In the lead-up to the release of Super Seducer 2, Helena had a chance to ask Richard La Ruina some hard hitting questions about the portrayal of women in the Super Seducer games and what he thinks about the representation of women in the wider gaming community. Sit your butts down for some classic journalism.
Helena: When creating the first Super Seducer, were you aware of the potential problems with the subject matter? Did any of it worry you?
Richard: Not too much, no. I have a book published by Harper Collins and Random House and had, prior to 2017, received hundreds of pieces of positive press from respected sources (some of which you can see here: http://richardlaruina.com/media). The mainstream opinion of a “dating coach for men” was positive, and back in 2010, being a “Pick Up Artist” was even considered cool. There were plenty of positive mainstream TV shows, documentaries, and books about our industry.
With Super Seducer I thought we’d be ever better received because gamers are mostly young single males. When we got closer to release, obviously #metoo happened and things looked more ominous as we got banned from Kickstarter and rejected by various other businesses.
Helena: What did you think the reaction was going to be when Super Seducer was released?
Richard: We were more worried about whether people would like the game and whether it would sell, and were not thinking that there would be any scandal. We hoped that it would be rated at least a 6/10 in reviews and we’d be happy with that as a first effort in gaming. As I said, as the release date got closer and all hell broke loose, we expected to be panned by all the media and for the game to be a flop. I literally only had one person who was telling me “be cool, the game is good, it’ll be okay”.
Helena: What convinced you to make changes for Seducer 2?
Richard: We watched lots of YouTuber and Twitch players, we read all the reviews, and took a lot of notes. We also had our own learning points. The decisions that we took lightly in SS1, like having the sexy girls on the bed, or taking a flippant approach to giving feedback on the wrong options…we looked at very seriously for SS2, trying to keep in mind the scrutiny that the game will undergo.
Helena: What changes have you made in the creation of Seducer 2, either in staffing or process that you think will make this a more inclusive experience?
Richard: We decided to make Super Seducer 2 in around April. First I called a local producer and arranged a meeting. I didn’t expect her to take on the project because she had a few-month-old baby but wanted some recommendations of directors to work with. She actually really liked the idea of the project and came onboard and then brought in the rest of the team. The female-perspective levels (there are two) were something I wanted to include, and we also soon decided that having a female perspective on feedback would be a great addition too. All of the other changes have to do with budget and quality, bigger budget, higher quality. Finally we only used one real actor on SS1 and this time around we have ten. Helena: There’s a lot of backlash against games that start to either include women as playable characters or who try to appeal to a wider audience than previously, like we’ve seen Battlefield 5 recently. Do you expect to come up against this kind of criticism?
Richard: No, I don’t think so. The female-perspective levels are not added to have token inclusivity. I think they will be very interesting to guys too because they give some insight into dating psychology from a woman’s perspective. Likewise, the feedback from Charlotte will be valuable to guys too. When my company did live events, the guys really valued hearing a female coach say “do this, don’t do that” because obviously she has the experience of being on the receiving end of the wrong and right approach.
Helena: Why do you think that gaming appears to be such a battle ground for representation of women?
Richard: TV and film has shifted markedly and quickly because a few media companies control everything, gaming is much more diffuse. Gamers are mostly young men, and games companies have often been rewarded for using sex in games. Lots of games that have I played since Super Seducer came out have gratuitous use of sex and sexy women.
Helena: What have you learned from your own struggles with how women are portrayed in Super Seducer?
Richard: In the first game we really did add some women as eye candy, thinking that that was the norm in the industry and that players would enjoy it. We made that marketing decision and got punished for it. On the other hand I think we were unfairly criticised in other ways. The women in the game are strong, they stand up for themselves and don’t take any crap. A woman is never humiliated or bullied in SS1, whereas i am constantly humiliated when the player makes the wrong decision. We thought it was empowering in that respect, but writers wanted to paint the whole game as evil so lost objectivity and couldn’t find one positive.
Helena: Do you think having more inclusive games will change the gaming industry? If you do, in what ways?
Richard: Maybe more women will get into gaming on console and PC, rather than just on mobile. I can see how gaming wasn’t so attractive to women years ago, given the dominant genres and the representation of women. Although I have played games constantly since the Sega Master System, I am not that up to speed on the politics in gaming, so I’m not best placed to answer these questions. Helena: Aside from what is considered to be the uncomfortable nature of the first game, another criticism of the first Super Seducer is that it lacked much in the way of gameplay. Has there been any addition to or overhaul of the gameplay for number 2?
Richard: We have more frequent choice points and more choices, and the game is much more dynamic. I didn’t see that criticism about the first game too often…the nature of FMV games limits what we can do to an extent – you can’t have an open world FMV game. The second game should be many times more engaging and varied. I’m looking forward to seeing what the players think when they get their hands on it. SS1 has 85% positive reviews on Steam and we are so happy with that. We really did improve on everything this time around and hope to be well received by gamers, but honestly don’t expect positivity from the gaming press 🙂
A big thanks to Richard La Ruina for taking the time to answer our questions, check out our review of the original Super Seducer here and stay tuned for our Super Seducer 2 review when it launches!
Check out the trailer below: