Over the past year or two I've read a couple of books and watched a couple of films that personally I think would make epic video games.
Sex and Intimacy in Gaming: Yes, Please
It’s only natural to be interested in sex. I’m interested all the time, even when doing something not remotely connected to sex, like repairing a printer, or watching Jeopardy. It’s a natural, necessary process that ensures the continuation of the human race. I also find it really pleasurable and fun, and in my experience, it has a way of spicing up those dull ‘ugly sweater’ parties. On the other hand, my cousin will probably never let me near his dog again.
It should also be noted that sex can be dangerous, ruining relationships and friendships, or even ending lives. And absolutely should not be attempted when under the age limit in your area. Or within visual range of an iPhone. Again, personal experience there. Why she showed it to an 80-year-old woman at church group is beyond me. Eustace won’t even look at me anymore.
The point I’m laboriously trying to get to is that sex is a part of life. You can’t escape it, and I don’t know that many people who want to. And as video games continue to mature, sex becomes more and more a part of games. From the Hot Coffee mod, to God of War’s threesome minigames, to Mass Effect’s sex and romance buffet, sex is infusing our games, sometimes just with raunchy, mindless T’n’A appeal, but increasingly with a sophistication that does game developers credit.
Still, something’s missing. We’re not quite there yet. In a manner of speaking, games have figured out how the parts line up, now they just have to figure out how to work their hips.
For example, with one exception, I have yet to see a game where characters have sex that they immediately regret having. Shame sex, let’s call it. In real life, everyone has or will wake up one morning horrified at what they’re sharing a bed with. Maybe it’s someone you weren’t really attracted to, maybe it was someone you were close to and you don’t want to lose that closeness, maybe you’ve got a significant other, and the person in bed isn’t them, either way, the feeling comes on fast that this was a mistake.
Catherine was a HUGE step in the right direction, and it comes close to the ideal, but I would argue that it misses the mark somewhat by retroactively making it NOT a mistake, should you choose to be with the girl who’s not your fiancée. I want to see a game where it’s wrong when it happens and stays wrong. Dealing with that (as it is in life) should be difficult or messy. Still, it was nice to see someone take a poke at it in Catherine, pun intended. Shame sex happens in real life, so why can’t we explore it in games? Cassidee would say that Seduce Me was full of shame sex, but the sex wasn’t nearly as shameful as playing it was.
Or how about intimacy? Intimacy is another facet of sex and romance that we don’t see in gaming all that often. Personal intimacy, sure, characters in RPG’s always eventually spill their deepest, darkest secrets to someone. But what about physical intimacy? When was the last time you saw video game characters holding hands? Ico and Yorda, right?
I don’t see why game characters can’t be physically intimate with each other. Hugs, touches, gentle caresses, arms entwined, around each other’s backs, video game characters can occasionally be quick to say they love each other, but showing it appears to be a different matter entirely. Why?
On that note, when characters DO get physically intimate, why is it always a single, chaste kiss – or full-on sex? How come there’s never anything in between? When was the last time you saw two video game characters making out? Or “getting to second base?” Mass Effect is a perfect example of this. I can’t say for the third game, as I haven’t finished it yet, but in the first two games, Shepard can have tastefully depicted sex with a number of people, and she hugs a few friends, but I can’t recall her kissing anyone, let alone making out or letting Kaidan slip a hand beneath her shirt. Is it necessary? I can’t say, but in real life, not all of us are either Victorian-era virgins or salacious sluts. Most of us fall somewhere in between.
What about marriage? Marriage is a slightly different story – it’s been in games for a while, but I don’t think games have explored it all that much. Sure, you could marry other players in World of Warcraft and other MMO’s, and Fable let you marry NPC’s and make babies, but it wasn’t remotely real. Fable had a sort of hands-off approach to marriage and parenting that seriously detracted from any sense of reality. Of course, expecting reality from a game where I wooed my wife by repeatedly farting in her presence is like expecting intelligence from Honey Boo Boo, Snooki, and the NRA.
Marriage is complicated. Two captains are guiding the same ship, and they don’t always agree. Resolving disagreements, figuring out shared problems, spending time on each other (that was not a sexual reference….but now it is), these are all important in a marriage. There are probably more important things, but never having been married, I can’t say. All I know is that marriage, real honest-to-whomever marriage, isn’t often explored in games, and I think it’s high time it was. The way things stand now, if a main character is married in a video game, either their spouse has been kidnapped or killed, or you never see him/her.
Games have come a long way as an art form, but they’ve still got a ways to go. Hopefully, we’ll never run out of concepts and ideas to explore, but I think some more intimacy would be a good next step for the industry.
Love is the grand ideal, the most important thing in life. And there’s more to it than revealing outfits and a romp in the hay. There’s nothing wrong with those things, but it’s time for gaming to explore everything else love has to offer. Come on, it’s not that scary. Here….take my hand.