Yep, it’s creepy.
Summer Lesson, a VR experiment for Sony’s Project Morpheus headset produced by Namco Bandai, is a powerful virtual reality experience. It’s also disturbing and awkward and, well, kind of pornographic.
No, she doesn’t get naked. It’s not that kind of lesson — at least, not literally. And yet it’s clearly a strong hint about how sex will sell in virtual reality, even in places where actual VR porn might be off the menu. The VR industry hasn’t been willing to talk about porn, because they don’t want that to be the focus of the conversation, but Summer Lesson is a concession that, yes, VR will be a platform for those kinds of experiences.
It’s a pretty simple demo, really. You’re sitting on the porch of a traditional Japanese house on a beautiful beach. You’re minding your own business, enjoying the summer breeze. Sea, sky, sunflowers and a nice gentle wind—nature in perfect harmony. A ripe watermelon sits on a table. Looks tasty. You can’t stand up or walk around, but you can look (and lean) around to see inside the beautifully detailed house.
Then she comes along—a beautiful blond Caucasian girl with short shorts, a form-fitting semi-transparent top, and a ridiculous figure to go with them. She asks me if I can be her sensei, teach her a little Japanese. How could I say no? Of course, even if I wanted to say no, I couldn’t. If I refuse her, she just laughs and continues.
I look her up and down. Yep, she’s hot. And then things go to the creepy place.
The innocent, carefree way she talks to me, my inability to get up off the porch, and the facts that I grow sunflowers and own traditional Japanese beachfront property bring me to a realisation. I am probably old. I am an old perverted man looking this girl up and down. I’ve actually stumbled into a very specific fantasy. I try to put it out of my mind.
As the demo goes on, it encourages my bad behaviour. She has me lean in close to check her Japanese homework. Oh look, she’s so happy she just discovered a word that means “love”! She loses her guitar pick, and puts herself in a couple of vaguely compromising positions while she searches for it.
Suddenly, she asks me to hold very still, and gets really close to me. Is she going to kiss me? My perverted old man-heart skips a beat.
Nope, she was just trying to catch a butterfly that had landed on my shoulder. But how about that nice red bra, eh? Awkward.
At the end of the demo, a weird man stumbles onto the property, announces that he’s the film director, and congratulates you on your acting. Great job! You don’t need to feel bad if you looked at her lustily, reads the game’s subtext, because she was an adult actress, not an innocent girl.
Which was kind of nice of them, because the game’s director—also a man—was watching me the whole time, and I’m not sure how to explain my behaviour. I wind up smiling and telling him how impressive it was that she got so close. He smiles and nods.
This isn’t the first version of Summer Lesson, by the way. The first, featuring a Japanese schoolgirl, was even more overtly sexual. Japanese players responded to that version by saying things like “I wouldn’t want anyone watching me while I played,” and “I think I’m in love.” The subtext is hardly subtext at all.
This is one of the VR demos that Sony is using to sell Project Morpheus to early adopters whom they hope will lead the consumer market. The hook seems to be that you can leer at schoolgirls, and the “lesson” is that you won’t get in trouble for it.