Super Seducer: Is It As Creepy and Weird As It Sounds?
Every now and again a perfect storm comes along for a game that would have otherwise faded into obscurity, suddenly catapulting into the public consciousness due to viral online controversy. That's the case with self-help dating simulator Super Seducer, which managed to land at exactly the wrong place in exactly the wrong time.
Dating sims, of course, aren't anything new, and there's plenty of them with outlandish or humorously offensive themes, so what sets this one apart and makes it such a target for negative reviews at the moment? I'll let the game's description speak for itself:
Learn state-of-the-art seduction secrets from the master himself, Richard La Ruina, in this incredibly valuable live action seduction simulator.
If you’ve ever run out of things to say, gotten stuck in the friend zone, or don’t know when to make your move - then this game will transform your love life forever.
The focus here isn't on a fictional experience for entertainment purposes, but rather on teaching the male gaming community how to convince women in everyday situations to sleep with them.
Considering how the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements are impacting the world right now, this game couldn't really arrive at a worse possible time. The only way they could have botched this more would have been to make Harvey Weinstein or Roy Moore playable characters.
Now granted, Super Seducer most certainly isn't Custer's Revenge or RapeLay, but there's serious division occurring in the gaming community, with some claiming the game is harmless fun (or even helpful for introverted gamers who need a nudge in the romance department), and others staunchly opposed to everything the game stands for.
Thankfully, the overall experience is less rapey than you might think, and there are some lessons in there that, sadly, a segment of the population needs to learn (don't just whip it out and show it off, fellas -- this should be obvious -- and please don't begin your dance floor seduction with a twerk attack). Unexpected issues are even brought up during the game's levels, like how to deal with your intended mark dropping a potentially homophobic comment while you are trying to get in her pants.
Despite the toned-down nature of this virtual pickup artist lesson, Sony has still denied the game's addition to the Playstation 4 lineup, and there's currently a petition going to get it pulled from Steam. I'm not personally a fan of that sort of censorship (I'd rather people read a book and see why its contents are wrong than for it to be banned from the library, for instance), but there are some problematic issues here worth discussing.
Super Seducer's Gameplay
Before getting into the content itself and whether the controversy is deserved or overblown, it's worth taking a look at whether Richard La Ruina's foray into PC gaming is even worth it from an entertainment standpoint.
Honestly, the most fun you will have playing this as an actual PC game experience (rather than using it as a dating education tool) is to deliberately choose the most obviously wrong options.
There are some legitimately hilarious segments when you screw up your seduction on purpose, like using the fact that a girl smokes cigarettes as a segue into asking her to go tripping on LSD for three days at your place.
Some amazing rambling from the pickup guru will have you in stitches, although on the whole, Super Seducer more falls into that category of pointless games that are really just there for the YouTube reaction videos.
While some conversation choices switch from good to neutral to bad depending on previously selected options, there's nothing approaching actual branching dialogue that impacts endings or changes the narrative. This notably isn't Telltale: Seduction Edition.
You pick from mostly obvious options in any given scene, going back and doing it over when you screw up, and then Richard tells you what you did right or wrong on the path to finding someone to warm your bed for the night.
Even the slew of animated choose-your-own-adventure visual novels that fill up Steam still have some level of story, but that's completely lacking here. This isn't a narrative, but rather classroom lessons for the romantically challenged.
There's a problem there in using a game as a training manual, as it reduces the fun level obviously, and in this case, also leads to some very iffy advice on how to treat other human beings.
So What's the Big Deal?
Even if you move away from the obvious joke stuff like Hatoful Boyfriend or Dream Daddy, most animated visual novels clearly aren't meant to be taken as anything other than fantasy.
They aren't manuals on how to actually approach people and try to start up a relationship. That isn't the case here, where the full title is Super Seducer: How to Talk to Girls. In the words of developer RLR Training Inc:
As you make your moves, renowned seduction guru Richard La Ruina (featured in Maxim, Men’s Health, The BBC, Piers Morgan) provides you with feedback for every choice you make, delving into the psychology and the hundreds of hidden secrets that separate seduction masters from everybody else.
Here’s the bottom line: if you make the right choices in the game, you’ll make the right choices in your life.
Some of these "hidden secrets" in the feedback are harmless -- like nonverbally drawing attention on the dance floor and then starting a dance-off -- but those more fun options that would draw someone's attention and show them your personality are usually the "neutral" answer in any given level. To get the "good" outcome (i.e., seeing her in lingerie on Richard's bed), you need to be more forceful.
