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Joystiq interview: Spooning with Dark Room Sex Game creators

Ross Miller

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One of the more unique finalists in this year's IndieCade International Festival, Dark Room Sex Game was a student project from the IT University of Copenhagen that require players to cooperatively "reach climax" by finding a mutual rhythm (by shaking a Wii remote) and speeding it up. We had a chance to speak with with developers Douglas Wilson and Dajana Dimovska about the origins of the game (and some its more humorous promotional material):

Douglas Wilson: So let me introduce myself more formally - I'm Doug

Dajana Dimovska: And I am Dajana

Gallery: Dark Room Sex Game | 9 Photos

What was each of your roles with Dark Room Sex Game?

Doug: I was a programmer, but also a designer. The whole team had a role in the design and vision.

Dajana: I was supposed to be one of the programmers but ended up being designer and everything else

Doug: Yeah all of us ended up getting involved in the video editing, testing, sound editing ... it was a messy process (in a good way).

How did the project come to be? What are the origins?

Doug: The project was our game for the 2008 Nordic Game Jam.

Dajana: The core was Doug's and Lau [Korsgaard]'s idea but evolved after we were introduced the taboo topic on the game jam.

Doug: Well, to be fair, it's complicated. Lau had the idea to do a graphics-less sex game. Then we spent a weekend by the Danish shore talking about it, trading ideas with some other students. Then we brought it to the Game Jam, and Dajana, Kennett and some others joined in for our Game Jam group. The idea then went through some other major shifts when others contributed some ideas.

What were some of the ideas that didn't make it to the current version?

Doug: Do you mean rejected ideas? Or things we'd like to do in the future?

How about both.

Dajana: The 6 players mode. It turned out to be too messy because a lot of sound were executed in the same time.

Doug: Yeah we originally wanted it to be lots of players, but with so many partners at the same time (and no graphics!) it was too hard to hear your voice. So we scaled back to four players. Another failed idea: We originally thought we'd assemble the game from sound clips from real porn clips.

Dajana: Oh yeah.

"In a move of desperation, we tried recording our own sounds. We though they would sound forced, but it turned out to work very well in the aesthetic of the game."

Doug: Actually, a few of us (not me or Dajana) spent the entire Saturday watching porn hunting for sounds - no joke! We then decided the sound quality wasnt great, but more importantly, it was tough to get enough good sounds of the right length from the same person. In a desperation move, we tried recording our own sounds. We though they would sound forced, but it turned out to work very well in the aesthetic of the game.

Dajana: That was even funnier.

Dougl: Yeah for sure. One additional story with that: A few of our voice actors had trouble getting in the mood... so we showed a few of them some porn, and the quality increased considerably. Again, no joke.

Dajana: And not to forget the free shots, or free drink.

Doug: Oh yeah - we also gave them free shots of Danish liquor (which is the most vile stuff on the planet). Yeah the beer was a better choice.

Whose voices make it into the final game?

Doug: Oh man I'm not sure we should say, what do you think? Maybe some things are better left unsaid.

Dajana: Hehe, why not?

Doug: Oh you think so? Well definitely not the people from outside the group

Dajana: What is important is that we had 3 female and 3 male actors

Doug: Yeah, precisely.

For the then-6 player mode?

Doug: Yeah, exactly

Dajana: Yes but now all 6 voices are in the game as well. They are randomly assigned.

Doug: But even with four players, it gives more options, which is a good thing. We're also hoping to add some Easter Egg voices, but I'll let your imagination run wild there. Rumor is the computer announcer might make an appearance! [Ed. - GLaDOS, is that you?]

Heh. How close are you to a final build? Or at least a build you would consider final?

Doug: Sigh, good question. There are some problems with the Wiimote connect code. That stuff is all homebrew, so it's tough to know if it's our fault or not. We've all been so busy with the new semester that we still need to polish that part.

Dajana: Well I guess the ultimate finished build for us is to have game that can be played on the Wii Console as well.

Doug: : Yeah that would be a blast if possible.

Using the Homebrew channel, I'd presume, since Nintendo far and away would never approve this.

Doug: Well, who knows, I hear erotic games do very well in Japan. I'm sure Nintendo would hate us, especially after our WiiFuck parody promo.

WiiFuck Promotional Video

Which is hilarious, I might add. Back to that in a second. Are you worried about Nintendo's hardware can't handle the sheer graphical capabilities? Or to be more serious, why did you want this to be graphic-less?

Doug: Hah! I hadn't actually heard that one yet

Dajana: Hehe

Doug: Um, well there are a number of reasons

Dajana: One of them is because with only sound we leave a lot to the imagination. And people get more intimidated from hearing moaning sound while looking at each other. Also, they have to look at each other in order to follow the rhythm.

"How many times have you been to a Guitar Hero or Rock Band party, where everyone is just looking at the screen? It's awkward and not as social as it could be."

Doug: The idea is that erotic games with graphics seem pretty crude. It's a turn off, if anything, to see those crude graphics. But yeah, more importantly I want to second what Dajana is saying, the game was about getting players to play with each other. How many times have you been to that Guitar Hero or Rock Band party, where everyone is just looking at the screen? It's awkward and not as social as it could be. So with nothing to look at, players are almost forced to look at each other.

Dajana: I also believe (representing the females) that in this way we can easily get the girls or couples play this game too.

Doug: The game mechanics also emphasize this - you have to coordinate with the other player very tightly. Yeah, gender and games was also a concern (at least for me too). And you have to understand, we want the players to feel simultaneously embarrassed and aroused, in a contradictory but alluring way. Having to watch each other swing the Wiimote to orgasmic moaning amplifies that awkwardness

Dajana: We've already received email from a couple suggesting to release this game for the Wii since they have been looking and were interested to play erotic games.

