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Can adult games push back against an increasingly puritanical culture?
My interview with a solo game maker who thinks so in Naughty List News #65
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Scarlett Young is an American adult game developer and the one-woman team behind Kronos Time Titan. She also has very outspoken opinions about puritanism and how it pertains to adult game development.
Every week I try to find interesting stories to tell from the world of adult gaming
In Kronos Time Titan, you play as Kronos, the Titan of Time, who had sex with a lot of women throughout history. Unfortunately, your unsanctioned escapades turned heirs that were supposed to be men into women which caused a lot of important leaders to disappear altogether. When the other gods find out, they strip you of your Titan Powers and distribute them amongst themselves. But they failed to remove your power to travel through time, giving you one last chance to defeat the other gods and regain your powers.
Each time period in the game has a different overworld map to explore. When you fight enemies in the game’s turn-based combat, you can use your Titan Powers to your advantage and ultimately strip your adversaries of their dignity and their clothes.
I wanted to dive more into how she manages to reconcile her work and her views which is why I asked her for an interview. And indeed, she had a lot of interesting thoughts to share, especially about the puritanical culture she’s embedded in.
I edited Ms. Young’s answers for clarity and length.
Mr. Hands: What did you find lacking about other adult games that made you decide to develop your own?
Scarlett Young: I didn't necessarily find anything lacking in other games, but I did have an idea for an adult game that I didn't think had been done before.
Adult games, especially visual novels, are often linear, with few options for exploring areas of interest without revisiting previous chapters. If you as a player make a mistake in the narrative and choose a dialog option with an undesirable outcome, you can often quickly roll back the conversation. I liked being able to undo bad outcomes in these games but I noticed that I was too focused on getting the “good” outcome for me to really explore the “bad” choices.
In contrast, Kronos Time Titan allows the player to explore anything they want, including bad outcomes, because they can always rewind the timeline. They can then retry their conversation or go somewhere else on the map. This system encourages players to see their choices through, rather than always looking for the “right” answer. It often leads to unexpected moments and options that the player might not have experienced otherwise.
Scarlett Young: I also felt that there was a lot of room for exploration and experimentation in adult gaming. I personally like adult games that don’t have a strictly enforced narrative structure. I want to choose the locations I visit myself instead of being dragged from scene to scene like a book. That’s why I designed Kronos to have an open world map with multiple time periods and locations to visit.
If a player isn’t interested in what’s going on in Ancient Greece, they can just jump over to the Swinging Sixties in San Francisco. This also has the advantage for me that I can pop in new content wherever it’s needed. I don't have to worry about new characters or stories interfering with the flow of the game, because the player has the freedom to move anywhere in time.
Mr. Hands: As a solo developer, do you find it difficult to “wear many hats” during development?
Scarlett Young: I definitely found it difficult to manage at the beginning of the project. I’ve now learned to balance my desire for more features with producing new stories for players to enjoy. Whenever I introduce a new feature to the game it often comes with new bugs to fix as well. This does end up draining a lot of my time.
What I find unique about the adult game genre is that I have to be in a certain mood to write the more sexual scenes. I don’t have this problem when programming or character modeling, but I find writing sexy dialogue doesn’t work for me if I’m not feeling a little aroused myself.
I suppose there are developers out there who really can just write adult content around the clock but for me, it’s very dependent on my mood.
Mr. Hands: You position your work as being against puritanical thinking. What is it about puritanicals that gets you all riled up?
Scarlett Young: I’m from the United States and sexual oppression permeates every aspect of society here. It wasn’t until I broke free from my own religious background that I began to see the influence of religion on the laws we have and the censorship of our media.
We like to think that we have progressed beyond the age of Puritans and the burning of witches as a society but we see those “values” come back around every few decades. I don’t see a difference between Puritanism and modern cancel culture. When we decide that certain things are not acceptable in our media and art we lobby our representatives and boycott businesses until they give in to our demands. We impose our own morals on the rest of society.
Scarlett Young: This is why I think we’re seeing so many avenues of support for adult games dry up recently. Credit card processors and online platforms drop the adult creators that depend on them at the drop of a hat. As soon as they deem your work to be “unacceptable”, they withdraw their support instantly. It’s happening all over.
The most popular social networks now have artificial intelligence analyzing every comment you make to decide whether it’s acceptable or not. When you exercise your right to free speech to tell someone to go fuck themselves it gets hidden behind a “click to reveal” disclaimer. Context is not considered when these evaluations are made; the AI cannot tell the difference between a joke among friends and legitimately hostile speech.
