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Contributors: BillMurphy,MikeB,garrett,SBFord,Grakulen,

Sex in Games – What’s the Big Deal?

Posted by BillMurphy Tuesday February 9 2010 at 4:54PM
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There has been a whole lot of talk lately about sex in video games, spurred on by yet another BioWare release that features a little romantic interaction between consenting adult animated characters. Now it’s been a few years since BioWare first showed us the blue side-boob in the original Mass Effect, and Dragon Age even had homosexual rendezvous available as a possible outcome for players. We’ve seen it before from the developer, we know they like to craft compelling almost movie-like aspects in their games, and yet the internet is abuzz every time they release a new game that allows the player to get all up in the business of an NPC.

Parents get into a tizzy, the ESRB reviews what it can and cannot deem as passable, and people like me are suddenly wondering just what Achievements they can add to their gamerscore if they manage to get down with all possible participants. The wheel does turn. I have to wonder how big of a deal nudity and sex was when they were first introduced to movies intended for the general viewing public. Then I remember that a certain Harrison Ford film where the faces melt off of Nazis was rated PG. The prequel was later given the very first PG-13 rating, due to Mola Ram’s rather unconventional method of open-heart surgery.

I would say that if people were too overly offended at the idea of sex in story-driven videogames, that we should just devise a new rating to stamp on them and let parents know that a certain game is meant for older audiences. Oh… that’s right, we already have that. Part of the ESRB rating system since 1994, both M (Mature) and AO (Adults Only) cover the bases of games whose content is seriously intended for more mature players. And yet when games under said ratings release, and parents blindly buy whatever title they’re asked of by their children, is it right for them to become so vehement in their attack of the publishers, developers, and even the ESRB?

Maybe it’s an American thing. When my mom bought my family our first decent PC she bought Doom along with it for us kids. She didn’t care about the ridiculous amount of violence in the game, the way the BFG melted enemies into goopy piles of anatomy, or the fact that my brother and I would squeal with glee at the gory mayhem. And yet when she caught us playing a friend’s copy of the soft-core “Sextris” (take a guess at what that entailed) we were grounded for weeks. If we take a look over at Europe or Australia, often games with gratuitous violence are banned outright, while the general feelings towards sexuality are quite a bit more lax.

Mass Effect 2 doesn’t show anything graphic or out of line with what one might see on an episode of primetime broadcast television and yet I don’t read too much these days about people protesting the passion-level of TV’s dramas. Though I do remember a big deal being made about Dennis Franz’s naked butt being flaunted on NYPD Blue several years back. But come on… no one wanted to see that.

I guess what I’m getting at is what’s the big deal when it comes to sex in videogames? The ratings system is there for those that actually pay attention to it. In the case of BioWare’s recently released romantic segments there’s nothing exactly pornographic about the material. Does anyone care anymore when a movie comes out with similar situations taking place? But maybe that’s the key… movies are “entertainment” and games are still seen as merely “toys”.

Clobster writes:

Can't help but agree. The ratings are there for those who pay attention. Anyone who objects to the content of the game seems to not care or notice the ratings they are given. It'd be like taking your kid to see a rated R movie, ignoring the rating, and then complaining about the sex scenes. Whatever. There will always be stupid parents (and stupid people).

Tue Feb 09 2010 5:48PM Report
Blazz writes:

I completely agree with that last like, that movies are "entertainment", and games are seen as merely "toys", and I think that's a huge issue.

When video games started getting pretty big, what, early 80's or so? Kids got into them. Those kids are now pushing their forties and fifties, and it seems that the way people (who aren't into video games) think about them is the way that they thought about video games back then - something that ten year olds get into. Toys.

The people in their sixties, controlling things from their seats of power, especially in Australia (where we still don't have an R rating for games, zzzz) never got into games, and just remember their 10 year old kids wasting their money in the arcade.


tl;dr, people are stupid, and can't realise that video games have become a very strong industry that is capitalising not only on younger audiences, but for older ones as well. You can literally buy "sex toys", but it appears that because video games will always totally be played by children, that video games will be hard pressed to be made for adults, whatever the content.

Tue Feb 09 2010 10:45PM Report
Merit10 writes:

 To me it's not a big deal in a normal solo game environment, I personally like a little eye candy while I'm being entertained in other ways.

However, the MMO games that implement nudity sometimes bring in a creepy crowd. Like Age of Conan, awesome combat system but you get immature people in mature environments, it ruined the game for me.

