In light of the Concrete Sex and Drug Survey, I felt it was a good time to discuss sex in gaming (there’s not that many natural opportunities I will admit): what’s been done well, what has been done (really) bad, and what should we be looking for in the future? Let’s take a look at some of the weird and wonderful ways sexual encounters have featured in gaming.
It may surprise you to know that since almost the beginning of video gaming, there have been games featuring sexually explicit content. Softporn Adventure, made for the Apple-II in 1981, was arguably the first and it involves a man finding items to please different women and eventually have sex with them. Whilst a text-based game with no visual representation of sex, the game does begin a long-standing argument over sex in media and the male gaze. In Softporn Adventure, there is no option to seduce men and whilst a female version was alleged to be in production, it never surfaced. As game capability has grown, this problem of female representation has not necessarily matured. As we move into the twenty-first century, we begin to get games such as the God of War franchise with topless women abound and sex as part of minigames which prove their hero’s masculinity. Again, these are not healthy representations of sex as they perform a very voyeuristic role, often involving two women instigating a threesome with the player. Whilst the player does not actually see the sexual act, they are privy and sometimes in control of brief foreplay and then the camera cuts to a non-explicit image whist sound usage and obvious intent prove that sex has happened. As a female player, this gets pretty boring after a while I can tell you!
Probably the most famous controversy in recent memory involving games and sex was in 2004 with the ‘Hot Coffee mod’ in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Whilst initially pulled from the game, the code for a vivid sex scene was left in the game and it didn’t take very long for gamers to find it. This led to a massive back lash towards Rockstar and a re-rating of the game to AO (adults-only). There’s even a BBC docudrama about the events starring Daniel Radcliffe called The Gamechangers. To even the most avid of fans of GTA, its hard not to note the often violent sexualised undertones of the game even in its most modern of incarnations. There have been improvements, however, although nothing’s perfect; Bioware for example, famous for franchises such as Dragon Age and Mass Effect has managed to create a much healthier relationship with sex than other Western companies. With recent studies finding that around half of the gaming community is female, designers need to have a hard think about what an audience actually wants from them, and hopefully we will never have a repeat of that scene in Witcher III involving a unicorn….