If a developer wants to make a video game that is sexually-suggestive and can lead to a naughty time, they could learn a thing or two from slumber party games, according to Lau Korsgaard, a developer from KnapNok Games who is also part of the Copenhagen Game Collective.
KnapNok is best known for Spin the Bottle, a Wii U party game inspired by the slumber party game of the same name. Sitting in a circle, players spin a virtual bottle on the Wii U GamePad and take on challenges, which often involve touching and trusting each other. The challenges themselves are innocent, and there is nothing overtly sexual about them ... which is what makes Spin the Bottle such a good, naughty game.
According to Korsgaard, slumber party games grow up with players so, rather than present players with overtly-sexual challenges, developers should consider the subtext that players bring to the game.
"When you think about kids going to a slumber party, you think of it as innocent, fun and normal," Korsgaard said today at GDC Europe. "As soon as you think of teenagers going to a slumber party, there's subtext. And when you think of adults going to a slumber party, you're pretty sure it's going to be a sex party."
Korsgaard noted that the most successful slumber party games don't try to define their audience or intention — they let players take it where they want, and they let players test the boundaries of what is and isn't acceptable. A game like Twister, for example, is marketed as family-friendly, but adults have naturally discovered that a game that involves getting close to and rubbing up against others can also be sexually-suggestive.
"The first rule of making a naughty game is not explicitly calling it a naughty game," Korsgaard said. He used Ubisoft's 2011 game We Dare as an example, where the marketing materials were overtly sexual to the point where it seemed more tacky than cheeky. People aren't interested in playing a sex game, as such, Korsgaard said. They're more interested in testing social limits, which is what slumber party games are all about.
"I think slumber party games work as a testbed for young people to figure out that there are no objective rules about social behavior — it's always context-dependent, and it always requires sensitivity and practice," he said. "So what is OK and what is not OK is not something you can have in a manual. It's something you're supposed to figure out. And those lessons can be learned in the context of a slumber party game."