With a Popsicle and 'Immersive Cheek Physics,' Succulent Takes on Sex in Games
From the creator of Hurt Me Plenty, an utterly bizarre homage to 'homo hop.'
Robert Yang's Succulent is a pay-what-you-will interactive music video that walks the tightrope between sex and the seriously weird.
Its cast is comprised of three swarthy males, all of whom are shirtless and adorned with aviator glasses. Two of these men will endlessly caress their own genitalia while the third suckles an orange popsicle in time to your mouse cursor. All this takes place against a backdrop of suggestive music, with "immersive cheek physics" making the whole experience even more surreal.
Succulent isn't terribly long. It only takes about two to four minutes to reach the game's absolutely bizarre finale before everything resets.
An egregious-seeming production at first glance, Succulent was actually created for Different Games, an annual video games conference focused on diversity and inclusivity. In his blog, Yang describes the title as a "hypnotizing homo hop homage," noting that it draws inspiration from the visual sensibilities of artists like Cazwell and Le1f, both of whom often feature "sweat bodies glaring vacantly" in their music videos. He goes into further detail about the design in the blog entry, but it should also be noted that there are spoilers about the ending.
Strangely, Succulent is a sillier experience than its sister-game Hurt Me Plenty, which examines how BDSM communities negotiate the idea of consent while still being focused on spanking "the heck out of a dude." In a blog post, Yang calls Hurt Me Plenty a critique of sex within Western video games, noting that the use of intercourse as a reward can set troubling precedents.
The idea that sex is a puzzle reward feeds directly into a pick-up artist (PUA) culture built on manipulation and perceived entitlement to bodies. This is essentially the "kindness coins" critique, that the logic of training players to expect sex, based on a series of so-called strategic actions, is super gross and perpetuates damaging ways of thinking about relationships.
Succulent and Hurt Me Plenty are the latest entries in Yang's eclectic repertoire of games. His best known work is arguably Radiator, a two-part Half-Life 2 mod that begins with stargazing in central California and ends with a stressful marriage counselling session. Although built on the spine of a first-person shooter, neither components in Radiator include any combat whatsoever. Yang has also written a wide range of nonfiction writing including this piece on Dragon Age: Origins and gay marriage as well as his excellent Level with Me series on RockPaperShotgun.