Videogame Sex = Awkward Puppetry

Sex and video games. It’s a difficult topic to discuss. Is it wrong to want sex in games? Does supporting it make you an advocate for immature splendor, or are you standing for art that is trying to enhance the interactive experience with a real, emotional scenario?

Recently, BioShock creator Ken Levine spoke with VG24/7 about the idea of digital fornication. In the interview, Levine said that there is a stammering prudishness stunting potential evolution for the gaming industry with regard to sex, and it’s not just from the quivering soccer moms or Fox News; it’s on the developers’ side as well.

The existence of controversy around the topic, Levine argues, proves that video games aren’t taken as seriously as other “adult” outlets, such as film or books, when it comes to sex. It’s a valid point that becomes exacerbated by Levine’s other bit of insight:

“I think it’s not about being interactive. I think it’s more about people not understanding what it is. If you think about the amount of, for example, nudity in a videogame… it’s not even nudity. It’s a puppet with its clothes off. There are other problems as well. It’s kind of silly in videogames right now, because, again… puppets with their clothes off.”

Levine compares the act of polygon penetration to a scene in “Team America” that has two marionettes depict sex by clumsily swatting at each other (among other things) like couple of, well, ragdolls. While video games are a bit more structured and elegant with their execution, the feeling is the same.

Videogame sex is empirically awful to watch. Two animated characters blandly grope each other without any natural eroticism. It’s not radical, it’s not powerful, and it’s definitely not sexual. It’s interesting to watch, but all in all, videogame sex is just awkward.

Take, for example, the Mass Effect series. Laden with scenes that would later become unending YouTube fodder for curious gamers, Mass Effect tried to patiently mesh a loving relationship with the end result. While the build-up was intriguing to play, the payoff in most cases was just disappointing. That the game had to solidify each potential love interest with an act of consummation only furthered the letdown. Aside from Jack in Mass Effect 2, whose romancing finale was anything but ordinary or uninteresting, the rest of series’ offerings were trite.

Having recently completed Dragon Age II, the newest game from Mass Effect creator BioWare, it seems to me the troubles aren’t going away anytime soon. Like Mass Effect, Dragon Age II‘s love scenes were executed with rigid brevity, marking an inconsequential notch in the players’ belt rather than a full-out social arc.

The problem is execution. The fact that videogame sex, from inception, is a topic of raised eyebrows means its inclusion in games also demands some sort of emotional investment. The reason the romance with Jack in Mass Effect 2 or Madison in Heavy Rain was so intriguing is because it felt sincere. Sure, the actual act of sex in games looks strange, but if it’s hidden behind a veil of earnestness, it doesn’t seem half bad.

Game sex has a far way to go before it can look natural. For a while, it’s going to be like watching two mobilized mannequins blindly press against each other to no avail. That’s fine; it’s expected. But if that is how it’s going to look, developers can at least take the time to give a serious, well-rounded relationship with the characters they create.

Sex may sell, but it can also seem forced and ridiculous, to the point of being humorous. The God of War series proves this exceedingly well. It’s like the developers are nudging players in the arm when they get to a sex scene, excitedly announcing that they weren’t afraid to have sex in their games; that they, as artists, are willing to break boundaries and address issues that may otherwise be taboo.

To that I say: We get it. We understand what you’re doing. But as Levine said, for videogame sex to seem substantial or intriguing, people need to understand what it is. Right now, it’s just two puppets attached to strings, dancing around on screen. That’s not sexy to anyone.


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Author: Greg Galiffa View all posts by
Greg Galiffa is an Associate Editor at GamerNode. He's also an apologist for the first TMNT film. You can follow him on Twitter @greggaliffa

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