Recently I rediscovered the obsolete but incredibly exciting computer game Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards. The whole game breathes the Erotic City concept as it combines the adventure of looking for love with the metropolitan atmosphere.
“Set in the fictional city of Lost Wages, the story follows a middle-aged virgin named Larry Laffer who resolves to sleep with a woman before midnight. Land of the Lounge Lizards establishes several elements which recur in later games, including Larry’s out-of-date attire, perpetually bad luck with women, and penchant for double-entendres.”
As a young boy I used to live in the Dutch countryside (so far such a thing exists), relatively far from any glimpse of urban civilisation. And, therefore, with the permanent idea that the place where I lived was definitely not the place where things were happening. The surrogate for everything I missed those days was the amazingly popular computer game Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards. The story and basic structure of the DOS game with 16 colour EGA graphics are lifted from Softporn Adventure, to text adventure. I would describe the game as a celebration of urban culture. Larry was a true phenomenon in the late eighties of which everyone spoke about those days. The plot is very easy: Larry had to find himself a woman, or at least find sex with a woman, in a big city full of danger. Although the city that Larry lives in feels incredibly big, the actual locations are only Lefty’s Bar, a hotel/casino, a discotheque, a convenience store, and a 24/7 wedding chapel. The only way of transportation is a cab. Larry has to text-command himself through the urban wilderness, dominated by drunks, beggars, cabdrivers, street sellers and beautiful pixelized woman.
“Larry Laffer is a 40-year old man who lives in a basement and has not yet lost his virginity. Having grown weary of his lonely existence, he decides to visit the resort city of Lost Wages to experience what he hasn’t lived before, and find the woman of his dreams. Larry’s quest involves four possible women: a nameless, seedy-looking prostitute; Fawn, a club-goer of low moral fibre; Faith, a receptionist who (true to her name) is faithful to her boyfriend; and Eve, a bathing beauty and Larry’s ultimate goal.”
The revolutionary game, developed by Al Lowe at Sierra Entertainment, embodies the promise of the city. Although the city is portrayed as being dangerous, the player feels the chances and intensity of urban life. The idea that the makers of Larry had about the city, is quite a interesting one. The game doesn’t focus on the ‘hard city’ of buildings, but on the ‘soft city’ of people, events and emotions instead. The urban environment is been interpreted as a exciting context for spending time, and in that sense idealized. The city is a erotic experience, full of opportunities and set up around places like hotels, bars, clubs, taxis, casinos, and groceries. These thoroughly chosen urban situations embody the special characteristics of the real city.
The game Larry focuses on the private atmosphere, rather than the collective urban spaces. There’s a huge attention for the design of facades and buildings rather than for streets and sidewalks. It’s the entrepreneur that makes the city and gives it a character. The city’s erotic dimension is in this sense mainly exhibited within private spaces. Public planning authorities tend to ignore the concept of eroticism completely. On the contrary, bars, shops, clubs and cinemas do accept a certain degree of eroticism when it comes to the design of their spots. They basically have to, in order to sell their stuff. Interesting in this sense are the games graphics, that explicitly express those erotic urban scenes — shouting neon light ads, attracting visitors to sleazy Miami Vice-like urban interiors.
This article is chapter 4 of the Erotic City series