The issue of sex in video games is something that has plagued the industry for far too long. On the one hand the attempts to include candid sexual encounters have been derided as explicit and disgusting, and on the other hand the needless inclusion of overly sexualised characters (usually women) has caused uproar and protest from many more. There seems to be no safe middle ground for the industry.
Early explicit games were text based adventures with mainly soft-core images, however later games like the Leisure Suite Larry franchise and BMX XXX, seemed to tackle the subject of sex head on and make it the entire focus of the game.
Perhaps the most famous inclusion of sex is in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City which allowed the player to pick up and sleep with prostitutes in their car, although the encounter is not seen.
At the time it seemed to be openly inviting uproar and discussion and it did just that. For this and many other things besides, the game was called to be banned, and this was put into action in some countries. Although this was a necessary step; a hugely popular, ground-breaking game, candidly tackling the subject of sex was revolutionary, and after this the industry was far more accepting of sex as a whole.
Today far more explicit sexual content can be included, such as in Metro: Last Light. The game allows you to receive a topless lap dance during one section of the game, however unlike in GTA where the action was an interesting aside to an already comical story, Metro seems to have included this to the detriment of their game.
In Metro the player enters the sleazy brothel – hangout of the antagonist and his cronies – a seemingly obvious example of the degradation of post-apocalyptic Moscow.
However allowing the player to then receive this lap dance from a smiling dancer turns the whole situation on its head. It isn’t actually a symbol of degradation: it’s a device used to include a controversial scene for its own sake.
The game itself was truly unforgettable in every respect, and the fact the developers used this solely to generate comment and publicity is disappointing, as the game could achieve this itself. Later in the game there is a totally necessary sex scene with more nudity which is a perfect example of how sex should be tackled in video games, but the pointless lap dance still taints this success.
Other games have tackled the subject by including adult scenes which have significance to the story and serve to aid the verisimilitude and make the game better as a consequence.Recently Beyond: Two Souls managed to do exactly this by handling the topic maturely and ensuring that scenes aided the game.
Video games are no longer seen as a childish curiosity – they wish to be taken seriously as pieces of art and it is their conscientious treatment of sex that allows them to do so. However, including sex needlessly to either create controversy or lure an audience into buying the game ensures that the sex itself is a gimmick, and consequently games will be viewed this way.