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Sex to Stimulate & Entertain
At the “Sexuality in Games: What’s Appropriate?” roundtable at the 2005 Game Developers Conference, one developer noted that he had no real problem with sexual content in games provided that it wasn’t “just sex for sex’s sake.”
“What’s wrong with sex for sex’s sake?” asked another developer. “Why else have sex?” she continued. “That’s the best use of sex.”
When developers choose racy clothing, busty or beefy characters, or suggestive themes, the use of sex for sex’s sake seems most obvious, but its intent in that use is questionable. Rather than stimulating, such sexual content is most often merely entertaining or pleasing in a passive way. Sometimes, the clothing or physical attributes of such characters are so over the top that they become comical. Are designers really hoping that the buxom avatar will turn a player on, are they dressing her to be pleasant to the eye or to meet the industry status quo?
There are games that feature sex for sex’s sake, however. Rapture Online, a sex positive massively multiplayer online erotic game (MMOEG), features a player-to player stimulation model. Games with this model enable live players to connect on line and explore their sexual fantasies and fetishes with each other. Such games are, in many ways, an evolution of Internet chat rooms. Other games feature a player to-computer stimulation model. Games like 3D SexVilla, Virtual Hottie, and VirtuallyJenna allow players to have a sexual experience with a virtual partner.
Whether with a real or a virtual partner, games that use sexual content to stimulate provide players the freedom to explore their sexuality in a safe and healthy way alone or with other consenting adults. When games truly seek to turn players on, however, they face unique design challenges unlike those faced by any other game. The unique challenges that AO games face in development and in reaching the market are covered in Chapters 12 and 10, respectively.
Sex for Education
For some, discussing the birds and the bees is a daunting ritual of parenthood. However, sexually themed serious games aim to take some of the stress out of the process. One such game is Iser Games’ The Sex Ed Game. It allows parents and teens to play a trivia game together, and encourages them to use the experience as a basis for more serious discussions about sexuality. Games can also teach the value of abstinence and safe sex. One of the early Leisure Suit Larry™ games, in fact, required Larry to use a condom or face severe consequences. Iser Games’ The Sex Ed Game also features a Christian version of the game that promotes abstinence. Of course, teens are not the only ones who need to learn about sexuality. As the success of the self-help market shows, there is a demand for information that can improve the sex lives of couples. Many games that were created for sexual education purposes are covered in Chapter 5.
Sex for Realism
Developers occasionally use sexual content to convey realism. If a role-playing game uses mythical sirens, for instance, one would expect them to be topless. Like wise, a Playboy game that featured a monogamous, sexually conservative Hugh Hefner would seem questionable. In social simulations like The Sims, mild sexual content occurs to accurately and realistically convey the relationship between two characters. If a game bills itself as an MMO erotic world, but doesn’t provide play ers the necessary actions and animations to complete those actions and fulfill their fantasies, players might question just how “real” the simulation is.