S.EXE: Groin Gravitators


My circumstances have changed yet again as I make my way around the world on a silly adventure with game developers. I find myself writing this week’s S.EXE in the muggy heart of the most boisterous American city, New York. It is currently pissing it down, and yet, as my friend Rob Dubbin remarks, it is hot like ‘a city on the surface of Venus’ and comes accompanied with a particular pungent smell.

My computer is hating Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, so before I wrestle the next instalment of my diary into the RPS featuresmachine, I thought I’d utilise the things around me to bring you a change of scenery. These things are: my partner in crime and Kotaku comics Elizabeth Simins, beer, and a copy of Andrew Gray’s Groin Gravitators on Ouya or internet. Join me to play a game about Peter Molyneux’s groin!

Much of the best silly games come from the beautiful MolyJam, the 48 hour game jam inspired by the Peter Molydeux twitter account. This twitter account, for the uninitiated, is a parody account making fun of our man of Dungeon Keeper, Peter Molyneux, a veteran game designer so revered by the press for his naive-sounding, pie-in-the-sky ideas, that we dare to think he might even be able to make what he suggests he can. (Frequently he just makes it sound better than it is in execution, remember when he tried to make us excited about a dog interface in Fable 2. A dog interface. A dog. Although I guess he was ahead of Call of Duty: Ghosts by some time.)

In any case, Peter Molyneux doesn’t even need a parody twitter account to create ripples of tittering throughout fans and press alike. He is adorable in his eccentricity, his idiosyncrasies. If he were to suddenly stop talking the press would cry: he consistently says some of the most interesting, ludicrous stuff, that even if it’s unbelievable, we go out of our way to report it. Why? Because it’s outlandish. It’s exciting. It’s silly. And he’s so English. Most big designers had their personality and ideas steamrolled out by PR years ago. Most designers hide behind the bulletpoints the publisher tells them to. Not Peter Molyneux! GET STUFFED PR! he says, striding to centre stage. I AM PUTTING A CAT ON STILTS IN THIS ONE. YES! A CAT. ON STILTS. (“He’s said we can do what?!” A collective sigh is heard throughout the studio he’s working in at the time.) THE CAT WILL ALSO HAVE A GPS AND A LASER! Peter grins triumphantly, as a PR drags him off. IT WILL BE ABLE TO DETECT HYDRANGEAS! he welps as his mic is switched off.

Describing interactions between characters in Fable 3, Peter Molyneux said in an interview in 2010: “We were inspired by the American man hug – although please don’t do it with British people, we find the closeness of the genitalia really frightening.”

Inspired by this, my Aussie friend and HYPER mag journalist Andrew Gray decided to make his MolyJam game about Peter Molyneux’s fear of groin touching. It is a two player game where you control a groin, and must keep in proximity – but not touching the other person’s groinbump. One person plays Peter, whilst the other player controls a purple bulge whose avatar closely approximates owlman Bowie from the legendary movie Labyrinth. (I am assuming this is because Bowie’s bulge clearly enhances itself throughout said movie.) (And they are both British and presumably house this ULTIMATE FEAR of heteroman groin-touch, even though Bowie is probably quite at home with the idea of it.)

You remind me of the babe

It’s two player, so I was joined by the Joe Sacco of games journalism, Elizabeth Simins (whose apartment I am currently couchsurfing) to undertake the two player criticisms. Elizabeth is a veteran of Peter Molyneux reportage, having witnessed and illustrated the one and only Peter Molyneux Orange Incident at the Game Developers’ Conference this year. I shall give you a moment to check out this most important of events. It also has a game!

Here’s the link to Groin Gravitators online. If you are playing along at home, one person takes A and D on the keyboard, and the other person takes the arrow keys. The idea is to drift close to the other person and get just close enough so electricity happens (very exciting). Here are the results of me and Elizabeth’s groin adventures. (You may need to turn down the volume, the music and our squealing is very loud.) (Sorry.)

