There's been a lot of talk lately about the forthcoming, new Tomb Raider
title, particularly in regards to the attempted rape of lead femme Lara Croft by one (or possibly more) of the male antagonists in the game. The topic's become volatile to the point that Crystal Dynamics' own people can't seem to agree on what's going on, with executive producer Ron Rosenberg saying that island scavengers will
try to rape her, and global brand director Karl Stewart stating that "[rape] is not a word that is not in our vocabulary and not in our communication." Dismissing the outright silliness of the latter statement for now, the interview with Rosenberg that brought rape into the discussion in the first place seemed to be lighting the foiled sexual assault as an attempt to handle the reality of rape in a somewhat mature manner, and validate it as a trauma Lara overcomes to gain strength and grow as a heroine.
Is it too much to ask to, I dunno, hold off on the rape thing until games get consensual
sexual intercourse even remotely well-handled? No, seriously. Name a game where sex comes up, be it on-camera or strongly implied, and try to tell me it was done well and with any sort of respect.
Hell, I'll just name some games with sex in them at all, and tell you the impressions the "sexy" bits give.
The God Of War
games? Kratos uses young maidens as brief, meaningless distractions (which is even reflected, in some ways, by the simple button-tapping, mini-game interactions you have with them), before discarding them without a second thought. No consequences, no implications, and in at least one case, they're pretty much left to die in the midst of a monster attack. Sex, in this case, feels thrown in as an afterthought, since the violence and gore had already marked the games as "mature."
? AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. HAHAHAHA. HAHA. Ha. Aaaaaaaaaaaah. Teehee. Seriously, that sex scene between Madison and Ethan was how I imagine robot clowns procreate. My first
time wasn't that awkward. Noone's
first time was that awkward. Oh, and David Cage decided to throw a rape attempt in there for good measure, too, which I'd say was even worse.
The "romance" scenes in the Mass Effect
series? More disappointing than some would say the ending to ME3
was, never mind completely unconvincing. Clever camera angles could easily have done away with the whole problem of characters lovin' it up with their clothes still on. Things were a bit less robed in Dragon Age
, but the ridiculous flash-through montages might as well have left the action completely
Hot Coffee, a la Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
? Firstly, that was locked out of the game content proper before release, and required a mod to get at. Secondly, not unlike God Of War's
activities, it was a pretty disappointing button-mashing mini-game, complemented by hideously awkward character models and animations, and much like [i]Mass Effect[i]'s scenes, Carl doesn't even bother taking off whatever pants he's wearing. I'll give a bit of credit to Rockstar for intending the sequence as a "reward" for maintaining an in-game relationship with one of several available ladies, but even if it had been left in, it would've felt completely shoehorned.
And yes, I'm aware the Grand Theft Auto
series had backseat prostitute action even before San Andreas
, but that's just glorified car-shaking for a health refill and, if you're a complete bastard, a shot at getting your money back. Pass. At least the GTA
-series-inspired Saints Row The Third
had the self-awareness to treat the sex trade with as much ridiculous hyperbole as everything else featured in the game, and if anything, should get a high-five for being gender-indiscriminate with the couples featured in the various "Escort" missions, wherein you drive around a prostitute and their client while they do what the latter paid for.
Fear Effect 2
kind of had its heart in the right place by introducing a lesbian relationship, but even they had to tack a gratuitous scene in an elevator onto things that smacked of something from the USA Network's "Up All Night" offerings.
And, for the record, I'm not even working things like Leisure Suit Larry
, Conker's Bad Fur Day
, and other games where sex is part of the humor, since they're clearly not even trying to be mature and are therefore moot in this conversation.
What it comes down to is that, despite myriad stabs at the subject, we've yet to see a game that legitimately
handles the role of sexuality in a character's existence, even on a level akin to the sort of implausible, unrealistic relationships you see in other media, be it literature, cinema, or television. You've got at least as much play time as it takes to read a book in a lot of today's games, nevermind multiple times the length of your average film, so it's not like there isn't room for this sort of thing. Give me relationships that build over a slightly more realistic in-game timescale. Make things unplanned pregnancies something to worry about in sandbox games (which could, in turn, make abortion the next big taboo someone tries to address, which I'm not sure how I feel would work out). If you really must make a mini-game out of intercourse, throw some disappointment on the part of your partner in there if you perform poorly. Give us a protagonist who can't get it up after drinking too much. Make the player feel awkward when he wakes up the next morning beside a character he's not that into, or rushes into things without taking a second to remove his socks.
If games are going to address sex in a truly mature fashion, they're going to have to start implementing it more as an actual aspect of characterization and plot development, rather than just a tool to shock or entice, or as a "reward" for certain choices or behaviors. Then, and only then, can developers begin to be taken seriously when taking on sexuality's darker aspects.
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