Warning: This article contains sexually explicit images.
The adult games industry sucks for trans women. Just search up the words “futa” and “visual novel” on Google, and you’ll learn everything you need to know.
There are exceptions, of course. Knife Sisters by Transcenders Media is a “dark, explorative, and erotic visual novel” that features a non-binary protagonist and trans characters. Nadia Nova’s Twine housewarming gift about a subby trans girl eager to be bullied around remains immensely popular with trans women. And then there are plenty of queer game developers creating adult titles that aren’t necessarily about trans people, but remain popular among trans players. Love Conquers All Games’ BDSM visual novel Ladykiller in a Bind, for example, is a household name among kinky queer visual novel fans.
But if I had to pick a personal favorite as a queer trans woman, it would be Ghosthug Games’ cyberpunk dating sim Hardcoded. It’s not just ambitious and sexy; it’s centered entirely around the trans gaze. And god, is it hot.
Hardcoded follows a droid named HC who escapes her “owners” and flees to the local trans community in Pira City. As it turns out, there’s an epidemic running rampant in Pira: everyone is ridiculously horny, and they can’t stop having sex. This includes HC, who quickly becomes well-acquainted with her friends’ bodies as she sucks, fucks, and sluts her way through her first few months out in the world.
“I don’t remember exactly how long ago I started working on Hardcoded,” lead developer Kenzie Stargrifter told me over Twitter DM. “It must be something like two years ago now? I think my motivation has changed a whole bunch since then, but at the time I was mainly worried about making something profitable enough to get me not-homeless. That, and I wanted to make a game that would make horny eggs [pre-transition trans women] realize they were trans.”
To say Hardcoded is successful is an understatement. Ghosthug Games’ Patreon for Hardcoded sports over 2,400 patrons pledging over $5,000 per month (including my own $1 pledge). That’s because this isn’t just an adult trans dating sim, or an open-world cyberpunk game, or a visual novel about working through trauma as a trans woman. It’s all three of those things at once, and it juggles each part masterfully. The games industry is noticing, too, with flattering stories at major publications like Kotaku and Rock Paper Shotgun.
“I didn’t anticipate that a trans-specific porn game would be marketable when I first started, so most of my motivation changes have been due to the awesome revelation that so many of my fans are trans,” Stargrifter added. “It just feels good to make something that people like me care about. [I]t’s tragic how unexplored this genre seems to be. Trans positivity belongs in all porn in my opinion, but its super rare and I think that makes us crave it.”
I didn’t realize how badly I needed Hardcoded in my life until I started playing it, either. During my first run-through, I decided to romance my new friend Beryl, who helped me escape to Pira City at the start of the game. Like myself, Beryl has pretty bad anxiety, enjoys cloistering herself from the world in books, and has trauma rooted in other kids bullying her at school for her gender dysphoria. Dating her is a bit like dating myself: it requires a delicate, but loving, touch. I quickly fell for her and kept going back for more.
But it’s not just Beryl’s personality that Hardcoded nails down. It’s her body, too. Early on during her route, Beryl sends a selfie to HC where she’s lying on her bed with her pants off, her shirt rolled up, teasing HC that she will see her naked soon enough. The photo is burned into my mind, and I think about it whenever I play Hardcoded. But it’s not because of her gorgeous breasts and slim belly. It’s that enticing bulge in her panties, complete with the tip of her erect cock just barely peeking out from under the fabric.
Sapphic desire between trans women has a certain aesthetic to it that’s difficult for cis creators to understand, but perfectly natural to queer trans women. For those of us comfortable exposing our genitals, we (usually, but not always) see our penises as soft and feminine, even when erect. Non-op trans women like myself, who refuse to undergo sexual reassignment surgery, embrace our dicks as female parts of our bodies. That’s why I love Beryl’s sext: she’s not just unashamed of her body, she’s proud of it, and she knows her clit looks hot as fuck. Just thinking about the photo reminds me of some of the trans women I’ve slept with over the years. It fills me with glee.
Hardcoded plays around with this sort of marginalized desire through HC’s droidhood, as well. After hooking up with a sex droid named Joi, HC gushes about how “liberating” it feels to make love with another droid. Just as trans women can physically enjoy each other’s bodies because of their transness, Joi and HC embrace each other’s inhuman physical strength as a reflection of the shared, common bond they feel as gynoids in a human world.
The entire experience perfectly captures why I love my girlfriend (who is also a trans woman). It’s not just because I think she’s attractive and a loving person. It’s because we can understand each other in ways that go beyond words and feelings — into our innate existence as trans women. That bond cannot be shared with a cis woman.
Hardcoded is special. It’s not just a porn game for trans women. It’s unafraid to embrace the messy, traumatic parts of trans love and sex because it fundamentally cares about me as a trans woman. That makes my trans sapphic heart feel understood for one of the first times in the world of adult games.
“Imma be proud as long as it’s fun and functional,” Stargrifter told me. “If it makes trans people happy, makes cis people trans, and shows game devs that you don’t have to use slurs to make money, all the better.”