In the meantime, I'm just a guy who writes about videogame theory and how the medium can achieve better cinematic emulation (while keeping its own indentity). Though, if that's too boring, you can always find something delightfully fluffy in the following:
Without sounding too much like the paedophile dad from the movie Happiness, when a man and woman love each other and want to express their love, theyíll finally have sex. Even after sharing an intimate experience, theyíll go on to...well...do it some more, but most importantly, theyíll share other experiences together.
Yes, all of it mundane in an effort to stave off the thought of dying alone. But still, unless itís a one night stand, youíve got a friend for life or six months to a few years.
Most videogames donít believe in that Ďcaring and sharingí nonsense though. At the end of the day, videogames are fantasies where the average nobody becomes the ultimate alpha male. A real winner, baby...oh, and ladies, if you hang around long enough, you can touch those winnings all you want.
Well, until the final act; the bit where nobody cares for you.
You see, a lot of narrative in games follows the ideals of male conquest and the women involved only serve as crutches or side-quests to overcome. Sex in videogames is as disposable as a prophylactic and a total score for multiple choice questions. Yes, thereís romance in games, but how many of those games fail to follow through on a relationship after the build up?
Letís take an obvious example in something like Persona 4. Throughout the game, you build up close relationships to party members and some have their own romantic options. As you rank up Social Links (a sort of side-quest for characters), a male/female relationship can become more intimate. So as a player, youíre kind of obliged to fulfil the romantic narrative thatís placed before you. Once this sub-plot is complete, your protagonist and a friend sleep together, as she professes her love for you. All in all, itís a believable, natural, plot progression and it serves to maintain the bond between characters and the player, while fleshing out optional stories that would interfere with the main arc.
Yet this separate narrative can become undone, since a main plot event fails to acknowledge the relationship, e.g. the Speed Dating scene that pops up towards the end. Itís awkward to watch a scene where two characters who have professed their love for each other through sex, act embarrassed and fail to acknowledge their intimate relationship. Itís fine to believe that theyíre secretly sleeping together without the other friends knowing, but as a player, youíre cheated out of a continuation of shared experiences.
The girls in Persona 4 are essentially sexual conquests rather than catalysts for new experiences.
You could even say the same for Mass Effect, which builds up Ďoffice flirtationsí and close friendships to a point where everything is underlined with a sex scene; one that is conveniently placed right near the end of the game. Even if you were to believe that Mass Effect 2 carried on that relationship at the time of release, itís quickly discarded in favour of another optional fling. The whole situation can be summed up in a joke from Eddie Murphy: Raw...
Admittedly, itís a lot more work for a developer if theyíre giving you so many choices for relationships. In the end, itís easier just to have one line that acknowledges two people Ďdoing the nasty in the pastyí. Thatís the big mistake when it comes to sex in videogames Ė when it happens, itís the unsatisfactory climax to a fantasy flirtation. The player gets the goods, so why bother with the rest?
That said, there are games that use sex as a catalyst and create a successful narrative from it. More specifically, these games offer the act but never go through with it. Instead, itís used to question protagonist and player motives or create character development.
In Max Payne 2, Max is still unable to move on from his dead wife. When he finds the next woman in his life, in the form of Mona, heís put in a very human dilemma. By sleeping with Mona, he believes that heíll betray his wifeís memory in some way, but by doing so, heíll be able to move on and rid himself of survivor guilt. The scene in the fun-house where Max finally gives in to his feelings becomes a catalyst for the second half of the story. The narrative isnít really concerned with Maxís search for the people who want him dead. The real story is the dissolution of one relationship and the daunting task of starting again with someone new.
The sex never happens, of course (itís interrupted), but Max is a changed man regardless.
As written in a previous blog, Silent Hill 2 uses the suggestion of sex as a catalyst for both player and protagonist; using sexuality to question the true motives involved. The jail cell scene between James and Maria is a perfect example of sex being used to change characterisations. Ultimately, itís up to the player to decide if Jamesí heroic motives are entirely pure. As the plot progresses and past events come to light, we realise that James isnít really the sympathetic character we first saw, but as a player, we push him to that cell for reasons for similar reasons; to be a hero and have the rescued girl as our reward.
Itís no coincidence that a scene with where Angela accuses James of having ulterior sexual motives when he rescues her plays out so soon after Maria hints that she Ďcanít do anything behind these barsí. In theory, Angela is the developersí way of speaking out about male gamersí desires - their need to dominate and be gazed upon by a weakened, yet thankful, female.
Again, the sex never happens, but it reveals a new side to the protagonist while provoking the player to think about where the narrative is heading. As much as the game contains sexualised, inhuman creatures, the real turning point comes with the offer of sex from a natural female form. As a footnote, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories also followed a similar path when it came to approaching the subject of sex and relationship breakdowns. Harry Mason is bombarded with sexual imagery and nearly the entire supporting cast are women (an ex-prom queen, a teenage delinquent, a police officer and a nurse), who either lovingly care for him or treat him with contempt.
You also have to wonder how many female characters are created by male developers and if that might be detrimental to their creation. For example, David Cage, a man capable of creating subtle real life moments in games, canít make a strong female character to save his life. Both female protagonists in Fahrenheit and Heavy Rain are there to serve plot device purposes; Carla is eventually relegated to baby-maker and Madison is a crutch designed to give the hero a saccharine Hollywood ending (and an obligatory 'caring' sex scene). So, theyíre conquests basically.
Itís a shame most developers donít know how to progress beyond sex (unless youíre making Harvest Moon or The Sims) and the results suffer for it. Women are used by sexuality rather than create something meaningful from it. Maybe itís time that developers give up on trying to prove that they can create Ďmatureí scenes of titillation and maybe concentrate on characters that play hard to get.
After all, thatís what makes it interesting in real life.