Hot Safer Sex

{November 20, 2007}   Review of “Great Sex Games” by Steve Eley

This has been one of those fine Saturday evenings that you just can’t plan. We invited some good friends over for dinner — I cooked meatballs, and the other man of the party made marinara sauce, while the women joked about sitting on the couch and watching football until we served them. After dinner we sat in the hot tub and relaxed, and someone floated the idea of putting in the Intense Games DVD from Sexploration Games. This game was designed by Kidder Kaper, host of the Sex is Fun podcast, and has been marketed extensively on their show. It costs $50 plus shipping, and consists of a single DVD in a jewel case and a score sheet.

The game, which should run in any DVD player, is billed as “a party game for monogamous couples.” It’s rather like a video version of Truth or Dare, with a lot more dare than truth. You need at least two couples to play it properly (my wife and I tried it alone once, and it didn’t work at all), but there’s no upper limit except for room size. The way the game’s _supposed_ to be played, each couple is a team, and the women control the remote and decide which challenges to take.

Judging is also entirely up to the women. There are four categories of challenges, from fairly tame 1-point tasks (“Pass an orange around the circle without using hands or arms“) to very explicit 15-point encounters (“Lube or oil your man’s back and give him a massage with your vulva.“) There’s a clever escalating scale built into the DVD where you can’t pick 5-point challenges until enough 1-point ones have been completed, and so forth, to keep everyone from jumping straight to the 15-pointers. Some challenges are timed; some are solo and some have couples competing against each other; some require blindfolding or sending the men out of the room while the women conspire. The game ends when everyone says it does, and then you get your pick of a series of final games — most of which close things out with everyone having sex.

All of the challenges in the main game are strictly one-on-one — you may be doing explicit things in front of your friends, but you’re doing them with your own partner. Hence the ‘monogamous’ tag that’s all over the game, and it’s very safe by design as long as you’re practicing proper safe sex with your own partner. However, the setup menu has one option, a “female bi-sensuality” filter, which puts some extra challenges into the mix for women to do things with each other. There is no equivalent option for males, and many of the challenges would be unfeasible for gay or lesbian couples. So the game appears to originate from the ‘swinger’ mindset where everyone’s straight, except that women can play with each other from time to time for amusement. I found this moderately annoying.

We had fun with the premise of the game, although we didn’t quite play it through the way it was intended to be played. For one thing, we didn’t have the right group composition: rather than being neatly paired into couples, we were three women and two men, in a fairly relaxed poly arrangement. We decided to try it with a house rule that the women could pick either man as their partner for any challenge. This mostly worked, but screwed up the scoring, and it was a problem for a few of the group challenges that could only be done in pairs, leaving a woman sitting out.

And then there were the challenges we decided to skip: not because they were too risqué for us, but because they seemed tedious. Some required materials we didn’t have or didn’t feel like getting. (“Pass a strawberry around the circle with your cleavage.”) Some seemed like too much work for the laid-back mood we were feeling. And some were deemed by consensus to be just dumb. (More than one challenge awarded points by penis size; it was the women’s unanimous opinion that it didn’t matter and shouldn’t be scored.) As soon as we realized that the no one cared about the score any more and motivation for more
challenges was waning, we simply called an end to it and checked out the end games — which we were then feeling too relaxed to play.

Was it a success? Yes, in the sense that it got everyone fooling around and Having Fun. If you can “lose” a sex game you’re probably not playing it right, but we did feel that _not_ being explicit couples threw off the vibe of the game in unusual ways. It made it harder to move the game forward or feel satisfied by its mechanics. We can’t really blame the designers for our playing outside the rules, however. We decided that we’d try it again sometime, with a larger crowd and a more deliberate 1:1 boy:girl ratio, and hope that it flows better. (We might still let the women choose their partners for each challenge, though. Our friends are that sort of poly network.)

Overall, based on just one evening, I’d give it a qualified thumbs-up. There are some annoying deficiencies, some iffy challenges, and some underlying assumptions that play right into stereotypes. (Would a male bi filter have been that hard or offensive?) It didn’t make us feel super-excited, or that it was the best $50 we ever spent. But considering the evening at a whole, I’d have to give a compliment that I suspect Kidder would appreciate: it got the group into a mood such that, after a while, no one really cared about the game any more.

It’s hard to call that a failure.

Have Fun,
Steve Eley
ESCAPE POD – The Science Fiction Podcast Magazine


tddog says:

I have to say I am really impressed by the Sex is Fun podcast, and they always plug their games and talk about how great they are, so I thought I would check them out. I, too, wish they were more versatile in terms of relationship styles and orientations. I know Kidder talks about writing more diverse games–I can only hope it happens soon.

Thanks for the review. I hear you and your complaints about the game. I’ve been wrestling with the concept of making a game that is open in all the ways that you describe. While this is no simple feat, I do believe that I’ll eventually get it right. Till then, lemme know if you want to review any of our others, I’d be happy to send you a copy.

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