In even our most beloved games, romance is at best the side-dish to entrees of war, revenge, and domination. Dragon Age and Mass Effect have made valiant attempts. We’ve all sent our Sims to the marriage bed to WooHoo.
But it’s rare that sex and romance are the primary subject of games.
The women of Blush Box Games, a five-piece development team hailing from Australia, are on a mission to bring more passion projects to gaming communities across their home country of Australia. The team is made up of Kim Allom, Katie Gall, Michell Osborne, Bea Bravo, and Lauren Fletcher. In their own words, they “hope to inspire other Australian game developers to get in on the love train and take a step towards developing mature content of the birds and the bees variety.”
To do so, they’re on their way to the Lyst Summit in Norway–a three-day conference in Hamar, Norway, focusing on the subject of love, romance, and sex in games.
“The lack of games in this space is a problem worthy of exploration,” Allom says. “These games have the power to educate, reflect, and even afford action to love and sexuality issues–consent, intimacy and sexual violence.”
Each of the women on the team is a champion for diversity and women’s issues within their own community. Gall, the team’s principle writer, found herself disappointed by the dismally low numbers of women in games development and the lack of available content on the subjects of sex and romance. She says any chance to broaden her knowledge and bring more women into the games community is a welcome opportunity.
So when Allom–a producer by occupation and the team’s Jill of All Trades–proposed an alliance, Gall was on board. From there, Gall and Allom teamed up with Osborne, Bravo, and Fletcher. Osborne, a seasoned programmer, works on educational games and is an advocate for diversity. Bravo and Mitchell make up the team’s art department–a 2D artist and illustrator, respectively.
“We had spoken about what kind of games we liked and wanted to make and I knew we had a similar mindset,” Gall says. “The only problem was getting to Norway.”
Blush Box has set up a GoFundMe page and hopes to raise $8,600 to cover the team’s conference, travel, and accommodation expenses. The Summit will take place from June 24 to June 26. You can support the team via the Blush Box GoFundMe.
“Games are more accessible than ever,” says Bravo. “Anyone with a smart phone or basic laptop now has access to games. So since the audience is so broad, you can now have super simple but in-depth stories that can be played and explore so many different things–different types of sex and romance”
Gall says she didn’t know of anything like the summit within her close reach, but saw a lot of potential for positive reception in her networks.
The summit has two parts: a one-day symposium and a two-day game jam. As an added draw, the summit will be held in Domkirkeodden–a cathedral ruins, preserved and housed in a glass dome by the sea. Per the Lyst website, the jam will be held in an old priest’s house, and meals will be taken in an “even older house.” Seriously, check it out.
Gall says her goal is to create a game about the different ways people view intimacy. She’s inspired by the “awkward teen romance” of Adventure Time.
“In my mind the goal is to make something that anyone could play,” she says. “That’s not necessarily explicit but still brings something emotionally resonant to the player and allows them to enjoy the fun and fascination of romance and sexuality.”
The team accounts for five different states in Australia, which to Gall, means an opportunity to spread the word across the continent.
Bravo says that the current offering of sex and romance games only scratches the surface. “It’d be nice to have a bigger space to show off these games and make them feel like they’re more a part of the game space rather than something that’s sort of giggled about secretly,” Bravo says.
Allom hopes the summit and the team’s journey can help to move the needle on not just volume of sex and romance games, but the ways games address these challenging topics.
“I don’t feel it’s a matter of commercial value that’s turning off developers,” Allom says. “I think the problem stems from not being equipped with a good set of tools and methodologies to explore and create love and sex games in meaningful ways.”
Bringing developers from around the world together in an old monastery by the sea is one way to start spreading the love.