Rated M for Mature

Rated M for Mature
Youthful Indiscretions

Charles Wheeler | 2 May 2006 08:04
Rated M for Mature - RSS 2.0

The game industry isn't in its infancy anymore. No, the game industry has entered its pimply, squeaky-voiced adolescence. Its body has started to change and things like "stories" and "emergent behaviors" are starting to grow in new places. It wants to smoke behind the gymnasium with Cinema and Literature. And, of course, it has started thinking about what people have underneath their clothes.

At the time of this writing, the Electronics Software Rating Board has produced content ratings for over 11,000 games. Of these, only 69 have been considered to have "Strong Sexual Content" and only 93 to contain "Sexual Themes." All told, fewer than one percent of all games rated by the ESRB contain any measure of significant sexual content, representing a drastically smaller figure than that found in any other entertainment industry. Hyrule may contain the Master Sword but not, it appears, master bedrooms.

However, the scarcity of sexual content in games is only one aspect of the problem, for the sex that games do have is shallow, unsatisfying and ultimately more trouble than it's worth.

This is exactly what the mod community discovered about Hot Coffee before it erupted into a national scandal. Once the initial shock value had worn off, one could begin to understand why a developer might have chosen to cut the feature: It simply wasn't very interesting. This wasn't a question of game mechanics, as some clever game designer could surely have solved that problem. It was a question of motivation. At the end of the day, players were playing the mod for completion, for a laugh or simply to see what all the fuss was about. These are the exploratory motivations of juveniles, not the reasons that most adults choose to have sex.

If asked, most people would probably tell you that they care deeply for the individuals with whom they choose to have sex. Despite our society's increasingly liberal views toward sex, particularly among the youth, it is still rare for people to maintain sexual relationships that service purely physical needs. This should be unsurprising, as a broad array of biological and cultural factors conspire to ensure that sex be more than a purely physical activity. Without appealing to the emotional dimension of sex, sexually-oriented games cannot help but be incomplete experiences.

The developers of sexually charged games such as Rumble Roses and Dead or Alive understand this problem well. It may seem strange that despite existing as almost purely sexualized objects, the women in these games offer little more titillation than can be found on basic cable. In fact, these women do not engage in explicitly sexual activities precisely because they exist as purely sexualized objects. The game developers realized that for sexual content to be truly compelling, it would require emotional attachment.

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