One Thing Video Games Need: More Sex
Relationships in Mass Effect ultimately culminate in scenes like this one.

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One Thing Video Games Need: More Sex

If video games are meant as an escape from the real world where anything should be possible, why isn’t having more sex an option?
July 10, 2015, 3:30pm

Why are video games so afraid of sex?

It's a question seemingly without a definitive answer, though perhaps in the modern landscape of digital interactive entertainment we should be asking ourselves why we're so afraid of seeing sex in video games. As it stands, as a collective audience, we're flabbergasted when we see male genitalia in games like Grand Theft Auto IV. For all the fanfare about CD Projekt RED's The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt's impressive aesthetics and role-playing elements, all we can talk about are the hours of motion-capture recording required for the game's lengthy sex scenes long after the game has been released.

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It's taboo somehow, as though we've never bent ourselves over an ill-stuffed sofa and sultrily invited our partners to spank us or took solace in the white-hot, pulsating depths of our partners' waiting orifices. It's natural. It's beautiful. If video games are meant as an escape from the real world where anything should be possible, why isn't having more sex an option?

For an entertainment industry that yearns to be seen through the same mature lens as we view movies and television, our role-playing games, our first-person shooters, and even our adventure games are completely devoid of mature depictions of our most basic and human desires.

It's completely bizarre to think that as a medium, video games have almost traveled backward in time over the years. Back in the early 1980s and continuing on from the late 1970s, computer graphics and video games themselves were still in their infancy—but we still found pathways to pleasure. Multi-User Dungeons (MUDs) were rife with humans sitting behind keyboards engaging in sexual role-playing games.

Having given way to titles like Softporn Adventure (1981) for the Apple II and Leisure Suit Larry In The Land of the Lounge Lizards (1987), these MUDs and their user-generated, explicit sexual content were some of gaming's first brushes with that of the virtual world fusing with the real one. The focus was no longer that of mutual (virtual) masturbation, but exploring characters and stories with adult themes. These may have been some of the heaviest doors to break through, but once the floodgates were open, filtering in women with gigantic breasts and fantastical visions of rippling beefcakes have taken over as the norm in gaming.

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And yet, puzzlingly, less sex.

The Witcher should be praised for its mature handling of sex.

It hasn't gotten better with time. Unfortunately, there's a startling lack of these very facets in even gaming's most popular series and among their developers. The only romances players are allowed to kindle within video games are relegated to dialogue choices, which character they want to pursue a romance with based on superficial personality traits, and which ones will end up becoming assets in the thick of battle, a la BioWare's Mass Effect or Dragon Age.

We're treated to conveniently troubled childhoods, cheeky one-liners, and the illusion of desire, but never the rush of what it feels like to be falling in love (or lust); how that one special person is always on your mind, and how you're constantly thinking of ways to get them to notice you, even though their eyes have been on you all evening. How you want nothing more than to enjoy their simple embrace and gentle gaze over a perfect career or all the riches in the world. Nothing captures that feeling, and nothing could ever truly communicate it better than a perfectly orchestrated, inclusive, and raw sex scene.

But it's likely we'll never quite see it, given that sex is persistently viewed as this ominous, terrifying act that always ends up as the culmination of every completed action in the game you've been playing thus far. You'll spend hours poring over the right dialogue decisions and pleasing actions for the man or woman of your choice in-game, usually ending in a lackluster sex scene that we only register as one because of all the hushed whispers and strategically-placed clothing. And even then, it's usually a straight sex scene, because only a few titles allow for relationships between anyone but straight men and women. The "goal" in mind is always for characters to end up in bed together, and simply together. Even the most caustic of circumstances somehow allow for a neatly-wrapped resolution that treats sexual relations as the ultimate goal.

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Despite all this, we're still not given the opportunity to explore it. So what's the point?

Truly, there's a place for these types of games, but in the end it's akin to screaming the words "pussy" or "cock" as loudly as possible with no context

It's assumed that, for your characters, the time will come in the story for marriage, children, or the other constraints of "polite society" depending on the game and if players choose to see those things through. There's no comfort in that. There's no examining healthy human relationships without also exploring the sexual side of the characters you're supposed to have formed a "real" connection with. These are what players are relegated to when they enter the world of blockbuster games looking for more adult experiences, and beyond a few shining instances of hope here and there, there simply isn't much else floating around to latch onto.

Even going beyond the constraints of monolithic triple-A developers doesn't bode well for sexual expression. While independent developers are content to create art titles that flirt with the idea of dirty, filthy sex or even a romantic night in with your partner, most fail to capture the mood or even the action of engaging in intercourse, instead asking players to navigate mazes sprinkled with sexual encounters (Lea Schönfelder's Ute) or explore how a young girl might understand how the deed is actually done (Nina Freeman's How Do You Do It?).

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Truly, there's a place for these types of games, but in the end it's akin to screaming the words "pussy" or "cock" as loudly as possible with no context. We can shout about doing it doggy-style and make lewd jokes about going down on a woman in games, but why not take a step further and let players do it? Why must we be content with text-driven adventures that titillate with explicit language and the intent to arouse when we could be engaging in the escapades for ourselves?

Some creators like Christine Love (Ladykiller in a Bind) create intricate visual novels meant to allow for a bit of normalcy in interaction. These stories, even at their most basic level, introduce the building blocks of BDSM. Power plays and kinky sex take center stage instead of innocuous flirting and the errant lovemaking scene you may see in the same types of games Love's colleagues make. Above all, she seeks to tell a story. Amid all of the sexual connotations, it's at its heart a Japanese anime-inspired tale with relatable characters and paths players of different orientations will become interested in and want to play.

BioWare nails tenderness and intimacy in Dragon Age, but still shies away from more sexual content.

Truly, if there's a type of game that could alter attitudes about love, sex, and relationships in the industry, it's the visual novel, incorporating elements from multiple genres and offering venues for players to explore and walk on the wild side. They're gateways to magical worlds, doorways to beautiful, long-lasting bonds, and even a dash of naughtiness. But they can't be the only links to unlocking the sexual potential of gaming, especially when they represent only a small portion of it.

What needs to happen is a renaissance of sorts to remove the stigma that's still present any time you bring up video games in the company of others, the laypersons who simply can't grasp the fact that what was previously considered to be a group of diversions meant for children has grown up considerably. Until then, much like the young girl in Nina Freeman's How Do You Do It? we'll be relegated to slapping together action figures as if we're attempting to decode human sexuality. Unless things change considerably, we'll never be pressing "X" to orgasm.