SEX

Meet The Guy Bringing Gay Sexuality To Video Games

From spanking to steamy locker room scenes, Robert Yang is creating the games he didn't have as a gay teen

SEX
Rinse & Repeat —Robert Yang
Jul 01, 2016 at 7:00 AM ET

There is a buff, hairy-chested man with two leather bands around his bicep standing on the computer screen in front of me. Everything is illuminated in neon pink light and there’s throbbing dance music pulsing in the background. He extends his hand to my avatar’s hand, and I use my mousepad to shake it. Icons—a flogger, a safe word—representing a kinky negotiation process light up. Next thing I know, he’s bent over on all fours wearing nothing but a jockstrap and I’m spanking him as he moans in pleasure. In the background is a poster reading, “All power exchange has to be negotiated.”

This is “Hurt Me Plenty,” a game about BDSM, gay male sexuality, and consent. It was re-released this month as part of what the designer, Robert Yang, is calling a “revamped threesome” of past games. There’s “Succulent,” a game in which you control a shirtless man sucking, deeply, on a dripping popsicle. And “Stick Shift,” in which you control a male character as he drives along at night, sensually stroking the stick shift of his very excitable car. Yang describes as a “short driving game about pleasuring a gay car and bringing it to climax.”

As you can see, Yang, a 27-year-old indie game developer and teacher at the New York University Game Center, has a particular interest in depicting gay sexuality in video games. “It’s a political gesture to show that everyone should be included in the space that is video game culture,” said Yang, who offers his games through his website and indie online gaming storefronts in exchange for an optional, sliding-scale donation. “I feel I wasn’t really represented or allowed in that culture for a while.”

As a gay teen, Yang lived in Orange County, Calif., playing video games and trying to figure out his sexuality. “I noticed that games weren’t really helping me do that. They were telling a lot of stories and representing a lot of different lives and people, but they couldn’t help me with this gay stuff because games are rarely ever about gay people,” he said. “I kind of want to make the games I never had growing up.”

His first attempt at this was “Hurt Me Plenty,” which came out in 2014. “It’s trying to introduce you to the concept of kink and how kink thinks about spanking and pain and abuse,” he said. “It literally begins with you must shake hands with the guy you’re about to spank, that’s about negotiating the conditions of play.” In the revamped version, a safe word—an icon of a red light—is agreed upon beforehand. As you spank the man on-screen, icons of a green light and yellow light will flash, showing that it’s either OK to continue or that you’re reaching your spanking partner’s limit. If you go beyond the red light, you are locked out of the game for anywhere between a few hours to several days, depending on the extent of your virtual abuse.

Afterward, you engage in what’s known in the kink community as “aftercare,” where you check in and reconnect with your submissive partner. In Yang’s rendering, you sit behind the spankee on a bed and rub his shoulder.

Next was “Succulent,” which he describes as being influenced by “late homo hop,” including rappers Cazwell and Le1f, and “Stick Shift,” which earned a flurry of media attention (because, well, there’s a gay car). Then he released “Rinse and Repeat,” a game set in a men’s locker room. As your avatar showers, you’re approached by a strapping, naked man—his penis pixelated—who asks for a little help scrubbing his back. He gives some guidance, “Bro…that feels so good! or “Not so hard!” The game makes you work for it, though: You have to show up at just the right time to catch a showering hunk.

Last year, Yang release “Cobra Club,” which can be best described as a dick pic video game. You stand in front of a mirror, taking photos with a smartphone of your naked avatar’s junk. The game’s description reads, “If selfies argue that all faces are worthy of memory, dick pics show how all cocks are worthy of consideration.” You can adjust the avatar’s skin-tone, how flaccid or erect his penis is, and then send snapshots through a messaging app on your virtual smartphone—but only when someone requests one. Similarly, you can only receive a dick pic when you ask.

“My games heavily foreground consent,” said Yang. “I try to push consent as a really major feature of sex.” You see it not just in Cobra Club, but also the negotiation of “Hurt Me Plenty” and the impetus to rub your shower partner the way he wants in “Rinse and Repeat.”

There are also themes of intimacy, with the aftercare scene in “Hurt Me Plenty,” and body image, as in “Rinse and Repeat.” “When you look down, you’re noticeably much less fit than the man you scrubbed the past few days, and you are also not white,” writes Yang in a blog post. “You don’t fit this platonic gay male ideal. Who would ever want to scrub you back, really?” There’s the issue of homophobia, too—as he writes in a blog post about the premise for “Rinse and Repeat,” “What if we actually did what homophobes are so irrationally afraid of us doing?”

Yang’s games have, of course, encountered a fair bit of homophobia. On the landing page for “Succulent,” Yang has included a screenshot of an anonymous user who reported the game with the complaint, “its gay!” He’s had a few commenters on his website where, he says, “it’s like, ‘gay people are disgusting, you should have been in Orlando.'”

Speaking of the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. he said, “I think that shows a lot of homophobia is still very much present in society and I’m not saying my games are going to change the world or anything, but hopefully my games can do 0.1 percent of improving society a little,” he said. “I’m just hoping if I’m more present like this, trying to create more of a space for gay representation, hopefully that is moving society toward a better place or something, I dunno.”