Virtual Sex: How Online Games Changed Our Culture
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A few months before the conference, co-organizer and Savannah College of Art & Design game design professor Brenda Brathwaite released Sex in Video Games. Part history lesson and part action plan, the textbook gave game designers perspective on how adult situations could improve their games. It was the first book on the topic released and is the most comprehensive listing of sex-related games available. For new developments, Brathwaite kept an online blog at www.igda.org/sex. In the book, Brathwaite seemed optimistic about the future of adult gaming. "While a majority of today's games seem to sport one extreme or the other -- hyper-sexualized environments, avatars or actions, or nothing at all -- games in the future will likely not be designed in such a way. Just as love scenes in movies are the norm and, with few exceptions, don't make headlines, so too will games find a comfortable medium."
One of the most critically acclaimed games at the time was God of War, a bloody, fast-paced action title based on Roman mythology. Early in the game the malevolent hero arises out of bed, leaving behind two topless women with which he presumably spent the night. While most players may have walked out of the bedroom and started the next game level, you actually have the option to come back to the bed. The women will let out an innocent giggle as the bald-headed warrior climbs in between the sheets. The camera slowly pans to a Roman vase sitting precariously on the edge of a nearby nightstand. The game shows you a series of buttons to press. Each successful hit will let out a breathless female gasp followed by a gruff hero grunt. The mini-game ends when the vase, shaken by the bed knocking, breaks on the floor. A 2007 sequel had a similar sequence in a medieval bathhouse. Both received a Mature rating, the equivalent of a movie R. The PlayStation 2 games were released by Sony, a company that, about 35 years earlier, lost the VCR war to VHS because Beta lacked porn.
Microsoft also took risks with its Mature-rated XBox 360 title Mass Effect, a game that was banned in Singapore before it was even released. (The country would later lift the ban, perhaps because of pressure from the multimedia giant.) Built like a dynamic sci-fi novel, Mass Effect allows you to create a space military character from scratch, visit different solar systems and explore hundreds of possible storylines and outcomes. Each decision you make sends you on a different path.
The developers released early video footage of the game to the press. "I see the sadness behind your eyes," a female alien with well-braided cornrows and sensitive eyes says to you. "It tells a story that makes me want to weep. Pain and loss. But it drives you! Makes you strong. You never hide your strength, either. It serves you well, terrifies your foes. Few will dare to stand against you. This may be who you are, but this is not who you will become. It only forms the basis for your future greatness. Remember these words when doubt descends, Commander." Your character, a tough blonde with close-cropped hair, stutters over her words. The alien touches her face. "Close your eyes and relax, Commander." The game closes in on their faces, the Commander standing in front of the alien while she makes an expression of subtle ecstasy. The scene ends with a close-up of the alien's blue arm, thrown against the bedpost in a fit of passion and then sensuously brought down, as if gone limp. Mass Effect was released on November 20, 2007. Aside from the Singapore ban, the game did not bring any major protests or political speeches, nor were any hidden sex games or secret naked scenes revealed later. There were no million-dollar recalls nor any lawsuits from concerned parents.