Drifting through time: Arousal and gaming

Promoted from our community blogs

[Image: BLUEamnesiac on DeviantArt.]

[LinkSlayer readily admits what his formative years of discovering the fairer sex was like through what else but Final Fantasy. After all, Final Fantasy X-2 was about adding a bit of a sexy flair to the returning turn-based combat gals, so who’s to say it wasn’t successful? ~Strider]

Puberty is an awkward time for everyone, is it not? Why am I growing hair? What is my body doing? When do I become a pupa? Additionally, I feel as though all the new stimuli we are exposed to in this day and age has created a cornucopia of research for psychologists and related fields. What do these have to do with gaming? Well, to a young boy with an interest in girls, a poster of a video game character showing the right amount of skin might just be enough to get them to buy the game. A particularly lewd drawing of a girl in cat ears may influence them to search out more of the same.

As Gabriel Morton, a friend of Ben “Yahtzee” Crowshaw once said (paraphrasing) during a let’s play: “It is interesting how much and to what extent the human mind can fetishize things.”

Please join me in this look at arousal and gaming, as we Drift Through Time…

Drifting Through Time is a series of blogs wherein I share a part of my life that relates to video games. For a more detailed explanation, please see my profile.

Blog Disclaimer – I am not an expert in psychology, marketing, etc. This blog should be treated as opinion. Any claims are pure speculation on my part, unless otherwise stated.

I have a bad memory, not in the style of “I can’t remember what I had for dinner last night” but more so personal events. Some people can recall the smell, temperature, and weather of a particular day from when they were eight, whereas I tend to remember only brief moments, and usually never that vividly. Because of this, I find it odd that out of the few things in life to remember, one I can recall is a game that helped kick my sex drive into gear. It was none other than Final Fantasy X-2, and in particular, it was coverage of Final Fantasy X-2 in the Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine. A big full-page image of Yuna, and a demo of FFX-2 included on the demo disc that came with every issue.

I maintain the belief to this day that this game was marketed to “growing” boys like me. Bare legs, side shots of cleavage, suggestive poses, bikini costumes, they all played me like a fiddle. I’m not saying the game is nothing but fan service for adolescent boys. I haven’t played the game so I can’t say anything about those details except that I do know a fair few did not like how characters acted in the game as opposed to FFX, but that is neither here nor there. I think many of us can find that regardless of how a game plays, marketing may make use of particularly sultry looking characters to appeal to fans – a.k.a one of the many types of fanservice. So, having never paid attention to the Final Fantasy series in any real capacity, I oddly played this demo. I can only surmise it was due to it appealing to my growing body in ways I would not yet understand.

Bang Bang, if you know what I mean.

Now, let me get something straight – I did not immediately “bloom” around the time FFX-2 came out. As I said, this was merely a game I vividly remember that get me really thinking about girls, but beyond that I remember not having a clue what I was doing in the game. JRPGs at the time were a foreign concept, having grown up playing mostly platformers, arcade style, or adventure games like Zelda and Kingdom Hearts, with the oddball of Age of Empires 2 thrown into the mix (wololo!). But the game confused me. Characters were attacking me even though this game had what I thought was a turn-based system.

I hadn’t played FFX so I didn’t know who Yuna, Rikku, and Paine were, and I had zero idea of the story! In a twist on “I only read playboy for the articles,” I never read any of the articles on the game – I only looked at the pictures of cute girls! Besides getting basically trashed, the thing I remember the most was changing into costumes, particularly the gunner. Something about the poses, the showing of skin reacted with something in my mind, but it would not be till later that the effect of game girls would truly be felt. I’d say probably a couple years later.

As a side effect of appealing to my sexuality, the world of beautifully modeled video game girls had a firm place in my mind. Dead or Alive (just in time for Xtreme 2), Rumble Roses, Final Fantasy X-2, BloodRayne, Tomb Raider, Soul Calibur, and many more. In Metroid Prime 2, I got to see Samus without her power armor. I was a Sonic fan growing up, so I won’t lie, I even had a crush on Amy Rose, but let’s save anthropomorphism for another blog, shall we?

