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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Video Game Poetry: Exploring How We Learn About Sex By Gaming

Nico Flicker |
October 22, 2014 | 8:16 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Screenshot from the browser game "how do you Do it?" (Nico Flicker/ ninasays.so)
Screenshot from the browser game "how do you Do it?" (Nico Flicker/ ninasays.so)

Most video games featuring sex do not usually involve a little girl mashing dolls together, but this innocent take on an not so innocent topic is the premise of the free browser game “how do you Do it?" It was created by Nina Freeman and Emmett Butler, with music by Deckman Coss and art by Johnathon Kittaka, and was recently nominated and featured at IndieCade 2014 in Culver City. The game is based on Freeman's childhood experience, as she often pondered this very question. 

SEE ALSO: USC Faculty, Students Shine At 2013 IndieCade

Freeman is aware that sex is an uncomfortable topic on its own, and the exploration of sex through the eyes of a young girl is seemingly more uncomfortable.  As she remarked, “a lot of people say,” they were nervous “after their first time trying the game." The nerves related to this game mimic the emotions related to young people’s sexual exploration.

The nerves while playing the game can also be attributed to the intensity created by the game. The user plays as a young girl whose mother has left her home alone with what resembles Barbie and Ken dolls. The dolls turn into tools for this adolescent girl’s exploration of how to “do it," but the user is limited on time since the mother will soon return. As the user jams, slaps and hits the dolls together using a computer keyboard, the young girl believes she is “doing it”. The aim is to “do it” as many times as possible and not get caught by your mother when she arrives home.

Unlike many video games that deal with sex, this game is set from a young girl’s perspective, which gives the game an innocent aesthetic. No matter how many times the user bangs the vignettes of two dolls together, it simultaneously seems very personal and honest. Freeman intended this when she created the game, which she mainly attributes to her background in poetry.

“A lot of the time I make vignette games which are autobiographical," said Freeman. When creating her works, Freeman ascribes her subject matter to the very honest and personal style of beat poets, of which she has studied and is inspired by.

The game was inspired by Freeman’s own personal childhood experiences in which she often played around with dolls trying to figure out what sex involved.

“My parents never talked to me about sex, I had no idea what was going on," said Freeman. "So I would just hide and mash my dolls together."

 Due to her inexperience with sex Freeman chose the Barbie-like characters because this was what she used, but also see’s them as a “cultural artifact and how it’s interesting how they don’t have any genitals." This adds to the mystery of “doing it” for children and players of the game.

The game was created in such a way that the dolls are meant to replicate many of the dolls or figures, children have played with for decades, and Emmett adds that there are “obviously male and obviously female icons on the screen which people will see and immediately know what’s being symbolized." 

Emmett Butler (left) and Nina Freeman (Right) pictured with their game setup for "how do you Do it?"at IndieCade 2014 (Nico Flicker/Neon Tommy)
Emmett Butler (left) and Nina Freeman (Right) pictured with their game setup for "how do you Do it?"at IndieCade 2014 (Nico Flicker/Neon Tommy)

The exploratory and personal route is fairly new to Freeman, whom began working in the video game community a few years ago. She was inspired by seeing friends developing games and thought to herself “whoa I could do that." She came from an unusual background compared to other video game creators: Freeman was an English major who had enthusiastically been writing about video games during her time as an undergrad, rather than creating them. 

Freeman began working on games independently, as well as going to game jams. Game jams usually take place over the span of several days, when various developers, programmers and creators gather in hopes of creating a full video game. By going to these game jams, Nina was able to meet Emmett Butler. "how do you Do it?" was designed at Global Game Jam NYC which took place on Janurary 24-26 2014, it also received several nominations.    

One of the more complex aspects of the game is that Freeman designed it so that anyone could play the game. However, Freeman is more interested in “telling honest stories to anyone who is willing to listen” and she loves to show the game to “people who did not experience this kind of thing and see how they react."

The game is great to share in general because “you can just sit there and 60 seconds later that’s the whole experience." The game's intention is for people to get new experience; it is not meant to be sold or to be profited on, but to share as a interactive short story acted out with vignettes.  

Since the game is free online virtually anyone interested in the game can play it and experience something similar to what Nina Freeman did growing up. “how do you Do it?” may be controversial and ‘dirty’ to some but cute and innocent to others. No matter which interpretation one comes to, it is decidedly personal and depicts an uncomfortable topic in an interesting and unique way most video games that feature sex do not. 

To play the free game "how do you Do it" click here

Contact Staff Reporter Nico Flicker here and follow her on Twitter here



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