A couple of weeks ago, I did a Let’s Play of HunieCam Studio, the spiritual successor to Huniepop. In it, you manage a camgirl studio and try to get as many fans as possible. The game mostly consists of time management and features a unique and charming art style. But as I said during the first episode of the Let’s Play, the game doesn’t really deal with the drawbacks of said industry.
Before we head any further, I want to let you know that I am not an expert on these topics by any means. I will link sources where possible.
While it is true that camgirls make their own hours and can earn a lot of money while doing it, the industry also has its exploitative sides. When it comes to camgirl studios, the studio owner often take 75% of the money made by the camgirls. Since a lot of these girls only take these jobs because of their poverty, this can lead to a vicious cycle, making them dependent of the job. In that way, the studio owners are also exploiting the girl’s sexuality. And I haven’t even mentioned the more illegal sides of the business, where underaged girls or victims of human or sex trafficking get forced into doing camshows. Often enough, these girls are also forced into prostitution. How prevalent this problem is somewhat depends on where the cammers are from, but it’s telling that some sites completely blocked performers from the Philippines.
But still, the press is overly positive about this fairly new form of internet pornography, since it has many upsides when compared to other forms of sex work, be it prostitution or pornography. There’s no need for direct, physical interaction with customers, which reduces the risk of getting STDs, and if you can reach the top, you can earn a lot of money.
What’s mentioned less often is how women are treated by their customer base. Verbal attacks are the norm, the women are often completely objectified and respect seems to be hard to come by. Many performers overlook these, others get mods for their channels, if the site allows for that, but it’s still something I wanted to note. Also, stalking is a problem in the industry, with clients waiting at the P.O. Boxes of models.
So, with all that in mind, how does HunieCam Studio deal with these topics? Well, the game is fairly comedic in its overall portrayal. In small text blurbs, each character gets a bit of background story telling us, why she joined the camgirl business. Money is the most important factor, as student loans have to be paid off and some of the girls are unemployed. One of the girls has a drug problem and tries to finance her addiction by camming… Yikes! It’s all played fairly tongue in cheek, but it shows a real dark side to the industry. However, it doesn’t directly tackle it, since it doesn’t add any commentary outside of the humour. While you could argue that all these women enter this business of their own free will, it’s also clear that some of them do it out of sheer necessity. The small voice clips that play each time you put a girl in the studio show their overall attitudes: They range from fairly positive to rather annoyed or reluctant. None of the girls seems to outright hate working there.
What about burnout? Making your own hours also means you can work 12-16 hours a day, right? The game tackles this mechanically, since the girls get more and more exhausted with each and every show they do. Sooner or later, they’ll need to visit a spa, where they can rest up. It’s a neat way of combining game balance with this real-world facet, though the long term effects of the burnout syndrome are not tackled.
Client interactions are pretty much nonexistant, at least when it comes to the camming part of the game. Since HunieCam Studio goes for abstraction (probably in order to stay somewhat safe for work), nothing is shown and everything left to the imagination. No stalking or rude comments here then, as this topic is pretty much nonexistant in this game.
But a different facet is present: Prostitution is a mechanic in the game and a fairly complex one at that. Well, complex for this game anyway: Instead of letting a girl cam, you can send her to a shady motel where she can have paid sex with one of her customers. Since this interaction doesn’t cost time and gets you a lot of cash fairly quickly, you’d figure it would be a great thing to do in the game, right? Wrong! If you let the women have unprotected sex with the customers, there’s a fairly high chance of catching an STD. And those have an impact on the gameplay that ranges from mild to very strong. AIDS for example doesn’t let you do anything until you ‘cured’ it, hampering your business in a major way. You can get condoms from the sex shop in order to avoid STDs, but since that takes a huge amount of time, most players refrain from using the motel alltogether. Funnily enough, if there is to be a commentary about the sex industry to be found in this game, it’s this mechanical punishment for using prostitution as a quick way of getting money. Prostitution, at least in this game, is short term, risky and no real alternative to the long term goals and profits of camming.
We’ve mentioned drug addiction before, but it also plays a big part in the game’s mechanics: Women who are addicted to alcohol or cigarettes are a major problem while playing this game, as you need to refill your stock of alcohol and cigarettes. If you don’t, the girls stress out faster, become less effective and get in less money. Getting the drugs takes a lot of time and money and thus means less money and fans. If you want an easier game, you have to focus on the ‘clean’ girls first, which in a way also is a commentary on drug abuse.
While HunieCam Studio doesn’t tackle some problems of the industry, it at least has something to say about prostitution and drug abuse. I think the game could have gone a bit further, detailing a bit more the camgirl-client interactions, maybe parodying the behaviours found in some chatrooms. Overall, it could say more about its characters and why they chose to enter this industry. So, there are some missed opportunities, but not all is lost. And while the game overlooks some aspects of the industry, it still manages to provide a mechanically engaging and fun experience, while not completely forgoing any commentary on the subject matters at hand.