You might notice it is very difficult to keep the two groins within the ideal distance for the magic to happen. This is the main difficulty in getting the high score: you have to maintain a steady groin and be able to move to different parts of the screen, as some walls will appear after the timers have counted down and staying within them is mandatory. I like to imagine that Peter Molyneux and Bowie are encountering corridors or getting in and out of lifts whilst they hug.

The drift and stick feel of the groins is the highlight of the mechanical part of the game really: it’s just difficult enough to make it hard to maintain distance, but also it’s just easy enough to have you immediately start playing again after pronging the other person’s crotch. The sound effects are perfect, though me and Elizabeth spent a little time trying to figure out how the ‘boing’ noise happens. I think it is when you gather a little speed and slam into the other groin? And the ‘ooerr’ thing is something that Elizabeth didn’t get. I think this is because she is American and has never seen a Carry On film.

Probably the best thing about the whole game is the music. It is like some sort of 80s exercise video music. It is music that sounds like something that might be played on the 1987 Crystal Light National Aerobic Championship open. (Do not click on that link you will be lost.) It makes me more suggestible the more I listen to it.

From travelling around a bit, I do recognise that Americans and Brits approach hugs differently, and in my experience Americans tend to embrace with a bit more enthusiasm, and often as a warm act of friendship, which is less common (although becoming more common) in the UK.

smooth operator

I do not, however, think that this means American men are more enthusiastic about hugging because they get to rub groins. In fact, I am sure that if you told certain Americans that this is what other people thought of hugging they would be horrified. There’s an underlying, almost Victorian uncomfortableness with the idea of two men touching crotches in what Molyneux said (although it was clearly a joke), and I think it reveals this weird remnant of British Victorian discourse I discussed in my Fatale article a while back. Andrew’s game Groin Gravitator helpfully highlights this almost in-built anxiety as being patently absurd.

However, one other thing that it highlights is the question of why we hug and on which occasions. Sometimes hugging a stranger or acquaintance is actually rather daunting, sometimes intrusive of another person’s space. Do David Bowie and Peter Molyneux know each other? Have they met before? Have they consented to hug? Are they old friends? Perhaps this would change the groin-rub rules of the game. If they are very familiar with each other perhaps touching groins would be okay. An unremarkable event. There would be no fail state. If they are strangers to each other perhaps the hug would not happen at all as a mark of respect for the other person’s space. Is Molyneux just pointing out that British people are more reluctant to hug because of a respect for one anothers’ space? Does he think Americans are overfamiliar with strangers?

If it were two Americans hugging, would the fail state be hugging for too long?

What about if two women hugged? Is there a fail state there? Are women more comfortable with this kind of intimacy?

Honestly, I started by laughing my guts out at this game and came away having a sociological nightmare.

Anyway! I hope you give it a go. It’s really great fun.

This week Merritt Kopas also brought out a very simple microgame on consent, too. Try it out!

Til next time – my previous columns are here for your perusal.


  1. thedosbox says:

    Frequently he just makes it sound better than it is in execution, remember when he tried to make us excited about a dog interface in Fable 2. A dog interface. A dog.

    Cara, what do you have against dogs? We have a goat simulator after all!

    I do not, however, think that this means American men are more enthusiastic about hugging because they get to rub groins.

    How long have you been in the US again?

  2. Dances to Podcasts says:

    I clicked the link. I was lost.

    • Wahngrok says:

      I was 20 when I clicked that link. I emerged as a 42 year old. Seriously: DO NOT CLICK THE LINK!

    • Premium User Badge

      Bluerps says:

      I clicked it and now I can’t look away anymore.

    • plsgodontvisitheforums_ says:


    • OscarWilde1854 says:

      It explains so much about Robin Thicke… There were certainly some ‘blurred lines’ in that video…

    • Ross Angus says:

      Ditto. I considered forwarding it to Robert Popper, but decided the cost of joining Twitter was too high.

    • Premium User Badge

      Phasma Felis says:

      I’m pretty sure the 80s were both the first and last time when you could do something like that and have the men and women wear the same outfits.

      Someday that time may come again.

    • LionsPhil says:

      That was amazing.

