Sexbox 360: Hot Coffee and Blue Aliens
November 22, 2009, Author: Danny Wadeson
Before you get your hopes up, you smut-ridden leery voyeur you, details about the newly confirmed XXX version of Microsoft’s newest console venture will not be disclosed herein. Whilst the glut of indie massage games do suggest a sly ushering in of a whole (excuse the pun…) new kind of home entertainment system, this article is going to discuss something a little higher-brow.
The matter of sex. Sex in games. In-game sex. In-game nudity. Penises. Penii?! Well that is a perennial debate so I will shy away like so many chaste maidens from that particular issue. More accurately, the portrayal of sex in games and why it’s so controversial when it is portrayed, despite the utter saturation of it in other mediums.
The Lost and Damned, whilst developed by an (aptly-named) studio who already have a good pedigree in controversy, managed to shock, delight, confuse many with its cock-sure depiction of a male member (of congress, no less). With The Ballad Of Gay Tony, the closing chapter of the GTA 4 saga dealing in part with another aspect of sexuality, Rockstar are certainly one of the few developers not afraid of raising a few issues about sex and sexuality, and it’s these I’m interested in.
For one, if we, as a community of gamers wish to be granted ever-more respect by the mainstream media, we must, as a rule, respond to issues of sex and nudity in a mature fashion. I don’t wish to imply that people are not, just that it is an important foundation to lay. We must be able to enter into a dialogue about sex in games in the same way as developers must be able to depict it in such a way as to facilitate mature discussion. Now, Japanese developers have a vivid history of sex games, but cultural differences abound; I’m talking about the way forward for a western audience and industry. What have we learnt from Hot Coffee, J. Thompson, blue aliens and japanese dating sims?
Mass Effect spawned an absolutely hilarious reaction in the media upon its release (if you somehow haven’t seen it before, it’s absolutely hilarious how ignorant some people were about it…)
Aside from being laughably under-researched (my favourite line is ‘the ability of players to engage in graphic sex’) the feature linked above highlights all that is wrong with the interaction between the mainstream and video games. Especially surrounding the issue of what is, ultimately, no matter how many different religious groups believe otherwise, a perfectly natural act. Again, fun as it would be, I’m not offering a diatribe against either Fox (Megan or the TV company), the media, religion, your mum, or Bioware (the twisted, predatory corrupting influence that they are). This video is timeless, but seems especially relevant once again as Bioware are set to release Dragon Age: Origins, a game that we’re told (or perhaps warned) has a good deal of on screen hanky panky.
Let’s cut to the chase: I propose that the only way we are going to make progress in the matter, is for more games to have sex featured in them. The problem is how to present it. The power of suggestion is as powerful as ever, and to my mind the sex scene in Mass Effect is both tasteful and effective. ‘Sleeping’ with hookers in Grand Theft Auto is not tasteful but it’s certainly not offensive or gratuitous. So far so good. Let’s take a look at a few more examples.
Sex in Fallout 3 is possible but inconsequential, unrewarding, and ultimately pointless from a gameplay or narrative perspective. A non-committal depiction shall we say. Fable 2 takes another interesting approach by letting you only hear the act of coitus. If you’ve played Fable you’ll also know that having a child is amusing but again, ultimately a gimmick; I call this a morally neutral stance. Both are fine, but one is sincerely lacking in ambition to drive the matter forward, understandable after the fiasco that the ratings boards conjured over the naming of in-game drugs
Where is the sex that adds to the drama? Think about the potential of sex scenes in films and literature to really evoke emotions, to create powerful drama and motivations between characters. How games developers, backed into a corner by ratings boards and neurotic censorship endorsed by a morally perplexed billboard society continue to shy away from a responsible yet vivid depiction of all things sexual baffles me.
I’m hoping that Heavy Rain, the TIMJ hands-on preview of which you can read here, with its ostensibly ‘life-life’ portrayal of a believable scenario will feature a real, bar-setting sexual event or relationship. If games are ever going to cross over the threshold from entertainment to art-form, from wasted artistic potential to responsible medium of expression, we all need to get virtually laid a little more.