-[The Aberrant Gamer is a weekly, somewhat NSFW column by Leigh Alexander, dedicated to the kinks and quirks we gamers tend to keep under our hats-- those predilections and peccadilloes less commonly discussed in conventional media.]

Common character archetypes have become mainstays of the standard H-game. Whether it’s something heavily story-driven, like Yume Miru Kusuri, or action/puzzle oriented, like The Maid’s Story, there are general, predictable character constructs whose appearance you can rely on, and whose scripted tendencies create an element of predictability. Which isn’t so bad – after all, if you play games for the stories, let’s be honest: you don’t need hentai for that. So while the heavy use of archetypes may detract from the stories, they strongly support the primary purpose behind H-games.

And what is that, exactly?

Depends on who you ask, of course. But largely, the elements of H-games—archetypes, heavy plot, and often ambiguously intimate relations—combine to create a bizarre sort of love letter from the past, targeted toward men with unresolved issues relating to women in the teen years. Almost all H-game protagonists are teen boys, for one thing, and the classroom is the most common setting (fantasy environments, like lush resorts or expensive mansions, are second). In a recent article in The Escapist, I explained this subliminal layer that undercuts most story-driven Hentai games—the game as vehicle for reconciling perplexing male-female relationship issues lingering from youth.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common H-game archetypes and let them speak for themselves, shall we?

-The Mother
An older woman, overblown and sexually frustrated. She’s any such woman in a position of power—the leader of the house, or the Madam of the other girls. She’s often the character’s stepmother or even his biological mother—though as to the latter, that tends only to happen in games geared towards that specific kink. No matter how she appears, however, the mother character is always physically tall or large, very voluptuous, with elaborate undergarments, like stockings or a fancy bra. She expresses herself in an overtly lustful and shameless way. These elements would seem to make her an avatar of the player’s very first woman—his mother, who must have seemed very large, complex, powerful and “adult.” This archetype totes a big taboo factor—but through her, players can explore repressed sexual curiosity about the maternal driven to the corners of their mind by guilt in their normative lives. An alternate manifestation of this is as a maternal, intelligent secretary or assistant.

-The Maid
Very often she’s actually an employee, either of the protagonist or of his friends, or other characters in the game. Usually she wears the standard French-style fetish uniform, but she may also be an employee of a store, her status signified by a work uniform, apron or broom. The key factor is that her status is low, and as a result her personality is timid; her appearance is usually very bland or mousy also. In high melodrama stories, she’s usually the target of some kind of abuse, often from The Mother, and may even appear as her servant. Through The Maid, the protagonist can play the hero—eventually. At first, her submissive status and its associated trappings are fetishized, but the player almost always has the opportunity to “rescue” her and restore her horrendous self-esteem. She’s the most likely to cry with overwhelm in the sex scenes, and also very likely to feel romantic about it.

-Miss Popular
A beautiful teenager, with an aggressive personality and a lot of social power. The protagonist will generally comment that “everyone” admires her, and surely she’s the type who couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to him. She usually is tall also, and well-endowed, and strangely, always has long, full-bodied hair. She’s usually a club leader, a student council president. Sometimes this archetype is The Mother’s daughter, and colludes in bullying The Maid. She’s able to control the protagonist easily, and it’s not hard to understand her use as an archetype—everyone can remember a girl like this, whom they couldn’t touch back then. Inevitably, there is a power shift in the relationship between Miss Popular and the protagonist—this may be a gradual understanding and a consensual role reversal, or it may be more violent.

-The Loner
Usually a geek type with horrendous social skills, her status is equal, or only marginally higher, than The Maid’s. She’s generally timid, often even non-verbal. Her ostracized existence represents a mystery to the protagonist—again, this represents a lost opportunity from the past, when one would have been too timid to approach such an odd girl, or too concerned about others’ opinions. Often The Loner is hiding some kind of dark secret, an explanation for her traumatized behavior, and sometimes her self-concept is merely poor—which, of course, can be remedied by the protagonist.

-The Tomboy
A short-haired, sporty type. She’s usually on one of the athletic teams in the school setting, and may appear as a fuss-free, stand-offish or androgynous woman in other settings. She’s difficult to approach, either because of an appearance of intimidating physical strength or because she doesn’t seem interested in boys. Generally the player gets the chance to find out whether the things he wondered about athletic girls back in high school are true—including whether or not they’re gay. The Tomboy frequently appears in scenes with other girls, and usually has a healthy sexual appetite in general.

-The Lolicon
For the uninitiated, “lolicon” refers to “Lolita complex,” or the fetish for underage (or merely undeveloped) girls. Very few H-games don’t contain one, though she always takes pains to state her age at 18. Perhaps as a compensation for her youthful appearance to assuage player guilt at one of the least socially acceptable practices in hentai, The Lolicon almost never acts like a young girl—on the contrary, she tends to be more prim, verbose and sophisticated than the other characters. Additionally, she’s usually rather domineering, able to manipulate the protagonist easily. She’s often his little sister, and even when she’s not, that’s the dynamic that tends to take shape. Adolescent girls do tend to be more mature than boys of that age, so perhaps The Lolicon is an avatar for the younger girls in the players’ memory, who with their perplexing outward calm, seemed to be immune to the same turbulence they suffered as boys. It’s not such a far stretch to imagine they held a secret wisdom. An alternative manifestation is quite opposite, however—sometimes The Lolicon character is enormously odd and incomprehensible (which is also logical). The Lolicon is usually the “fetish” character among others in a game, the subject of somewhat more niche practices.

These are only a few of the major archetypes that appear in H-games, and it’s easy to see why certain “types” are rather conventional in terms of pornography. However, against the backdrop of elaborate melodrama that H-games usually contain, their nature makes sense on another level—they make possible the resolution of conflicting emotions and unanswered questions about women in the small part of every man that might always be a boy.

[Leigh Alexander is the editor of Worlds in Motion and writes for Destructoid, Paste, Gamasutra and her blog, Sexy Videogameland. She can be reached at leigh_alexander1 AT yahoo DOT com.]