    • Geebs says:

      It’s like there was a freeway spill of mutagens in the 80s, and by complete coincidence everybody’s mutant ability was “enthusiasm”.

      In other news, I am now even more ashamed of my flabby arse than ever.

    • Premium User Badge

      kfix says:

      I don’t know why, but that made me think of this:

      link to youtu.be

  3. Steve Catens says:

    I admit, I’m not up to speed on the state of British hugging technology, but I’m pretty sure if you’re making genital on genital contact while hugging, you’re doing something else entirely.

    The man hug is executed as follows: Lean in so the crotch doesn’t come into the equation, administer 2-3 back claps (or back punches in you prefer), 4 if you really want to make a show of it, but never 5 because then you’re just making it weird. Disengage. The whole operation should be efficient and workmanlike, allowing an embrace devoid of any real intimacy and a minimum of personal contact.

    The purpose of the back clap is threefold:

    1) It adds an element of violence to man things up.
    2) It ensures the minimum necessary prolonged contact, as if you are handling a radioactive isotope or walking on hot coals.
    3) It’s a timing mechanism so you can count off the 1, 2 3, and then out.

    Keep in mind I write this from a culture so homophobic it’s customary for two men to leave an empty seat between them at the cinema so as not to give the “wrong” impression, or allow inadvertent leg contact I guess. But sometimes you just gotta hug a bro, albeit in the least intimate fashion possible.

    • MickMick says:

      This man knows what he’s talking about. This is Australia.

    • Premium User Badge

      Joshua says:

      Don’t forget to emit a bit of a “Rawr”. The usual “d’awww” is considered too feminine.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I’m not sure there is a state of the art in British hugging technology. Handshakes allow much greater stand-off distance and a bare minimum of contact area, without the casual familiarity of anything like a fistbump or high-five.

      Remember, we are not manly; we are gentlemanly.

    • Premium User Badge

      kfix says:

      Another Aussie here, and yes spot on, but you did forget to mention that it’s important to avoid eye contact as well – somewhat important on the entrance to the manuever, but critical on the dismount. You don’t want anyone to think it meant anything.

      Of course, if you slip up, you can recover with a punch or other act of physical violence, or a vulgar comment about any nearby woman. Only those most certain of their surroundings and companions may attempt to hint at a deeper intimacy, but always ready to utter the standard “geddoutofityapoofta hur hur hur” signal to indicate that of course you were just joking.

      • Imbecile says:

        I live in the UK. We had a welfare week at work last week, and on one of the days HR got some poor fucker dressed up in the company outfit to offer free hugs on the door. One guy in our office refused the hug, but politely shook hands with the guy in the giant blue water droplet suit instead. I choked up a little.

  4. DrMcCoy says:

    “What babe?”

  5. steviebops says:

    Attaching ‘micro’ to that Merritt Kopas thing still doesn’t make it a game. Partially interactive yes, game, no.

    • tormos says:

      this comment was what crystallized for me that literally all video games “Formalism” is emotive in nature. That is to say it attempts to turn”I don’t like this and don’t think other people should either” into an objective statement. Thank you, steviebops. Thank you.

      • steviebops says:

        Lovely bit of pretentious self-congratulation there. But it still isn’t a game. What are the rules? What is the goal? It’s interactive fiction.

        • vagabond says:

          Wooooo, I’m playing “the Reply button”. You should give it a go, best microgame I’ve played in minutes.

  6. UpsilonCrux says:

    I’ll just leave this here;

  7. The Dark One says:

    While I don’t think electricity comes forth naturally from it, the game seems to be demonstrating the Casimir Effect.

  8. Ejia says:

    Perhaps if we had Sir Didymus riding said dog interface it would’ve been more exciting?

  9. Raiyan 1.0 says:

    What about if two women hugged? Is there a fail state there? Are women more comfortable with this kind of intimacy?

    Yeah, I’m actually curious – are women scared of other women’s boobs? Is that why the cheek-on-cheek gap/side hug is so pervasive among the womenfolk?

