On Craigslist, Redditor wowbobwow picked up an old, broken Macintosh SE that was destined for a landfill. But once he got the beige box cleaned up and working again, he discovered a big NSFW surprise hidden in a fake “America Online” folder.
The redditor had actually stumbled upon a strange piece of Mac history in the form of an “interactive erotica” app, called MacPlaymate, which was created by comic book artist and software designer Mike Saenz in 1986. As you’d expect from a game running on a computer with only 1 MB of RAM and a 20 MB HHD, the premise of the porn was incredibly simple. Players could strip a digital avatar named Maxie, use various sex toys with names like Mighty Mo Throbber, and watch Maxie make it with other digital characters. The software even had a “panic” button that brought up a spreadsheet in case another human walks by.
At the time, Saenz sold the game for $20-$50. Now, it’s little more than one of thousands of sordid flash games you’d likely stumble upon with a quick Google search (I wouldn’t suggest it).
Although certainly controversial, MacPlaymate was the first of its kind: An interactive porn game in an early computing world that didn’t have infinity streaming pornography available for free at all times.
Two years after its creation, the game reached a fever pitch of popularity and caused protests among people who saw the game as promoting violence against women. According to the Los Angeles Times in 1988, some executives even called the game MacRape in protest. The Times also reported that the company behind the animation technology used by Saenz to create the game, distanced itself from the project, calling it “degrading.” Saenz eventually reached an agreement whereby a portion of the game’s sales would go to the Chicago Abused Women Coalition.
The opprobrium didn’t seem to impede its popularity. A New York Times survey found that some computer users chose Macintosh over IBM PCs just because it could play MacPlaymate. A 1988 LA Times report says that one computer executive estimated that it was the most pirated game on the Mac ever.
In these old articles, you can see MacPlaymate raising complex moral and philosophical questions about how computers and human sex would integrate into our lives—not unlike the current conversation about sex and VR. While some people laughed it off as a funny gag, others saw a harbinger of the “inevitable union of society’s fascination with technology and obsession with sex,” according to the LA Times.
If you want to relive some erotic computer history, you can with this Macintosh repository. The game has mostly receded into the fuzzy memory allong with the rest of the early internet, but MacPlaymate still lingers on.