Subverting the Conventions of Affection Games in the Digital Wild

  • ©ISEA2016: 22nd International Symposium on Electronic Art, Lindsay Grace, Subverting the Conventions of Affection Games in the Digital Wild
  • Stolen Kisses, 2015, © Lindsay Grace, digital game


Session Title:

  • Game Art

Presentation Title:

  • Subverting the Conventions of Affection Games in the Digital Wild




  • Abstract
    This project combines the art practice of critical gameplay with affection games. The author’s Critical Gameplay practice works to challenge the conventions of traditional gameplay by offering alternative ways to play. The 10 critical gameplay games have been exhibited and awarded on 3 continents. Affection games are commercial games that require players to flirt, hug, kiss or make love to meet their goals. Almost every digital affection game offered in commercial spaces feature heteronormative, non-diverse experiences.

    Stolen Kisses was created as part of the Critical Gameplay art practice, to subvert affection game standards in the commercial space. The game requires players to kiss their devices to play. It features 7 unique characters who each like to be kissed a different way. Players must press their lips to their touch device balancing kiss duration and frequency to score the most points. The game was developed as an experiment in subverting the experience of affection games by providing a wider range of gender and racial identities. It functions as a kind of intervention in traditional mobile spaces, extending critical design practice into the community of casual mobile game players.

    The game has been made freely available on Google Play and averages 50-100 daily downloads. The game attracted the most interest from English speaking players in the United States, the United Kingdom and speakers of Indonesian, Russian and Arabic. This sharply contrasts the demographics of dating simulation players.

    As the world of games evolves, there is an obvious space for growth among the softer elements of human interaction. While games have successfully designed, refined and iterated on the most basic verbs, such as shooting, collecting, bouncing and driving they have not had as rich a lexicon in affection. Affection games represent an evolution in games toward the complex interplay of love and expression of love. Little research has been done in affection games, particularly in digital entertainment.

    Affectionate play offers several pro-social opportunities. If it is proven that violent digital games increase aggressive tendencies in players, then affection games may be proven to foster affectionate, pro-social behaviors. Affection games may also serve as consolation for players. Such games can offer an alternate kind of vicarious release for those seeking hard to come by affection. Such games might also serve to help clinically bridge gaps for autistic players or those for which affection is not a natural action.