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If we stick with this continuum for a little longer, with Lara Croft at one end and Mass Effect at the other, that brings us to God of War and Fahrenheit, which lie somewhere in the middle. These games use sex for gameplay, with you controlling the pelvic thrust action of Kratos or that possessed guy in Fahrenheit. Of the two, I favor God of War's approach where the sex is just a quick diversion, not a plot point, and the fact that you're controlling the pelvic thrusts of a sex scene happening off-screen is actually kind of funny as a brief respite from all the chain-swinging. Fahrenheit doesn't have a sense of humor - and I mean, not at all - and so when the two main characters finally get around to having sex it's just another minigame. The fact that it happens right on screen in full view, Hot Coffee style, only makes it more disconcerting.

So where do we go from here? I would posit that the Marketing approach has nothing interesting to discuss and that the Gameplay approach is really fairly stupid. That leaves us with Narrative and Reward and that's the intersection that I really want to talk about.

One of my problems with the sober, respectful attitude towards sex from Bioware, Valve, and its politically correct ilk is that you don't get the feeling those developers have ever had sex. Real sex, just for example, is completely awesome. It's a blast. It's a thrill. People spend hours, days, even years pursuing sex. If sex stopped tomorrow, but you could still make babies in test tubes, the human race would become extinct anyway. Sex is raw, messy, and embarrassing and we all want to do it pretty damn often. Sex is joy, sex is life, sex is fun.

That's what's missing from most videogame sex. At least God of War treats it in this spirit: Kratos is such a badass that during the brief pause he takes between slaying gods and monsters, he'll just wordlessly throw down on the spot with two cartoonishly sexy women at the same time and then get back to slaying. It's not a significant emotional moment for him. He's just blowing off a little steam, having a little fun. For a guy in his position, hey, we can all relate.

So, what's wrong with that? I'd like to posit we are an industry built to deliver intense power fantasies with lab-tested reward mechanisms, fantasies larded with graphic violence that is itself a form of titillation - Gears of War doesn't have you chainsaw aliens in half to make a point about the futility of war, after all, it does it to make you feel good. And given that this is the case, why are we being such prudes about sex? Must we be just as hypocritical about "violence is okay but sex is not" as the rest of our culture?

We should be using sex as a reward mechanism. If I'm going to spend two hours chainsawing sixty or seventy guys in half, then for God's sake let me spend even a fraction of that time having sex with ten or twenty attractive partners of my preferred gender, one every few minutes. Would that be so wrong? Are those numbers so off? In games with achievements for killing 50,000 people, how crazy is it to make some love, too?

I'm being a little tongue in cheek here, of course. But when you look at our toolbox of rewards for players - things like experience points, skills, new weapons, new clothing - doesn't it seem like we could get sex in there somehow? I think a lab-tested breadcrumb trail of titillation that led you through the experience and was connected to the game's progression system would be a powerful idea. "If I can just finish this level, I get to visit the Harem of Ten Thousand Dreams and unlock the next Concubine!"

I'm not arguing for Actual Sex in games. I think the Bioware level of titillation is fine. But instead of putting it into your game for the sake of your narrative ambitions, let this be a game. Reward the player with a little sex. Let them pick the kind of partner they dig and then tease them with sexual access to that partner. Which would you rather do: play the same level ten times to unlock the boss fight or play it ten times to unlock the titillation scene with Nude-Mod Alyx or that silver-haired andro-boy from your favorite Final Fantasy game? Players might actually finish our games if we just let their fingers do the walking . . .

John Scott Tynes kind of wishes the Puritans had just kept on sailing and that instead America had been colonized by swashbuckling pirates. You know, like Australia.

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