Those unfamiliar with slash fiction or similar categories of gay erotica might be understandably confused by the concept of a straight, married woman creating an exclusively gay dating sim. And perhaps even more confused how a straight, recent college-grad girl could enjoy it immensely too.
But according to Obscura, the aforementioned married woman behind the writing, character design, and concept of Coming Out On Top, it really isn’t that weird. “If you have a heart, if you can envision living in someone else’s shoes, if you’re good at research and talking to people,” she explains, “then yes, yes, yes: you can write outside your orientation. It’s good for you as a writer and as a person. And if your stories are compelling, I don’t know why it would even matter.”
After playing a Japanese mobile dating sim a few years back “where everything’s very pink and you’re only goal is to meet the dashing boy of your dreams,” Obscura found that her needs weren’t getting met by the current market. Because, she says, “Naturally, I couldn’t stand any of the guys in those games, because I’m a dirty old woman and they’re written for teenage girls.”
“Oh, and did I mention I was into gay porn at the time? Okay, so I was into gay porn at the time,” she admits. So instead of just giving up on the whole dating sim scene, she “thought it’d be fun to make a story-based choose-your-own-fate games with just dudes dating dudes.”
Following a pretty fool-proof method of creation, Obscura says she simply “made the game I wanted to play. Funny, sexy, absurd, and sweet. I wanted to hang out with likable and interesting characters, I wanted to see sexy scenes, I wanted to laugh my ass off. I wanted to be surprised.” After discovering a free game engine called Renpy, she set to work on a short game about a dude coming out in college, and a few months later published a version of Coming Out On Top to dev forums which “didn’t have any wang in it at that point. It was all very sweet and innocent.”
But while Obscura thought she was just making a game for herself at first, the Internet quickly flocked in droves to tell her hell yes and more plz. She received tons of emails, mostly from gay men, saying they really liked her quirky game with such relatable characters. “So I decided to crowdfund the game, expand it to include four more relationships, and make it erotic (always a crowd pleaser).”
Coming Out On Top ended up being an incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign, with funding nearly eight times more than its asking price. After Obscura released an updated, expanded, eroticized version of the free demo, the biggest complaint from players amounted to: please promise you’ll remove all censor bars in the actual game. (Don’t worry, she did.)
The full game, released just last week, features at least three new steaming hot dateable dudes, man-beard functionality, a love meter, a Grinder imitator named Bro Finder which can lead to seven other dates, and—of course—multiple opportunities to hang low (if ya catch my drift). Obscura is also promising a free update in the new year, with a secret relationship route and seven new encounters through Bro Finder, all of which will be revealed in spring 2015.
Every man you encounter in Coming Out On Top is a beefcake of unrealistic comic book superhero proportions. Yet, somehow, this never detracts (though it does distract) from their well-written, very human personalities and dialogue. Obscura never imagined the game would reach such a wide audience with different tastes in body types, so she’s also starting to consider another future add-on that satisfies the full range of her audiences needs. She’s even thinking about releasing a censored version, since “I’ve gotten letters from straight people and people who aren’t crazy about the gay sex scenes, and who’d like to play a version with less instances of penis and cum.”
Though Coming Out On Top has become most well known for its tantalizing eroticism, the real heart of the game lies in its story. And I swear I’m not just saying that to come across as less of a freak. Because regardless of the set of genitalia you prefer, Coming Out On Top presents an entirely relatable and varied cast of characters living out their college lives, spouting out the kind of humor you’d expect from a collegiate bunch.
The fact that Obscura now receives requests from straight people asking for a non-erotic version proves just how much the narrative can stand on its own, sans all the shlong. Overwhelmingly, the majority of the feedback she receives (which, from the sounds of it, is ample) comes from “men just thanking me. Thanking me for making this, thanking for not filling it with certain stereotypes, thanking me for working so hard on making a quality project that caters to a smaller population. I have emails from guys who’ve said this game helped them come out, or lifted their spirits when they were depressed. Just all sorts of emails from people who say this game personally means something to them.”
Though Obscura is careful not to give her game too much life-changing credit, it’s not hard to see why it would be for some. From the beginning Coming Out On Top delivers a coming out story devoid of the usual narrative painted by fictional media. When the protagonist Mark first comes out to his friends/roommates, there’s hardly even a pause in the plot. They crack a few jokes to ease his nerves, congratulate him, and immediately try setting him up on a date before taking him out to the local gay bar. His liberal parents react just as unblinkingly too, quickly overstepping their enthusiastic acceptance (“having a gay son now is what having a lesbian daughter was in the 90’s”) by asking Mark’s preference for being a bottom or a top.
In the world of Coming Out On Top, being gay is equivalent to preferring the color blue over red. Sure, others might not like blue like you do. But refuting or challenging your preference is so beneath most rational people, that it clearly doesn’t warrant any debate. Obscura thinks that another aspect of the game that people, especially from the LGBTQ community, are responding to is “the fact that the main character is just another college guy looking for sex, romance, whatever. Him being gay really doesn’t set him apart from anyone else in the little world he inhabits, aside from the fact he’s attracted to men. He could be the protagonist of any straight, mainstream teen romcom or college sex comedy.”
Which is not to deny the pain of so many people who do experience extreme resistance and even hatred for simply liking what they like openly. But we’ve heard that tragic story retold in most of the media’s representations of coming out. Pain and suffering should never go unaddressed by media, especially when it comes to such a marginalized and targeted group. At the same time, we should work toward a representation that covers the full range of varied experiences within the gay community, while perhaps also demonstrating how easily our society could transform into a more accepting place without any major changes to its structure whatsoever.
In the end, what Obscura believes all people—no matter what race, nationality, age or sexual preference—could take from her story is that, “There really isn’t much difference between gay, bi, or straight people. A horny dude is a horny dude, regardless of his sexuality.”