160: Sex and Dragon Slaying

Sex and Dragon Slaying

"Not too long ago, Age of Conan made headlines with a rumor that turned heads across the internet - not only would it contain nudity, it would actually allow players to have sex. Players would be able to screw each other's brains out in-game and get a temporary stat-boost for their ... er ... pleasure. When the game actually shipped, however, the sex turned out to be nothing more than a casual reference. Female player characters could still go topless, but actual coitus wasn't in the code.

"Age of Conan stopped at bared breasts. But imagine, if you will, an MMORPG with the audacity to go 'all the way.'"

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I realise that the main point of the article isn't about sex in Age of Conan (or rather the lack of it), but I have to say that the weakening of AoC's adult themes is what turned me off that game. It's not that I like sex in games for its puerile value, or to get a cheap sexual thrill (after all, if I want that, the internet is full of such content), but when I play a game that's based on a book, I expect the game to stay as close to the source material as possible. The removal of sexual themes from Age of Conan said to me that the developers just weren't committed enough to the Conan lore - if they drop the sex what else will they delete for the sake of ease?

Oh god, don't let Peter Molyneux read this article, Fable 3 will end up being an MMO filled with kids trying to hump your leg.

Good article, I doubt anything like LoRD could work in the modern games industry, there seem to be very few games that only adults play and your average teenager can't be trusted not to abuse features such as having your own family.
Not to mention what Fox would think of the whole thing...

Beery:
when I play a game that's based on a book, I expect the game to stay as close to the source material as possible. The removal of sexual themes from Age of Conan said to me that the developers just weren't committed enough to the Conan lore - if they drop the sex what else will they delete for the sake of ease?

I agree. When you're trying to add to an established series, you should probably make sure you aren't rewriting history or giving up on core values. Everyone knows that Conan was a sweaty barbarian that had sex with fair maidens. It might be eluded to, but that kind of defeats the purpose. To feel immersed in the Conan world, I'd want to be able to do EVERYTHING that Conan does. Not just the ESRB- Friendly stuff.

Then again, you have to see it from a developer's perspective. They spend countless amounts of money on these games and if the ESRB AO stamps it, it's done in the mainstream market. The only way that you could get it would be online and maybe in adult stores. I think some developer like Mr. Robinson is going to come alone and say "forget it. I'm just going to make the game I want to make and I don't care what the ESRB rates it and maybe if I get the word out, it will make some cash." But until that time comes, Age Of Conan and Mass Effect and all these games with simulated and innuendo sex will have to do.

Shushyne4np2ne:

Beery:
when I play a game that's based on a book, I expect the game to stay as close to the source material as possible. The removal of sexual themes from Age of Conan said to me that the developers just weren't committed enough to the Conan lore - if they drop the sex what else will they delete for the sake of ease?

I agree. When you're trying to add to an established series, you should probably make sure you aren't rewriting history or giving up on core values. Everyone knows that Conan was a sweaty barbarian that had sex with fair maidens. It might be eluded to, but that kind of defeats the purpose. To feel immersed in the Conan world, I'd want to be able to do EVERYTHING that Conan does. Not just the ESRB- Friendly stuff.

Then again, you have to see it from a developer's perspective. They spend countless amounts of money on these games and if the ESRB AO stamps it, it's done in the mainstream market. The only way that you could get it would be online and maybe in adult stores. I think some developer like Mr. Robinson is going to come alone and say "forget it. I'm just going to make the game I want to make and I don't care what the ESRB rates it and maybe if I get the word out, it will make some cash." But until that time comes, Age Of Conan and Mass Effect and all these games with simulated and innuendo sex will have to do.

A game would easily survive if it was bought and downloaded online. Just because it's not sold in Wal-Mart, and is a little less convient to get, doesn't mean it wouldn't thrive.

I've played Legend of the Green Dragon, I suppose that was based on Legend of the Red Dragon?

Aries_Split:

Shushyne4np2ne:

Beery:
when I play a game that's based on a book, I expect the game to stay as close to the source material as possible. The removal of sexual themes from Age of Conan said to me that the developers just weren't committed enough to the Conan lore - if they drop the sex what else will they delete for the sake of ease?

I agree. When you're trying to add to an established series, you should probably make sure you aren't rewriting history or giving up on core values. Everyone knows that Conan was a sweaty barbarian that had sex with fair maidens. It might be eluded to, but that kind of defeats the purpose. To feel immersed in the Conan world, I'd want to be able to do EVERYTHING that Conan does. Not just the ESRB- Friendly stuff.

