Monday, 30 April 2012

Sex in Video Games

Sex. Sexy, sexy sex! Some call it shagging; others call it ‘making the beast with two backs’; almost no one calls it ‘dancing the f**k fandango’ but they should because that’s hilarious. Since mankind realised they could represent concepts with symbols, some of those symbols have been about dancing the f**k fandango. Who can blame them?

 Cave men loved big butts, they could not lie

Read more about three of everyone's favourite subjects - sex, video games and sex in video games - right after the click!


It’s reasonable that in our escapist fantasies – such as video games – we would like a filling of sex for our sandwich of violence. But in hundreds of video games the sex is left out with only violence left to fill the void. Whether it’s never kissing the princess but jumping up and down on goombas, Sephiroth penetrating Aeris with a sword, millions of people blowing each other’s brains out with virtual heavy calibre weapons before being taken from behind; violence is fine but sex is forbidden.

This is most noticeable in the Fable series – not because there is no sex, but because of what sex there is. Sex exists complete with pregnancy, bigamy and even brothels, but when you actually dance the f**k fandango you just hear five seconds of grunting while the screen is black. What the hell is the point? It’s not like you’re protecting children from forbidden knowledge. Your heroic morally pure male character can solicit sex from a male prostitute wearing a pink thong and assless chaps, leading him by the hand to a bed behind a thin curtain. That’s some pretty explicit context even if you don’t see any explicit content.


In contrast, the Mass Effect series has been controversial in the past for its same-sex relationships and erotica, even though they have always been tasteful and sensitive. Again you don’t get to see any genitals, just an erotic montage like countless other family-friendly movies. The scenes themselves were actually far from porn – I think the people who objected to them had never seen the internet. I can only pray that someone took them aside and explained to them about… well, the real world.

Is it weird that people found the homosexuality objectionable rather than the whole ‘having sex with aliens’ aspect? Some of the alien races only have a single gender even though they look like girls, so does that make it okay for a human woman to shag them? Surely this is like some kind of bestiality either way since they’re not humans, even if they’re sentient. At the very least it makes our previous definitions of ‘mixed race’ completely obsolete. But I guess we’re passed interracial relationships being sensational, so it’s not news. Hooray for social progress!

Male? Female? Does it even make a difference?

For the game Fallout 3, the absence of sex was a major complaint. In its precursor Fallout 2 there was loads of sex – almost every town had its whorehouses, lecherous barflies, horny farm-girls, randy warrior-women, hurt-but-healing sheriffs, deviated perverts or angry, vengeful trophy wives. Although most of the interactions were text-based and the sex scenes were also just fade-to-black, it was still nice to flirt, seduce or even solicit (or at least the game dialogue writers’ ideas of those things). The brothels in Fallout 2 were a lot of fun with some great comedy, and often a good place to find a new quest. When Fallout 3 was released, this whole aspect of the game was left out (plus the travel mechanic was incredibly worse). True we have the internet now, but a post-apocalyptic world without sex is a doomed world indeed.

Harold’s head-tree may be having sex in this image, and you would never know because it's a tree

Don’t get me wrong, there is a huge difference between virtual hookers and prostitutes in real life. In real life streetwalkers are unattractive, harsh, desperate, likely diseased and probably chemically dependent on something or other. Most of them are backed up by pimps who will probably screw you over in a completely different, much worse way by taking your wallet at least, or maybe even your kidneys. It’s obviously illegal (in most places) which is part of why lost women and men alike can be exploited and sold by manipulative, abusive predators. Despite being the oldest profession in the world it’s still seedy, unmentionable and very perilous.

Meanwhile in a computer game a cheeky wench will wink at you, say something saucy, beckon you into the back room and then beckon you into the back room, if you know what I’m saying – all for a gold coin or a few tankards of ale – then tell everyone how amazing you were. Everyone knows its equal parts harmless, silly, pathetic and fun apart from the crazies, who think it’s either harmful, serious or some sort of achievement.

Some games balance it by injecting some kind of educational moral, which might be why there are fewer complaints about them. For example you can sometimes find condoms in loot-drops or shops. In Fallout 2 you get the chance to star in a porn film for one of the crime families. You’ll be rewarded with currency, reputation and, unless you wear a condom, an STD. Fable 3 is both less and more strict about it: if you don’t use a condom there is a risk of pregnancy, sure, and I’ve sometimes found myself having to balance motherhood with adventuring and revolution (my character was a girl). But STD contraction is random and also irreversible. There are forum posts around the internet of people catching STDs from their virginal spouses.

Yes honey, I was a virgin when we married. Why do you ask?

It’s true that many so-called sexually transmitted parasites and diseases can also be contracted from other vectors like shared towels, dirty water, dirty needles or medical incompetence. They can even be inherited from a parent. There was poor hygiene in the era Fable 3 is apparently set. Just because someone is a virgin doesn’t mean they’ll be disease-free. Nonetheless I felt slightly cheated when my Fable 3 character got some kind of magical STD from losing her virginity, especially since it was nothing but five seconds of grunting in the dark. If anything that’s uncomfortably realistic.

I suppose I almost agree with the religious right and censorship-advocates, albeit for very different reasons. Sure all this realism can teach kids to be responsible with their genitals, to wear condoms and be aware of their sexual health. But learning to be responsible is not why we play video games!


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