Snow Blossom House
Curator’s note by Anne-Marie Schleiner

Lovely, cute, queer, angry and mischievous KiSS dolls unite. Squidmen and women of hentai games join your brothers and sisters. Follow the way of the strawberries. To play is the answer. To change clothes is the method. Foreplay ist alles. To transgender, to overlay, to uncover is the tease. Welcome to Snow Blossom House.

Snow Blossom House is a place to feel the chill of cold hard pornography in the midst of a blinding pink snow petal rain. Snow Blossom House breathes in and exhales the romantic fantasies of fifteen year old Japanese girls who build web sites like "Carrot House" and "Strawberry House" to house their favorite anime characters and home drawn KiSS dolls. Snow Blossom girls construct their own Snow Blossom boy dolls to undress--pale thin Goth boys with pretty dark clothes, anime boys, and sulky action heroes. Snow Blossom girls like to strip and dress up other girls. They like to pretend to be non-human, to grow tails, fur, and octopus arms. Snow Blossom House is a boy pervert protagonist in an all girls’ high school, or a young hacker girl locked alone in her room secretly playing her brother’s hentai games. Snow Blossom House is willful immersion into a world of uncanny cuteness and sweet dark dreams.

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In Japan hentai videos and hentai games are developed forms of entertainment with their own sub-genres and recognized artists. Interactivity in hentai computer games, (and in other Japanese game genres), is more restricted than Western gamers are accustomed to. Freedom of perspective and movement through game space are sacrificed for well-developed story lines and high quality 2-D anime visuals or detailed pre-rendered 3-D graphics. Thus hentai game developers forego the holy grail of Western game developers, the real-time responsive 3-D graphics engine, in favor of story and content. Hentai game fans do seem to have a preference for "multi-ending ADV’s", that is adventure games with up to four or five possible different outcomes, over single ending ADV’s. Branches in narrative flow allow for user interactivity in a manner similar to "Choose your Own Adventure" books. On himeya.com, a dot com site selling English translations of hentai games, fans rave about multi-ending ADV "Desire’s" visuals and many possible plot twists. In "Desire," a male journalist investigates an island where female researchers conduct mysterious scientific experiments. The journalist, (the player), engages in erotic encounters with island inhabitants like Makoto Izumi, technical manager, and Dr. Stella, scientist. "Amy’s Fantasies" is a single ending ADV featuring a main character with a split personality. Sometimes you play Emi, a romantic young girl searching for your one true love, your lost stepbrother. At other times you play Amy, a precocious young woman who participates in S&M, bondage, golden showers, and so on.

A genre distinction within hentai games seems to be between the "perv" games featuring a horny young male protagonist who engages in as much various kinds of sex as possible vs. the genre of dating sims. In a dating sim, (simulation), the player is on a quest for a girlfriend and must learn to impress girls with romance and flirtation techniques that don’t necessarily lead to sex. In the dating sim "May Club" you play the character of a young man and date many different young women on a quest for true love. You even have a date with a hacker girl who transforms you into a girl, as noted with delight by a fan on himeya.com. So although the assumed subject position of the player in both perv games and dating sims is usually male, in "May Club" this male subject position is subverted by a gender transformation. The hentai game "X-change" is entirely devoted to this theme. One morning the player/protagonist awakens to find that a strange operation has been performed on him. He/she is allowed access to previously forbidden female zones and engages in multiple lesbian encounters. The player’s subject position could now be considered female, (and lesbian), especially if the game is being played by a female player. Perhaps more commonly the case is to describe the subjectivity of male to female transsexual protagonists in hentai games as "hetero drag." The male player consciously wears a feminine skin, engaging in pseudo lesbian fantasies with women, while retaining trace awareness of her inner masculine desire.

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With the exception of Japanese hentai games, much of research and development of interactive erotica is emerging outside of commercial ventures, through informal channels and the collective efforts of members of web communities. Brought together online by a shared mission, a mutual horniness, and a creative compulsion, members of the international KiSS community have created many adult KiSS dolls. [See "luckykiss_xxx: adult kisekae ningyou" at opensorcery.net.] A KiSS doll is an interactive digital "paper doll" derived from paper dolls in Japanese children’s manga books. The development kit and playing software for KiSS dolls were originally developed in Japan as open source freeware and are available in versions with differing capabilities such as 2-D or 3-D, still or animated, and for various hardware platforms. KiSS dolls are owned by their authors and intended for non-commercial distribution. Unfortunately, due to increased Internet traffic and the attendant hosting cost, many of the more recent Western KiSS sites are becoming either pay-per-view or vanishing. Dov Sherman’s "otaku.com", which hosts a large KiSS archive, recently went pay-per-view. ("Otaku" is a word for a Japanese boy nerd who collects games and anime.) Other KiSS sites have morphed into commercial hentai and porn sites, such as Danish KiSS artist Rocket’s site, "hentaikitty.com."

