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Book Excerpt and Review - Sex in Video Games
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Book Excerpt and Review - Sex in Video Games

December 12, 2006 Article Start Previous Page 13 of 15 Next

The sexual content in the advertisement is successful. Unlike others in the issue, the viewer stops, questions, contemplates, and resolves. The viewer might get a kick out of it and show it to other people. It also illustrates how sex can sell. Had it not been for the model and the oddly placed mud, the page may have been flipped, and the advertisement unnoticed.

In addition to advertisements, sex sells on box covers. One of the earliest examples of sexual packaging was Sierra On-Line’s 1981 release of Softporn Adventure. The cover featured three nude women in a hot tub. Behind them, a waiter is poised to serve champagne. The packaging can be seen online at The package is also notable for its trivia value: the woman to the far right is noted game designer and co-founder of Sierra On-Line, Roberta Williams.

Sheri Graner Ray’s book, Gender Inclusive Game Design: Expanding the Market, also discusses the use of sexy women on box covers. In one of the more extreme examples, she notes that the cover of Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness is embossed, allowing one to feel Lara Croft’s breasts [GRay04].

In marketing games, some go to extreme—if fitting—lengths. Publishers of the Playboy: The Mansion game, for instance, held two parties at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles to commemorate both the announcement and the launch of the video game. Playboy Bunnies, celebrities, Playmates, and numerous painted ladies (naked women whose “clothing” is painted on) were present for both parties. The event paid off, and the game’s announcement and launch received substantial national and international press.


Sometimes, sexual content becomes a part of a game through emergence, accident, hack, or modification. Such content is either unintended, unexpected, or out of the control of the game’s developers and publishers.

Emergent Sex

Emergent content occurs when two or more things collide to produce content or behavior that was not scripted or otherwise programmed. These things that come together can be game systems, components, or players. When this content is sexual, it is known as emergent sex. Emergent sex can be either active, using the game’s systems to create sexual content, or passive, when a game turns a player on as it is, and that stimulation was not intended by the developers.

MMORPGs frequently have issues with active emergent sex. For instance, using existing systems it is quite possible to develop an active emergent sexual system where one player can pimp others out for cash and profit and even charge others to watch. How could this happen?

All of these games feature a series of animations that allow characters to per form various actions like crouch, lie prone, or kneel, among others. These animations are necessary and normal, particularly in combat. Furthermore, these games also provide systems where players can chat with one another. Lastly, these games provide players the ability to exchange cash. By using all three systems together, emergent sexual content is possible. In fact, such content is relatively common in online games and any online medium where people can talk with one another. In worlds from Ultima Online to World of Warcraft to Habbo Hotel to Second Life, emergent sex exists. Players trade gold or Lindens or linen cloth or furniture for cyber sexual favors, none of which were intended by the game designers. The (ESRB), the group that assigns ratings to video games in the United States, requires games with user-generated content to display a warning on the product and on the game’s Web site.

Article Start Previous Page 13 of 15 Next

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