Adult games are a "very good medium" for exploring "darker themes", claims developer of Ravager
An interview with 4MinuteWarning about what players choose to do in their game in Naughty List News #86
4MinuteWarning is the maker of Ravager, an adult role-playing game in Early Access where you play as a young dragon determined to claim your birthright as ruler of your lands. To do so, you must build your power, ally yourself with dark forces, and whet your monstrous appetites.
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Instead of interviewing them over the phone as I usually do, 4MinuteWarning opted for an extended text interview. They are understandably very protective of their privacy and, because of the sensitive nature of talking about how to treat sexual violence in games, wanted to articulate themself in their most comfortable medium.
Mr. Hands: What was your biggest inspiration for Ravager?
4MinuteWarning: Playing Dragon Age: Origins had a powerful effect on me. The game allowed me to make big decisions with far-reaching consequences. But it did not offer an alignment system to guide my character’s choices, nor did it pretend that situations had a comfortable and optimal solution.
Origins trusted you to navigate its complex and unforgiving world by your own judgment and the counsel from your companions alone. That level of agency, of vertigo even, is something I wanted to capture in Ravager as well.
Mr. Hands: Why did you make your protagonist a dragon?
4MinuteWarning: We’ve been telling each other stories about dragons for thousands of years. And when we’re telling a story about monsters, we’re really talking about humans too.
Dragons have long been used as a kind of narrative shorthand for the urges that we’re not comfortable acknowledging in ourselves. Just like humans, they can be ambitious, proud, avaricious, and wrathful.
And in the context of an adult game, they can be lustful too.
Mr. Hands: Why did you choose to make the main character evil?
4MinuteWarning: I wouldn’t code the protagonist of Ravager as evil! I offer players many choices throughout the game but never force them to do anything unpleasant. If you decide to go down that path, that’s your own choice.
Many players find that, when given super strength and the ability to breathe fire, all they want to do is protect people as best they can. And perhaps even romance them. Some players prefer to turn our setting into a kind of ruinous playground where they act out the darkness within them.
But I do feel that both these options ennoble each other. For an act of kindness to have special significance, cruelty must be an option as well.
Mr. Hands: How do you avoid railroading players into a particular playstyle?
4MinuteWarning: I don’t think there’s anything intrinsically wrong with offering only a handful of valid playstyles. I suppose, in a very literal sense, that’s what role-playing is all about. But I did want to provide a bit more ambiguity in Ravager’s story choices.
For example, my game does not provide the familiar comfort of a decision wheel. And since there’s no moral accounting being kept of your actions, you will experience their consequences organically as they are being reflected by the people involved. In short, it’s perfectly possible to vary your approach from one scene to the next.
Mr. Hands: Indeed, I think that shows up very well in your game.
Mr. Hands: Players can choose to take the sexual violence pretty far in Ravager. How do you handle that topic? And are there any limits you would prefer not to cross?
4MinuteWarning: It’s possible to gloss over the horrors of sexual violence, but I don’t think that’s necessarily something bad. Sexual violence has a long and prosperous tradition in classic bodice-ripping erotica, for example.
We take it in the opposite direction with Ravager. By making the sexual violence in our game lucid and grotesque, we hope to avoid trivializing its effects on our characters.
Mr. Hands: Do you feel graphic sex can serve the same narrative release as graphic violence in horror?
4MinuteWarning: I certainly do! And I do think that narrative release is very important. A growing body of scientific research shows that access to violent media reduces violent crime, and access to pornography reduces sexual crime. It’s been documented across different genders, cultures, and age ranges.
What follows then is that if we care about reducing real-world sexual violence, we should ensure that people have access to fictional sexual violence. Typically, there are many problems with ethically producing (or consuming) violent pornography. Many of these are not true when it comes to adult games. It is actually a very good medium for exploring these themes and I think it’s very important to distinguish our reflexive disgust from what we are actually trying to accomplish, which is to reduce sexual violence in the real world.
To my knowledge, nobody has done similar research on whether access to adult games reduces real-life crime. But if one of your readers is studying psychology or behavioral economics, and is hungry for a thesis, perhaps they can be the first!
Mr. Hands: Haha, I’m sure someone will take you up on that!
Mr. Hands: Finally, why do you think it’s important to tell darker stories like yours?
4MinuteWarning: I think that ever since we've looked upwards at the heavens, we've told stories to catch hold of feelings and experiences that are too big or ugly for us to face directly. And sexy stories definitely fall into that tradition. We like wrapping up something ungainly in a silky cloak of desire; the growing popularity of "monster fuckers" should attest to that.
Mr. Hands: Do you have many “monster fuckers” in your audience?
4MinuteWarning: I’m afraid Google Analytics doesn’t include a category for that. Ravager’s players are kind of the opposite side of that equation, monster fuckees if you will, but I’m sure there is some overlap with the “monster fucker” demographic.
I know that our fans are predominantly young adults, with about 80% under the age of 35. And our audience is mostly, but not exclusively, men, making up 80% of our player base. These results were very much expected for a game with a male protagonist.
Mr. Hands: Thank you very much for your time!
4MinuteWarning: You’re welcome! You have a lovely interview technique, even in text format.
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