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”.