Warning: The websites mentioned within this piece contain extreme material that's highly likely to offend and disturb. We do not advocate visiting them. Consider yourself issued every trigger warning imaginable.
Lara in Trouble
Unless you regularly tour the less salubrious corners of the internet, it's unlikely you've stumbled across any machinima porn, in which videogame characters go at it with each other. This fast-rising porn sub-genre was spawned by the enormously popular machinima scene; machinima involves using graphics engines and video-editing programs to create mini-movies featuring characters from games ('machinima' = 'machine' + 'cinema'). Once machinima creators were able to remove characters' clothes and give them genitals, machinima porn became an inevitability.
Lara in Trouble
This may all sound a bit shonky and niche – tittering nerds, coding in whiffy bedrooms – but machinima porn is more popular and profitable than you might imagine. Many videos boast surprisingly high production values and clock up millions of views on porn sites such as Pornhub and XVideos (machinima porn was long ago shooed out of YouTube). A bustling fan community has sprung up around sites such as Lewd Gamer, Naughty Machinima and Studio FOW.
While some machinima porn creators depict the kind of things you'd see in 'normal' porn, others explore the more surreal possibilities that the medium affords them. Elves fellate orcs; vampires have threesomes; a well-endowed purple pony-person with heaving breasts reaches a geyser-like climax. Many of these videos seem intended not to titillate, but to shock and amuse through their sheer, swivel-eyed dementedness.
But it's not all daft, obscene whimsy. Some machinima porn productions – such as Studio FOW's infamous 'Lara Croft In Trouble' – depict extreme, non-consensual sex that's as dark and disturbing as it comes. Nobody was hurt or traumatised in the making of these videos, of course – because no real person appears in them. But does that make it okay for these videos to exist? If it's acceptable for gamers to enjoy violence as visceral entertainment, is it acceptable for them to enjoy sexual violence in the same way? Due to the extreme and copyright-flouting nature of the content they create, those within the machina porn scene operate in a legal and ethical netherworld. Nobody's really sure where the lines should be drawn, because nothing like this – digital, limitless, DIY porn – has ever existed before. To get a better understanding of just how far machinima porn might go, we spoke with some of the scene's key figures.
Logic and Zen, LewdGamer LewdGamer is a website dedicated to machinima porn and hentai (Japanese manga and anime featuring extreme sexual content). Logic is the site's founder; Zen is a regular contributor. What inspired you to start LewdGamer?
Logic: “I created LG because the [machinima porn] scene wasn't being taken seriously by mainstream gaming outlets. When they cover anything adult-related, it seems like they're on a mission to demean people who enjoy that material. All entertainment mediums deserve proper coverage and criticism; adult content-creation is no exception.”
Some of the machinima you guys cover seems designed to incite shocked laughter rather than arousal...
Logic: “Regardless of the intention, you'd be surprised at the amount of people who get turned on by the 'shocking' material. A lot of that hardcore stuff is made with [the intention of turning viewers on]. Sometimes it is for laughs, but sometimes people are trying to make really sexy content. You see the so-called 'weird stuff' on XVideos and Pornhub, and those videos are always in the millions and millions of views.
It may be hard for others to understand, but people enjoy this stuff and I don’t feel like they should be ashamed of it."
Zen: “The material we cover on LewdGamer is in line with our policy of introducing people to a wide variety of kinks. What disturbs one group of our readers will be attractive to another. I can't speak on behalf of content creators and say what their motivations are, but I do know that their reasons for creating animations are as diverse as the content they produce.”
Are you guys looked down on by non-pornographic machinima creators?
Logic: “To say that there aren’t people disgusted by the content these guys make would be a lie. But this really isn’t any of their business. People should be allowed to create whatever they want, as long as they're not hurting anyone."
Can you foresee machinima porn eventually infiltrating the mainstream in the way that, for example, Let's Playvideos have?
Zen: “Personally, I don't see machinima porn breaking through to the mainstream. As things stand now, it's mainly sought after by enthusiasts; others who chance upon it will often treat it as an interesting curiosity and nothing more.”
A screenshot from School Break
Much of Studio FOW's output seems calibrated to shock. In your films there are quite a few depictions of non-consensual sex...
“We don’t make movies for the sake of controversy; we're not sitting down and saying, 'Let’s do this, it'll annoy everyone!' We actually cover a wide variety of fetishes, including gay animations, softcore, BDSM... But the fans who support us are very vocal about the material they want to see, and they lean heavily towards darker explorations of sexuality. Naturally, we try and keep them happy by catering to that. And yes, since it's a digital medium, we're able to depict things you wouldn't normally see in regular erotica.”
DC, Studio FOW founder Studio FOW are revered within the machina-porn scene for the ambition and professionalism of their productions.
How is Studio FOW funded?
“All of our movies are free. We're funded by donations through Patreon, a crowdfunding platform for artists. That covers our living and production expenses. Every month, people chip in to keep the team creating. We're very demand-driven, so the people chipping in get to have a say on what we feature in our movies.”
Has the popularity of your videos led to any take-down demands from game publishers?
“Not so far. We're a non-profit organisation and we [create] all the assets [from scratch] ourselves, so I doubt they would be able to build a case that'd hold up in a court of law.”
Is there anything you'd draw the line at depicting?
“Yes. Obviously, sexual depictions of minors are illegal in almost every country, so we adhere to the laws. And other extremely out-there fetishes such as scat or dismemberment are not only impossible in our animation environment, but nobody really requests them.”
Do you consider Studio FOW to be closer aligned to gaming culture or the porn industry?
“It’s a marriage of both worlds, the ultimate fantasy: 'I loved adventuring with that character, but what would it be like to sleep with him/her?' It’s a normal, completely healthy train-of-thought. And because the characters are all fictional, nobody gets hurt or exploited in real life.”
Can you foresee machinima porn infiltrating the mainstream?
“VR machinima porn is definitely the future. I firmly believe it’s going to start a new sexual revolution. VR enables users to experience content in a completely immersive way, and when you combine that with the intimate nature of sex, the potential is frightening. When you're interacting with 3D videogame characters, it'll change the game completely.”
First published 25 March 2016.