KiSS artist Dominatrix runs an online gallery of adult KiSS dolls called the "Blue Page." He is also the author of finely crafted, original, adult KiSS dolls. His KiSS doll MYONIP, (Make Your Own Nude in Public), is an elegantly drawn black and white set of environments in which to place your nude KiSS doll, public spaces ranging from a suburban street to a crowded convention hall. MYONIP is a nice erotic fantasy that departs from the usual focus in KiSS on the act of stripping the doll. As noted by Eric Zimmerman and Elena Gorfinkel in their article "Technologies of Undressing", interactivity with KiSS dolls is often more about satisfying curiosity about the doll’s private parts than it is about dressing the doll up. Some KiSS dolls include animation, dialogue, sound, and moveable body parts at various junctures of the undressing process. Foreplay is the prime form of interaction with KiSS dolls. Although fewer and far between in comparison to female dolls, male KiSS dolls are also available for undressing. "Alexei" by Anna Mae is a delectable Goth boy doll with a Russian accent. Alexei sports various black leather and velvet outfits which may be removed to reveal a pale young man. Kim Galvas and her cousin Christine Galvas’ KiSS dolls fall somewhere in-between the spectrum of strip dolls and dress up dolls, as they are equally fun to dress up in fabulously girly and sexy outfits. Many of their dolls belong to a genre of KiSS dolls and anime characters called "furries". Furries are sexy or cute humanoid/animalian characters with tails, animal ears, and fur.

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Another stream of informal raucous research and development of interactive erotica has of course been bubbling forth from the PC gaming community in the form of computer game add-ons and hacks. In the mid 1990’s gamers distributed first person shooter Doom wads with 2-D centerfold wallpaper pasted all over the game architecture. These wallpaper wads did not so much alter the codes of interactivity of 1st person shooter gameplay as add some background visual titillation for primarily male teenage players as they blasted away at their opponents. The first female characters inserted by male players into shooter games were often markedly sexualized, such as the Marathon patch with large bare-breasted Amazons entitled "Amazons and Female Robertas". [See Mutation.fem at opensorcery.net.] Erotic skin pacs for Quake and other shooters with male and female characters and frag queens dressed in all manner of skimpy combat wear were distributed. And in 1998 a web search for the NudeRaider patch for Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft returned over five thousand hits.[See does "Lara Croft wear fake polygons?" at opensorcery.net] Other forms of 3-D erotica also were created and exchanged online. Artist Steve Stone creates 3-d characters with the 3-D people building software, Poser. He exhibits his work alongside other adult Poser artists at the adult poser gallery, a site displaying uncanny synthetic erotica created with Poser.

Nude patches are available online for "the Sims", a game released in 2000 calling itself a "people simulator." The Sims is a variation of the god game, a genre which usually involves building armies and fighting in a fantastic mythical past or future. Unlike most god games, the Sims takes place in contemporary North America and involves no direct combat. The goals of Sims are to build as large and expensive a house as possible and to grow a family, thus promoting "family values" and the American capitalist/consumerist lifestyle. This agenda can be subverted, sometimes in ways anticipated by the developer Maxis, and other times perhaps unexpectedly. Sites like the Syminalist Page contain detailed instructions describing how to circumvent the blur feature that modestly shields little nude sims when they shower or bathe. Nude Sims skins can also be downloaded for "general wear", although they are not sanctioned by Maxis. While permitting same sex flirtation and affairs between characters, the Sims does not allow same sex marriage. At the site "the/closet" (http:www.dork.com/closet/) Sims skins wearing gay pride t-shirts and accessories can be downloaded. Movie clips of gay and lesbian sims action are displayed on porn sites like adultgamereviews.com.

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Can interactive erotica be something other than foreplay, strip tease, or the fetish of nude polygons? Can it be freed from representational stereotypes and gender roles? Can erotica also be love, romance, flirtation, danger, memories, and pain? Can digital erotica be sensuous interactivity with code and machines that knows no human correlation, without imported metaphors, a new kind of intercourse? Some digital and net artists are exploring other dimensions of love, erotica, and relationships. Wilfried Agricola de Cologne’s "Compressed Affair" is an interactive Flash movie. In "Compressed Affair" a relationship is reduced to three possible relationship actions that the user may circulate between. Entropy8Zuper’s 3-D kiss sculpture, "the Kiss" was originally made with both of the Entropy8Zuper team standing together inside a 3-D scanner. No one had attempted to scan more than one person before with this 3-D scanner and they were surprised by the loose sticky polygons which stretch between the length of the couple, binding them in a digital embrace. Entropy8Zuper’s "Lipstick.E8Z!" is an offline desktop component of "The Kiss" series which allows the user to modulate the colors and views of a 3-D interlocked couple. "Dollspace" is a net art piece by Francesca di Rimini, Ricardo Dominguez, and Michael Grimm with new additions for Snow Blossom House. "Dollspace" is a disturbing journey into cute little "doll yoko’s" branching hypertextual world of crude perversion and tender sweet imagery. Prolific net artist Meta uses MAX patches, nato, and other software to construct densely layered, digitally filtered, ambient video environments, imagery, and sound. Meta’s ambient erotica for Snow Blossom House is a sensuous and abstract machine space–an alternate to pornographic literalism.

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Snow Blossom House is a place were girlish daydreams collide with hardcore fetishes. An online doll collector, an otaku girl, discovers that two of the anime dolls on her web site are secretly getting each other off. Are they in love? Did that one used to be male? A binary is often upheld between the feminine, the sentimental, the ethereal, the romantic, the lovely, and the pure vs. the material, the sexual, the body object, and the pornographic. Western pornography is cool, hard, and mechanical. At Snow Blossom House this distinction dissolves just as in hentai games like "Season of Sakura" orgies unfold beneath cherry blossom trees in dappled afternoon sunlight. Tiny 3-D game creatures expose themselves in public. Furry dolls come out to play. Curious digital fetishes take shape in online communities and proliferate. Interactivity is clicking, is stories branching, foreplay and dollplay. Cuteness could be everything. Anime is in itself sexy. Love, tenderness, sensuality, aesthetics, and desire converge, floating in a Snow Blossom blizzard, a swirl of pixels, polygons, and modem melodies.