Even iGirl is derivative of a previous game, coincidentally enough for the Macintosh computer. MacPlaymate was released in 1986 and was the first game in a genre which Brenda Brathwaite, author of the book Sex in Video Games, calls "the virtual woman." In the game, players use digitized representations of body parts or sex toys to bring an onscreen woman to orgasm. MacPlaymate inspired dozens of imitators with names like Orgasm Girl, 3D Playmate and Virtual Hottie. iGirl is simply the newest and most portable in a long line of MacPlaymate derivatives.
In a recent email conversation, Brenda Brathwaite attributes this creative stagnation in sex games partly to the marketplace. "Devs are hampered by the retail channel which largely avoids sexually-themed material and definitely avoids sexually explicit material," she says. The market has never fully embraced sex-related games, hence why adult games have never evolved past sensationalism like iGirl and strip poker. If an innovative sex game ever became a breakout hit, it could lead to a sea change in the industry's perception of the genre.
By allowing developers to bypass traditional retail outlets, the iPhone could theoretically be the ideal platform for sex games. There's clearly a market for it, and the iPhone's online connectivity means the platform isn't beholden to potentially squeamish brick-and-mortar outlets. Furthermore, the iPhone's third operating system update, released earlier this year, allows Apple to flag certain applications as "mature" and offers parental control on the device. As Weitz points out, with this system in place "Apple no longer has an excuse to censor apps," since users can easily block the content they find offensive.
Allowed to create titles without fear of censorship or outright exclusion from the App Store, developers could one day create a new, more sophisticated kind of sex game for the iPhone, breaking out of the rut the genre's been in since its inception. Of course, there's no guarantee that Apple will turn around and permit sexually explicit content on its platform. Under the right circumstances, however, this garden could grow some most enticing fruit.
Robert Stoneback is a freelance writer. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or via his blog at 1up.com. Robert would like to give particular thanks to Steven Weitz and Rob Zacny for their help with this article.