Shame is a powerful motivator. In one of his many ground-breaking books, ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed,’ author Jon Ronson discusses how shaming practices have seen a huge revival since they were abandoned in the States way back in 1837. For being too harsh.
In the 1837! Do you know the kind of things they were letting people get away with back then? Loads. Women would only be allowed to own property two years later, and would only earn the vote eighty-one years after that. Slavery was only abolished in the 1860s, but even white Colonial America knew public shaming was too intense a punishment.
The cause of the revival is the root cause of almost all good and ill these days, the internet. Interconnectivity has given people the power to share information at an unprecedented pace. Apply this to one incredibly flawed society, and you end up with a big dollop of righteous anger, and not all of it constructive.
But you don’t even need to say something overtly sexist to feel the cold sweat of shame. Your Steam library might do that for you. Ever clocked in a few precious minutes of Hatoful Boyfriend (2011) on your commute, only to realize you’ve unwittingly hinted to all those around you that you’re interested in a romantic relationship with an anthropomorphic pigeon? No? Well, we’ve got a long list, and your brand of weird might be on it. Here are fifteen of the most humiliating games to be caught playing.
15 The Witcher 3
While the game’s length might let you slip under the radar, with a gorgeous landscape on screen at any given time, there are certain parts of the game that you wouldn’t want anyone you respect to walk in on. Ever, ever, ever. If you’ve played the game, you’ll know about the numerous awkward sex scenes; where developers who had really only just got the hang of hair effects, decided it was a brilliant idea to give audiences drawn-out love sequences between what looks characters that look like Sims operating on a salami mod. Trés sexy, non?
But it gets worse. After each unfortunate encounter, Geralt is furnished with a calling card, similar to old card decks featuring scantily-clad pin-ups. Just much worse. When needed, these cards can be pulled up and then, we don’t know? Looked at? Because internet porn isn’t a thing?
14 Playboy: The Mansion
Ever wanted to be an exploitative ninety-one-year-old who hangs about in a robe for three-quarters of the day? You’re in luck. All you need is a copy of Playboy: The Mansion, and the ability to shrug off shame as you would said robe.
To be fair, you don’t actually play as modern-day Hef. Instead, you start as Hef as he was when he was just beginning to create what would one day be such a questionable empire. You’re then tasked with turning your protagonist into a mogul through a number of quests, involving some centre-spread shooting, and of course, more than the odd sexual encounter. But it’s not all fun and games. You’ll also have to grease the palms of industry bigwigs, and even supervise renovations to the famed mansion. Comment with any clues as to why this game exists, please.
13 Duke Nukem
Some people long for simpler days. When bad guys didn’t have any of this snowflake bs, ‘nuance,’ where the women were naked and available, and when dudes were real dudes. Jacked AF, that is. With a sprinkle of Arian, and a metric ton of repression. These people love Duke Nukem. So, so much.
Unless you’re playing this ironically, or in the unlikelihood that it’s a favourite for some reason that diminishes the game’s obvious narrative issues, there’s little chance that having this in your games collection will make you lose any sleep. We believe blind pride was the much-praised DLC for Duke Nukem Forever (2011). That’s okay, though, ‘cause we’re all embarrassed for you.
12 Almost Any Of The Metal Gear Solid Games
We’d like to preface this by saying that everything making the Metal Gear Solid series (1998-) appear on this list is also what gives Hideo Kojima his legendary status. Unless you’re newish to the gaming scene, you’ll know from the get-go that any Kojima production is going to have its fair share of weird. Exhibit A, Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain’s (2015) flaming blue sky whale. Exhibit B, that time Johnny Sasaki pooped himself while hiding in a barrel. Exhibit C, whatever it was that was going down in this Death Stranding trailer.
There are many exhibits. We’d never get through all of them here. But, suffice it to say that at any given frame, there’s some bizarre stuff going down on-screen. Not a big deal if any would-be passersby are also gamers. A lot less cool if your partner wants to know why Guillermo del Toro holding a baby is something you’re ‘so keen to play.’
