Obligatory. You can hit the back button to avoid the topic - but that ain't gonna stop it.
I've heard it said that sex has no place in gaming, gaming blogs and so on. I have also heard it said by others (not here, but other sites) that including the topic of sex is pointless because games are a competitive medium and should never be anything more than that.
I don't know where that other guy has been the last forty of fifty years but simulation, storytelling and roleplaying were part of gaming well before computers became involved. The mediums before video games were exploring sex and the matters around them and if we go back the first guy's assertion that sex as no place in gaming, then doesn't that mean we should remove other subjects that get people flustered? I mean, race, religion and politics are all hot-button topics and my favorite genre - the RPG - is positively swimming in all that stuff plus sex.
Currently, people are positively buzzing about Fire Emblem: Awakening. I'm frickin' jealous because my copy still hasn't arrived at Gamestop, but I know why people are excited. This generation of games has explored the topic of sexual relationships possibly more aggressively in the mainstream spotlight than any other. Life and death were always a big emphasis in Fire Emblem, but the marriage aspect resurrected from an earlier installment and expanded on for this entry has proven to be its most charming element. It has brought new outside interest to the series for the first time since Roy and Marth made their debut in Super Smash Bros. Melee.
Fire Emblem characters were endearing before, so it was sad to lose them when they died permanently, but now they can live, love and die. That actually makes their deaths harder to take - and if you're playing casual mode to spare yourself the pain of loss, you kind of undercut the narrative by making everything come up roses. I wouldn't begrudge the use of such an option for first-timers, but if story matters to you - and death does rewrite the story and endings here to an extent - then you need to play classic mode and accept that some people will die.
But the best moments? Its going to be when you've built those couples into a powerful force to be reckoned with when standing side-by-side. These little romances and friendships matter that much. And these lovebirds might have kids that join the army when they're all grown up, inheriting skills and such. Sex is an important part of Fire Emblem: Awakening.
Sex and relationships have also been a part of the appeal of Mass Effect. Being able to build relationships, loyalty and have romances allows the player to strengthen the performance of allies and affect various possible outcomes. In my last Mass Effect 2 playthrough, I lost the one character my Shepard had romanced and it affected her even into the following game. There was a scene where the loss weighed on her in Mass Effect 3 and it gave the other things surrounding her situation that much more weight.
Lover or friend, the losses hurt. That's love for you.
And as far as talking about sex goes, no game to date has handled it as masterfully as Catherine. Here we had a game that people were panning as sexist and depraved months before playing it, all because of a busty blonde bombshell on the cover - but I knew there was always more to an Atlus game than meets the eye, particularly where their involvement in Persona and Shin Megami Tensei is concerned.
Catherine is most certainly in-line with Persona in its romantic interests, only the relationships have moved from their teens to their thirties and Vincent Brooks' primary romantic interest, Katherine, wants to move past just being a couple and on to marriage and starting a familly. Vincent is very uneasy about the idea, then Catherine appears with the promise of sex without commitment.
We see hints of the act of sex in Catherine, but that's just the before and after of it - the actual story and game explore the nature of romantic relationships along with the social and psychological consequences of infidelity. Our protagonist, Vincent, is honestly a terrible person for cheating on Katherine but its on you as the player to determine the man he'll become.
Interestingly, the "morality" of the game is never a question of "good or bad" so much as "Katherine or Catherine?" Perhaps this is just another sign of how shallow Vincent can be.
The social and mental consequence of Vincent's infidelity are given a good deal of weight and his nightmares evolve with each new plot point. Friends berate him for what he's done, but offer advice as these new twists in his relationships emerge. Depending on your choices, he may lose some respect, keep it or become such a positive influence other situations in addition to his own might turn themselves around. He might even save a few lives.
If Catherine, Fire Emblem and Mass Effect aren't proof enough that a game can have sex or sex-related content in it and still be a great game, then I don't know what else to tell people. Games and discussions about games can include sex. To remove sex, sexuality and gender from the equation would be just as silly as avoiding other subjects that are important to us.
Is there room for improvement in the topic of sex? Absolutely. After all, I just pointed to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Everyone there is just magically bisexual and sexuality is never really that pliable in humans. Diverse, yes, but not everyone swings both ways like that. Skyrim almost gets away with it for being a power fantasy in general and its strength being in the politics, religion, the issues of racism and the lore surrounding its world. Pleasing the player is one thing and I'm sure having fifteen LGBT people in Skyrim would have made marriage and sexual attraction a needle-in-a-haystack search, but sexuality and romance should still be handled in a realistic way.
At least it didn't fumble the issue as badly as Dragon Age 2. Skyrim prides itself on lore more than characters and story. Bioware games pride themselves on characters, story and wave around the idea they are an LGBT ally so much it feels like a marketing ploy, so we have to judge Bioware games a bit differently. That everyone in Mass Effect has a distinct sexual identity is great but then you have Dragon Age 2's characters that will let you do them no matter who you are and that just makes DA2 weird and creepy. One series got sex right and the other got it really wrong.
Some developers have a hard enough time writing heterosexual relationships in a believable way (some have a VERY hard time), so there's a ways to go in including other sexualities and gender identities though the groundwork is there. There's plenty of work to be done all around.
To dismiss a game for discussing sex and sexual matters is silly. It's a topic that has to be addressed and improved upon in gaming. We already have some good efforts and sex touches a lot of aspects of our lives, so why avoid it?view gallery