Tue Feb 09 2010 11:10PM Report
sacredfool writes:

Well, i did find Americans are much more prone to shouting "It's racist" or "It's inappropriate"  then Europeans. The former is because of the history of the US. The latter might be because America is more tolerant towards religions, which results in giving them some lee way in dictating lifestyles. 

At the same time, Europe is not as tolerable towards violence though generally it doesn't have any influence on the gaming industry. 

I am European, so all i can say is: HAH, eat that yankees. /jk

I don't see what the big deal is really. 

Wed Feb 10 2010 8:26AM Report
aurick writes:

 The bottom line is that these games ARE rated.  Parents ARE warned.  If they can't be bothered to check the rating (which is on the FRONT of the freaking box, for crying out loud)  then they have no room to complain about little Johnny seeing a bit of boobage.  

Now, if Johnny bought that game himself then there's a problem.  But in that case the problem doesn't lie with the developer or the distributer -- it lies with the store not bothering to enforce the rating.

Wed Feb 10 2010 9:16AM Report
quickman007 writes:

well i'm 15 and i'm not aloud to play games with sexual content in them. i really don't see why they need to add this. back in the days, you never saw mario in bed with princess peach. why did they throw all this in? i mean i can see a few games with this kinda stuff, but now it's every other game. can't they at least let us turn it off? so us younger people with morals (>.>) can actually play the good stuff.

Wed Feb 10 2010 9:57AM Report
Toquio3 writes:

quickman007: So sex is imoral? The thing that should be imoral is ignorance, not sexuality. Tbh, I just think americans are messed up.

Wed Feb 10 2010 10:15AM Report
AutumnalDusk writes:

Ratings are available, to those who care to look at them. As an American, (and at the risk of starting some domestic flame war), I'd readily pin in on the Ultra-Conservative Religious Right, who seem "Hellbent" (pun intended) on everything, everywhere needing to adhere to *their* viewpoint, at the exclusion of all others.  Given their way, every day would be "live by the King James Bible".  All part of the 'dumbing down' of all media, and culture, imo. Some of us prefer to think for ourselves, and determine what we want in our media, whether it be games, magaizines, movies or television.

Wed Feb 10 2010 10:19AM Report
Daedalus732 writes:

I think it's immoral that ESRB gets to defacto regulate content and decide for ME what is acceptable or not.

And quickman, your preference on sexual content has nothing to do with morals; but it has everything to do with maturity. Clearly your just not mature enough to handle the reality that people have sex with each other.

Wed Feb 10 2010 10:33AM Report
marcuslm writes:

The problem I have is the trend I see developing. There are starting to be more and more games with partial nudity and sexual content and less and less of ones that don't. Yes there are ratings, but for those of us that choose to not buy games with nudity and sex in them the choices are growing slimmer all of the time. 

Personally I don't see the need for it. It adds nothing to the game in my opinion. It IS possible to have rich story/romance/emotional content without showing some 3d rendered sex scene. Gratuitous sexual content does not equal maturity and does not make a better game. THat's my 2 cents and I am sure the flames are on the way.

Wed Feb 10 2010 10:54AM Report
ericbelser writes:

Why does a game need to include sex/nudity? What does it add, other than the "naughty" factor to draw the teenage boys?

Realism? Does my horse need to crap on the street too? There are a lot of things NOT in MMOs that I am in no rush to see added.

There is more than enough anime/fantasy porn out there without it needing to invade MMOs.

Wed Feb 10 2010 12:47PM Report
Trueforral1 writes:

Like others, I don't really see the need for sexual content in games. Following that same train of thought I don't really see the need for multiplayer in so many mostly single-player games, or the need for end-game raiding in MMOs.

However, I also don't see why it should not be there. It takes up time from the development team that I might prefer spent on one of my favorite features - sure, but if people want it - why not? It's not going to harm me after all, and usually this alledged sexual content is so tasteful that it's barely even noticed by me to begin with, or it won't even occur unless it's pursued by the player, like in the case of the Mass Effect 2 or Dragon Age sexual content.

In my opinion it comes down to people relying far too much on religion for providing them with a moral compass.

"Get a moral compass of your own instead of using someone else's, you lazy fucks!" :P

Wed Feb 10 2010 2:52PM Report
Evile writes:

 It's ok to shoot over 90000 people in the face, or cut someone up into little bits in a video game, but flash a boob and all hell breaks loose.

Rating system is there for a reason. 