The Nintendo Switch was released to critical acclaim earlier this year, and we’ve been enjoying it ever since. No surprises there, but we were caught out on one bizarre feature of the new console.
The Switch came with the game compilation, 1-2-Switch (2017). One of the fine games on this anthology involved two players competing to milk cows the fastest. Right, yes. That’s you and another person, side by side, effectively making suggestive movements in the air in front of you. Fun! You read our minds, guys. That’s exactly what we wanted to do with our friends and family, Nintendo. Thank you. We’re especially psyched for the inevitable moment when misguided employers the world over realize this game’s potential for icebreakers. Again, thank you!
10 Dream Daddy
It’s all in the name, really. This upcoming game is a dad dating simulator, where players will have the chance, nay the pleasure, of creating their very own dad, and helping him find true love. Whether you’re the dadbod type, the vampish type, or prefer your dads swathed in roguish good looks, there’s a dad for you, thanks to the good folks at Game Grumps. You’ll find seven dads ready to co-parent with someone special (wink, wink, that’s you, buddy!).
Not enough dad-themed amazingness for you? Never fret. There are fatherly mini-games on each date path, and PLENTY of dad jokes to go around. The good news is that this game is only marginally more embarrassing than meeting your Tinder date for the first time. So, if you are looking to hook up with dads, you could do it IRL and save yourself the Steam credit.
Björn is a Swedish unicorn with the power of speech, which he chooses to expend helping you hit as many blue and red dots as possible. Not all powers are used wisely, then. If you ever had an Xbox 360, you’ll probably have played Peggle (2007). A moment of silence for all children who never got games because their parents insisted that the free Peggle installation should be enough.
Anyway, there’s nothing particularly shameful about the game itself. It feels good to hear the satisfying sound of a rising bubble tone as you hit ball after ball while possessing only a fraction of the skills required to have this kind of success anywhere else in life. But it’s Peggle. Being good at Peggle is like mastering one yo-yo trick. Yes, it’s fun the first few times, but at the end of the day, what do you have to show for this flagrant use of your mortality?
8 Velvet Sundown
Velvet Sundown is an online multiplayer that takes place on a yacht. Each round, you’ll start with a given persona, along with a special task that you’re to fulfill. For example, you might be Mr. Jones, a man with a goal to accrue foster parents for a child in your care (really).
Your aim is to get your goal sorted out before other people do theirs, and you can do it in many varying ways. This doesn’t sound too embarrassing yet, but oh wait. You see, the characters say whatever you type into a dialogue bar. *Cue humans being humans and wrecking the game with all manner of schoolyard jokes*. All you need is a family member to walk in while someone’s avatar is making every attempt to bypass admin filters.
7 Murder, She Wrote 2: Return To Cabot Cove
Sometimes you see an older actor in a budget production film, and you know that another one’s been crushed under the weight of Hollywood’s chihuahua-eat-chihuahua world. Well, Angela Lansbury didn’t make the silver screen, but she did become the star of a so-bad-it’s-good hidden object series, based on her work with Murder, She Wrote (1984-1996).
You’ll never find us complaining about seeing Lansbury more often, but even her appeal couldn’t stop the artist from turning her into Chucky’s mother. All in all, Return to Cabot Cove (2009) is a charmingly appalling game that will leave you with hopes of a Netflix special return of the original show.
6 Deer Hunter
If you’re going to hunt, it’s preferable that you do it digitally. That said, it’s still a little ick. Games like Far Cry (2004-) can trick you out of the squeamish hesitation that comes by killing your third endangered rhino of the day, but with games like Deer Hunter, hunting is the main attraction. It’s like straight-up admitting that you’re not that nice a person.
You might be all ‘tsk, pfft’ here, and that’s probably because you’ve got Deer Hunter (2017) installed on your phone right now. I’m going to let you in on a secret - you don’t have to try everything before you knock it. There aren’t people on the fence of the hunting issue. No one’s going to say ‘Oh, cool, I get hunting now!’ That game’s almost always going to be a big turn-off. Unless you’re Shaq. Shaq is cool with us.
