WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?
If you've ever risked browsing the comments section of a Genital Jousting video, you may have noticed the recurring question of "why?" cropping up. Why would anyone make this? Why is this a thing that even exists?
The short answer is we're making Genital Jousting because we want to, and because we think it should exist. We think our work is (at least somewhat) culturally valuable.
If you're somehow still not convinced by this incredibly compelling argument then please allow me to spend several more paragraphs rambling about what we're trying to make, why we're trying to make it, and whether or not we're screwing it up.
IMPORTANT? VALUABLE? BUT ISN'T GENITAL JOUSTING JUST A BIG JOKE?
Yes and no. Genital Jousting is undoubtedly a joke. It's a comedy game, and a lot of the design is simply informed by what we think is funny, ridiculous or gross. We're talking lowest common denominator humour at its finest. Free Lives does not pretend to be above a fart joke.
But we like to think of the game as a trojan horse - a way to deliver a sex positive message to an audience that might never get to hear it otherwise. We have feelings to explore, and things to say, and by wrapping them in a big joke, we're hoping to sneak some of our ideas past the watchful gaze of unsuspecting cis-het dudes.
Genital Jousting is largely about disarming masculinity. In a patriarchal society, penises are associated with power. They are considered the dominant sexual organ. But in Genital Jousting, they are often the butt of the joke. We want to present the phallus as something silly, abject, and non-threatening.
That isn’t to say that we want to portray penises (and by extension - masculinity) in a purely negative manner. On the contrary, Genital Jousting is also meant to be a loving homage to the penis. It’s a game where two quivering cocks can go on a date, eat spaghetti, and fall in love. We like to think of dicks as lovable and laughable.
The colourful art style, the doll-like clothes, the lullaby music - all of these things are done in the name of presenting an alternate view of masculinity. By making the content of the game appear softer, we hope that penises can be viewed as approachable, not just tools, or worse, weapons.
WHO EVEN WANTS TO PLAY THIS?
While we're definitely putting things into the game in the hopes that it might appeal to a broader range of people (for example women and queer folk), we have no misconceptions about who our major audience is. It’s the same demographic as Broforce, it’s the median Steam player, it’s the people who love dick jokes. And for the most part that probably means someone who identifies as a cisgendered heterosexual male. And perhaps more pertinently, that often means someone who grew up in a sexually repressive (or at the very least, conservative) environment.
Aka: us. We, the developers, largely fall into this same demographic. We're just a bunch of default white dudes with a passing interest in sticking things in our butts. Genital Jousting is as much a way for us to explore our own feelings about sexuality as we hope it is for our players. How do you feel about penises touching each other? Why do you feel that way? What about anal pleasure?
These are the kinds of questions we hope the game can elicit. These are also the kinds of conversations we want to have with our friends, but as men, we've been socialized not to. In the early days of the project, we were highly motivated by the fact that Genital Jousting gave us a vehicle to have those discussions amongst ourselves.
Now that the game is available to the public, the most rewarding moments are when we see it provoking discussion or critical thinking amongst players. If even just a few people challenge their assumptions about sexuality, then perhaps we've made something worthwhile?
HOW CONSENSUAL IS GENITAL JOUSTING?
As you might expect in a game where the player avatars are penises, penetration is one of the primary verbs in Genital Jousting. It’s one of the very few explicit ways that players can interact with each other and with the world.
Given the prevalence of rape culture in society, penetration as a mechanic is something that can potentially be extremely harmful. In Genital Jousting all players must provide explicit consent before any game can start, and any player can revoke their consent from the pause menu at any time. We also do not allow sex with any of the NPC characters in the game, as they have not expressed explicit consent.
We consider this representation of consent to be just barely adequate, but we’ve struggled to come up with a better system that fits the constraints of the game. Treating consent as a single mechanical choice is reductive at best and trivialising at worst. Real consent is a lot more nuanced and ongoing.
WHAT DOES THE GAME SAY ABOUT SEXUAL RELATIONS?
There’s a power-differential both in the way sex is portrayed in media, and in the language that is often used to describe it. Sex is usually presented from a heterosexual male perspective, with one party “giving” and the other party “taking”. The person doing the penetrating is usually considered the subject or the active party. We hope to subvert these expectations, and portray something closer to real consensual sex.
Sex in Genital Jousting (as in real life) is mutual, it’s teamwork.Throughout the game penises must work together in both sexual and non-sexual situations. By design, the game never treats being penetrated as punishment. It’s always equally good to be penetrated as it is to be the penetrator.
