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What Place (If Any) Should Sex Have in MMORPGs? | One Good Roll

Steven Weber Updated: Posted:
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Fantasy worlds are littered with hard bodied men and expertly sculpted women that are often scantily clad in armor that couldn’t stop a light breeze. It’s no secret that sex sells, and in the peculiar, over sensationalized depths of game development, where jiggle physics and unrealistic bodies are king, MMORPG’s teeter into a realm unlike more explicit games like Grand Theft Auto and Cyberpunk 2077. As online games attempt to focus on novel experiences, what role, if any should sex have in MMORPGs?

It feels like almost yesterday that I was railing against egregious nudity and sexual depictions in Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis. I recall that article specifically, because the prevalence of sexual acts has been around in the series for many years, but as much as SEGA has been against the abuse of Symbol Art to post lewd images, they have been equally supportive of emotes where players can perform a pole dance. Now before you say, “Steven, you’re a prude, maybe a little repressed,” let me kindly wave off those thoughts by saying, no, that’s not the case, and also mind your own business. Sexual content, at least for me, has never been a problem when it was in the context of a game that warrants it, and it was expected.

For example, Age of Conan gleefully added some softcore nudity to the game, and while it wasn’t a major selling point, for some, it cemented the game as a more “adult” experience. However, even in generally non-sexual games, MMORPGs always have seedy undertones of a sexual nature. Of course, we see this in the types of armor developers build for the various genders, especially when it comes to lewd female outfits, but it goes deeper than that. Through the magic of online interactions, roleplay, and direct player to player interactions, those determined to get weird and wild with likeminded partners in a game, will find it’s completely possible to do so.

Throughout the years, however, we’ve seen some interesting takes on making sexual situations work within games. Quite possibly one of my favorite uses of this was in Fable II where you could convince an NPC to marry you, get down and dirty, and eventually bear your child. Later on in your journey, you would actually get to meet your child, and sure, even though it was mostly a hollow experience save for an alternate ending choice, the idea of building a life within a virtual world was tantalizing. Clearly, more developers understand how enjoyable virtual dating and intimate relations can be. BioWare delved deep in the relationships of Commander Shepherd in Mass Effect, and CD Projekt Red built a very intricate dating system in Cyberpunk 2077 complete with text-messages and semi-explicit first-person sexual encounters.

Translating this to MMORPGs is a different animal altogether. The majority of player interactions in an MMORPG are with other players – and if we’re honest with each other, many of those players are not entirely on board with boundaries. We’ve seen this in a recent story of a woman in Meta’s Horizon Worlds claiming her avatar was sexually assaulted in VR. We would be doing a disservice to many gamers by not acknowledging that, while avatars specifically may fall into a peculiar category of their own, when it comes to sexual assault, harassments, sexual discrimination and multiple forms of abuse, these interactions are unfortunately a common nuisance that has plagued online gaming for decades.

Yet, here I sit thinking about this major facet of life that permeates so many of the games we play in different ways, without it really being acknowledged as a cognizant design decision. If I were honest with myself, I’d say that I would like to see games attempt more features that involve romance and intimacy. However, I would never want these features at the expense of devolving the community into a bunch of bombastic ne’er-do-well’s hell bent on derailing a game to satisfy their own perversions. Romance and relationships are, have been, and will be, a major part of the fantasy gaming experience, even outside of online worlds, with table-top RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons.

Sex plays a role in all of our (real) lives, and it makes sense to want features that allow players to express that, especially in MMORPGs, where the premise of living a virtual life in a fantasy or science fiction world has always been the pipe dream that has rarely been achieved. While I do feel player-curated sexual encounters will always be a rare, inevitable, and potentially uncomfortable occurrence in MMORPGs, I do think that more mature experiences in our online games, that are more easily managed by developers to reduce cases of unwanted sexual engagements between players, could be a safer way to handle both relationship and intimate content. What are your thoughts? Would more intimate or mature experiences in MMORPGs entice you at all? Or should sex be left completely out of MMORPGs altogether? Hop into the comments and give us your opinion!


Steven Weber

Steven has been a writer at MMORPG.COM since 2017. A lover of many different genres, he finds he spends most of his game time in action RPGs, and talking about himself in 3rd person on his biography page.