The double life of an adult game developer
We all need to pay the bills in Naughty List News #64
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I write this newsletter anonymously. That’s not just because it allows me to have exceptionally bad takes but also because it protects my career. Besides writing this newsletter every week, I also work in the AAA games industry as a programmer.
Every week I try to cover interesting stories about the world of adult gaming
I’m already credited in six AAA titles and I’m currently working on my seventh title. And I’m still working on my own adult game as well. I don’t want to mix these brands too much because it tends to raise eyebrows. While many people have been supportive of my adult gaming work, that doesn’t mean I tell everyone at my “real” job.
This week I want to discuss how developers of adult games often juggle double lives.
Anonymity is great, actually
I used to tweet under my real name and have my employer in my bio. I stopped doing that when I got harassed over it. I defended an online friend and someone clapped back with:
Hey <employer>, how do you feel about YOUR employee defending <some horrible made-up accusation>??
I was called into my boss’ office over that random person’s tweet. And even though we both laughed it off, it did make me more cautious about voicing my opinions with my real name attached. That’s why I started tweeting under a new handle, to prevent similar issues in the future.
And that was an exceptionally mild case of online harassment. I’m a white man in his thirties, I’m cis-gendered and heterosexual to boot. The worst that could happen to me when people find out what I do in my free time is that they want to give me money as an investment.
Keeping it separate
Chase is an adult game developer in a similar situation. He has also shipped multiple AAA titles and now works on Paradise Lust, a game about getting stranded on a tropical island with a cruise ship full of models.
He told me that it’s important for him to keep his adult game work separate because he’s involved with several major game events and conventions. And while he has tried to encourage the event organizers to showcase adult games as well, he has received a lot of push-back on that idea. Sponsors threaten to pull out at the mention of adult games and the organizers fear that speakers would withdraw as well if they allow adult games.
Even though Chase would like to normalize adult game development, he doesn’t want to do so at the expense of his career. Both he and I will likely continue to make our games about love, sex, and romance in secret.
Because what happens when our employers find out?
Hostile working environment
The main issue that adult game developers face if they have a regular employer is that being open about their side hustle could be seen as creating a hostile working environment. Not every coworker is going to be comfortable with a discussion of the latest and greatest in adult gaming at the water cooler.
And I personally think that’s totally reasonable and understandable. I’m not being paid to work on adult games (yet) so I won’t bring it up during the workday.
But another good reason to keep things on the down-low is that it brings liability to the company as well. Members of the press could easily make the case that an employee talking about adult gaming at work results in a hostile working environment.
The companies we work for aren’t likely to defend our hobby in that case. They would rather cut us loose instead, which would show that they take the problem of hostile working environments seriously. And that may be unfair but it would be the right move for the company.
Luckily there is still a way we can insulate ourselves from harm.
Get that exemption
Most contracts for software developers have a clause that prevents employees from working on their own projects. Anything they work on is considered the intellectual property of their employer. But what many people don’t know is that you can just ask to either strike it down or get an exemption. Most companies won’t make a big deal out of it.
This means that I have an addendum to my contract with a Big AAA Company, signed by the Studio Manager, that reads in part:
The employer approves the additional business of the employee in regard of his work on a private project called ‘Up There They Love’, a visual novel with RPG elements.
It also calls me the Creative Lead of the project, which just gives me a nice fuzzy feeling called “validation”.
Building a brand
Anonymity can be abused but it also levels the playing field.
I chose to write anonymously, which meant I couldn’t rely on my real-life status to gain a following. If you’re reading this, it’s likely based on the strength of my writing alone. And that’s actually a wonderful feeling!
To put it in perspective: I’ve never given a talk at GDC but I’ve spoken for packed college halls before. I’m not especially well-known but my accomplishments give people pause. Yet every week, more people read this newsletter than I’ve ever managed to pack into a single room.
Until we can convince society that working on adult games is fine, actually, I will likely continue to work on my adult game in the shadows. And I suspect many others will do the same.
Fucking Censorship Bundle
I wasn’t the only one to raise a big stink about Game Jolt banning adult games from their store last week. Game developers banded together to put their games up for sale in the Fucking Censorship Bundle in order to protest the culture of censorship against adult games.
Not every game will be to your liking and that is by design:
There are games about pedophiles and sex between teenagers in this bundle. There are games about non-consensual and dubiously consensual relationships and sex in this bundle. There are games made to be funny, or to express anger or grief or powerlessness or shame in this bundle. There are humongous animal cocks and dehumanized robo-psyches in this bundle. There are games about sex in this bundle.
The money raised by the bundle will go towards SWOP Behind Bars, which helps incarcerated sex workers and victims of trafficking.
Writing Wrap-Up 📖
Blerdy Otome published the 100th edition of her otome games buying guide. Definitive proof that games about kissing boys don’t have to break the bank.
The FAKKU online store has started selling adult books again. Now you can make paper pages sticky again instead of your iPad!
All of Toffer Team’s funds raised on Kickstarter were removed by Paypal. They previously froze Toffer Team’s account for providing “sexual services”.
Cheeky chuckle 🤭
Artist spotlight 💡
Thanks for reading this far!
If you want to help me compile the newsletter, feel free to poke me on Twitter.
Until next time!