Sex is not something I have ever taken seriously in gaming. It started with Leisure Suit Larry, probably. Sex in games was either a joke, or pornography. Leisure Suit Larry, the Hot Coffee mod of San Andreas and God of War all included sex as a part of the game, but made light of it. Japan is overflowing with hentai and adult date simulator games, which take the other road, using sex as an erotic device.
I was convinced that sex had no serious place in games, until I came across a conundrum in Mass Effect 2.
My first character when I booted up Mass Effect 2 was a brand spanking new male soldier Shepard. I liked him well enough, and started playing through and loving the story that unfolded, and the interesting back stories of my ship mates (most of them anyway). However, once I advanced to a point where I had all the love interests open to me, I realised that I wasn't interested in pursuing any of them.
This took me by surprise a little. I am an achievement whore. Looking through the list, I had spied the Paramour achievement, and I knew I desired it. But I was genuinely uninterested in romancing any of the available characters. Miranda made a bad first impression on me as a bitch, which stayed with me even after I had explored her story. Jack was just too damaged, and I didn't feel like a fixer-upper. Tali was always going to be problematic for me, because I had been reading too many boards where people pined over her. 4chan ruined Tali for me. Thanks 4chan.
It felt strange that I was denying myself more dialogue, more intimacy with the characters, and that achievement. But it made me realise that I was really drawn into the game to be thinking along these lines, and I carried on, content with my decision to remain celibate.
After I had finished the game, I craved more (damn you Bioware). I immediately started a new game, this time as a female Shepard vanguard, which I had heard was a lot of fun to play. I highly recommend this class, I found it a lot more fun than soldier. When it came to romancing this time around, I found my options to be far more refreshing. I wasn't a big fan of Jacob, mainly because I felt he and Miranda were just Cerberus tools. Despite how much they talked about all the good Cerberus was trying to do, I remember the way they were portrayed in the first game, as terrorists and racists.
Now the decision was between Thane and Garrus, and I was having a hard time choosing. I love both of these characters, their motivations and their stories. Eventually I went with Garrus, because I felt more of a connection to him, I felt like we had been through more together and he was someone I could really trust. I felt I could TRUST a video game character. Bioware had somehow made the decision of who I would sleep with important to me, not through any sort of gameplay related reward, but by making me invest emotionally in the characters. I was impressed.
Mass Effect 2 has become one of my favourite games, and I'm still playing through again on Insanity. I can't remember the last game that made me feel this level of connection to the characters in it, and I can't wait to see the characters I know and love having new adventures in ME3.