Even though these platforms already provide us with tools to block anyone who annoys us there is still an aggressive push to force people to comply with an exact standard of “free speech”. There should be a clear distinction between fighting misinformation and censoring artistic expression. Yet one of the most popular platforms for creators to get paid for their work won’t even show adult games in their search results. They do this even when you are explicitly looking for adult content.
There is a clear double standard when it comes to what speech is acceptable on this platform. I could post a copy of the Bible, riddled with incest and sexual violence, and that would be fine. But if my game were to cover the same topics, my account and the financial support it brings would disappear overnight.
Mr. Hands: How do you feel about sexual violence in your games? Is it a subject that should be avoided when designing an adult game?
Scarlett Young: Sexual content will always be offensive to somebody. Many people still feel to this day that showing a gay relationship on TV is offensive, even though the percentage of people who agree with that has declined over the years. Does that mean gay content shouldn’t exist? And if I watch it, does that make me gay?
I think the agency that players have in video games is part of the reason why they are scrutinized more than other, more “passive” forms of media. If I read a book that describes a rape scene in graphic detail, I am merely visualizing the description of the author in my head. I’m not telling the character in the story what to do. But a game might give me the option to force my character onto another and play out a similar scene. And even though it might play out as the exact same scene in a book, it feels quite different when you’ve made that choice yourself.
As a woman who plays adult games, I will admit that there are times when I’m aroused by sexual violence in the games I play. What can I say; human sexuality is complicated. But this does not mean that I would want to be raped in real life. I also don’t assume that any man who is aroused by sexual violence in a game would want to do the same to me.
Scarlett Young: I am a mature and rational adult who says: I might enjoy doing sexual violence in a game but I know it’s wrong in real life. For me, it’s similar to how treat violence in games in general. I would never take a human life but I don’t feel shame when I do so in a game. I feel we need to treat sexual content in games in the same way.
I will play an adult game if I enjoy being aroused by it. And if it contains something that I know I won’t enjoy I will either try to skip it or play something else instead. I don’t feel the need to police how everyone else is getting their jollies. And I certainly wouldn’t make assumptions about someone’s morality based on any media they consume.
My game does not cross the lines set by the donation platforms I use about what sexual content it is allowed to contain. However, if players go out of their way to mod the game and add non-consensual options to the storylines, that’s their prerogative. If they don’t feel the vanilla version of my game is up to snuff they can of course find something else that suits their fetishes. I personally don’t want to sleep with an octopus, but if you’re into sexually violent tentacles, have at it.
Mr. Hands: What most surprised you about the adult gaming community?
Scarlett Young: I was surprised by how “normal” other developers came across. I really shouldn’t be, I just went on a rant about how everyone should be allowed to like whatever sexual fantasies they want, but it really did surprise me how much other developers are like myself. They often have day jobs to pay the rent with the ambition that they are able to support themselves as a full-time adult game developer one day.
I can’t be certain of course, but I cannot imagine other developers are continuously masturbating while making their NSFW games. I mean, I couldn’t do that myself, what with the amount of work involved. And programming one-handed is no easy feat!
As for the players, I was surprised by how many of them are just absolute sweethearts. I’ve received so many encouraging words and nicely worded requests for specific features or content. There’s just a generally friendly atmosphere to it that I don’t often see in regular SFW gaming communities.
It could be that player expectations are lower because there are so few adult games in development that are updated regularly. Many projects are also thrown together by enthusiastic amateurs or quickly abandoned. But I see so many AAA masterpieces get absolutely ripped to shreds by so-called “fans” and here I have my fans praising me for putting a mermaid in the game!
Mr. Hands: Where would you like to take Kronos Time Titan next? What can fans expect from you?
Scarlett Young: One of the biggest features I have planned next for Kronos Time Titan is the ability to select one of your “companions” to tag along with your adventures. You can already visit multiple time periods and capture a few dozen characters for your harem at the End of Time. But in a future update, I plan to add several “Slut Skills” to the companions that can be used to aid you in battle or solve puzzles throughout the game.
Scarlett Young: I’ve already implemented a robust clothing system with hundreds of articles of clothing and accessories to dress up your companions. I’m now planning to use the stats on these items to affect things like armor protection and Slut Skill effectiveness for your companions.
I update the game several times a month. Each update contains lots of new content like clothes, time periods, characters, game features, and of course bug fixes. Once I’m done with the companion system, I consider the core features of the game complete. From that point on I will focus mainly on adding more content, including additional Titan Powers for the main character.
Kronos Time Titan can be downloaded and supported via the developer’s Patreon.
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