The Domestic Masculinity of Helltaker
Helltaker, ostensibly little more than a very short sokoban game with some token visual novel elements, managed to explode into internet popularity in mid-2020, leading to enormous outpouring of praise, fanart, and discussion. The game—a story of a man who one morning decides to descend into Hell in order to acquire a “harem of demon girls”—has charm and wit to spare. The demon girls—the main stars of this show—have strong visual design and clear personalities making them fun to interact with, while the writing brutally and hilariously skewers cliches around harem-collecting stories. There is no seduction in this narrative (at least not directly), no swooning women awkwardly falling for the hero’s charm. “Demon harem? You poor fool…” one of the first encountered demon girls exclaims upon being invited. “They will rip you to shreds, and I have to see that!” (more…)
Jay Szpilka is a PhD candidate who writes about the politics of sexuality and gender, punk cultures and video games.