Then again, you have to see it from a developer's perspective. They spend countless amounts of money on these games and if the ESRB AO stamps it, it's done in the mainstream market. The only way that you could get it would be online and maybe in adult stores. I think some developer like Mr. Robinson is going to come alone and say "forget it. I'm just going to make the game I want to make and I don't care what the ESRB rates it and maybe if I get the word out, it will make some cash." But until that time comes, Age Of Conan and Mass Effect and all these games with simulated and innuendo sex will have to do.

A game would easily survive if it was bought and downloaded online. Just because it's not sold in Wal-Mart, and is a little less convient to get, doesn't mean it wouldn't thrive.

What I think Shush is trying to get at is that the advertising would take a hit, not that it wouldn't thrive. Sure, you can get away with all kinds of sexual innuendo in advertising to the mass market, but actually selling of sexual content? Hmm, closest I can think of that comes to that is late night tv ads for Girls Gone Wild. And even if you don't advertise it as a feature, your product could get labeled as "hiding" it.

Just another reason to not even switch on your tv anymore and support independent by actually going out and looking for it yourself. But hey, its hardly mass market if you have to put in effort to find it and consider what you are getting into before buying, huh?

Lawl. I think it's hilarious how people are demanding sex in a game to keep it 'close to the source material' as possible. Very transparent in your demand for sex in games, gentlemen.

I don't think so.

Years and years ago. I played on a certain MUD and there were numerous 'sexual' activities within the game.

Apart from normal cyber-sex; which was hilarious when it went across the wrong lines, there was a nymph maiden (who actually had preferences as well), and I think they'd just finished putting in a hunky barman; as well as children, marriages and spousal 'cheat' rings.

All of these were logged as well, just so the GM's could see who spent the most time there.

The thing was it added to the atmosphere. All of the text was nothing more graphic than you'd get in a off-the-shelf romance novel; but it gave the world a texture.

None of it was advertised, but rumours of certain things you could do spread like wildfire.

(And it wasn't just sexual: One of my favourites was when you saw two cows in a field, the command "Tip Cow" would set off a whole series of set scenes.)

Something as simple as a snowball fight worked in City of Heroes, because it's useful fluff, and fluff is what brings people back to games.

That reminds me...I wonder if you can get from Ocean Beach to Vice Point just by car surfing? I got halfway last night but if I set the car ratio to only long cars....

I think the reason we don't see this so much is that modern games tend to revolve around a particular element. For example, Alone in the Dark allows the user to grab items from the environment and combine them to make things. This is great, fun, and works well, but the rest of the game seems tacked on around this mechanic. Similarly, City of Heroes is an MMORPG with extensive character creation. The character creation is elaborate, enjoyable, and truly worthy of praise, but the rest of the game plays out like just another MMORPG. Time Shift has bullet time, which works good, but the rest of the game is a FPS without a purpose. All in all, it seems that whenever a new element is added to game play, so much effort is spent on perfecting that element that the rest of the game is forgetten. This is exactly why adding sex to a video game is going to be a nearly insurmountable task.

The first conclusion we can draw is that the first game to do so will be horrible. It's possible that the sexual elements will be well done, but the rest of the game will suffer from neglect. The game will be lambasted for its mediocrity, and since it's main element is sexuality, the media will blame the sexuality for creating a poor game.

The second problem is that, like most new mechanics, it will need a lot of tuning. How do you incorporate sexuality in a game in a way that is enjoyable, reasonable, not offensive, and adds to the rest of the game? This is a delicate balancing act, akin to the use of violence in video games, and we still fight over "how much is too much".

The last problem, and possibly the most significant, is that a unique mechanic like this will ultimately become the main selling feature of the game. However, society has shown time and again that it prefers sexuality to be subtle. We all have and desire sex, but we rarely come out and say it, certainly in public. We tell tall tales, make lude jokes, and otherwise reference it, but to speak its name and give details is considered obscene and offensive. The difference between subtlety and frankness becomes the difference between art and obscenity.

Now take that subtle subject and make it the main feature in a video game (still widely considered a leisure entertainment with no redeeming artistic qualities), complete with the usual touting in trailers, press releases, and conferences, and watch the media hounds feast on it. Everyone from Jack Thompson to the ESRB and even state legislatures will challenge it. To take something so sacred and make a game out of it (especially if it involves "mash X to reach climax") will have people decrying it as pornography, obscenity, and every other death-letter imaginable. An AO rating will be the least of their worries.

Even doing it right, as LotRD may have done, will be met with consternation. How do we keep this away from the kids? (Which assumes the answer to the ever-unanswered question, "What's acceptable for kids to see?") What about homosexuality? What about teenage pregnancies, unwanted pregnancies, abortions, divorces? So many people have differing opinions of these, and their opinions can be so extreme that they believe nobody should be able to do, think, or see those things themselves. For example, if homosexuality isn't addressed, the homosexual community will accuse it of ignoring them or encouraging heterosexuality as the only acceptable way. Include homosexuality, and many religious groups will claim that it's sinful and will turn people gay. (e.g. Bioshock) Include marriage and the same situation will be several times more controversial.

