The following is the first chapter, entitled "Defining Sex," of Brenda Brathwaite's book Sex In Video Games, excerpted in full.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines sex as “1 : either of the two major forms of individuals that occur in many species and that are distinguished respectively as female or male, 2 : the sum of the structural, functional, and behavioral characteristics of living things that are involved in reproduction by two interacting parents and that distinguish males and females, 3 a : sexually motivated phenomena or behavior, b : sexual intercourse and 4 : genitalia. [Webster01].”
Not exactly a definition for sex in games.
It should be an easy question to answer. Yet listening to participants at the “Sexuality in Games: What’s Appropriate?” roundtable at the 2005 Game Developers Sex in Video Games Conference, it’s clear that “sex in games” means a great many things to a great many people.
“Can you show masturbation in a game?” asked one.
“Is kissing all right in an E-rated game?”
“How does one handle reproduction in a game like Zoo Tycoon®?”
“I’d like to talk about the portrayal of female characters in games.”
“What about the booth babes?”
In its first session—roundtables run once a day for three days—the roundtable raised more questions than it answered. It also expanded the definition of “sex in games” to include more than just physical intimacy.
Sex in games includes everything from flirting to hard-core sexual simulators. It occurs when characters kiss or people “hook up” in massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs). Models that parade the show floor at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3)—particularly those who appeared prior to E3’s 2006 enforcement of its attire restrictions—are as much a part of sex in games as the avatars that walk through game worlds. The sexual content found in video game advertising has as strong a place in the discussions as the sexual content that happens quite by accident.
So what is sex in games?
Sexual content in video games ranges from the completely abstracted to the explicit. With such an array of material, how does one categorize sexual content in video games? There are several ways to look at it: by use, by range, and by purpose.
When sexual content appears in a game, it’s there for a reason, whether to carry out a specific gameplay mechanic or to convey an aesthetic, a particular feeling, to the player. In general, there are three specific uses for sexual content in games.
How is sex used in games?