"Hello, Succulent is a short free first-person video game where you watch a man eat a popsicle," began an email I saw upon returning to work after being out sick for several days. As a man who spent much of his last week sucking on popsicles (to nurse an angry sore throat), I thought, "clearly, this is of utmost importance."
And it is! As a parody of "homo hop" music videos, New York-based indie developer and academic Robert Yang explained on his blog that Succulent's aesthetic was inspired by the visual sensibilities of Cazwell and Le1f.
"Both artists emphasise sweaty bodies glaring vacantly, bright backgrounds with intense lighting, and flat compositions focused on the center, evoking the go-go boy gay club / pin-up imagery that's thoroughly ingrained in US gay male culture," Yang noted.
Only there was something Yang found disturbing about this cluster of clones he'd created. And that became the point.
"In the 70s, they called them 'Castro clones', after all the gay men in San Francisco's Castro district who dressed alike and still mostly do," Yang explained of his eerie avatars.
"This is an ideology my recent gay games have been replicating through their heavy asset reuse of the sole character mesh I commissioned; an emphasis on certain masculine bodies to model for the entirety of a community.
"You sadly get used to this, as a gay man of colour - the vast majority of gay men depicted in media are white and masculine, and if you don't fit in then you get erased within your own community. How can this possibly be the 'liberation' we were promised? For many queer-identifying men, this monoculture feels stifling and we feel compelled to try to escape and seek alternate spaces."
As such, Succulent gets a little... demonic at times, as it pokes fun (quite literally, with a popsicle) at the notion of this homogenised male adonis.
Developed as part of NYU's Different Games initiative, Succulent is certainly different, though it's perhaps not the most risque game Yang has made in his career, for not long ago he made a game about erotically spanking a man called Hurt Me Plenty. It's exactly what it sounds like.
You can download Succulent for PC, Mac or Linux here. It's free, but you can pledge donations if you'd like to see whatever crazy thing Yang makes next.