A team of South African developers has hit headlines around the world with an unconventional game called Genital Jousting. Since its launch in January this year, Genital Jousting has sold over 338,000 copies of the game, netting the company in the region of US$1.4 million.
The game, created by Cape Town company Free Lives, allows up to eight players to move a detached penis, “complete with testicles and an anus,” through a series of different scenarios. The animated genitals must “penetrate, and be penetrated, as fast as possible,” and they also “compete in absurd, silly and sexually suggestive games and challenges.”
Although the game is irreverent and comical, it has been a massive hit around the world. And according to the developers, the concept of Genital Jousting runs deeper than just a slew of crude jokes. The Genital Jousting creators are open about it being a comedy game, but the overarching message goes deeper than that.
According to programmer Richard Pieterse, their intention was “to make a game that was anal-sex positive. The game was supposed to be an alternative representation of masculinity and penises.”
The team also hopes to subvert traditional portrayals of sex. According to the company website, their intention is to make players feel uncomfortable while navigating the game. “A lot of the Genital Jousting audience don’t often consume media outside of their heteronormative or conservative comfort zones. And so we hope to make these players a little uneasy.”
There is also a requirement that each player provide consent before being penetrated, a move they hope will shed light on rape culture, which is particularly prevalent in South Africa. If at any stage a player wishes to withdraw consent, that character can no longer be penetrated by other players.
Although the initial response to the humorous game was overwhelmingly positive, the team continue to work on various aspects to ensure that they’re sensitive to its perception. “There’s a lot of violence in the game,” Greenwood admits, “and maybe we wanted to soften that with some scenes that weren’t like that.”
The team say that they see the game as “a loving homage to the penis,” and Pieterse adds that they’ve refined how the penises look, and how they experience and interact with the various worlds.
With Free Lives walking a fine line between a trivial comedy game and one that delivers a positive message about sex, they’ve encountered some resistance along the way. Although the team is aware that the game might be misinterpreted as mocking homosexuality, they hope it will be seen as queer-positive, and will help to normalise gay sex.
“After reading some of the reviews of the game,” says Greenwood in a Free Lives Genital Jousting update video, “we realised that some people felt that the portrayal of penises was a bit at the expense of homosexuals… that being homosexual might have been the joke, which was never the intention.”
The game has been a massive hit around the world. It’s currently available for purchase on Steam, where it’s received a 91% rating from over 3,500 reviews. Though it retails for just $7, they’ve reportedly sold more than 338,000 copies, earning the gaming company over $1 million in revenue. Although the degree to which the game is able to influence toxic masculinity is difficult to quantify, it’s clear that the decision to make a game about animated penises has been a particularly lucrative one for this small crew of South African developers.