To be fair, Super Seducer's approach is less aggressive overall than in some of the other self-help-style seduction training courses (don't immediately kiss her ... but you should go for it quickly; don't try to get her drunk on the dance floor ... but do try to get her drunk as soon as you stop dancing when a lame song comes on), but at its core, the concept revolves around being forceful and getting the answer you want in the fewest possible moves.
Keeping up with this low-calorie, lite version of aggressive pickup styles detailed in other books or seminars, Super Seducer includes an option to tell a potential mark that you enjoy hurting people, which obviously is the wrong choice. That dialog option ends with the guru halfheartedly explaining that "in reality a man should never use superior strength to intimidate a girl."
That advice is sort of betrayed by the strategies presented, though, like standing in front of a woman to stop her from walking away (which is just obnoxious).
There's also a clear focus on not asking questions that can be denied, like "Can I buy you a drink?" but instead issuing direct commands like "Let's go get a drink."
Since the point is to teach obvious things to gamers who have no game, it seems odd that some basic concepts aren't covered at all. For instance, in the scenario of buying a girl a drink after dancing, there's no mention of the prevalent issue of date rape drugs put into drinks. There's no explanation of trying to put a woman at ease by letting her see the drink be made and take it directly from the bartender herself. In this day and age, that's sadly Dating 101, but anything that considers the woman's perception of the experience is entirely glossed over.
Instead, the point in each scenario is generally to try to remove agency from the intended target, making them feel like they need to respond positively to you whether they want to or not. The strategy is focused around giving women as few "outs" as possible, ignoring clear signals that she isn't interested. Like, you know, the fact that she has a boyfriend, or that she's trying to do something else and you are bothering the shit out of her.
Using psychology to find the quickest way to convince a woman to go back to your place might be effective, but it certainly isn't ethical. If both parties are just interested in quick, no-strings sex, then cool, have at it, but this is no way to approach dating or finding a relationship companion.
With the subtitle How to Talk to Women, it's clear this game isn't meant to provide tips on how to get people to swipe right on you in a service specifically meant to facilitate sex. It's about how to convince women in everyday locations -- the coffee shop, on the street, in the office environment (can you say sexual harassment?) -- to go home with you.
Seeing This Experience From the Other Side
While amusing from the male perspective, when selecting all the worst dialog options, Super Seducer stands as a very different experience if you think of any of these scenarios from the opposite end.
While dialog options are typically meant to highlight less sexist pickup lines, the overall strategies specifically revolve around removing agency from the target, issuing commands instead of requests and separating them from their friends and familiar locations. To the pickup artist looking for an easy lay, that might be great, but for the person being subjected to those kind of tactics, it's more of a nightmare.
That's exactly what performance art/gaming crossover The Game: The Game showcases, standing as a counterpoint to the lessons in seduction manuals like Super Seducer.
The Game: The Game becomes a horror rendition of the exact same experience, offering a woman's perspective of dealing with men who have read "dating" manual The Game and are trying out the pickup strategies described therein. This timely interactive video is currently an exhibition at the Museum Of The Moving Image, with a planned online game release at itch.io coming soon.
Pushy men using canned lines is every girl's dream date!
Sex is a normal, healthy part of a relationship, but the approach taken here with Super Seducer is anything but. Having a strategy to limit a person's freedom and keep them in a potentially unwanted conversation with you is frankly pretty creepy.
Although Richard does deserve points for some of the lessons imparted, there's no escaping the fact that the game's intended purpose is to reduce a woman (or any subject of potential affections of any gender) to what is essentially a video game quick time event -- trying to figure out the puzzle as quickly as possible so the sex achievement pops out, then moving onto the next one.
If this were a hentai game for personal gratification, that wouldn't matter, but as a tutorial meant to change your lifestyle, Super Seducer essentially teaches that a person's value is entirely tied to their willingness to provide sexual favors, and features an entirely manipulative focus on approaching women.
Want to know how gamer girls feel about the advice in Super Seducer? Just watch this hilarious clip of two women discussing the options on how to defend yourself from coffee shop creeps who use this game as a training tool ... like fending them off with summoned fart demons.
If aimed flatulence is the response from the intended targets, clearly we've gotten off course somewhere. So yeah, while Super Seducer is wrapped up in a seemingly woman-friendly package, it is essentially as creepy and weird as you'd expect.