This awakening ultimately played into discovering my body sexually, which had to happen one way or another. An article about “ero-games” from a different issue of PlayStation Magazine vividly comes to mind. Like many of my generation, playboys and pinups were old hat – instead the internet ended up providing an endless source of content. The Nintendo Wii (how fitting a name in this context) would end up being a sneaky way of hiding the sites I visited. I would find most of my interest leaning towards fanart, as well as drawn and animated hentai, and some of the fetishes it makes a priority. Catgirls, tentacles, you get the gist. I quickly discovered “Rule #34” – If it exists, there is porn of it. And anyone familiar with the name “Zone” will know of quite a few things I wasted my time with.

For a time I looked back and asked the question, “is it bad I find these things attractive, arousing, a source of pleasure?” As I mentioned before, the answer personally now is no. Which is a good thing as I cannot just “stop” liking it. However at one point in my life it was an issue I dealt with, because many of my friends either did not want to admit, or just did not find game characters attractive. It really did do a number on my self-esteem.

In particular, I explained to a now ex-girlfriend that it was not by my choice I found things attractive, that it was an effect of how things were marketed to me. She disagreed, and also in my perception, leaned towards it being obtuse of me to find these things arousing. (As a side note, she identified as asexual – something I will never fully understand, because it is just impossible for me to – so perhaps that had something to do with what she meant and I just misinterpreted it, but I’ll never know her true meaning.) The important part is that I’ve moved past worrying about how others judge me – which is important advice I can give to anyone. Perhaps it is the culture, or maybe I am just obtuse. Regardless, I am still accepted for who I am, and have come to accept myself as well. As they say, love thyself, and if thou art so inclined, physically as well as metaphorically. (That’s how it goes, right?)

Images of people who never existed arouse me, and I can’t help but wonder the reason for how it occurred. Am I some sort of “victim” of marketing? I do not dislike that I find these characters attractive (there have been a few who would chastise or belittle me because of it), but why did it take such a hold? Personally, I believe games had a major impact on my sexual tastes partly due to marketing. “Sex sells” is an old adage, but is definitely still very applicable.

Is it bad? Well, I believe manipulating the minds of consumers in any way is an issue, but that’s basically Marketing 101 So… *insert shrugging here.* The other part is just because I think it was there. It was the right place and the right time, and the right amount of detail in 3D models. I had crushes on kids at school, so it wasn’t like I didn’t find real people attractive, but I never had an attraction to actors because television and film were not really my passion, video games were. Lastly, I’m quite into romance; I love reading romantic comedy manga, and well-written romantic fanfiction, so I’m sure that played into it as well.

Head strong, kick-ass, and red-headed. What’s not to like?

I’m not trying to make a statement about sexualization, or marketing, or anything else. There isn’t meant to be moral to this story, because I’m sure most people reading this have zero issue with the fact I grew up attracted to girls from games. I suppose if there is any lesson here, it is the one I learned: There is little difference in my finding Claire Redfield attractive than someone finding an actress attractive. For the average person, it is merely a fantasy to enjoy, and I believe if you are not causing others harm, then what does it matter?

How many kids grew up wanting to date Emma Watson after watching Harry Potter? How is it more acceptable to lust after a person who played a fictional character, and whom the probability of ever dating for most of us is such a small number it is mathematically considered zero? (Important to note: an improbability of zero does not indicate an impossibility. Do some reading, it’s quite interesting!) Well if you ask me, “It isn’t” is the real answer to the question. That’s the conclusion I’ve come to, and it helps me enjoy life that much more.

Except for the fact I realized my favorite of the three in FFX-2 is technically underage *Gasp*

And that’s the end of my blog. Donk. I hope you enjoyed reading! If you feel comfortable enough sharing your own experiences with this topic, feel free to leave a comment!