The key to including sexuality is to handle it with maturity, but few people are mature or secure in their own sexuality -- especially those in the demographics most likely to play video games. Outside of the demographic that would play the game, there are many more people who would comment on the game (from reporters, to reviewers and critics, to watchdog groups, to legislatures) who may themselves be immature or insecure and will misunderstand or otherwise be offended by even a mature discussion of sexuality.

Games have gotten away with violence and coarse language because, as much as our society claims to be disgusted with it, it's extremely tolerant of it. Sex, despite being perhaps far more necessary than either violence or specific language, is viewed with far less tolerance. To successfully add even a modicum of well done, mature sexual content will be to hold ones own feet to the fire and brimstone that society will unquestionably bring forth. As a game designer, that may be a risk worth taking, but as a producer, that sounds like a poor investement.

I would like nothing better than to see sexuality be included in video games in a mature manner. But given the video game industry's record with violence, coarse language, and especially sexuality, it's unlikely to ever happen. Most games have trouble forming a compelling story around WWII; how are they ever going to handle a subject as delicate as sex? And if they do, how will they convince society of its merits? The video game industry and society in general both have a long way to go before we'll ever be able to make more than breathless references to sexuality in video games.

ReverseEngineered:
City of Heroes is an MMORPG with extensive character creation. The character creation is elaborate, enjoyable, and truly worthy of praise, but the rest of the game plays out like just another MMORPG.

yea i agree with alot of stuff you said but def not this. Coh is nuthing like 95% of every other sword slinging dwarf digging elf flipping human casting halfling hiding dragon slaying walking...walking...(walking off topic even)MMO out there. Anyway as for sex in games..well to me its the same as violence in games. It's nothign like the real thing. And if you know the difference then whatever.. it's fluff if thats what your into.

Im sure it wouldnt be like a mandatory level where you bust out some 12 crazy positions for a boss "battle". But reguardless if sex were to ever be put in an mmo then that game would be without a shadow of a doubt COMPLETELY destroyed and fall apart from the CONSTANT REPEATITIVE flooding messages of immature young teenage boys, and creepy old men hitting on virtual women..that are actually being played by the same teenage boys... I'd give it 3 months. The overall maturity level of a games community would crumble to absolute shit. between broadcast channels and private tells, horrible sword puns and god knows whatelse. No true gamer would actually play that game.

but y ea yea what abotu conan with a M rating and sex and violence for an older "mature crowd" pffft..kids have been breaking those rules since mortal kombat came out on genesis, like telling them not to listen to a vulgar song, or turn of cinemax past ten o'clock while their firends sleepover...it just doesn't happen. personally i don't think video games need all out sex scenes or emotes whatever..this is where that virtual line between the real world gets fuzzy.

see video games are for flying through the skies. gunning down innocent people, blasting monsters, wining the superbowl, batteling through war torn trenches, and doing things that are pretty much for the most part humanly impossible. Physcially, socially, legally, whatever your urge is, whatever tickles that little corner in your brain as you keep playing instead of answering the phone or mowing the lawn. Sex on the other hand is 100% legit.. actually its a necessity of the human race. And no matter how it shows up (which it will one day) in some virtual video game world, it's no substitute..sorry all but the realworld wins that battle.

ReverseEngineered:
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It's unfortunate that the games industry is in this predicament, because it seems to be a Catch-22: we want to explore adult issues, but every time we try, it's decried because games are seen as mere play-toys of children. In order to lose this image though, we need to be able to explore adult themes.

Something like Legend of the Red Dragon would've only worked when it because it wouldn't have come under fire by the censors. It's unfortunate, but we're probably not going to see something like it for a long time.

can i sorrily admit that part of me 'kinda' wants this game, but seriously this game would further make games seem degraded to the outside community

almost getting to the WTF factor of Second Life lol

The subtext to this seems to be if you want to play a rich RPG experience, write it yourself.
As even after a model such is LoRD has been shown to work, the 'AAA' publishers still wont touch it as it doesn't appeal to the lowest common denominator...

On a related note I wonder how hard it is to write games that connect through facebook..

Luke Cartner:
The subtext to this seems to be if you want to play a rich RPG experience, write it yourself.
As even after a model such is LoRD has been shown to work, the 'AAA' publishers still wont touch it as it doesn't appeal to the lowest common denominator...

On a related note I wonder how hard it is to write games that connect through facebook..

I could see an indie dev attempting something like this, but something tells me they'd be even more likely to get shut down by people decrying it as immoral or something else ridiculous.

 

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