We Dare – is the world ready for Sexy Party Videogames?
Risqué adult themed board and card games have existed for a long time. Board games like “Lust” and “Monogamy” appeal to a market of young, trendy modern day yuppies and students pretending to be ironic. Any lonely, single man will admit (if he’s honest) to spending hours dreaming up ways in which he can flirt with, speak dirty to or even touch attractive females. All of these opportunities are provided in one way or another with board games that task players with breaking as many social taboos as possible. In truth, the actual rude content of these games is determined by the extent to which the players invest themselves in the game. While some pander to the sophisticated after dinner market with delightful double entendres and the breaking of societal etiquette, others cater to the rowdier, partially inebriated market and differ little from party games like truth or dare or even spin the bottle.
As with anything, context is key. At one party I was at we played a wonderfully designed game called Jungle Jam. Essentially similar to the card game “Snap”, the rules involved scanning for cards which looked alike and snatching a wooden totem pole when a match was found. The key magical ingredient in the game was the resolution when two players both grabbed the pole. The rules stated that even though each player was only allowed to use one hand, they should wrestle for the totem until only one held it. This small footnote in the rules resulted in some of the funniest and most enduring memories I’ve had. Seeing a couple fight over the totem, with the female straddling the male was mildly risqué fun. Meanwhile, another more competitive couple who competed for the totem dragged each other around the floor like some frantic mopping prize was at stake.
In a similar way, Ubisoft’s “We Dare” has the potential to play very differently depending on the players involved. While it’s only possible to guess at the content at the moment, it seems like the gameplay most closely resembles Warioware on Wii. It seems that the main difference is that rather than make the player appear foolish for the purpose of humour as in Warioware, We Dare instead has the intention to break down social barriers in the same way as some of the aforementioned board games.
There are three important questions that need to be asked about We Dare. Firstly, is there anything inherently wrong with the marketing, advertising or content of the game? Secondly, how will the media and non gamers respond? Finally, does anyone want or need a game like this?
The biggest hurdle to get over is the advertising for the game. It needs to be seen to be believed. Perhaps intended to court controversy, I find it difficult to judge as I’m still in shock from first seeing it. Rarely will an advertisement for a game render me speechless, but We Dare is so fundamentally different in its approach that I really don’t know what to think. Possibly misogynistic, certainly misjudged, it seems to exist in a parallel universe of Maxim models, eighties swinger parties and leering, creepy male sex offenders. It’s telling that the game currently seems to be planned for European release; the advertisement is shocking here so you can only imagine how it would go down in the massively uptight American market. I can’t imagine ads for Wii Dare playing too well sandwiched between tele-evangelists begging for money and Bob’s world of retail’s crazy winter sale in the bible belt of the US.
So what about the content? Well, the truth is we don’t know. From the ad, we can see players mashing buttons with their face in a manner not too dissimilar to other Wii party games like Warioware Smooth Moves. In other moments we see women being spanked as they hold the Wii mote precariously up the back of their short skirt; a skirt incipiently which seems hideously inappropriate evening wear for the sophisticated dinner they all enjoyed before they started playing. They move from here into a striptease, which may either be an implicit element of the gameplay or may just be symptomatic of their escalating libido as We Dare forces them into an extreme degree of sexual arousal.
Is any of this actively distasteful? Is this wrong? I would say no, not necessarily. To compare with party board games, the best ones are those that allow the players to go as far as they want without feeling uncomfortable. At its simplest level, in spin the bottle you can always give someone a peck on the cheek. To take the example of the stripping moment in the game we can see how this could either be acceptable or awful. If the players were tasked with doing something to make the other players laugh, and in the ad they chose to do this by stripping then that’s fine. The judging players could be instructed to press the A button faster the more they laughed. Most players would tell a joke or speak in a silly voice, but some may choose to strip to get a laugh and thus more points.
If however the game explicitly requires a player to strip in front of others then the game is deplorable. You can only imagine the shame and horror that could result from a female player being instructed to strip for a bunch of drunken male players as they chanted “take it off”. Men in general behave badly enough around women when drunk or horny without games incentivising them to become complete neanderthals. That would certainly be a very unlikely scenario, but if the game did behave in such a way and sold very well, you could guarantee that it would happen to someone, somewhere.
So we still have to reserve judgement on whether the game is inherently wrong. What about the second question: how will the media and non-gamers respond? The answer is predictably. Here’s an article from the UK’s secret shame, the Dail Mail. They predictably fall back on their default “won’t someone please think of the children” angle with no research or effort put into exploring the actual content of the game. In particular, they seem terrified of the games “12 and over” age rating.
This does raise an interesting point which they (of course) fail to consider. If a game has no actual adult content, how can a ratings board rate it effectively? While the game may encourage players to touch, kiss or spank each other, if the game itself features no nudity, sex or violence then it is much harder to rate as an adult game. There’s little to compare it to in the videogame world, but most similar adult board games are aged “12 and up” and you can buy a bottle that’s spin-ready from most stores without any id at all.
While the reactionary nature of the mainstream press is predictable and actively beneficial to the games sales, the final question remains unanswered. Does anyone want or need a game like this? I gauged the opinions of some of the contributors to the site over the weekend and for them, the answer is no. As hardcore gamers they feel little need to engage in such a seemingly shallow and facile game. It seems doubtful that they are the target audience however. For the large part the people that I asked were around thirty, in long term relationships and disinterested in party games.
So what of the 20 year old, single, casual gamers who bought a Wii for Wii Fit to keep in shape and want something to play after they get back drunk from a night out or after a boozy dinner and a night in? I have no idea. There’s a market for the board games, and there’s even a market for videogame versions of board games. If people play Monopoly on a Wii, why not play this?
The truth is the medium is once again displaying its immaturity. The advertising is crass and embarrassing. The media response is overblown and reactionary. Hardcore gamers are disinterested or actively hostile. There may be a time where games can be a supplement to a saucy evening of teasing, stolen glances and play fighting, but that’s not today. Better to just fire up RockBand or Dance Central and see how far we’ve come. Maybe games can’t provide us with sensual thrills, but they sure can make us smile and dance like idiots together.