The terms sex game or sex app do not inspire much confidence. At best, they evoke simplistic tools like iCondom, the app that guides couples to the nearest contraceptive. At worst, they conjure up images of egregious half-parodies of eroticism like Fap Ninja, a phone game in which you rub a scantily clad woman’s nipples and crotch faster and faster until something happens. Either way, you’d probably never think of turning to a sex game as a tool to help enhance your relationship, to learn more about your partner, or increase sexual pleasure. Yet some app developers and game makers have in recent years turned toward creating offerings with real value. In fact, interest in the erotic potential of digital games is growing, spurring the creation of institutions like Lyst, a conference devoted to love and sex games, which recently concluded its third annual meeting. Read on for a brief overview of the big game genres these innovators have created, and how the apps can help your sex life.
The Digital Sex Dice
The simplest items on this list, these games essentially digitize an age-old means of spicing up a relationship by letting dice guide you to new frontiers. Unlike their physical equivalents though, the best of these apps, like Sex Dice Evolved, can be customized and weighted, giving you and your partner ideas that can still give your sex life a kick but won’t deviate from your comfort zone or break your norms too drastically. Some versions also use standard gamification tools, like achievements and levels, as simple positive feedback loops to stoke those who might be nervous or stuck in a rut into branching out. That’s a simple thing, and very basic app work, but given the importance of continual sexual exploration to pleasure and happiness in many relationships, it’s a genre of game with powerful potential nonetheless.
The Desire Quizzes
Among the least gamified yet best-known relationship apps, these tools allow couples to sign up as a team and then to answer a series of random questions about their individual fantasies and preferences. Kindu, arguably the most successful and oldest of these apps, allows users to create anonymous questions about their own preferences for their partners alongside pre-generated options, then shows matching desires to both people in a relationship and incentivizes follow-through on those newfound mutual desires through goal lists and achievement scores. Numerous variations on this template exist, from PlsPlsMe, which likewise focuses on sexual preferences, to Happy Couple, which turns finding out how folks think about each other and their relationship into a quiz game and then provides tips and nudges to help couples talk through differences.
The Erotic Educators
Some apps help couples not by letting them play a game together, but by using solo games to give individuals in or out of a relationship a friendly and amusing avenue to explore the often-taboo subject of sexual pleasure. Happy Play Time, for instance, uses a cheery, humanoid vulva to help women learn about self-pleasure and men learn about female anatomy and stimulation through guidance games. It’s one of many tools out there to try to improve awareness and ease communication, which can lead to better sexual encounters and stronger relationships.
The Abstract And Trippy
For those who aren’t too eager to fondle a vulva on see explicit sexual terms on their screens, some developers have cooked up abstract games that still help individuals and couples to develop better understandings of each others’ sexualities and to build communication skills. The latest such offering is La Petit Mort, a game from several folks involved with Lyst in which players have to stroke a highly pixelated abstract representation of a vulva in varying speeds and locations to learn how it likes to be touched; each abstract vulva has different preferences. The older Luxuria Superbia offers a similar challenge, but using images of flowers which must be colored in by stimulating their petals. No matter the level of abstraction, these games help users learn about the variability within pleasure and bring that knowledge back to their partners.
None of these games are perfect. That’s understandable; it’s difficult to balance game fun with serious, holistic sexual and emotional insights without veering too glib or too clinical — or just falling flat on your ass. This is complex stuff for developers, and a field still in its infancy. But for all their limitations, app makers have still managed to give us a few games, solo or two-player, with real potential (for some couples at least) to advance their understandings of pleasure, sexual variety, and each other in fun settings. None of these games are high stakes. None of them are likely to disturb or disrupt a relationship. So even if it turns out they’re not for you, there’s no good reason why you shouldn’t take a roll on some digital sex dice and see what the experience can do for you.