Thanks to the global pandemic sweeping the world I have had the opportunity to waste several hours on a new free to play game called Kiss of War. Social distancing had only recently swung into effect in Japan, and even then my workplace continues to have us come into work and share rooms with large numbers of people. Trains still run, workplaces are carrying on as normal, and toilet paper – after a brief one week period – is once again readily available. Only masks remain elusive, and that's partly because the corona epidemic hit at the same time as hayfever season in Japan. Every February to April perhaps a quarter of the population don on masks as invisible clouds of cedar pollen (“sugi”) descend out of the mountains and hyperstimulate the immune system response of a significant fraction of the population. Japan has the highest allergy rate in the world, something I found out to my chagrin as I began manifesting hayfever symptoms in my third year in Japan. Since that time I have hated Valentine's Day with a passion disconnected from the commercial or romantic aspects of that holiday. Valentine's Day marks the day when my eyes start itching, my nose starts dribbling uncontrollably, and my throat gets sore UNLESS I ingest copious amounts of anti-histamines beforehand. Ugh. The Japanese government planted swathes of cedar trees to replace the burned out forests ignited during World War 2, and the trees repaid that by giving hayfever to one in every four Japanese. Good work, scientists. Australia made a similar fuck up by introducing cane toads to control the problem of cane beetles back in 1935. Not only did the cane toads refuse to eat the beetles, they promptly decided to breed uncontrollably and spread their vile, disgusting spawn all over the eastern seaboard and kill off our indigenous species by being fat, easy to catch and poisonous.
Anyway back to Kiss of War. If you thought that it sounded like a free to play game with odious play to win mechanics and advertising characterized by voluptuous women wearing revealing clothing, then you are absolutely right. I can feel the silent judgement searing into my flesh as I chip away at this blog post, but I will persevere. I found the game while browsing Instagram for pictures of voluptuous women wearing revealing clothing, and was “compelled” to download it for a free trial. I've played one game like this before, exactly a decade ago. It was called Evony, and it too, sought to draw lonely incels into their web by advertising their game by displaying voluptuous women wearing revealing clothing. What worked for those companies 10 years ago worked again in the present, and here I am again playing exactly the same type of game. The only difference is that the term incels – shorthand for involuntary celibates – did not exist back then. Incel, social justice warrior, Gamergate, mansplaining, white knight, gaslighting, virtue signalling and a dozen more new additions to the English lexicon were spawned, redefined and deployed as weapons in the Internet culture wars of the last five years, and yet despite all the hubbub and clamour the fact remains that sex still sells as well as ever.
Marjorie, Katherine and Linda.
If voluptuous women wearing revealing clothing is how these companies get their target audience in, it's not what keeps them there. Let's face it, if you're there to jack off there are far better options out there. Pornhub, Xvideos and even YouTube itself has pretty much put the porn industry out of business by making “content” free and accessible. What keeps people in these games are the same things that keep people in other games, but it's the girls that get them to give the game a try. Games being a self-determined activity (i.e. we do it voluntarily) it falls under the ambit of psychology known as self-determination theory. According to headshrinkers Deci and Ryan, people who game are driven by intrinsic drives roughly classified into the categories of competence, relatedness and autonomy. Competence roughly correlates to the mastering the game and achieving a “flow” state, relatedness is our need for social bonds, and autonomy is the sense of being master of one's own fate. How much weight you give this typology depends on you, but the good thing about scientific papers is that they use much larger sample sizes than your average bloggers like myself, who more often than not base our pontifications on our anecdotal experiences. Doesn't mean it's true for everyone, or that it's even true at all. You can even wave it all away with the mantra of “fake news” if it offends your world view. That's the bankruptcy of moral relativism in a nutshell. But at least scientific experiments are honest attempts to probe the truth behind the veil, even if the conclusions are incomplete, unsatisfactory, or refuse to conform to your pre-conceived notions of what the world should be like. If you don't think science is a valid methodology for seeking truth then you should throw away your cell phone, stop flying in planes or driving cars, and turn off all the electrical appliances in your home, because all those things are powered by magic and it's bad juju to use them.
I started my KoW journey outside the city of Prokhorovka, somewhere on steppes of the Soviet Union. Protected by a newbie shield which lasts for several days I took a cautious gander at the new world before me. The game boasts real world locations which only have a very rough correlation to their counterparts in real life. The map of KoW is what Europe would look like if you removed all the large bodies of water and squished everything together into a square map. There is also a superficial connection to World War 2 in that the units used to play the game represent American, German or Russian forces from that period. Forces are divided into tanks, infantry or anti-tank guns, and there is a triangular power relationship between the three types, with tanks being stronger against infantry, infantry being stronger than anti-tank guns, and anti-tank guns being stronger than tanks. The fourth force type is artillery, which is inferior to all the other types, but serves as load carriers and general cannon fodder. Each player has control of a single city which you can gradually upgrade by gathering resources. Resources are gathered from nodes which spawn periodically on the map, grown internally within the base, won from participating in various events, or plundered from other players.
I was immediately struck by the resemblance to Evony. The only real difference is the theme – Evony is set in a pseudo-feudal setting with castles and knights instead of bases and WW2 units, but for all intents and purposes it is almost the exact same game. KoW has doubled down on the use of girls, though, by integrating them into gameplay. In Evony the girls in the advertisements are nowhere to be found in the game except in the tutorial. In KoW the girls are the commanders of your forces, and developing them is an integral part of optimizing your army. Each girl has three different talent trees as well as skills. You want a tank commander – Linda and Katherine are the girls for you. You want powerful garrison commanders? Then Maria and Grace fit the bill. Want fast resource harvesters? Then you'll need to send Marjorie and Evelyn to do your gathering for you.
This picture is not representative of gameplay at all.
There is a small mini-game which allows you to improve your relationship with each of your commanders. Before you get too excited, however, I am sad to report that, no, you can't have sex with them, nor do they strip off their clothes for your viewing pleasure. You can “touch” them by clicking on them, and they respond according to where they are touched and the level of your relationship with them. They grow more “familiar” the higher your affection rating becomes, but that really just equates to some light innuendo even at the highest levels. This isn't Bioware's Dragon Age or Mass Effect, where you can have PG-rated romantic relationships with your party members, and it's a far cry from Japanese hentai games, which feature hard core graphic cartoon sex, usually with another family member or some kind of slobbering tentacle monster. There is a slightly disturbing element with the youngest girl, Jeanne, but fortunately even at maximum affection she never becomes the Lolita that she is clearly marketed to be. There is also a nun appropriately named Angel who you cannot interact with at all, much to the dismay of the religious fetishists within the crowd. The game designers kept the game sad and perverted without crossing the line into pornography and hentai. Instead of a hardcore sex magazine you have a men's magazine with a model wearing a bikini on the cover and a four page photo shoot on the inside. At least in my eyes. I'm sure some would disagree. At the risk of virtue signalling I must confess that it is a game I would be embarrassed to admit to playing, except for the fact that I am now playing it, and blogging about it. Is there such a thing as vice signalling? Regardless, the girls had done their job. I was in the game, and now the only thing that remained was to see if the game could keep me.
Regarding the scientific method, I wouldn't put results of social science experiments on the same level as those from the rest of the branches of sciences, considering the current replication issues and how easily the results can be biased one way or another.ReplyDelete
Though I agree that sex-appeal still sells (been there, done playing sexed up mobile p2w games)
Fair point on the social sciences, reading more about how they conducted their experiments made me agree with you even more.ReplyDelete