ISO M8 4 2NITE :)

Can you aim that webcam a little lower? Kelly Rued and the birth of 'Rapture Online'

We will get to the jiggle of the women and the dongle of the men, but first there is a cat named Ollie. And a plastic slide and a jungle gym in the frozen patch of yard outside the townhouse complex in St. Paul. And pictures everywhere of two girls, aged eight and six, and a couple of photos of Conor Oberst above the sink that a girlfriend taped up to break the monotony of dishes-doing. There are two computer monitors and a floor strewn with gaming books, technology manuals, business magazines, The Philosophy of Erotica, and a four-poster bed with heliotrope sheets.

There is nothing to suggest that this, the bedroom of Kelly Rued, is Ground Zero for what could be the future of video sex-gaming. Likewise, there is nothing about the soft-spoken 26-year-old single mother of two that suggests anything but a bookish, ambitious, dreamer. Until....

Kelly Rued lives in an ordinary St. Paul townhouse, not a 3D Sex Villa populated with 3D Sluts
Kris Drake
Kelly Rued lives in an ordinary St. Paul townhouse, not a 3D Sex Villa populated with 3D Sluts

"You're not going to get a good interactive sex game out of someone who doesn't understand human sexuality," she says, sitting at the cramped desk that butts up against the foot of her bed. "If someone's just designing from a porn point of view, you're going to get the games that have been out there for 20 years.

"Like in Germany, there's a really well-animated one called 3D Sex Villa. It's the update to a wonderful title called 3D Slut. They updated all the graphics. It's what you'd expect if you had an interactive porno movie: You only get like eight girls to choose from, they all look like they could be porn stars, and they respond in a really fake, moan-y way.

"They only exist in that space," Rued says, moving the mouse on her computer to show her visitor her alter-ego on the popular multiplayer game Second World. "They don't do anything else with you. You can't take them out to dinner, you can't go to a bar, you can't do anything to role-play. There's not another person on the other end; it's a single-player game. There's only a certain type of person who can get into that--playing with a paper doll. But when you put a person on the other end, and you get things like AOL chat rooms and all the sex chat that goes on anyways, but without the avatars, and you add in the graphics, then it's a much more entertaining experience. People actually form relationships, fall in love, get married, get their hearts broken."

Rued is talking about her Massively Multiplayer Online Erotic Game (MMOEG) Rapture Online, which is slated to hit the market next year. She and her eight-member start-up (www.blackloveinteractive.com) hope to expand on the empire of Second Life, whose avatars allow for sex play (even if they don't exactly promote it). And unlike most of the gaming entrepreneurs trolling the world's libidos from Silicon Valley, Rapture Online is the brainchild of a Catholic schoolgirl-turned-public-school dropout and self-described "run-of-the-mill liberal" from Minnesota who has voraciously studied technology and sexuality for the past three years.

While the "real" world has become more conservative and violent in those three years, Rued and others have been creating their own reality, a parallel universe where people meet and love and fuck. "I wanted a game about sex and love, not violence," she says. "I don't think people sit around and fantasize about killing someone, but I think they do sit around fantasizing about sex. I think that's more of a mainstream interest than what passes for a mainstream game right now."

To that end, the timing perhaps couldn't be better for something like Rapture Online, which Rued notes will appeal to women who like their sexual fantasies to come with plot, connection, and content. Which is a lot of women. It's a pretty big freak show out there: According to a recent survey done by campus.com, of 2,500 university and college students polled across Canada, 87 percent say they are having sex over instant messenger, webcams, or the telephone. Fifty-three percent of those surveyed prefer the anonymity and role-playing of text-chat. Fifty-one percent of the chatters were female.

Oh, Canada. With an eye on reaching this market before it's targeting a webcam at crotch level, Rued this month releases The Sex Ed Game (www.isergames.com), a teen information tool she hopes to market to parents, families, schools, and organizations such as Planned Parenthood.

"Your brain is your primary sex organ, you can't interpret anything as erotic without it," she says. (Rued is a fast fan of "people-shopping" through writing personal ads.) "As long as your brain's turned on, that's all that matters. It's intimate. You care about the other person. You've got the emotional connection, so the physical connection is a really minor detail. In a lot of ways, it's liberating. As we advance as people, we tend to solve problems with technology. And there are many reasons--health, social--not to just go do whatever you want to do sexually. But here you can do that. Alone or together or with lots of others."

The creator of Rapture Online could talk forever about that bright future. But at the moment it's Valentine's Day morning and Rued has work to do. Then she has to pick up her kids from school and cook dinner for her boyfriend.

Before she tackles the workaday responsibilities of real romance: What is the meaning of "jiggle and dongle"?

"The jiggle is what you'd expect on the [virtual] ladies, but dongle is something we had to make up, because nobody's really paid much attention to how the unclothed male moves. We have a special program for it. It's such a big project, but I'm in no hurry. I want to do it right."

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