Wed Feb 10 2010 3:01PM Report
kemolove writes:

1. parents read ratings more


3. please list for me some games that allow 2 people to do it :P

Wed Feb 10 2010 3:16PM Report
Kyleran writes:

Once you allow "some" sexual content, it becomes a slippery slope as to how much you should permit.

I'm pretty cool with naked characters in MMO's when appropriate to the storyline, not so much if it means some asshats running around the auction house displaying his virtual goods.

(and you know its only a matter of time before they put a slider on a certain part of the male anatomy just like women's breasts.)


Wed Feb 10 2010 5:13PM Report
Athcear writes:

I will never understand why Americans are so afraid of sex.  That's how we all got here!  This country has some insane belief that even thinking about sex will ruin a person if they're not either old enough to be "grown up" (sometime in their mid 20's) or if they're married off at 18 and churning out babies.

We have some mad insecurities about sex in this country.

Wed Feb 10 2010 7:24PM Report
neilh73 writes:

To be honest I think that this is only an issue in the US. 

Remember the fallout after Janet Jackson's nipple strayed into view during the Superbowl show.  'OMG our youth will be corrupted by the evil nipple!!'

The rest of the world were like 'Who cares.'

Now, I know that the majority of US citizens aren't so close-minded and blinkered, but there is a very vocal minority that always get up in arms over some non-factor 'sexual issue' and the US media then jump all over it like the rabbid dogs they are.   Gotta love the tabloid media.

The 'sex scenes' in all the BioWare games are beyond tame and are not even worth mentioning, let alone getting worked-up over.

Wed Feb 10 2010 7:25PM Report
Strap writes:

The truth is that if an MMO features the capacity to have a private chat room then there is a group of players, of the roleplay variety that get up to all sorts of sexual shenanigans. Personally, I think it is a relatively safe form of casual sex and fantasy fulfillment, but witnessing such an online session would probably have the average American parent tearing out the internet cables with more fervour than any animated sex scene.



Wed Feb 10 2010 7:43PM Report
Heftynewt writes:

Im suprised no one has brought up Second Life. Yes there is a Teen section or w/e but anyone can say there 32  or 40 or 50 and can see Sexual animations or sex pictures easily... although they have tried limiting that with the adult authentication thing they have but theres still places easily accessible to anyone of any age that has sexual content ... although second life is a Sandbox game..

Wed Feb 10 2010 8:18PM Report
Shamorau writes:

I can't help but agree with you. Games are given a rating for a reason. Its then the parents discretion with there children, whether or not that child can play it. I dont think its right then, because you as a parent havent payed attention, complain about a side boob or knickers or a bi-sexual elf. Its not the dev's fault that you havent read the warnings that go with it.

Wed Feb 10 2010 9:12PM Report
badgerer writes:

Just the thought of the Grey Warden and Morrigan's vacuum-filled manequins clumsiliy clipping through one another gives me palpitations! Never has such raw sex been released on the PC.

Except for the Internet.

Thu Feb 11 2010 1:17AM Report
itbewilly writes:

I blame parent's who fail at parenting.You see it all over.A mother or father goes out and buys a game like say GTA3 for example without ever reading a review about it and then wanna go and complain when they find little Timmy in a cab rocking out with a prostitute.If parent's took the time to monitor what their kids wanna play gaming as a whole would be so much better.Im not saying i want an x rated video game or anything but i dont want my options to be Mario or Animal Crossing either.The ratings are there for a reason and A didnt stand for A +.

Ideally id love a decent game like Dead to Rights with a more mature CSI feel to it where you solve crimes but ill never get that because the people who make video games have too many hoops to jump through and in the end anything that would make the game great would be cut and it would just be another FPS or 3rd person shooter with nothing new to offer.

Thu Feb 11 2010 2:39AM Report
Williac writes:

Like mentioned before, it's actually only a concern in the US. I have yet to find an article from EU that freaks out because of nudity in games. Get over yourself. If your 15 and not allowed to play games with sex or nudity it's fine. I believe it's good that parents are careful with what their child is exposed to as long as they remeber to teach their children about sex instead of hiding it away. A problem I have heard is common in the US. Please correct me if I am wrong and accept my apology if I have offended you.

Thu Feb 11 2010 4:40AM Report
08030 writes:

Wow hey quickman007 those are some swell morals you have there!

Sex bad, murder good. Keep up the stellar image perhaps you could be the next charlie manson!

Thu Feb 11 2010 8:14AM Report
Nesrie writes:

The gaming community doesn't help with this issue though. How many times do we see people scream kid, 13 year old, teenager as some cheapshot at someone they disagree with on a message board? Maybe if the gaming community stops calling everyone who likes a game they don't like a kid, it might help change the perception that most players are kids.

