Every second year, the RPS hivemind startles awake from its eternal slumber. “Hrmm? Oh, we should talk to all the people making PC games who are nominated for this year’s IGF.” And then we do that. And now we’re doing that. First up, the similarly hivemind-ish team from Tale of Tales, Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn. They’re nominated this year for Luxuria Superbia, a “simple game of touch, pleasure and joy made for fingers”, in which you glide through a tunnel and make its walls explode with flowers and marine imagery.
RPS: Hello! Can you begin by introducing Luxuria Superbia: what it is, what your goal was in making it, and so on?
Luxuria Superbia is a videogame that you can play on a tablet, a phone, a computer or an OUYA. The goal of the creation of Luxuria Superbia specifically was to make and release a small first game based on a larger research project called Cncntrc. Cncntrc explores the links between sensual pleasure and the mysteries of the cosmos. It’s an endlessly fascinating theme that, by its nature, is impossible to grasp in a single game. We hope to make many more.
A modest but important secondary goal for Luxuria Superbia was to make a game that is very easily accessible. We worked hard on optimizing the mechanics for pleasure (something we usually tend to neglect somewhat in favor of a strange kind of honesty). And we used people’s familiarity with the play of sex as an easy way to understand how to play the game.
RPS: How successful do you think you were, now that the game has been out for a little while? Have you re-evaluated certain decisions, or would you do anything differently now?
The game was met with flattering artistic critique. That’s a nice surprise in a way because Luxuria Superbia was first and foremost intended as a fun plaything that everyone could enjoy. It’s rewarding to see people find deeper value in it. But that sword cuts both ways, apparently, and Luxuria Superbia has found a lot less players than we had hoped for. This was quite a bruise to our egos and introduced a lot of uncertainty about our plans for the future. In fact, we completely dumped our three year business plan and live now day by day, hoping for a natural disaster, a global revolution or perhaps the dinosaur zombie apocalypse. Just imagine all those bones in the ground (and in museums!) coming to life again to eat our brains! Why hasn’t anyone made a game about that?
RPS: Tale of Tales has been nominated multiple times in the IGF now. Does a nomination mean the same thing as it used to, as far as bringing attention to the games?
At the risk of sounding cynical, but – at least in our experience – the IGF works the other way around: first you get attention for your games and then the games get nominated. Of course a nomination peaks the interest of some people but it doesn’t give a very big boost in attention. But this may be because we are already reaching all the people in the universe we possibly can with our games and everybody else doesn’t care. The biggest boon, to us and gamers alike, is that the nomination got the game on Steam where it was actually quite well received, judging by the discussions in the “Community Hub”.
We are looking forward to meeting other players and developers in the IGF booth. We have fond memories of that. It’s always very nice to see people play and to talk with others who share our passion, even if only to some extent. It’s a nice bubble to spend some time in. Grouphug timez.
RPS: Is there some hope that an IGF nomination or win will encourage more games like Luxuria Superbia? It’s uniquely feminine, for example, in a way I don’t see much of in videogames but would like to.
To be honest, we’ve been playing this game for so long now – over ten years – that our hopes have gotten a bit eroded. Of course, we hope this every time. And there has been some evolution, that’s undeniable. But this evolution seems quite separated from videogames as a whole. The dreams and ambitions that we felt the game industry had for itself ten years ago seem to have evaporated.
We have our questions if the femininity of our games was a hindrance in their profitability. It is of course something we cannot measure.
We’ve always embraced femininity in our games. We like femininity! For the obvious reason that one of us is a female. But also because the other one, the male, is very interested in females. So we like exploring the female gaze, the feminine side of things. If only because it is not the dominant force in human organization and we’re not too fond of the results of this dominance. But mostly, probably, for aesthetic reasons. Beauty, as always, is everything.
Luxuria Superbia, however, is also uniquely masculine! In fact, it was heavily inspired by the male heterosexual experience. The usual asymmetry between a woman’s and a man’s arousal often means that in intercourse between the two, the man needs to hold back so as not to achieve orgasm before the woman does. This would be problematic because an orgasm tends to exhaust the male, making it very difficult to continue with the act and aid the woman in achieving her orgasm. As it turns out, however, this game of holding back, leaning in, pushing forward and slowing down, etc, actually brings more pleasure to the man than simply quickly reaching orgasm. So in the end we all help each other have a better time.
RPS: The indie scene has grown immeasurably in just the past five years, but what do you still wish there was more of?
We wish for more games that are genuinely enjoyable. Games that don’t feel like tests or like work or like addictive drugs but that simply give us pleasure and joy directly, without first needing to make us feel miserable. Life is a precious thing and it consists of many facets. Art, and art in videogame form especially, helps us explore life. To look at life as an endless struggle of overcoming obstacles is incredibly dull to us. Life is a really beautiful thing and art helps us see this beauty and experience it as deeply as we can.
Observing people we sometimes wonder if they don’t realize that they are going to die. Pretty soon in fact. We each only have a few decades on this planet. And there’s no other planet like this for many many light-years around. This gives us a responsibility, to see as much as we can, to feel as much as we can, to penetrate deeply into existence, to take it all in, to embrace the cosmos. We believe videogames could help us a lot with that. But it takes a more positive attitude, a loving attitude, both in players and creators. More caressing, less hurting. More lying down, less running around. More embracing, less fighting. More hanging from a tree branch than jumping over fiery pits. More being together, than being apart.
RPS: Are there any games in this year’s IGF (other than your own) that you hope does well, or worry about being overlooked?
Gorogoa and Drei are favorites of ours. We wish Shelter would have gotten a nomination rather than an honorable mention but serves them right for killing our cubs. The Stanley Parable was more amusing once we figured out we were supposed to disobey the narrator. It definitely deserves the recognition. And so does Soundself, probably the most exciting thing in the entire festival this year. It’s nice to see both Davey and Robin nominated. We very much enjoy fantasizing about those two together.
None of the nominees have been overlooked of course. Entries that we were surprised not to see nominated or mentioned are The Novelist, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, Among the Sleep, Bokida, Kyoto and Kairo. There’s probably more. There were so many entries this year. We haven’t been able to look at all of them. Maybe there should be more than one selection from the same pool.