Let’s talk about sex, baby. Let’s talk about you and the avatar you control who may or may not share your sexuality, prowess, libido, or taste.

When the name of your blog has an allusion to the Moonlite Bunny Ranch in Nevada, the key terms people use to come across it are pretty entertaining. One rather frequent hit (beyond searching for a gay version of the famed Bunny Ranch) concerns sex and games. So, without further ado, call this a post for the masses. Since I’m also a person who has an extremely low TMI (Too Much Information) filter on my brain, I figured I had no qualms talking about the subject (completely work safe, by the way).

Back in April, when Grand Theft Auto IV released, I grew rather irritated over a few things. One was how IGN posted a rather immature video concerning hiring prostitutes and then killing them. For a major game site to do such seemed crass and stepping beyond an acceptable decorum.

Whatever.

My other issue at the time was how people with no idea about gaming history seem to be shocked that sex is in games. The major reason for this being that games are grabbing a larger audience now than they were, say, twenty years ago.


I seem to recall a lot of games tinged with sex around my household while I was a child. Steve Meretzky’s Leather Goddesses of Phobos (1986), Megatech’s hentai hit Cobra Mission: Panic in Cobra City (1992), and even Al Lowe’s Leisure Suit Larry series (1987-being milked into horrible minigames) were games I knew my parents were playing and had started playing myself around the mid-1990s (putting me somewhere around the age of ten to thirteen). These games normally made me laugh; not being confused about the topic of sex, I was more queasy over the 16-bit surgery simulation/doctor game my parents had (edit: as Chris pointed out in the comments, this game was Software Toolworks’s Life & Death). That flesh really did look ghoulish.

Call me silly, but sex is a pretty natural thing that humans explore. The fact that games include the option to simulate the experience hardly seems earth shattering. One natural problem that becomes evident is providing for everybody’s sexuality in games where emergent gameplay has become the norm. I’m sure someone somewhere would gladly do some research on how males feel about playing a female simulating sex with a male (oh Passionate Patti, you vixen, you).

For example, back when I played Sierra’s The Realm Online, I was part of a guild called the Schattenjägers (I’m German and I had a crush on Gabriel Knight, especially when voiced by Tim Curry, so sue me). One of my guildmates and I were talking about Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh when he mentioned that he was fine with the game until the end. Being thirteen at the time and not having quite come out as queer, I feared what was coming next: “I couldn’t really identify with a dude kissing another guy.”

Of course, given the recent annoyance over the lesbian scene in Mass Effect (or the controversy over the Hot Coffee mod in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas), the topic of sexuality in videogames is one that will be coming up more often, and I’m frankly surprised it hasn’t made more appearances in games. This is an issue that will cause major headaches, though. In the days of Sierra, Infocom, and Megatech’s sex games, I was not the intended audience. The first Leisure Suit Larry even had a pretty tough (for someone born in 1983) quiz beforehand to prove your age and what you should know (this was before Wikipedia and the internet in homes). People begrudgingly accept that adults have sex (though they’re not happy about how some go about it), but do not even consider teaching them, in the United States, about how to have it safely.

Given the interactive element of videogames, the only thing worse to some parents could be catching his or her child having sex with a same-sexed dog orgy, thus fulfilling the dangers of allowing gay marriage (we’ve got the gays, the bestiality, and the polyamory goin’ on).

Either way, it’s useful to remember, sex and videogames are not new to each other. Sex and humans are not new to each other. Videogames and humans are relatively newly acquainted, however. We just have to be ready for the media attention that will accompany us now, and hope people like IGN don’t add fuel to the fire.

About Denis Farr

Writer interested in intersectionality, games, comics, nerdy stuff in general, theater, and how it all mixes. Graduate of Wabash College, with studies in Theater, English, German, and Gender Studies.
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7 Responses to Let’s talk about sex, baby. Let’s talk about you and the avatar you control who may or may not share your sexuality, prowess, libido, or taste.

