When I think of sex education in America, I can’t help but recall this scene from Tina Fey’s cult classic comedy:
Rather than taking the abstinence route à la Mean Girls, a group of high school students from Shanghai have a better idea of what teen sex ed should look like. With Chinese classrooms often shying away from discussions of sex, their seven-person team Eroducate has created an interactive video game to tackle traditionally taboo topics.
Titled Self-Reliance (自我性赖), the game simulates various sexual situations that young adults could encounter. Acted out by the high school students themselves, the scenes lead players to a Windows 95-style pop-up where they are prompted to make a decision for the characters – the goal being to guide them to safety. So far there are two chapters: Early Sexual Intercourse and STDs.
Chapter One opens with a young couple playing “Overcooked”. By the time the girl realizes she should probably go home, it’s past midnight and the metro is closed. The boy insists she stays at his place since his parents aren’t home. If the player chooses to sleep over, the scene cuts to the boy in an animal print robe (because, of course, that’s what the ladies dig) and the underage couple debating about having unprotected sex.
Other scenarios include donating blood after testing positive for HIV and rape.
The game was released last week on the US entertainment platform Steam and has since gained more than 170 reviews. Most are “very positive,” commending the teens for their effort and execution.
“Most dialogue choice games render player choices inconsequential, frequently forcing players to adhere to a central plot,” one Steam user, who identified as a software engineer, wrote. “Self-Reliance radically breaks this norm, exploring and expanding upon every choice, this leads to an incredibly realistic and satisfying play through.”
“Sex education is rare in China,” another user admitted. “But being able to present sexual knowledge in such a fun and memorable way is even more rare. Looking forward to future updates and more people understanding sex!”
Others offered constructive criticism:
“There is a lot of room for development: First, there is little scientific sex education (I don’t see much about books). Second, it lacks a lot of elements that make up a complete game. If the authors intend to improve, then it will be a successful game and may even be written into gaming history as ‘the first game based on adolescent sex education.’”
Though the teens could benefit from some acting classes and a professional director – at one point the editor interrupts the game to explain how they forgot to film the ending of a skit – Eroducate is a step in the right direction for more comprehensive sex ed in China.
If you want to test your knowledge, you can download the game for free here. And for more on interesting indie games coming out of China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, click here: