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At the Games for Change 2019 conference, Sharang Biswas gave a presentation on “Promoting Sex-Positivity Through Analog Games.” He won a grant from The Effing Foundation for Sex Positivity to curate an Erotic Art Games Anthology to be published by RPG publisher Pelgrane Press.

Biswas is an artist, game designer, and writer who I first interviewed about Live Action Role Playing at the Immersive Design Summit 2018.

When I ran into Biswas at Games for Change, he said that he was going to be giving a talk exploring whether or not sexual acts could potentially be used as a game play mechanic in analog games in order to symbolize narratives around sexuality identity and sex positivity. Needless to say, it was a provocative idea and so we sat down to chat about how games could be used to break taboos around sexuality, and some of the work that has been happening over the last number of years of using games to explore concepts like consent, like in Naomi Clark’s Consentacle, and in Nordic LARP experiences like Just a Little Lovin’ or Beat Generation, which we covered in depth in our previous conversation.

While many of these indie erotic game experiments are happening in the analog world, it’s fascinating to hear Biswas break down the fundamental component parts of a game, and to see how embodied actions with other people can start to be layer on top of other narratives and game mechanics.

How can these erotic art games challenge the taboos around sexuality, sexual identity, gender expression, abortion, asexuality, or a range of other sex positivity topics? With the support of a foundation, the publishing platform of a major RPG distributor, and a speaking slot at a conference like Games for Change, then the creation of these cultural artifacts of erotic art games can start to provide a context to explore the liminal boundaries of our sexuality in a fun and playful way.

There is a lot of violence that happens due to a lack of education around sex and sexuality whether it’s around safety or consent or hate crimes stemming from homophobia. Biswas says that games can be a great medium to break taboos around sex and sexuality, and provide a context to have important conversations that are otherwise really difficult to have.

We had a fascinating discussion that made me think about games in a completely new way, and it was definitely a fun thought experiment to think about what would have to shift in our culture in order to imagine what type of contexts could be created to be able to play some of these games, and what if it would be considered completely normal.

There are a number of provacative and transgressive game design ideas in the series, and Biswas emphasized that people don’t actually have to play all of these games for them to make a difference. Just reading about them, and imagining playing them can lead to introspective reflection and shifts in perspective. So be sure to have a listen to our conversation, and then check out his Games for Change Talk for more academic references, indie erotic game examples, game design theory, and using games as a catalyst for change.

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