Wednesday, March 7, 2012

EXP Podcast #162: Simulated Sex Games

Turn down the lights and turn up the Marvin Gaye: this week, it's all about sex. Inspired by Rich Stanton's recent article on the subject of sex in video games, we take a look at the more amorous side of medium we love. We talk about everything from Wii waggling to polyamory in this episode, so there's bound to be something to arouse your interest. As always, we're all about free love around here, so feel free to express yourself in the comments.

Some discussion starters:

- What games portray sex in a notable way?

- When it comes to portrayals of sex in video games, how do we differentiate schlock from good stuff?

- How does one's connection (emotional, physical, or otherwise) to their avatar impact the meaning of sex in games?

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Show notes:

- Run time: 33 min 33 sec
- "Why Can't Games Do Sex?" by Rich Stanton, via Eurogamer
- Music provided by Brad Sucks


  1. I had the exact same experience with my FemShep and Garrus. That first "reach and flexibility" exchange felt so out of character I didn't even save my game just so I could be sure there wouldn't be any weird repercussions from it down the road.

    The Fable games are worth discussing in this context. The later games allow you to marry, have children, cheat on or even kill your spouse, and remarry. You can also sleep with another player in co-op. And I think it's possible to have wives in multiple towns. It's basically an engine for making crazy stories, but it's still a more multifaceted treatment of sex than any mainstream game I can think of.

    The Witcher also had interesting choices and consequences involved with sex. In one instance a woman offers herself to Geralt in exchange for protection, but her sex card depicts her squatting above skulls, smearing blood across her chest, and wearing a necklace of teeth and a fiendish grin that makes you unsure if the people who are after her don't have just cause.

    Later on, a female character saves Geralt's life and asks for sex in return. I believe it's the only mandatory sex scene in the game. It gives you no collectible card, and it's a role reversal. The game didn't get enough credit in this regard, in my opinion.

    There's still plenty of "Oh wow! You saved me / got me my Mac Guffin / picked the right dialog option / are rumored to be good in bed. Let's boink" type of encounters. But at it's best, The Witcher lets the player feel like an adult, a rare experience in gaming.

    Sometimes when I think about the life of the average video game character, it reminds me of the life of a Star Trek Jem'Hadar soldier.

    "So let me get this straight. No sleep, no food, no women. No wonder you're so angry." - Jadzia Dax

  2. Great examples! The Witcher one sounds especially cool, even subversive.

    You're right about the game characters and the Jem'Hadar. I bet a nice trip to Risa would make everyone feel a lot better...

  3. I play a femshep too and she only had sex with liara for the obvious reason...

    But I think that the bioware rpgs are no good examples for sex in videogames, as the sexscene in each mass effect or dragon age disturbs the gaming experience more than it brings any advantage. That's because sometimes it makes players decide what they do and how they intereact with NPCs not depending on their own decisions but how they can get sex with this or that character. It almost transforms the player himself into a bioware-typical yes-no-stereotype. So it's more like a selling factor for the game, than a good depiction of sex in a videogame.

    But a really good sentence occurred out of the example Mass Effect FemShep: I think it was Jorge, who said his Femshep had no sex at all over the first two titles. I think maybe that's something many players experience, as the player maybe identifies himself with his avatar in the game. If you look at the game as if it was a movie, you wouldn't want many people to see you yourself having sex in it. Maybe on one hand there wasn't enough appeal to have sex in it, as a Femshep can almost just have sex with a male and on the other hand, you don't want you female Shepard, you maybe identify yourself to strip in front of the "camera".
    But that would just be some kind of assumption. I don't want to analyze your psyche Jorge, maybe there are enough femsheps, out there who had no sex at all.

    But in the end, that's an fascinating thought: videogames as a medium can show men, how women feel. (Or the other way around) If you play a female avatar, you sometimes get involved in sex topics where you don't feel comfortable. Examples are may be Mass Effect, an MMO, where you cross dress and get stalked by other players, who think you actually might be a girl (I experienced that more than once), Heavy Rain where you have to make yourself look sexy and dance in front of an ugly looking man to get informations out of him (that disco scene), or Alice Madness Returns where you sometimes get bothered by male NPCs in the London-sequences.
    Some hollywood movies also do that and broach the issue of rapists against women, but I think only videogames can really involve the player to identify with the woman in such situations.

    Back to not-so-earnest themes, as sex shouldn't be a negative topic:
    A games-series which deals with sex in a very realistic (maybe as uncharted) way is Metal Gear Solid. Especially in MGS3, I would have thought my girlfriend wouldn't like the character Eva, as she always shows her breasts around, but in that case, she likes the game very much and says, even Eva is comprehensible for her, as you can read between the lines why she acts like that. On the other hand she finds the sex-related stuff in MGS4 a bit too immature. Don't misunderstand me here, I love MGS4, but I have to admit, that at in opposite to the previous titles, MGS4 has some points, where sex was just used as a selling point for the game.
    But there are a lot of other good examples in MGS for well placed or realistic sex-related stuff: naked Raiden, homosexuality in MGS3, the relation between Eva and Naked Snake, or others.

  4. Definitely agree on the MGS examples. In 3, Eva was a stereotypical Bond girl, but she acted that way in accordance with her own motivations. Still problematic, but not as bad as in 4, where every single female character was hit hard by male gaze, usually for no good reason (i.e. Naomi's ludicrous shininess). This was particularly egregious with the BnB Squad, who were most highly sexualized in the scenes that explored their deep psychological traumas and severe PTSD. :-\