But all of that may be changing this year, with the release of a flood of MMOEGs - massively multiplayer online erotic games - ranging from the cartoon-esque Naughty America, to the teledildonics-based 3Feelonline. These worlds are designed for sex. Their graphics, their game mechanics; all are set up to optimize the sexual experience. They're moving sex from the background to the foreground, out of the shadows and into the light.

These MMOEGs are both reacting to, and taking part in, an upswing of interest in adult videogames. While they're catering to a wide-spread love of sex, they're also testing new territory, and they may be walking a delicate line. When sex is no longer a challenge or a taboo, will it still pique our interest? Will these games satiate or spoil our sexual hunger?

Sociolotron and Second Life, two already-released MMOGs where sex is king, have both proven themselves capable of keeping players interested and aroused. This may be due in part to the feelings of transgression they promote. Here, fetishes thrive. Vanilla sex is merely a starting point for the creation of new dark spots on the map of sexuality.

After Sex
When sex is a given - when, for the first time, it is actually the established, open, accepted basis for society - what will grow up in the cracks? What other element of human interaction will take root in the shadows behind well-lit sex? Perhaps the answer is simply more sex: Communities of fetish, like those found in Second Life. Or, maybe we will move away from sex altogether.

In Sociolotron, for example, power struggles and gang rule lie beneath the surface of a seemingly sex-centered virtual London. Second Life players, too, take time out of their active social lives to involve themselves in local politics. But the largest current that undercuts such worlds - one that runs even deeper, perhaps, than sex - is economy. Like sex, an exchange system is bound to evolve in all but the simplest of societies.

It may be, though, that sex and economics have more in common than we might think. Sex can be used for economic motives or economics for sexual ones. Both are ways to intermediate between people. Both represent the networking of people through a medium of intercourse. Both create a web, connecting players through their past interactions. Both create a common exchange value, and a common language of exchange.

All of which begs the question: Is there such thing as a basic human function? Does sex pop up in all our virtual worlds because it is, at our core, our primary purpose? Or is money - the need to trade, to claim value - what's at our center? Perhaps it's neither sex nor money, but what they both stand in for, namely connecting with other people.

Only time will tell what's in store for the future of MMOEGs. But, whatever comes after sex, one thing's for certain: People won't be doing it alone.

Bonnie Ruberg is a videogame journalist specializing in gender and sexuality in games and gaming communities. She also runs a blog, Heroine Sheik, dedicated to such issues. Most recently, her work has appeared at Wired.com, The A. V. Club, and Gamasutra.

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