Rihanna Dildo Paradise Island
Rihanna Dildo Paradise Island (Game Promo)
Rihanna Dildo Paradise Island is a video game where a mermaid Rihanna catches weed symbols falling from the sky, while avoiding police pigs that kill her buzz and bring your points down. It is played with a custom-made dildo joystick.
The design challenge here was to create a game controller first, then design a game based on the controller. A dildo as a game controller made sense to me since its shape and mechanics are already intuitive to an adult gaming audience. Although I didn’t want the corresponding video game to be about penises or sex, I knew this would be a challenge given our for-boys-by-boys gaming world.
I purchased the girliest dildo I could find: lavender, translucent, silicone about 7 inches in length. That same day, Rihanna and Drake released their music video for the song “Work” and I noticed that Rihanna’s outfit was the same color pallet as the new dildo.
I decided to create a game that starred Rihanna and the “Work” song, mimicking the music video aesthetic: fuchsia backdrop and periwinkle centerpiece.
Design + Development
On game expo day, people were drawn to my station. Women couldn’t wait to play, but most of the men were hesitant to touch the game controller. One gaming expert told me the game didn’t make sense: he wanted the game to be about masturbation. When my game was displayed in the Tisch Building at NYU, it continued to make men feel uncomfortable. One staffer asked me tauntingly if I was proud of what I created.
But as the weeks went on, I started to notice more men approach the game, sometimes in groups, laughing as they played, telling me that it was the first time they had ever touched a dildo. I watched them get entranced by the game itself, forgetting that what they were using to control it was a big, translucent, lavender dildo. Bingo!
Though my intention was to make a ridiculous game controller with a ridiculous game to match, I realized early on that this work was political. Because the game used a phallic symbol but did not have any thing to do with penises or sex, I got negative reactions from men in this community. Lack of women in game design have led to backlash and online harassment like that present in Gamergate. We need more women in game design pushing the boundaries. In the end, the more I made straight cis-men uncomfortable, the more I knew I was doing something right.