Fri Feb 12 2010 2:05AM Report
astoria writes:

killing, mayhem, and murder are godly activities since god is on our side. sex is of the devil.

/end sarcasm


Wed Feb 17 2010 9:19AM Report
Skuz writes:

Portayal of sex & attitudes to it are cultural things, when more people lived in rural areas than in cities attitudes were different, why? because sex was visibly happening all around them as a vital & important part of everyday life, if your animals had no sex you had no food next year.

As far as videogaming goes the "gaming" part of it implies it is by it's very nature a toy, or child's activity, it's going to be hard to alter that perception in the minds of non-gamers or pre-gamers, people around before computer gaming popularised, however over time that perception will shift & only the religious & cultural zealots will rail against it.

Movies as a form of entertainment have had a rocky path, porn is still porn & movies in the main steer clear of explicit sexual scenes & instead show everything except the most intimate details, that's as far as the storylines need to go, games that employ sexual plots or mechanics only need to do the same to convey the same level of storytelling, however there is a temptation to show more perhaps because the actors in a game are just polygons rather than people & the level of interaction from the viewer isn't restricted to being purely passive as in a movie.

I see no reason not to have sexual content in adult rated computer entertainment any less than I see no reason to not have it in a adult rated movie, kids movies are still made because there is a market, teen movies, horror games will in all likeliehood follow much the same path, & it wouldn't surprise me if at some point the porn industry does get into games in earnest, it's already explored pretty much every other form of media to date so no reason this would be any different, & likely as in other media it will bring pressure, talent & huge amounts of money into the industry & be a huge driving force for technological advancement as it has been in every other media it was involved with,printing, photography, film, digital video, internet transmission.....

Thu Feb 18 2010 11:15AM Report
jadiusmax writes:

AutumnalDusk   ..way to be totally judgemental i always love how people ignore the realities in life when it doesnt fit what they want to be true.. im PRETTY SURE Hillary Clinton was leading the charge against video games, you know, since she's so hard line religious right.

How many of you posters have kids, or better yet since most probably dont, how many of you oh so smart cool gamer kids can actually pry open that super strong brain of yours and IMAGINE that it might just be POSSIBLE that no matter how much a parent polices their kids you dont want to follow your kid around every second of every day. 

The OP shot down the "Police your kids better" with his own post...

"And yet when she caught us playing a friend’s copy of the soft-core “Sextris” (take a guess at what that entailed) we were grounded for weeks"

Think, think with me for just a second..i know this is complicated but: is it so very crazy to think that just possibly your kid has friends and those friends parents might not care about their kid the way you care for yours?  I know this is tough to actually THINK about but it is possible that if you never buy your child a video game and you give your child no money ever, that even then they might be playing video games.  The ESRB is a tool of course, but dont act like it's the be-all end-all. 

I believe adults should get what they want in games but can we please stop acting like your a f'ing moron if you dare possibly think that people who want better protections are religious, close minded losers? 


Thu Feb 18 2010 1:51PM Report
UnsungToo writes:

I like exploring. I come back to them because they are convenient, and they rarely keep my attention.

I think it's about exploring my own mind.

Thu Feb 25 2010 6:27PM Report
UnsungToo writes:

woops wrong thread heheheh

Thu Feb 25 2010 6:28PM Report
Unlight writes:

Sex in our North American culture is still largely viewed as sinful, whereas violence, as it always has been, is far more easily justified.  This is simply the outgrowth of our puritanical roots.  We've just never managed to grow up as a society.

The ironic part is that those who are so eager to to shake their self-righteous fingers at the rest of us, quite often indulge in just the same "morally reprehensible" behavior as the rest of us proles.  And when they get caught, watch out for the flood of crocodile tears.

Thankfully, the last generation of these fine, upstanding citizens are now on their way to decline.  Today they are our leaders.  Tomorrow, they'll be under six feet of earth.  Then maybe we can collectively grow up and stop thinking of sex as inherently immoral.

I'll still want extra gore in my games though.  You're never too old for giblets.

Thu Feb 25 2010 10:00PM Report
jadiusmax writes:

Unlight if you take the time to talk to some of these people you hope die soon, you might find that many of them find sex a gift rather than an immoral act.  They simply dont think you should flaunt that gift around between 50 different people and squander it on losers that you'll never see again.  It isnt "inherently" immoral, it is "situationally" immoral. 

Fri Feb 26 2010 12:46PM Report writes:
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