A New Game Lets You Get Close to Your iPad. Really Close.

The art of play.
Nov. 6 2013 10:59 AM

Sex Machines

A new game takes the human-gadget relationship to its logical extreme.

Luxuria Superbia

Screenshots courtesy Tale of Tales

Right now I’m concentrating on satisfying my iPad. I've learned I have to start gently, with one finger circling the screen, and then add a second, longer caress. It doesn't like it to be over too quickly. 

It's all gone white-light now. I perceive the tablet to be breathing. Words surface from the afterglow: "Kiss me." And for some reason, absurdly, I comply. I'm making love—after a kind—to my iPad, and I kind of like it.

Luxuria Superbia is the latest genre-defying game from two-person development team Tale of Tales. As I pet the screen, it blushes pink and then red as a flower, seeming to pull me down a lush, blooming corridor that feels delightfully—and sometimes unsettlingly—organic. Its curvaceous, petal-like walls are dotted with abstractions of buds, or maybe knobs of pollen. When you touch them, they open, and color spreads along the tunnel walls. This seems to be what the creature wants, and as your fingertip makes little loops through the sparkling space, it feels abstractly like a tunnel racing game (if you're thinking about video games) or like a Georgia O'Keeffe heavy metaphor (if you're not).


In spite of its video-gaminess, Luxuria Superbia feels sensate, alive. You complete a “level” by stimulating it to full color, but never too roughly or quickly. Some touches seem to work, while others don't. Like many a human partner, it offers very little explicit instruction on how it wants to be caressed, but plenty of feedback to learn from. A little score-counter racks up in one corner of the screen, but it's completely inscrutable, irrelevant. I hardly notice it because I'm so focused on touch, stimulating buds, and spreading color, learning the needs and patterns of this languid, sighing machine.

Luxuria Superbia's plush, touchable inner walls, the rising swell of its celebratory, ambient music, and the tiny icons it sometimes produces in response to touch—mirrors, jewels, household objects—seem to celebrate the material plenitude that makes it possible to own high-end touch-screen devices in the first place. It also makes our intimacy with our devices more literal—or brings that intimacy to its logical extreme. Our devices come into bed with us, squares of light attracting our touch and attention after partners have fallen asleep.  They're the ones we turn to when we are lost, need help, are lonesome for basic interaction. In Spike Jonze's newest film, Her, we meet the awfully plausible hypothesis that a computerized voice alone can substitute for real intimacy.

One could read Luxuria Superbia as a critique of these kinds of gadget fetishism. If you like it so much, why don't you just marry it? I wonder what I must look like, bent over this glass square at rest on my thighs, my breath shallow, my finger to its face.

But Tale of Tales' Michael Samyn and Auriea Harvey, who've been a couple since they met and fell in love online in 1999, tell me via email that Luxuria Superbia isn't about criticism, but about portraying a lighthearted, loving, and even spiritual side to the human connection to devices. "It is always there for you and you are always there for it, aren't you?" they write.  To them, Luxuria Superbia is a “virtual creature,” independent of particular hardware (it's also available on Android, Mac OSX, Windows, and the Ouya microconsole), existing in the same kind of space in which they fell in love.

The intention of Luxuria Superbia, then, seems to bridge the gap between human and hardware. "I exist for you," reads the delicate text that serves as the blooming flowers' only verbal communication with the player. "Take what you want from me." Luxuria Superbia might make your friends giggle if you put it on the table for them to touch during a party; it might make your cheeks a little hot if you play it alone. Intentionally or otherwise, though, it manages to subvert the concept of “consumer technology”—here, your luxurious, expensive device is a lover who wants to know why you always take, take, take. Isn't it time you gave it a little appreciation?

Leigh Alexander is editor-at-large at Gamasutra.


Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

Even When They Go to College, the Poor Sometimes Stay Poor

Here’s Just How Far a Southern Woman May Have to Drive to Get an Abortion

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy

It’s also a mess. Can the movies do better?


Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Watching Netflix in Bed. Hanging Bananas. Is There Anything These Hooks Can’t Solve?

The Procedural Rule That Could Prevent Gay Marriage From Reaching SCOTUS Again

  News & Politics
Oct. 20 2014 3:53 PM Smash and Grab Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?
Continuously Operating
Oct. 20 2014 3:40 PM Keeping It in the Family Why are so many of the world’s oldest companies in Japan?
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 1:10 PM Women Are Still Losing Jobs for Getting Pregnant
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 5:03 PM Marcel the Shell Is Back and as Endearing as Ever
Future Tense
Oct. 20 2014 4:59 PM Canadian Town Cancels Outdoor Halloween Because Polar Bears
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.