    Also, I can’t believe I’m linking Smosh, but…

    • tormos says:

      I think this is actually a legacy of girlish Victorian chastity. Can’t have those ladyfolk kissing or next thing you know they’ll be out walking the streets and demanding the vote. At the same time, even!

    • LionsPhil says:

      I’m starting to really lament that YouTube is embedded on RPS these days.

      If only because browsers still seem to crunch and grind something awful loading more than one per page.

      • steviebops says:

        What browser are you using? Im on Chrome, but if that caused problems with youtube, someone would probably lose their job.

    • Jackablade says:

      If the breasts of two women collide, the resulting mammary oscillation will increase exponentially, eventually reaching a harmonic resonance that will destroy them both and a large amount of the surrounding area.

    • steviebops says:

      So that’s what Smosh is. I heard them mentioned, but had no idea. Is it all shouting and ‘swoosh’ cuts? I can’t believe there’s still room in the market for that schtick.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      Well, most of my female friends seem to really enjoy violently squeezing the other’s boobs, so there’s that.

  10. Hulk Handsome says:


    THANKS FOR THE WRITE-UP, CARA. I’m incredibly chuffed that you enjoyed it, though now I wish I showed you it in person.

    It was definitely my aim to point out how ridiculous and borderline homophobic this anxiety is (though I do understand some people just don’t like being touched), so I’m glad that it comes through loud and clear.

    The boing sound plays when one of the players hits or is inside a solid barrier. They’re sent flying across the screen and into the other player’s crotch when that happens. You could have just asked me on Twitter, BUT WHATEVER.

    ALSO, there is a secret, undocumented set of controls!

    C (or X) and V for Molyneux, B and N (or M) for Bowie. These keys are right next to each other, encouraging awkward touching between the players. Felt appropriate for the game. They are undocumented because I ran out of room on the “how to play” screen.

    Also, the barriers get larger after every third one and even start moving, but no one has lasted that long.

    Yes, I realise Bowie is probably okay with groin touching, but I really wanted to make a game about his crotch.

    BONUS: You can download the THUMPIN’ SOUNDTRACK here:

    link to airvoss.bandcamp.com

    • steviebops says:

      ‘borderline homophobic ‘ so, not homophobic then?

      • Ross Angus says:

        Only a Sith deals in absolutes.

        • steviebops says:

          “But Obi-Wan, isn’t that an absolute?” “Shhhhh”

      • Hulk Handsome says:

        I generally consider it homophobic, mainly in the OH NO I HOPE I DON’T LOOK GAY kinda way, but as mentioned I understand some people have real reasons to feel uncomfortable (and as Cara wrote, it can depend on the scenario the hug is taking place in), which is why I threw the “borderline” in there.

        In retrospect, it was probably not the best way to express this opinion, but I wrote that post two minutes before leaving for work, so hey.

        For the record, I consider the game to be a satire of hyper-masculinity more than anything. But if you draw your own conclusions from it, that’s great too!

        Thanks for the comment!

        • Volcanu says:

          I think the “British” thing is less about ‘oh no I musn’t look gay’ and more a general thing to do with reserve and something of a discomfort with anything physical with someone you aren’t very close to.

          So I see it as being much the same phenomenon as how many British chaps (perhaps more of a certain generation) find the continental ‘cheek kiss’ (with women) or even worse, the triple cheek kiss, to be very uncomfortable. I work for a global company headquartered in London. One of the places we operate is Brazil, when the Head of HR for Brazil came to the office she greeted me with a hug. We had never met before. I found it all a bit weird – but a Brazilian colleague may well have found it less so.

          It’s less the case nowadays, but we Brits tend to like ‘boundaries’ and politeness over the easy familiarity and overt warmth favoured by, say, more Latin cultures…

          • Hulk Handsome says:

            Yes, I definitely agree cultural background can play a huge factor in hugging. I’m an Australian, which is probably why I feel this way about the sort of uneasiness we’re discussing (there is more talk of Australian hugs in the comments). My sexuality often came into question when I showed even the slightest affection or even appreciation for another dude.