Because this isn’t explicitly explained by the game, we’ve noticed that a lot of players automatically assume that it’s best to be the one doing the penetrating. When they do start to understand the mechanics, we can only hope that they also begin to think twice about their initial assumptions.
DOES IT HAVE TO BE SO VISCERAL?
Whilst we want to make sex in Genital Jousting cooperative, there is no doubt that it is also violent. You can really feel the impact of a penetration. We made them as wet and messy as we possibly could.
This is done partially for comedic effect, but it’s also to make the game a bit more shocking. A lot of the Genital Jousting audience don’t often consume media outside of their heteronormative or conservative comfort zones. And so we hope to make these players a little uneasy when they’re confronted with a pile of dicks writhing and squelching up each other’s buttholes.
This violence does of course come with a considerable cost though. Aside from being highly insensitive to people who’ve experienced sexual trauma, it also makes it very easy for players to make rape jokes; even if the game does not. Perhaps framing penetration better is one of the areas we can improve on the most.
WHAT ABOUT THE HOMOSEXUAL AUDIENCE? IS THIS A GAME FOR THEM, OR ABOUT THEM?
This is a much trickier question to answer. Whilst we try not to gender them (eg. we allow players to choose from a spectrum of outfits), it's hard not to see penises penetrating other penises as overtly homosexual. And that's cool, we care about normalizing gay sex and homosexuality in general. There aren't a lot games that explore penises or sexuality in this way at all. Certainly not mainstream ones. We’d love to see more games about typically under-explored aspects of the human experience.
We also know that there's a lot of stigma and taboo surrounding anal sex and anal play. Hopefully Genital Jousting can make a difference here and help some people get in touch with the pleasure of their own butt hole.
That all said. Homosexuality is one of the areas where we can do the most damage. We absolutely don't want to (and shouldn't be) making jokes at the expense of gay culture. Normalizing homosexuality is good, joking about it isn't. If anything, we want to parody masculine culture and the jokes should be at the expense of homophobia and not homosexuality.
We’re creating art through the perspective of a straight male lense, and it's not our place to be commenting on homosexual culture. (This is also one of the reasons that there are no vaginas in Genital Jousting, but that's a story for another day.)
However, this is a comedy game and we're aware that we're treading a very fine line between something that's funny and something that's problematic. We really want the game to be queer positive, so if we're messing this up, please get in touch and let us know.
ARE WE THE RIGHT PEOPLE TO BE MAKING THIS AT ALL?
I've already raised some concerns about our position with regard to making social commentary. Accepting that Genital Jousting should exist at all, should we be the ones to make it? We think so.
We have some understanding of what it's like to grow up in a toxic masculine environment, where "gayness" is used as pejorative. We feel that we can make a game that helps people come to terms with their own penises, other penises, anuses and homophobic biases because most of us have followed that same path ourselves.
In addition to that we think we're the right people to make this kind of game simply because we have the platform. Many people much more talented than us are making more nuanced, considered and positive games about sexuality and sexual experiences. But those people don't necessarily have the means to reach 150000 gamers on Steam.
Aside from the fact we are privileged enough to have the resources and climate to make this game in the first place, we also have the experience and desire to make it a mainstream product that has mass market appeal. A lot of the time this means making direct trade-offs between making the game’s message more impactful, and getting it to reach more players and YouTube viewers.
In comparison to other games that tackle similar themes, we think Genital Jousting appeals to a lot more of the people that need to hear its message.
ARE WE DOING A GOOD JOB?
I've done a lot of talking, but are we walking any of it? We've laid out some lofty ideals, but is Genital Jousting really much more than an elaborate dick joke? Well, we don't get to be the judge of that, but we can certainly chime in.
And in all honesty, we'd like to do a lot better. There's a continuous conflict between adding humour and adding meaning to the game. Because we're juvenile and adding jokes is often easier, more fun, and more marketable; we've added a lot of humorous content, some of which dilutes the positive messages we’ve been trying to convey. We think that Genital Jousting was a stronger and more poignant experience when it was just the consent screen and traditional mode.
HOW CAN WE DO BETTER?
Genital Jousting is in Early Access and still very much incomplete. We’ve spent the last few months working on some secret stuff that we hope will address some of the topics outlined above in a more direct manner.
Until that’s ready to show publicly, we’ll just have to get more opinions on the game and address what we can. We’re desperately craving more critical feedback, so if you have any thoughts on what we could be doing better (or shouldn’t be doing at all) then please get in touch and let us know!
With help from:
Jon Keevy, Shaz Greenwood, Stuart Coutts and Rodain Joubert