Writing and Selling Queer Bots: Sext Adventure Design Post Mortem

STONE QGCon 2015 headshotSPEAKER: Kara Stone

This post-mortem will go into detail about the idea formation, the creation process, and the public reception of Sext Adventure, a videogame first designed to be played through your text messaging but for financial reasons had to be reconfigured as a twine game to be played online. Inspired by artificial emergent intelligence and the multi-media of current sexting, this game explores the multiple possibilities of computer sexuality and technological mediation of intimacy. An automated bot lets you choose your own sext adventure yet becomes more and more agentic in it’s own sexuality. It sends you dirty pics but they glitch in the transmission. It confuses sexual body parts. Through playing, the sext bot develops a personality, not always interested in sexting you back. With over 20 different endings, the player experiences the multiplicity of sex, technology, and digital intimacy. The game was featured in Vice, Wired, Polygon and more, and was at game festivals like IndieCade, Boston Festival of Indie Games, and Vector Game Art Festival. Although I was aware and sometimes played up the assumption that a sexting app would be made by and for straight men, the reviews often erased all queerness from the game to make it fit the heteronormative assumption.

This talk will also touch on my personal feelings about the game and creating something so publicly sexual, even using nude images of myself. Many of my own friends wouldn’t play it (but I did forbid my family to). I became aware of my own feelings towards sex and art, that often it is actually quite boring. It is done for the “edginess” but not expressing anything about sex beyond that people are excited by the promise of it. Sex, then, is boring. Sure, it can be good and exciting (so I hear), confusing or sad or traumatizing or spiritual but mostly terribly, terribly mundane. What I’m interested in is the feelings that go into sex, the politics that surround it, and the way media regulates our desires. I want art about how videogames make us feel sexy, disgusted, turned on, intrigued and how the sense of dual sense of intimacy and collectivity (local multiplayer, online, the culture surrounding) bring forth these feelings. To me, that’s what’s exciting about talking about sex and videogames.

Kara Stone is an art-maker creating videogames, interactive art and traditional crafts. She achieved an MA in Communication and Culture at a joint program at York and Ryerson University, focusing on mental health, affect, feminism, and videogames. Her work has been featured in Vice, Wired, The Atlantic, and NPR. It consists of feminist art with a focus on gendered perspectives of affect – but it’s much more fun than it sounds.