Rated M for Mature

Rated M for Mature
I Was Young, I Needed the Money

Richard Bartle | 2 May 2006 08:00
Rated M for Mature - RSS 2.0

As luck would have it, around this time we noticed our level designer was female. This settled it: We decided to go for the broader market, as clearly one person is able to represent the views of 50% of the population with absolute accuracy. We'd program in functionality for non-straight encounters, but wouldn't build the game around them.

The atmosphere we strove to engender was one of wit and humor. Whether players would continue with this when they got down to business would be up to them, but we assumed they probably wouldn't. Humor was important for us, though, because it lightened the mood, giving a liberal and liberating "anything goes," fun impression. And, frankly, if you have to implement fetishes for opera gloves, headphones, feathers and being stuck in a car in a muddy field, well, how can you not inject humor into it?

The overall premise was that players were executives staying in a hotel in downtown Anonymous American City. While they were logged off, they'd be buying or selling or whatever it is executives do, their performance at which would be tied directly to how satisfied they were with their life. In other words, the better the sex they had in their time off (that is, while playing the game), the more money they'd make in their work time (that is, while logged off). They could spend this money on a better hotel room with better facilities and lots of clothes, toys and other goodies - so long as they could fit all these into their suitcase. This was so people who wanted, say, BDSM would visit a BDSM club and mix with other like-minded people, rather than kitting out room 419 with a rack and electrodes and sitting there glumly all alone.

Geographically, we arranged the world using the traditional grid system of every Anonymous American City. The hotel Blue Heights occupied the middle block, with two blocks on either side for us to fill with stuff. The further from the center you were, the more colorful the services on offer you were likely to find. Horizontal thoroughfares were numbered, from 69th Street (what else?) to 74th Street. Vertically were named (therefore themed) avenues: Peters, Queens, Great Union, Straight, Bohemia and Bacchus. Thus, if you wanted something to pep up your performance you might visit the Chinese medicine shop on 73rd between Gt. Union and Queens, but if you just wanted to mail something to someone you'd go to the post office on the corner of Straight and 72nd.

We decided to allow some real-world illegal activities such as narcotics, but to make them losing strategies for gameplay. If you wanted to get high on cocaine and point a gun to a character's head, you'd get associated medical and police problems that would cost money to address and would never go away entirely. Still, if this is your bag, better you do it in a game than in real life. That said, consent was central to everything: Thus, no bestiality and no pedophilia. You can make love to a beanie baby (people do, I've seen the web sites), but not to a squirrel, no matter how much it's giving you that come-hither stare.

So far, so good, but you'll have noticed we were making some moral judgments here. Many people in real life insist on no sex before marriage; we, however, were condoning sex with people who were complete strangers five minutes previously. How did we make these decisions? Well, we basically determined to allow anything implementable, whether we ourselves were in favor of it or not, so long as it was not so emotive as to break the "magic circle": If any one of us felt something came with too much Reality, we didn't put it in. For example, some people - interestingly, many more women than men - have rape fantasies. Should we have implemented rape? Well, no, because that's too serious for a game. Even if characters were allowed to flag themselves as "rape-able," it would be too much. You're probably balking even reading about my discussing it, it's so emotive.

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