment I can give it is that I wish I had thought of it first for my own fiction.
Max Gentlemen’s Sexy Business (here fore called MGSB) is a business/dating simulator. You play a formerly ridiculously wealthy person in pseudo-Victorian times who is trying to reclaim their fortune from their Rival. Along the way, you pick up business partners, have hostile takeovers by fistfights and assign people to “buy money.”
It is a very silly game. Thank the Goddess, because Coronapalloza has got me in the dumps and a silly sexy game is just what I need.
The business game itself is not that challenging. It is worker placement with timers. It is a little too similar to some free time-waster games I have played. You assign people, raise some skills, wait to have enough money to spend on other improvements, repeat.
The real game is the dating. MGSB is a fully bisexual game. Men and women will flirt with you, get naked and try to bang you. It is a refreshing attitude. If you prefer, you can set limits on some relationships and the game will let you finish their story lines regardless of your sexual relationship.
The story lines are the best part. Help a handsome writer meet his idol and deal with his psycho fans! And have sex! Help a tomboy detective woman solve her first real mystery! And have sex! Help twelve different unique sexy people deal with their problems! And have sex! And also punch a lot of animals, jerks, poor people and at one point, a train.
DROP is a journal writing game about being an uber powerful soldier in a science fiction war. What war, what kind of soldier and what you are fighting is up to you. You wait between missions, writing in your journal all the details you want to add.
But eventually, the moment comes when your soldier/space marine/mech pilot must get into the drop pod and descend into the battle field. You’ll roll two dice and the result will determine whether you have a glorious victory or a bitter failure. Or sometimes both.
And then you write about. Some of your previous answers will be changed. You will lost pieces of what make you who you are. Battle by battle, drop by drop, you will explore the truest thing about war: War is Hell.
DROP is a lovely journal game about war and how it changes the people that wage it. I grew up in a military family and the propaganda that entails. Military science fiction has been a big part of my life but rarely does it touch upon how shitty war is to everyone involved. DROP feels like a welcome counter-balance.
At six pages, it has just enough information to get you going. The art and presentation is lovely and sets the tone. If you want to journal as a soldier having an existential crisis, I can’t think of a better game.
80 Days is a video game based loosely on the novel, “Around the World in 80 Days” by Jules Verne. Instead of playing Phileas Fogg, who is trying to win a wager by going around the world in 80 days, you play his valet, Passepartout. Yet despite being the servant, you are the one doing all the planning, the research and the dangerous shit so your boss can get all the glory.
Huh, just like in real life.
That alone would be a fun game, but 80 Days becomes a true delight by changing the world that you travel in. Steampunk inventions are everywhere so you are often traveling in coaches drawn by mechanical horses, airships, submersibles and at one point, a freaking city that walks. There is an Artificer’s Guild that adds another layer of intrigue and politics to the already complex real world politics that exist.
The other delight is that this game is woke as fuck. Men and women share many roles from Captains, to soldiers to engineers. Transgender characters are present as well as LGBT relationships. The colonialism of the original is replaced with a scathing commentary on the impacts that colonialism has on society. If you avoid fiction from the past because of the misogyny and racism, then this game is a welcome relief.
Despite being a video game, it is really a reading game. You are going to be reading a lot. There is no dexterity required. The game play is choosing dialogue, buying items and choosing routes. My only critique is that the clock is always ticking, even when you are trying to arrange your inventory from three suitcases down to two because there is limited room on the next gyro-copter.
I played this game a lot when it came out for the iPhone and now there is a version for PC’s and Macs. Both versions are wonderful and I highly recommend it.
Hunger is a solo writing game by the talented HyveMynd. You play a vampire who feeds on their human lover. Using a standard deck of cards, you are prompted to answer questions about consent, your lover’s body and whether or not they perish from your feeding.
Since it is a game where the rules literally fit on a business card, I can’t really say much about the rules without giving the game away for free. Take my word for it that it is a clever mechanic and is quite hot. I don’t even like vampires and I am hooked. It is the rare erotic game where I feel like I need a cool down period afterwards.
There is a companion game from the same designer, Thirst, where you play a human being fed upon by a vampire. I personally prefer Hunger, but your prey/predator tastes may vary.
Hunger is pay what you want at a suggested rate of 3$, but with such a smart design and lovely presentation, it deserves more of your money.
Alone Among the Stars is a creative writing game by Takuma Okada. You play a lone space explorer visiting strange new planets. Through a system of six-sided dice and a deck of playing cards, you generate random things to explore. For each place generated, you write a log entry. That is it.
The random prompts generated are very vague and intentionally so. The suit of the card determines what you find and the card value determines where you find it. That means I can pull a card and get something like, “Creatures by a gentle river”. What kind of creatures? Are they hostile? Are they fish, people or monsters? What is the river made of? That is for you to decide.
At first the vagueness bothered me. I wanted more detail but after playing a few days, I see where details could turn into something repetitive. Creatures by a river could mean lots of things, and perhaps it is best that you do the heavy lifting in a creative exercise.
My favorite moments in video games is discovery. I enjoy exploring places more than I enjoy fighting things in those places. The problem with a video game is that there is a finite amount of discovery because everything needs an art asset. This game fixes that by using your imagination.
Personally, I play one session a day of this game, before my usual writing. It is a nice little exercise to warm up with as well as just being fun to do. There are times when I am looking forward more to the game than my actual writing, which is okay. It helps me segue easier than the stuff I should be writing.
I will admit that after one playthrough, I began to tweak and modify some of the rules. I also changed the space setting to one of magical plane exploration. Apparently I am not alone in wanting to alter it as there are dozens of variations out there inspired by Alone Among the Stars. Heck, I will probably be adding my own variation to the mix before long.
Is there any better compliment for a creative writing game than inspiring others to make their own? I don’t think so.