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Can A Video Game Be Sexy?

Well, I suppose for a debut post, this isnít a bad place to start.

So, sex in video games. This is a topic that has always been on my mind, one Iíve felt gets an awful lot of attention but doesnít actually benefit from this attention in any meaningful way. Iíll avoid the whole Ďitís fucked that you can blow off 36 individual parts of a person in Soldier of Fortune 2 but nipples are SATANí discussion for now though.

Can video games be sexy? Of course they can. Hereís the secret folks - no one drew Minerva Mink or designed Blood Rayne so that their character design reflects their deep, well-written character. Someone, somewhere, (probably a few someones, that shit gets expensive to produce) found the traits that they decided to gift these characters with sexy. Some artist discovered that he got tingly in the nethers when he looked at girls in leather and figured that maybe, just maybe, someone else would appreciate this.

Is it exploitative? Sure. Is it degrading? Thatís debatable. Is it arousing? Sure, it could be. Why not? Thereís an absurd idea floating about that people should be ashamed of what theyíre aroused by. I grew up on cartoons and video games, and some of my earlier crushes were Terra Branford, Gadget and Zelda. Why not? They were a part of the things I enjoyed, they were important to me in the context of the hobbies I had and they were designed to appeal in some way to their audiences.

Human beings do not control whom or what theyíre attracted to. Heterosexuals, homosexuals, asexuals, furries, pedophiles, foot fetishists... no one sits down and checks off what they want to find arousing (it would save me a LOT of money and effort if I was sexually fulfilled by Pepperidge Farm Goldfish). No one wakes up one day and says ĎI canít wait to be a social pariah for my personal urgesí. We just make do the best we can. ĎWhatever floats your boatí indeed.

So when we talk about arousing moments in video games, the focus should be less on Ďcan video games be arousingí and more Ďwhat makes a scene arousingí. Itís the same with Hollywood, (and to be fair, in the context of realism, uploading some knuckle children into Cortana and hooking up with Emma Stone are both pretty damn unlikely for pretty much everyone) some sex scenes work really well and some... donít. Two words: Showgirls, pool. To some degree, itíll always be a personal preference thing, but design figures into it too.

So... what makes a good video game sex scene? To be honest, they havenít really nailed that down yet. Personally, I remember Shepard and Taliís love scene from Mass Effect 2 affecting me, but emotionally, not necessarily sexually. It wasnít explicit, but neither was it awkward or poorly animated, likely thanks to the overeager cut-to-black.

On the other hand Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecyís sex scenes were more explicit and didnít feel too shoehorned in, but didnít really rev my motor. Maybe it was the uncanny valley, maybe it was the bad animation, who knows.

More recently, Far Cry 3 received some attention for having one of the first mainstream first person sex sequences, and while it wasnít all that long or graphic, I found it to be more effective in conveying realistic sex than many games have in the past. The characters are climbing the far end of the uncanny valley, and while the scene itself was pretty out there, the sex wasnít over the top.

Itís hard to talk about sex in games without discussing eroge, which for those who donít know means Erotic Game, and originates in Japan. Often in the form of visual novels, these games are only marked as eroge if they feature graphic sexual content... regardless of how much there actually is. Now, these really donít do sex any better than other media, and in fact probably do a far worse job in many cases, but one title Iíll mention briefly is the US produced, free-to-play Katawa Shoujo.

Now, regardless of your thoughts on the subject matter and quality, one thing that really stood out about the experience is how it flat-out nails the first-time sexual experience. Anyone who has had sex will immediately grimace, grin or squirm at (most of) the scenes, and to me, that makes them fantastic. All the poor communication, the lack of satisfaction, the uncertainty... they really captured it well, and I think it goes a long way towards its charm. Its relatable and grounded, not idealized and clean, which sex rarely is.

You often hear the argument that these scenes in games donít need to be as explicit as they are, but Iíd like to put forth the argument that as technology improves, we should be pushing to be more explicit. Why not? In Mass Effect, you watch friends and children die, make decisions that condemn lovers, comrades or entire races to horrific fates, and in the middle of all this madness, we should cut away from the one moment of love? Why?

Human sexuality has always been something of great interest and great importance to me. Itís always shocked me how something so important to life, something that is of such an interest to nearly all of us, has become such a knee-jerk taboo throughout much of the world. Film, literature and music have made strides, for better and for worse, in exploring these important matters for years now... itís about time for gaming to be a bit less shy about doing the same.

What do you all think? Tell me about a scene in a game, sexual in nature, that made you feel something. What was the scene? What did you feel? Arousal? Warmth? Embarrassment?
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About Returner Mikeone of us since 6:25 PM on 01.24.2013

I'm a gamer who's lived in Indiana, Colorado, Hawaii and Japan (having majored in Japanese at Indiana University). Beyond the electronic, I'm a fan of of scuba, fencing, movies, anime and creative writing.

I love all kinds of games, from indie, to foreign, to high profile and experimental. I grew up with the NES, SNES and Genesis, and was always a nut for a good RPG.

I'm currently working on a writing focused interactive fiction with a team online, and assisted in map design and writing for Killing Floor when it was a mod.

I'm hoping to bring an interesting voice to the community and I ask for your feedback, your criticism and your support.