Le1f’s music video Soda, opens with two models gripping two-liter bottles of soda and Mentos-like candies as they glare into the camera.
The two men face each other, pour a few candies into their respective bottles, and allow the resulting eruptions to spray all over their faces.
The visual’s as striking as it is erotically charged, and it stuck with Robert Yang, an indie game developer living in New York City.
In the past, Yang had developed a series of games built around the idea of exploring male sexuality like Stick Shift, a game about giving your car a handjob, and Cobra Club, a game where you design the perfect dick pic. The image of the liquid cascading down the men’s faces stuck with Yang and so he did what any creator would do with an idea that he couldn't get out of his head: he turned into a project.
Rinse and Repeat opens with the player standing in a communal shower, staring into a corner while other gym members bathe themselves just out of the periphery of your vision. Moving the cursor around reveals a simple locker room filled with lockers, a bulletin board, and a muscular, naked man wearing aviators. This man is the reason you're here. This game is about trying to seduce him.
Like his previous games, Rinse and Repeat is shot through with an intense, queer, male sexuality, but in the beginning, the game was an exercise in playing with the physics of digitally-rendered water.
"I wanted to use fluids and their interactions with surfaces to emphasize the dude's body and its shape," Yang described in his blog. "The way fluids follow the contour of his shoulders, for example, mirror the way your hands follow the contour of his ass."
Yang's goal, he said was to create water that touched the bespectacled man in a way that made the player want to touch him too.
As you play through Rinse & Repeat, the unnamed man invites you to help wash him off, offering parts of his body for you to scrub with a loofah.
Soaping up the Man's body with clicks and flicks of the wrist gradually fills up a pleasure meter. The more satisfied the Man is with his shower, the more he moans and groans out a series of homoerotic encouragements. The better you service him, the better your score.
As the game progresses, the locker room scene becomes increasingly surreal. The Man asks you to scrub his abs or his armpits and suddenly, there's a disco ball in the showers and all of the other men are embracing each other. All the while Grounders's "Vyvanse" plays softly in the background.
The room fills with soft light and just when you think the man's about to ask you to loose the loofah, the scene shuts down, the Man backs down, and you're left alone in the locker room.
The game's camera points you to a schedule of the week's gym classes listing the next time you can actually see the Man in the shower. Everything in Rinse & Repeat takes place in real time, meaning that completing the game requires that you make time to show up in the locker room when the game demands it.
"So you spend a few days scrubbing his body, anticipating the shower session, perhaps even looking forward to it…you basically worship [the Man's] body a bi," Yang told me in an interview. "It builds up into that magnitude of desire where you want to be the water that envelops him."
Yang said he wanted the game to take place in a locker room.
He needed a place where his experimentation with water physics would make sense, but he always wanted a setting that could tap into peoples' fear and arousal centers.
"The setup itself is based on a very popular gay fantasy, a steamy locker room liaison at the gym," said Yang. "But locker rooms are also these very notorious places for deep anxiety about your body, sexuality, and general safety."
"Above all, the locker room is understood normally as a place of danger, where you could be discovered or outed or beaten for "looking at someone the wrong way" even if you were just minding your own business—and there's nowhere to hide, not even in your own clothes."
After releasing his spanking game Hurt Me Plenty, Yang said, many players reached out to him asking for an option to both play as a submissive. Other users wanted more options for aftercare, the psychological, and physical debriefing that many people require after experiencing sexually intense interactions.
Rather than rolling those new mechanics into his original game, Yang made them some of Rinse & Repeat's central features. He says that the game isn't about objectifying the Man so much as it is catering to his needs, something that's more than just erotic.
"It's also really scary to put so much on a single person, to fulfill so much of your life," Yang told me. "Past all this intimacy and desire, there's also this dark sort of loneliness, where maybe no one else will ever understand you."
Throughout the game, your vision (and the camera) are guided by the presence of other bodies on the screen.
Whenever the Man enters the showers, you're literally incapable of looking at anything but him. Your sight is out of your control and you have very little idea of what you, yourself look like. Near the end of the game, when the Man rebuffs your advances, you're finally able to guide the camera downwards to see your own body.
"When you look down, you're noticeably much less fit than the Man you scrubbed the past few days, and you are also not white," Yang said. "You don't fit this platonic gay male ideal. Who would ever want to scrub you back, really?"
No matter how well you play the game, Yang explained, the game always ends the same.
Even though the game begins with the player's desire coming from a place of worship, it soon becomes too much for the object of your affection.
Your hands begin to multiply and fondle the Man's face, removing his glasses. The Man panics, rejects your advances, and the showers flood with water in a nightmarish scene that makes it seem as if you're drowning the Man.
Yang says that this hard turn into despair was entirely intentional.
"[T]here's something really inhuman about being able to touch someone that much," said Yang. "You're using your powers of devotion to make him love you…except you can't make him love you."
Yang told me that ultimately, he created Rinse & Repeat to challenge the way people think about video games. Centering the game around sex and nudity, he says, was a way of pulling people into the game's deeper meaning while also creating a piece of art.
Soon after Rinse & Repeat's release, Twitch, the popular video game streaming site, added the game to its list of banned titles. Other games on the list include rape simulators and Hatred, the controversial third-person shooter made infamous for its "Genocide Crusade" plot involving domestic terrorism in NYC.
Twitch says that because of the game's erotic nature, it violate's the site's Terms of Service. From Yang's perspective, though, Rinse & Repeat's pixellated penises barely warrant a mature rating.
"There are pretty clear differences between my games and gross disgusting exploitative rape simulator games, yet Twitch is arguing they're the same, while giving the naked blue women in Mass Effect a free pass," said Yang. "My games EARN their sex and nudity and can't artistically function without [them.]"
Just what you get out of playing Rinse & Repeat is really up to you. Yang asks only that you keep your mind open when you decide to give it a go.
"As much as I love games about killing people and looting their corpses repeatedly for hours, I think games can also be about so much more," he said. "I want people to understand that so many games are possible, but it's up to all of us to create space for them."
Rinse & Repeat is available as a pay-what-you-want download on Yang's website.