Me, I'm a Max Payne and Mona Sax man. An obsessed degenerate and a deadly woman tear each other to pieces in a James Ellroy crime novel come to life. Though playing through The Fall of Max Payne again for this article, I noticed that the game is really an action shooter with a film overlaid, all the violence on the player's side, all the tension and sex appeal in cut scenes. Explosions are still a lot easier than fireworks in this medium of ours.
Blue Alien Boredom
The Lovely Brunette has just smacked me in the head and pointed out that "you're being cheap. As if Gears of War is trying to be an Italian actress. And sitting on some lofty pedestal while sneering at videogames is for Time magazine, not you. Shape up."
It's certainly unfair and tired to hassle games for not being films. The two are estranged third cousins, separated by 80 years of growth and the fundamental gap between observation and participation. Plus, any type of sex or post-adolescent sex appeal is tough for an American-led industry still dealing with a large youth audience, soccer moms, politicians and moralists.
But does intimacy have to mean a chainsaw to the guts?
"What about Mass Effect?" the Lovely Brunette said. "Or those people who hook up through games like World of Warcraft?"
Mass Effect has a fun storyline, shiny galaxy and great music. Plus, you can sleep with aliens. Good times. But for all its Starflight-y charms and xenomorph-lovin' hype, it's as sterile and robotic as Pacman.
My experience of Mass Effect was of climbing a vast conversational tree and finding nothing at the top. As in so many other games over the years, from King's Quest to KOTOR, the relationships were an exact calculus of button-pushing - "if I click this, then this, then this, she'll take off her Star Trek costume!" Not that I didn't click. It's sex with a blue-skinned alien. Normally takes $50 worth of paint and a Real Doll to get that far.
Mass Effect's real lesson is that while game interfaces have gotten more advanced, the human relationship interface has yet to even really be born. An industry where a pick-a-path conversation wheel gets awards is an industry that needs to go out dancing more often.
As for the World of Warcraft love nests, intimacy through games is not the same as intimacy in games. After all, you can make love in a cinema showing Star Wars: Episode 2, but that doesn't mean George Lucas has found his romantic bone with either hand.
The Heat-seeking Flesh Missile of Stupidity
The International Game Developers Association recognizes the "unique issues, challenges and possibilities" of "adult content." Partly in response to the GTA: San Andreas "Hot Coffee" silliness of a few years back, they formed the Sex Special Interest Group to connect developers and others.