  1. Chris Lepine says:

    Great idea. A few questions that stand out for me in light of that are:– sexual topics and depicted sex are very different things. When I was 10 years old, Leisure Suit Larry seemed about the bawdiest thing I could have imagined (we didn’t own it – but a friend had it installed on his father’s computer).. but it actually has a disappointing amount of depicted sex. :)– Is the operation game you’re thinking of called, ‘Life & Death’ by Software Toolworks, complete with nasty PC speaker digitized speech? :)– In terms of sex scenes, I recall that Ultima VII: The Black Gate freely allows the Avatar to choose a same-sex partner at The Baths in Buccaneer’s Den. In my memory, the only time this has ever happened in an RPG (edit: other than Mass Effect, of course!).– sex simulation games are also an older phenomenon – I remember seeing a CGA-graphics nude woman with various sex objects strewn around her that the player would control.. and this was in the 1980’s!

  2. Denis Farr says:

    1. Right. However, I think even sexual suggestion is enough to throw some parents off the edge. The simulation was just the next logical step considering our constantly upgrading technology and game engines. Of course, this post is hardly an extensive or exhaustive list of dominantly sexually themed games–so there is probably tons I’ve missed.2. That is indeed the game. It sent shivers down my spine. However, it also leaves me feeling fairly comfortable whenever I do go to the hospital, as they’re never nearly as grainy.3. I think you could in Fable? Or will be able to in Fable 2? You could also have some manner of same-sex interaction in Fallout 2 if I recall correctly. It’s definitely a field that could do with some more research.4. Again, as in point 1, this could stretch back for who knows how long. Let’s be frank, gamers are people with hormones too. It’s only natural that this would occur. Considering how large the porn industry is, it’ll be curious to see what occurs when the two intersect. We already have porn comics (I see a rather steady stream of them at the alternative independent bookstore I go to here in Chicago).Also, per your own latest post. You have me now considering playing through the entire QFG series and examining them in a similar vein to the VGC. That will wait until after I’m finished with Deus Ex, however.

  3. Fable does in fact offer the option of same sex co-habitation, but I believe the marriage cut scene is relegated to the hetero love.

  4. Denis Farr says:

    @Cap’n Perkins: As well, Molyneaux recently had an interview conducted over at Gaygamer.net, where it was stated that Fable 2 includes lines of dialog specifically catered toward male-male or female-female cohabitation. Even marriage is possible, if I recall correctly.Adoption is not an option, however, so they’ll remain childless (which is the only realm in which I’ll be fettered with child, so there goes my parenthood).

  5. Janathan says:

    I believe that they are already some interactive games that boost sexuality. Usually made from the porn industry and not very good. Also they are dating sims in Japan that deal with the same sex.

  6. Denis Farr says:

    @Janathan, Yeah, I’ve seen the hints of the Japanese sex and dating sims. Not something that’s made it over here, and as a non-Japanophile or one who even speaks a lick of Japanese, it’s not something I feel right commenting on in any large capacity.I’ve also seen some flash games that, as you stated, are rather poorly executed and just aren’t fun. Perhaps I seek to scratch that itch in other ways.It will be interesting to see more AAA and better implemented games incorporate this, though. We have hints of romantic love–and as pure as we may wish to keep romance, something is going to break.Besides, there is so much slash out there, it’d be easy to capitalize on it.

  7. GDI Lord says:

    Yes, in Fallout 2 the player can get married to a person of the same sex or the other sex. The player can also use prostitutes, not only for their character but also for their entire party.I also remember the LSL games as being the “ultimate” lewd software back when I was a child.I found a single EXE/COM file on my computer in the early 90’s that was an animated 2-colour image of a woman resisting a man who was trying to have sex with her.[joking]Yes, sex and computers have come a long way. Why do you think that scientists first used switches on the front of computers? What better way to indicate that computers were actually meant for entertainment, not some silly idea of breaking some country’s code during some insignificant war or for calculating artillery munition arc paths, than with nipple-shaped/phallic-symbol switches that one could “flick” up and down?[/joking]

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