We’re beginning to think that developers have a rather crude idea of what people would like to get from a video game. It’s a bit like they distilled real romantic relationships to their essence, then threw this out and used whatever was in the bin next to the basin. Episode (2016-) is an interactive choice-based story game, and spans over a number of traditional genres like drama, mystery, drama, comedy, fantasy, did we mention ‘drama’ already?
You’ll spend your in-game time choosing between the kinds of decisions that don’t bother too much with nuance, ones that careen an episode’s characters into wildly different alternate universes. For the soap drama feel they were going for (the game’s called ‘Episodes’ for a reason), the development team did super well. But you’ll probably never feel comfortable telling Tim from Finance that Sin Carter from ‘Loving Bad’ does so not deserve angelic Taylor Price.
4 Farming Simulator
Farming is a practice essential to human life in our society. Without it, we’d all starve. But it’s hard work. It’s not for nothing that when thinking of a farmer, you tend to conjure up images of hard faces lined with wrinkles, callused hands, a far-away look about them - all from worry, and long days in the field. Now, this is what’s interesting about Farming Simulator.
It took all the rewarding parts of farming - not starving and/or a sense of accomplishment peculiar to some forms of hard labour - kept everything else in, named it a video game, and then called it a day.
Sure, it’s got some meditative benefit. But so does actual mediation. And telling someone you meditate is going to get fewer looks than telling them you spend parts of your spare time as a virtual farmer. Guaranteed. But each to their own.
3 Leisure Suit Larry
The idea that patriarchal standards in our society have aligned men and masculinity with low impulse control is one that’s not discussed nearly often enough in modern feminist concerns. It’s not difficult to see from this list that often studios take it for granted that whomever is playing their game would gratefully take up the chance to imitate a Charles Bronson/Johnny Bravo hybrid. The Leisure Suit Larry series is a fantastic example.
You play Larry Luff, a man who frequents bars, cruise ships, and the like, looking for sexual encounters with strange women. Apparently seeing him strikeout repeatedly passed for humour in the 80s and 90s. And then again in 2007. Then once more in 2013. The only way this should be allowed to stay relevant is as an addition to a time capsule destined for space, along with a copy of the South African constitution, in order to show the scope of human ability for both terror and goodness.
There was one title that kept coming up in all the research for this article, and it was Catherine (2011). If you haven’t played it, congratulations. You’re decidedly better for it. A quick plot summary is in order.
You play Vincent Brooks, a strapping young man in a relationship with Katherine McBride. Katherine is by all accounts a brilliant partner, but Vincent gets cold feet when she starts pushing their relationship towards marriage. In rebellion, Vincent falls into an affair with Catherine. Catherine with a ‘C.' Unlike Katherine who enjoys stability in her relationships, Catherine is Vincent’s ultimate girlfriend, her being an unfortunate hybrid between a blow-up doll, Jessica Rabbit, and Edie Sedgewick’s manic pixie dream girl. So many opportunities for cringe should anyone happen to look over to you at, oh, any given time in the game.
1 Mister Mosquito
We saved the best for last. Mister Mosquito (2001) is a rare breed of video games. It’s the kind that unites the world over in collective confusion. There’s no linguistic barrier that its brand of odd can’t breach. Get this. You play as Mister Mosquito - an anthropomorphic mosquito living in a house with the Yamada family.
Your job is to sneakily draw enough blood from this innocent bunch, enough to max out your winter reserves. Because mosquitos hibernate in winter (it’s true). Don’t let this admittedly interesting fact deter you from the matter at hand; that there exists an entire game revolving around an almost universally-hated animal. Now, say you’re keen on getting the mosquito’s side of the story, you’ll still need to make sure no one walks in while you’re drawing blood from any traditionally risque areas. Curiosity won’t save you there.