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Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Hunie Pop: Or, Evil Feminist Examination of a Dating Game

Hello hello!

So, another gaming post at long last--I'll be writing about Witcher 3 when my partner finally finishes it, but lately, we've been playing a match-3 dating game--Hunie Pop. So, full disclosure--this is the first time I have ever played a dating game.

Now, if the concept of a serious (ish) analysis of a dating game makes you shout, "IT'S ONLY A GAME, CALM YOUR TITS, LADY", the door is over there. Yes, it's 'just a game', but the things that someone says when they're being serious, compared to the things they laugh at when they're off guard, will both tell you a lot about that person.

So, without further ado--the game. Naturally, there will be


SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS


...beyond this point, so if that really bothers you, maybe buy and play the game first, then read this.

Wait, what the hell is 'Hunie Pop'?


Honestly? It's Bejeweled with tits, or Candy Crush but with actual girls to crush on. A fairy, Kyu Sugarplum, guides you through the game. There are about twelve girls, including unlocks, that you can have sex with, and players can be male or female--we're going to take a shot at the female version of the game and see how that changes dialogue, if at all, but we (my partner in crime, Disarcade, and myself switched up to play it) went with the male option. Basically, you're a hopeless virgin otaku who masturbates all day and is lonely, and this love fairy wants to teach you how to get some and make lady friends. 

So, you can probably see how this is problematic right away, but stick around--there's layers to it. 



From Kickstarter. It's like Pokemon--for your dick (or pussy).

Pros


The game is honestly a lot of damn fun. Its interface is nice, and there's some diversity with the girls--even the ones I didn't like had actual personalities. They felt like real enough people. The pinups and sexy art were fun to look at, especially for the uncensored version. The game itself is fun--I mean, come on, it's a Match 3 game!--and the mechanics were cool. There was a bit of diversity with the characters, in that Japanese, Latina, African-American, and Indian women were all included, but the other characters were white; of course, there was also a fairy, a goddess, an alien, and a cat girl. So, you know, it wasn't too bad as these things go. 

The other thing that I noticed was just how much personality the girls had. Each girl had a 'unique' interest and several 'common' interests, which could overlap with the interests of other girls. A couple of the girls were unabashedly dominant, and even bitchy or awkward--but realistically so. I have known smart, driven women who love self-help; awkward gamer girls who suck at conversation and communicating with humans; and then, too, I have known more than a few bratty princesses. There's a sweet-natured cheerleader and a bitchy Avril Lavigne type, and all of them are allowed to be themselves. They don't change for you, the stud trying to seduce them--you have to accommodate them. 

Cons


There were a couple fairly racist lines--where Kyu the fairy refers to the black character and says, "I love me some chocolate!" and talks about "yellow fever" when introducing the Japanese physics professor. I cringe just rewriting them, and we both winced when the dialogues played out. Having the Indian character love meditation and yoga, the black character be driven and strong-willed, but ladylike, and the cheerleader be as sweet and vanilla as possible also suggested stereotyping--I don't know how to feel about it, because the characters were handled pretty well, but still, conformity is conformity, and the game definitely made use of cultural tropes. Both of us winced when the Latina character gushed over the (sigh) sombrero and other Mexican kitsch objects that were her Unique gifts. The cultural portrayals do feel more than a bit fetishized, but they're decent for their limitations. 

Another thing is that while the girls did have a good range of heights, their weights and BMIs were fairly uniform--all were between 100 and 135 lbs, even though their heights ranged from 5'0 to 5'11. Their BMIs were around 19-23, with most falling at 19.5 or so. For those not familiar with the Body Mass Index, it's a very rough tool, but it gives you an approximate idea of the relative healthiness of your weight, compared to your height. 18-24 is considered healthy, and below 18 is considered medically underweight. So, they were all (literally) healthy, but it would have been nice to see some curvy, thick girls in the mix, too. Of course, they were all doe-eyed and pretty, and most of them were extremely femme in their presentation--not a butch to be seen, really. I understand that dating games *are* about the fantasy, but the presentations are definitely skewed towards traditional masculine ideas of attractiveness. 



Also, Kyu swears a lot, which is fantastic.

What does the game say about dating? 


It didn't escape my notice that the game literally uses affection tokens to get sex from women. It's very much a 'phuque and chuck' kind of game, in that after the first time you have sex with a character, there's not much point in continuing to talk to them or have sex again, apart from the grinding. And again, all the interests of the girls were pretty femme--a few of the girls liked hiking or sports, or working out, but there were no wilderness survival or gun and archery enthusiasts. The only real 'nerd' was a depressed, insecure, annoying girl with fairly androgynous tendencies--which, as anyone who knows more than one nerd girl can assert, is not representative of nerdgirldom. 

However, the fact that some characters were from more distant families and some were from closer families, and that an adult actress and sex trade worker was included in the cast was actually nice. The girls weren't perfect, just human. The game also ran on a metric of four different types of attraction--Sexual, Romantic, Flirty, and Talent--and used Passion, Sentiment, and Joy to affect these four areas. There were also heartbreak tokens. Honestly, I liked this mechanic, because each girl had a most preferred and least preferred token type of the four. That's pretty representative, because different people have different approaches and preferences for expressing their attraction. I also liked that the girls had overlapping as well as personal interests--that's realistic enough. 

The use of small gifts to keep a girl interested and the way some of the girls would comment on the payment structure was very interesting. Some of the characters expressed regret or embarassment about not having gifts or taking the protagonist out, and some demanded more resources without end. The idea of dating as a one-way pay structure really isn't great, even though it works for the game mechanics; especially since sex is the end goal, and the only end goal. Women are not slot machines (slut machines?) into which attention and resources can be inserted in exchange for sexual favours. It IS nice that every single case of the sex relied on initiation by the girls, and that inebriating them made them more generous, but did *not* automatically guarantee sex.  They also have sexual desires, to varying degrees--and it was nice to see a game acknowledge that ladies like to phuque too.

I think the most troubling thing for us was that the protagonist's lines often offer variations of the same answer, and that the game was very much about making sure women were told what they wanted to hear. There was no way to roleplay consistent answers or a personality--just to optimize answers for each woman.

I caught myself feeling jaded a few times. The formulaic way that one was supposed to respond was very much in line with elements of the PUA (pickup artist) systems, and it made it harder to feel like the characters we were sexing up were actually people.

Yes, it's only a game, but dating games are an emotional substitute or training wheels for more than a few people. If we're going to have a moral panic (tm) over the messages of romance novels for women--why aren't we throwing a moral panic over the messages these dating games send to young men? Sure, it's just fun, but no story passes through us without leaving a scintilla of an impression. 

So, is it good? 


It's fun. Is it sending a Good Message? Eh, yes and no. But if you want the experience of trying to date someone, with proper nuances and characterization, just pick up one of the Dragon Age games, Mass Effect, or better yet, something from the Witcher series, especially Witcher 3. 

Also? TRISS AND GERALT 4EVA. Not sorry. 


***
Thanks for dropping by the nest once again. Leave your comments, rebuttals, and vehement agreements below. Don't miss any of the phuquerie--get on the mailing list. Find Michelle on TwitterFacebook, and on Tumblr, and find her work on Amazon. Check back on the blog to see when one of the irregular posts has careened onto your feed. This is the one and only SciFiMagpie, over and out! 

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