I recently played Luxuria Superbia, a game about touch, delight and flowers. After the first ten minutes spent learning how to satiate my flower’s desire, I remembered the book on my shelf. On its cover is a sepia-tone anthurium with a sensuous shape, and above it, the title Erotic Poems. It's an anthology of poems about sex, sexual revolution, foreplay, various sensitive body parts and, more generally, ecstasy. Luxuria Superbia belongs in this book. However, Luxuria Superbia isn’t exactly a game “about sex.”
Poetry and games share the gift of building evocative experiences. Poetry infers mainly through evocative language. Honor Moore’s poem “Disparu” is about a sexual encounter, but she doesn’t spell it out word for word,
my hand at your well-cut trouser, invisible
speeding night, the invisible taxi, bare
the invisible legs, kissing the vanishing
mouths, breasts invisible, your, my invisible
entwining, the sheets white as geese, blue as sky.”
Clarity is not the goal of a suggestive text; sometimes it’s better to leave a little to the imagination. Luxuria Superbia hits this note on point—the motion, color, sound and text meld into a euphoric experience, both emotional and erotic, without giving too much away.
With each level you explore the depth of a unique flower with a unique taste. When you begin your journey, the text on the screen speaks to you, telling you that the colors feel good, that your movements painting those colors make it feel good. Sometimes it asks you for more, for you to stroke its petals. The text fading on and off the screen throughout this exchange feels intimate. The flower claims your attention, but it isn’t selfish; it encourages and affirms your efforts. The text strikes an elegant balance with the abstract, fractal flower spinning by as you dive ahead. It keeps you grounded in the task at hand: the mindful touch.
With all the device fondling that we do these days, whether it’s a tablet, phone, or touch-sensitive controller, it’s important to be mindful of how, what and why we are touching. What do you touch more, your iPhone or your partner? What does it really mean to touch a thing as opposed to a person? How does one touch differ from another? The meaning of physical interaction changes in shifting contexts, especially in a world where every technology is hands-on.
While I was playing Luxuria Superbia, my partner sat on the couch. I could feel two things: him physically beside me and the controller in my hand. While I made circular motions with the joysticks, caressing this flower, I felt torn. There I was, playing a game about pleasure and feeling, and there was my partner, sitting beside me. As one would expect, he felt much more warm than my controller, so I felt selfish for lavishing all of my attention on a flower. The contrast of these contexts between which I was sitting made me experience the game differently than if I were playing alone. It’s important to play, to do things that feel good to you. Luxuria Superbia is a reminder to hold your loved ones close, and to do things that make them feel good, too. It’s a testament to the universal desire for love and joy. I think Frank O’Hara puts it best in his poem, “Meditations in an Emergency”: “I am the least difficult of men. All I want is boundless love. / Even trees understand me! Good heavens, I lie under them, too, don’t I? I’m just like a pile of leaves.”