Viral: the sim sex game on the fight to be internet famous

Digital artists Lena NW and Costcodreamgurl have created a strange, erotic world examining how performance, narcissism and self-commodification manifest on social media

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When they were kids, creators Lena LW and Costcodreamgurl were banned from Neopets.com for attempting cyber sex on the forums. Back in the early noughties it was normal to be a child on the new internet, feeding your furry pets and suddenly finding yourself watching hardcore porno or playing a Japanese game featuring naked anime women. It was their dream to make a game that represented that millennial internet culture. The culture of clicking on innocent links and being confronted with a big pair of breasts.

The result of this upbringing: Viral.

In this simulation browser game which parodies the way social media is used today, the aim is to become Internet Famous. The player uses apps to gain points, get followers and slowly work their way up the ladder of viral fame.

The character you play is a pretty shrewd image of a cam girl modelled in the culture of “Tumblr girls”. As the cam girl, you post sexually suggestive photos of her as a means of empowerment, but the suggestion is that once she reaches a level of fame, her body will simply become commoditised. Using her sexuality to gain notoriety, the game effectively examines the cultural double standard where women are encouraged to act sexually, and then shamed for doing so. It definitely comments on the Myspace days the artists grew up during – a platform where Myspace Queens would desire friends and likes, seeing them as a form of currency.

There are different types of points that correspond to three different types of internet fame stereotypes (“troll,” “camgirl,” and “martyr”) expressed through pop-up click through comics as the game progresses. 

It’s a pretty assaulting and critical project. Although, artist Lena NW is no stranger to picking a controversial subject and tackling it to the ground. As a Studio Art major at Florida State University, she published a painting of the university’s star quarterback receiving a blowjob after he was involved in a rape investigation. Her work has also involved a vulgar, surreal dating game, Fuck Everything, that aimed to tackle rape culture.

For more information on Lena and her work, visit her Universal Hacktress site. If you missed the link at the top, play "Viral" here.

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