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I totally get why people jerk off to Skyrim. I'm not trying to be facetious here. From an objective, ontological perspective, I get it. If you're going to spend half a decade playing the same game—furnishing living spaces, brewing potions, brokering peace between the Nords and the Imperium—it makes sense you might also want your character to fuck.
This is an emphatically, painstakingly immersive role-playing game with real characters and real emotions. If Bethesda wasn't focused on selling their wares to as broad an audience as possible, there could even be some romantic, Hot Coffee-lite functionality built into Tamriel. Regardless, a truly prolific community of libidinous modders inevitably picked up the slack, constructing mods like "big naturals bodyslide preset" and "Whiterun Brothel Ultimate Edition (opens in new tab)," which empower the exact sort of fantasies you'd expect. It's a tale as old as time; where there are videogame communities, there are probably sexy mods for those communities.
All that being said, the existence of pornographic Hearthstone mods threw me for a loop.
Hearthstone is a wonderful game. It's also about the least sexy thing Blizzard has ever made. Yes, there's a small amount of world-building—something about a magical tavern where Warcraft characters play a CCG—but design-wise, it's about as removed as you can possibly get from the complex pageant that makes Bethesda RPGs so ripe for horniness. And yet, the world's thirstiest modders were undeterred. One of the top upvoted posts on the r/LewdGames subreddit (which is the primary bazaar for stuff like this) is called "An In Depth Guide to Lewd Mods For Hearthstone."
It's essentially a directory, written by Reddit user Whiskey_And_Cigars, that points us in the direction of Whorestone, which replaces the card-art in base Hearthstone with a set of nude portraits for Jaina, Tyrande, Scarlet Crusader, Nemsy, and pretty much every other female presence in the game. There's also Monster Hunt Additions, which does the same thing for the single-player content added with The Witchwood expansion, and Boards, which simply projects pervy images across the game's battlefield. It’s as if you were playing Hearthstone directly onto a Playboy pinup.
Keen to understand why a largely cartoonish card battler would provoke such feelings of desire in, well, anyone, I decided to speak with the modder in question. Whiskey_And_Cigars said he understood my confusion. He totally recognized why Skyrim, or Fallout, or The Witcher represented more traditional conduits for gamer lust—considering those are all games where you encounter other humanoid beings, instead of digitally rendered hunks of cardboard.
As it turned out, there was a simplicity to Whiskey_And_Cigars' doctrine that I couldn't help but appreciate: "While I do play Skyrim with [porn] mods, I just really like playing Hearthstone," he explained. "I see that other people enjoy an immersive experience… but I'm not about that life, I'd rather just look at some boobs."
"I'd rather just look at some boobs" is the defining aesthetic treatise of the lewd mod revolution—fundamental proof that such a basic desire can apply to just about anything, even the proverbial children's card game. Inevitably, this creative drive for constant titillation is not limited to Hearthstone. Shadowverse, one of the many other digital CCGs bobbing around the Steam marketplace, has attracted its own community of randy reskinners, who convert the already buxom anime girls in the card art into images that leave even less to the imagination. The person responsible for the Uncensored Shadowverse mod tells me he thinks most people use his work for "pinup" purposes. Meaning: they aren't actively whacking it in the middle of a tense match. "I try to keep the art I use in my mods as decent as possible," he says.
A whole galaxy of sex mods
I suppose there is some tradition here, when you consider the long history of murky backroom poker games and pool halls, with the walls paneled with torn-out centerfolds, and the cardbacks replaced with a calendar's worth of Playmates of the Month. Still, as I investigated further, the unlikely nude mod scene continued to subvert my expectations. I stumbled across a website called LoversLab, which Steven Messner wrote about in relation to Skyrim previously, and positions itself as a paradise for all sorts of niche porn mods.(opens in new tab)
Someone created an API for Starbound, the spacefaring pixel art building sim, called—of course—Sexbound (opens in new tab). It "aims to enable creators to quickly and easily create prefab and custom sex interactions in Starbound." Here's a just a snippet of its description:
Please, note that the NPCs have been enabled to automatically climax. If your actors use the pregnant plugin, then you can expect a village's population to grow steadily over time. Remember, you can increase the "trimesterLength" in the core pregnant plugin to slow down population growth since it will take longer for an NPC to give birth.
If pixel art doesn't suit your fancy, there are other head scratchers, like a lesbian-oriented rework of Crusader Kings.
The most thrilling and beguiling discovery I found on the site was the shockingly active scene surrounding Paradox's Stellaris. For the uninitiated, Stellaris is a fairly buttoned-up grand strategy game set in the deep recesses of space—you colonize planets, you work your way through serpentine tech trees, you build a Dyson Sphere around a white dwarf and watch as the surrounding solar system dies a silent, frozen death. Safe to say, I have never gotten a boner while playing Stellaris. Which also holds true for Hearthstone, but at least Hearthstone is colorful and playful and doesn't force you to stare at line graphs.(opens in new tab)
Clearly, dear reader, I was not imaginative enough. I made contact with a mad scientist named TheMan221, who has constructed a mod called "Sexual Gameplay" (seriously), which literally morphs the mechanics of Stellaris into a game of carnal conquest.
In his universe, each of Stellaris' space-faring races are bundled with a few "sexually-themed" traits, which can lead to a number of "interbreeding" events. For example, one trait enables you to lay eggs in the members of an unsuspecting rival clan, thus dropping their population rate. A perfect symbiosis of bizarre teratophiliac fantasy, and tactical gamesmanship. Finally, you can live out your oily intergalactic fantasies in grand strategy form.
"I still think a game like Stellaris is immersive, but on a different level. Making lewd mods for it fulfills certain niches that a game like Skyrim cannot, like commanding a civilization of nudists bent on conquering the galaxy (people like me have weird taste,)" said TheMan221, when I asked him why he's captivated by the titillating promise of an empire building sim. "I just like the combination of sci-fi and porn, as well as the larger scale that things are happening [on]."
I'd guess that Blizzard and Paradox aren't stoked that some of their beloved creations have become fuel for the latent libido that courses through the games community, but there's little those publishers can do, as these mods are unsanctioned and stay on the client machine—your Hearthstone opponent will never know you're looking at far more lascivious card art than they are.
There's a depressing but wholly unsurprising dude-ishness in wanting to play Hearthstone with naked ladies, and the mod scene is most definitely a boys' club—as evidenced by the telling lack of male nudity. But it's hard not to laugh at the absurdity of it all, and how brazen their compulsion to see smut at all times appears to be. You have to blow through so many red lights, so many well-intentioned warnings and concerns, to arrive at a Stellaris porn mod. That's a wicked dedication to horniness I can't help but grudgingly respect.
Blaze your own oversexed path. Colonize a planet if you must. Just be sure to clean up afterwards.