Digital love scenes are more "Team America" than "Black Swan," says Irrational's creative director.
BioShock creator Ken Levine thinks that videogames have a long way to go before they get sex right. He says that developers haven't quite grasped what it is they're doing when it comes to sex - at least in the games they make - and that at the moment, it's tantamount to taking the clothes off puppets.
He compared the current state of videogame love making to the sex scene in the movie Team America, where the male and female lead - both of whom are marionettes - engage in what is ostensibly a wild night of passion, but to the audience is a ridiculous, and rather amusing, display of puppets knocking boots. "I think it's not about being interactive," Levine said. "I think it's more about people not understanding what it is." He said that even something as relatively simple as nudity fell flat, because developers were still essentially dealing with Barbie and Ken's digital counterparts.
He also felt that there was a certain amount of prudishness about videogames that was standing in the way of things getting better. "The fact [videogame sex is] even controversial says that the perception of the industry is that we're making toys or something, as opposed to making creative expressions for a range of audiences - including adults." He didn't think that this prudishness wasn't just limited to those outside the industry either; Levine said that during an interview someone had commented on the amount of bad language he used. He didn't intend to change the way he spoke however, saying, "If I'm going to drop an F-bomb, I'm going to drop an F-bomb. I'm a big boy and I get to do that. It's one of the privileges of being an adult."
If videogames are ever to tell a broad range of mature stories, the industry is going to have to get over that prudishness, because sex is a pretty important part of life. Some developers are less prudish than others, of course. BioWare, for example, has included romantic subplots in its games for years, and while you'd be hard pressed to say that the sex scenes in Dragon Age or Mass Effect are all that great, they do get a little bit better each time. There's still a long way to go, both for BioWare, and the industry as whole, but these are important first steps.