            I mean, one time I was eating lunch with a couple of grown men I was working with, and I mentioned that I “loved” one of my bosses for a favour he did for me. They both visually recoiled and one even muttered “He said the l-word.” They treated me differently after that, too. It was ridiculous.

  11. Hypocee says:

    From travelling around a bit, I do recognise that Americans and Brits approach hugs differently, and in my experience Americans tend to embrace with a bit more enthusiasm, and often as a warm act of friendship, which is less common (although becoming more common) in the UK.

    True overall thanks to the coastal cities where you spend most of your time because by definition most of the people live there. However, Scott Adams manages an unusual poetry with his commentary on this: ‘I’m from the Midwest, where “touching” means you’re standing on the same carpet.’ Give Scandinavians a taste of space, it turns out they use every bit of it from then on. The scraping along walls when any two people pass in a hallway at work.

    • Steve Catens says:

      *I’m* from the U.S Midwest, and think Mr. Adams should keep to his comic strip and not speak for all of us.

      It’s true, there are certain things that you just can’t physically do with a Midwestern upbringing. Dancing, for one. I’ve looked on with envy at many a dancer. The ladies, who look as if they’re participating in a fundamental human pleasure, come up to you and ask you to join in, and the best you can do is utter some gruff dismissal and run off to stare out the window as a single tear crawls slowly down your face.

      But hugging? No sir. If I send a friend off to the store with money for a 12 pack of beer, and he cleverly takes advantage of a store sale to convert that money into a 12 pack AND a 6 pack, he’s getting a hug, and would have in any decade I can remember. I’m not ruling out a bit of a shoulder cry either.

      • Hmm-Hmm. says:

        I would cry, too, if I had to drink beer from a can instead of out of a bottle or glass. ;o)

        • Steve Catens says:

          I’m not certain where you got “can” out of what I said, but ok.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Whatever happened to the humourous response to this?

      • Hypocee says:

        If you’re asking about the commentary I quoted, it’s from the book ‘Seven Years of Highly Defective People’, which is essentially a director’s commentary track on selected early strips.

  12. Wret says:

    After playing the above, it is apparent that we must find a way to freeze Molyneux’s head in such a way that he is still able to speak, or the glorious stream of content such as this might be silenced.

    Also vaguely reminded of people freaking out in elementary school about how men is other countries kiss on the cheeks, even if they’re just friends.

    (also no one’s computer like’s Bloodlines, they just loosely tolerate it depending on Frenzy levels)

    • Josh W says:

      And in many of those countries they also have beards, think of the static electricity!

  13. Megakoresh says:

    I’ve never actually read this weird article series until today. WTF?! is all I can say about it.

  14. LionsPhil says:

    Due to checking Peter Molydeux, I have now discovered that Peter Molyneux believes fart noises are a good way to break the ice on a date.

    All credit to him, he carries it off wonderfully in this video. And then starts designing A Better Fart App. You just can’t out-parody the real deal.

  15. SuicideKing says:

    Cara makes the best Let’s Play type vids. :D

  16. Jackablade says:

    The British Man hug sounds like a subtler variant of the Aussie Man Hug – an action which looks not unlike a pair of elk locking antlers.

  17. zacharai says:

    This is one of my favorite RPS articles of all time, and that’s mostly because of the video (but every Cara story is always amusing in and of itself). To a straight white male, that was hilarious.

    I’m not going to try and compare it to Quinn’s depiction of Pathologic, because nothing can, but this was great. I’m so glad Cara’s on board, though I’d prefer her at GiantBomb. Sorry.

  18. Gap Gen says:

    This makes me feel better about making a super creepy dating sim using Peter Molyneux’s tweets as dialogue.

  19. altum videtur says:

    The Netherlands just won against Costa Rica and I’m too drunk out of my skull to formulate any thoughts on the question of Molynux Gravitation. I watched the match and the previous Belgian-Argentinian one with family because I don’t have friends. I would be happy were it just for the alcohol but I recognise that I have failed at being human or a student and don’t even deserve the shithole I call an apartemnt. If only life was shorter.