I was saved by monster girls
When the stress gets to you, their arms are always open in Naughty List News #46
The story is that after waking up from a night of debauchery, gambling away money you don’t have, you find yourself to your eyeballs in debt to the devil herself. She tells you that you need to start paying back pronto or she will come to collect the debt you owe in blood.
Over the next few in-game weeks, you purchase slaves, please clients, upgrade your abode, and hopefully pay off that debt.
Monster Girl Club Bifrost is a great game. The art is gorgeous, the story is well-written, the mechanics are exceptionally deep and it has endless replay value. I’ve played it for close to a hundred hours according to Steam.
Monster Girl Club Bifrost is also an ugly game. Monster girls are presented as sentient creatures who are captured by slavers and stripped of their powers. You buy these slaves so you can train them to be perfect little money-makers. You treat them like cattle, sometimes literally by selling their eggs and milk on the black market. And you can dope them with love potions to make them perform better at night.
But in March of 2020, I could not stop playing it.
Work from hell
Like many people around the world, my world was turned upside down in March last year. The novel coronavirus had popped up in Europe the month before and was now appearing in Germany as well. On March 13th, a Friday, I was told by my employer to go home and stay there, at least for a little while. Besides brief periods in which the virus seemed to be a bit more under control, I have not been back to an office since.
In a very real sense, I was enormously privileged. The labor I sell comes from my mind, not my hands. I could do my work at home just as well as in an office. But the psychological toll was much heavier than I expected. Luckily I have a very supportive partner, but she also saw that the stress was getting to me.
I was a middle manager at the time, leading a small group of developers. The timing could not have been worse for me. I had just started on a new project and needed to create a schedule to figure out how much work this project was going to be for the team. With everyone working from home all of a sudden, it was much harder to stay focused and coordinated.
If you’re not familiar, creating schedules for software development is boring, tedious, and painful. First, you take your best guess at what needs to get done. Then, you break that down into component parts. And finally, you tear it all down when you realize you need to either double the team or halve the promised features.
It was easy to get distracted from this gargantuan task. Working from home meant I could no longer rely on my usual rituals for distraction, liking roaming the halls on a tea break or “spontaneously” helping out a teammate with a not-so-pressing problem.
And so I when I was stuck at home and I wasn’t trying to piece together this horrendous schedule, I was playing Monster Girl Club Bifrost.
How you play the game is that you purchase a collection of monster girls, train them up during the day, and assign them to patrons of your brothel at night. Different girls will have different traits and patrons will all be looking for some unique experience.
For example, you might have someone looking for a “first-time experience”. And when you assign a girl that has the “Virgin killer” trait, you can extract additional money from them. The difficulty is that the girls will have a cooldown after visiting a client, so you sometimes have to assign someone who isn’t a great match. Only for their perfect match to turn right after.
It’s ultimately a balancing act between your needs as a business owner and the needs of your slaves. You need to make a lot of small choices that affect your earning potential. But it’s always very clear who holds the power in these interactions and how this world views sex work.
I didn’t just play the game, of course. First I beat it on regular difficulty, then again on hard difficulty, then again on New Game+, and then I unlocked 100% of the gallery.
And then I pulled the game itself apart.
Breaking the game
When I was younger, I would often use a hex editor like 010 Editor to take a look at the save files for the games I was playing. If you can find a reference point in the data, e.g. the amount of gold you have, you can compare the value between save files. Then you give it a value like 99999 and see what happens. Either the game accepts the new value or it crashes. In both cases, the game gives you a clue about how it works.
And then you can treat it like a puzzle. What other values can be changed without crashing the game? It’s easy enough to give yourself a game-breaking amount of gold, but what about rare items, or how a particular girl feels about you?
While the pandemic raged outside and I kept failing to put my schedule together, I distracted myself with busy work. I kept expanding my understanding of the save file format and made a tool in C# that could modify any value in the game to my liking.
At that point, I was no longer playing the game. I was just pulling strings on these virtual women to make them do my bidding. Maybe I was hoping that if I pulled hard enough, something would snap.
But nothing ever really changed. No matter what I did to them, my monster girls kept smiling, beckoning me in for one more go.
Thank you for reading
This newsletter first went out on September 13th, 2020, so this edition marks the 1-year anniversary of Naughty List News. Over that time, my mailing list has grown from four colleagues and friends to hundreds of people from all over the world.
I can’t thank you enough for joining me on my journey to become something akin to a journalist. Because of this platform, I’ve been able to talk every week about the weird and wonderful games that are very dear to me.
I know that not everyone gets the appeal of adult gaming. But I know that you do. And that’s good enough for me.
As long as you keep reading, I’ll keep writing. 💌
Writing Wrap-Up 📖
I was interviewed about my love for adult games for THE SEX FILES. I was very happy for the opportunity and it proves that it does pay off to respond to e-mails sometimes…
Erotic action RPG Kalyskah aims to be The Witcher for adult games. Featuring ambitious open-world gameplay and plenty of adult content!
Koikatsu Sunshine, from eroge developer Illusion, was released in Japan. The gameplay isn’t exactly deep, but hey, that’s what we can expect from Illusion.
Play as a reawakened dragon as you fight for your birthright in Ravaged. Whet your monstrous appetites while you build power and ally with dark forces.
VN Game Den writes about why anyone can (and should) play otome games. Gatekeeping doesn’t help anyone and it’s always good to expand your horizons.
Shoot the living dead and romance girls in Seed of the Dead: Sweet Home. Hey, if it worked for Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, why not the dating sim genre?
The Nation asks: When sex workers speak, who listens? Very good article about the structural discrimination faced by sex workers when they try to speak up.
Love, Emma writes about men getting turned on by their partners crying. Make sure to leave room for those awkward boners!
Cheeky chuckle 🤭
Artist spotlight 💡
Thanks for reading this far!
If you want to help me compile the newsletter, feel free to poke me on Twitter.
Until next time!