Doug: But also, it's not just for couples. It's so fun to watch two teenage boys try playing, especially when they're assigned male voices. Because you can't pick your gender, you get forced into some uncomfortable situation, which I think is part of the whole point.

Dajana: Yeah we showcased the game on a Game Conference here in Denmark and participants could play it. It proved to break the ice and get people to start joking and intorducing each other. Great ice breaker.

I know the game was at E3. Where else have you all showed it off at? What has been the different reactions?

Dajana: Gotland Game Award Expo was one of the places

Doug: We won an Open Category 1st Place Award at Gotland Game Expo, yeah

Dajana: Of course the Game Jam Expo as well

Doug: Yeah and at the ITU Player Conference that Dajana mentioned. People react pretty differently to the game, but I think most people have a good laugh.

Dajana: We won 2nd prize from the audience for best game on the Game Jam as well.. Some were very shy in the beginning but very interested to see other people playing the game.

Doug: I'm a little worried about demo-ing in the US, but also excited. Even in a place like Sweden, we were seen as "those crazy perverted Danes", so I wonder how (some) Americans will react. (To be clear, only half the team is Danish.) Yeah, most people start off shy and warm up to the idea.

4-player demonstration

What other negative reactions -- press, email, etc -- have you gotten. Has there been any hostility towards your idea?

Doug: Not in person, no. On the Internets, some people have trouble understanding the game mechanics. Our most popular video was a two player demo, but the game is best played with four, so I think people didn't see the full idea.

Dajana: I think our game is well accepted here in Scandinavia at least

Doug: Yeah I'd agree with that.

You said you were a little worried showing it to US audience. Why is that?

Well I'm being a little facetious. But certainly Scandinavia is a far more secular place, so the taboos are less extreme.

We have been invited to showcase the game together with Teen Health Organization to promote safe sex in Malmo, Sweden.

"Scandalizing people is part of the point, so hopefully people will understand the humor in it all. "

Doug: Like even just the sounds might violate FCC standards, if you played them on the radio or something (Not sure on that one), but scandalizing people is part of the point, so hopefully people will understand the humor in it all.

Are you traveling to the IndieCade Festival to show it off personally?

Yes! I keep telling the team about Seattle (which is near and dear to my heart) so it will be fun to hang out with them in the area. And also meet the other game designers! Really it's about meeting other people and having a good time, not promoting ourselves or anything

Well it is my first time travelling to USA so I am really looking forward. Also, I know the game industry here in Scandinavia but not in USA and I believe USA is the right place to be fo game designers and developers.

Most of us are big on collaboration and idea sharing - after all the game itself reflects a Game Jam culture - so this is the perfect kind of event for us

Douglas, how often have you gotten to visit the US? What all have you seen?

Well I was born and grew up in NJ and then lived in the Bay Area for seven years. I was living in Copenhagen for a while, and now I'm in Atlanta, but I have to say I have my sights set on returning to Copenhagen some day, hopefully sooner than later. Too many cool places on the planet, you know? The rest of the team is European, though. In fact I'm pretty proud about that. That the game reflects a bunch of nationalities and both genders. There's a Chinese-Dane on the team, and also a Swiss-Italian.

Dajana: I came to Denmark to do my bachelor and ended up doing the master as well since IT University has probably one of the best game studies in Europe.

As a fun personal note related to IndieCade: Dajana showed me around Macedonia this summer, so it's going to be fun to reciprocate and show her around my old stomping grounds, if you know what I mean. We're headed down to San Francisco for a week after the festival. Macedonia is super crazy awesome, by the way.

Thanks Doug.

Do you have plans to meet up with any developers specifically?

Yeah I talked to Jason Rohrer (Gravitation, Passage) the other day, actually, since he knows one of my colleagues here at Georgia Tech I love his new two-player game sketch Crude Oil, so we're hoping to give it a spin Dajana, aren't we also meeting that German guy?

We have already met a German guy living in Copenhagen that has a game that is in the finals as well so we are planning to travel together from here if possible. He made an interactive story.

Nils Deneken (website). Beautiful, beautiful game. Blew me away, I can't wait to talk to him about it.

Let's go back to the WiiFuck parody, how did that come about?

"After working with the Wiimotes, we realized how antithetical the game was to the typical family friendly Nintendo vision. "

Hah, well, the game originally started as a keyboard only game. Then we decided the Wiimotes would allow us that dynamic of people looking at each other, not the screen, and also a certain about of, er, physicality. After working with the Wiimotes, we realized how antithetical the game was to the typical family friendly Nintendo vision. After seeing all those Nintendo Revolution and WiiFit commercials, we knew what we had to do.

Our humor mood kicked in

Actually the version on the website is the edited version. We decided the uncut version was a little over the top, but if you ever track us down in person and want to see, let me know.

Now that I know you live in Atlanta, I just might. What's next for everyone? You mentioned school earlier, is everyone still in academia?

Lau just graduated. Lau is still trying to figure out what he wants to do, I believe.

Lars [Bojsen-Møller] our sound guy is working in a game company, but the rest of us are still students. He is a software developer in NDS.

Doug: Danish company that makes games, right Dajana? They make games mainly for interactive TV, for Sky and Nickelodeon mainly.

Interesting. That wraps up my questioning, is there anything else you'd want to say?

Doug: IT University of Copenhagen rocks! Especially because of Scrollbar (one, two).

Dajana: Every university in Danmark has a student bar for the student to socialize. Portal Theme bar is coming soon.

Doug: The Yoshi is delicious, and mor than few students have been pwned by the Ultima.

Thank you very much for your time.

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