The missing climax

While videogames share a well-documented relationship with violence, their relationship with that other great human need - sex - isn't quite as clear and well defined.

Anand Ramachandran | Print Edition: December 2011

This is rather curious. A cursory glance at other entertainment media-books, films, television and the Internet-reveals that sex and violence are present in roughly equal measure. Why then, the skew in gaming? Why do videogames favour the wrong kind of Boom Boom Boom ? The answer perhaps lies in the beginnings. When vidoegames were born, the midwife was the geek-that species which is defined by a love of tech, sci-fi and junk food. And the geeks loved to make games in which you shot things to pieces. Starting with Space War, on to the phenomenal Space Invaders, the geeks were more interested in blasting than in bonking. Until Nintendo unleashed Donkey Kong upon the world, and a little man named Mario began his long career of saving princesses, something he continues to do to this day.

Once Donkey Kong introduced the first romantic motif in videogames, there was actually a surge in sex-themed videogames before the pendulum swung inexorably towards violence again. Early text adventures such as Leather Goddesses of Phobos actually featured fairly explicit storylines with quests that involved getting virtual ladies into the sack with the male protagonist. The whole "get the girl" genre saw its pinnacle with Sierra's smash-hit Leisure Suit Larry series where the immortal Larry Laffer had to solve all kinds of mindbending puzzles in order to get sex. The games were funny, clever and memorable-and featured puzzles where you'd catch diseases and die if you forgot to wear a condom before jumping into bed with a hottie.

Sadly, not all sex-themed games were of high quality. The most famous example, the bizarre Custer's Revenge for the Atari 2600, featured a ridiculous sex scene at the end of every level where the game's white hero would ravish a native American lass in 4-bit pixelated glory. It caused an outrage, made news for all the wrong reasons, and probably set back sex themed games by several years.

Despite violence facing even more media heat, they remained strong, primarily because violence was an integral part of gameplay, unlike sex, which was at best a gratuitous extra-with the notable exception of the Larry series, which was sadly buried by the death of the adventure genre.

In the intervening years, the only truly sex-themed game to emerge (outside of Japan, but then Japan is outside the scope of this article. In fact, Japan is outside the scope of most things) was the curious Singles: Flirt Up Your Life- an adult spin on the hugely successful life-simulation game, The Sims. Singles tried to take advantage of the success of The Sims dating and romance features but ended up as a poor and boring game which offered nothing other than gratuitous semi-nudity. The game possibly buried the chances of sexthemed games entering the mainstream for several more years.

However, two developments emerged, which gave fresh impetus to adult sexual themes making a comeback of sorts into vidoegames: the mainstream industry responding to the increasing average age of gamers, and the spread of online social and massively multiplayer gaming scene.

As the gaming market expanded and grew, and the kids who propelled gaming into the mainstream in the 1980s became adults with disposable incomes, people began to demand more mature themes in their games. And naturally , which franchise but Grand Theft Auto would rise to the occasion, providing as much impetus to the return of sex to videogames as it did for violence a few years earlier. GTA: San Andreas featured a hidden sex minigame that the programmers never intended for commercial release-but a hacker found a way to unlock it, unleashing the infamous "hot coffee" scandal that reignited the debate over sexual content in videogames. However, this time, there was no turning back. Today, mainstream blockbuster titles like God of War, Mass Effect and Heavy Rain feature elaborate and explicit sex scenes woven into the narrative. Perhaps the day is not far off when we will see a primarily sex-oriented game becoming a mainstream hit.

The emergence of online multiplayer games such as Second Life, Habbo and Imvu also led to a resurgence of sexual activity revolving around games. However, this is more closely related to the dynamics of online social interaction and communities than to games in particular; these games merely provide a platform and tools for players to create their own experiences, and players end up conjuring up huge online worlds that become dating services and singles bars.
More power.

While pure sex-themed games are yet to emerge from the rather seedy underbelly of online porn (or Japanese mainstream Hentai, which is even weirder) , it is inevitable that we will eventually see mature and high quality content emerge in the gaming mainstream. In any medium's struggle for legitimacy as art, the presence of mature erotica is an invaluable signpost. Will gaming get there anytime soon? That's anybody's guess, but the answer probably lies somewhere in an Indie developer's studio. Or in Japan.

Courtesy:Gadgets and Gizmos

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