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Why Do Videogames Struggle With Sex? 465

brumgrunt writes "Why do videogames still treat sex in such a two dimensional way? Why do they snigger at it, or treat it as a reward? Den Of Geek has been taking a look." I always figured it was some combination of games being made by our inner adolescent, marketed to the outer ones, and getting banned whenever they take sex seriously.
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Why Do Videogames Struggle With Sex?

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  • Fantasy Escapism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sonny Yatsen ( 603655 ) * on Tuesday March 08, 2011 @11:36AM (#35419232) Journal

    I always figured that videogames treat sex two dimensionally because much of video games cater to fantasy escapism as its main draw. It's really no different from any other fantasy escapism outlet. If you look at high fantasy books of the last couple of decades, you'll see the exact same amount of treatment of sex and impossibly proportioned women. Same thing with comic books. On the women's side, it's no different from romance novels (with the impossibly built shirtless men on the covers), soap operas (although to a lesser degree) and all sorts of other similar stuff. They appeal to the idea in us of the quick cathartic thrill that we can fantasize ourselves into, and very few people fantasize about marriage, children and getting a mortgage.

  • by pezpunk ( 205653 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2011 @11:42AM (#35419298) Homepage

    it's not like video games treat murder or money or physics or politics with reverence, respect, or precision either. why should a game be expected to treat sex as somehow immune from gamification? if it's included, it *should* be simplified in function and integrated into the gaming framework, just like every other complex human thing that gets reduced to either a goal, task, tool, or reward in a game.

  • Easy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spad ( 470073 ) <slashdotNO@SPAMspad.co.uk> on Tuesday March 08, 2011 @11:46AM (#35419352) Homepage

    Because any game that treats sex "properly" is going to end up with an AO rating in the US because of the absurd level of puritanical outrage about boobies, which means Walmart and the like won't stock it, so it won't sell as many copies and most publishers won't want to touch it.

    Personally, I'd welcome deeper relationship modelling in games, especially RPGs, but I know it's unlikely to happen as long as people are so scared of AO ratings and their impact on US sales. A simple solution is to stick it on the PC, slap an 18 rating on it and sell it primarily in the UK/Europe; job done.

  • by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2011 @11:48AM (#35419372)

    More like its difficult to portray sex as being at all interesting in a video game. Violence has blood and gore and explosions, and explosions of violence and gore. Not to mention laser beams, occasionally attached to sharks or giant robots.

    Sex is at least two naked people getting it on. Watching it for a short time can be pretty compelling, but you're not likely to get very much good game play out of it.

    Consider sex in movies. They all seem to have it to a certain degree, but honestly, if you give the sex anything more than a few scenes, the movie tends to turn into crap.

  • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2011 @11:49AM (#35419376)

    What he is writing here is directly what happens in real life - you choose your words or actions badly and even one bad choice ends up to you not having sex with the girl.

    If I walked up to a guy and said "Nice shoes, wanna fuck?" -- there's a chance he'll say yes, despite this being one of the worst ways to go about it. As to actions, many hollywood movies have been made (How to lose a guy in 7 days, anyone?) about how sometimes doing everything wrong still leads to the desired outcome. The truth is... Sex happens because we have hormones and chemicals and stuff in our brains (and *cough* elsewhere) and sometimes they're the ones doing the talking -- and what comes out of our mouth is totally irrelevant. As to love or no love, emotional attachment or not... Being that you're not a woman, you don't have some extra chemicals besides the ones I mentioned above working against you. It's near impossible for a woman past a certain age to have sex and not develop an emotional attachment. Ever wonder why we want to cuddle or be clingy after sex (or octopus you during climax?) -- BRAIN CHEMICALS! Believe me, if we could shut it off, or take a pill to let us have no strings attached sex like guys, the world would be a far sluttier place. I'm totally serious about this... don't laugh.

  • by clorkster ( 1996844 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2011 @11:54AM (#35419452)
    God intended marriage to emulate the relationship between Jesus Christ and the church. A sacrificial love where one holds the other higher than themselves. It is difficult to even scratch the surface of the image of Christ if intimacy, trust, and selflessness are not a priority. I think a lot of the conversation about marriage is fundamentally flawed between religious conservatives and those who would see equality amongst all who explore the realms of love. Christian marriage is fundamentally based upon a vow before God to be selfless and seek to know His Son more every day of your life through selflessly loving another. Legal marriage is not Christ-centered in any way (all questions of gender aside), so it's sort of hard to speak about two different things with the same word and expect much progress. Being one, I blame Christians for this break down in dialog.

    It's nice to be close to someone, feel their skin and feel how you're inside them. Be it with love or not.

    Agreed. It is. However it's beautiful to know beyond any shadow of a doubt that someone loves you.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2011 @11:58AM (#35419488) Journal
    Just technologically, sex is arguably pretty tricky. You can do plain porn easily enough(especially if you just use stills and video shot with real people); but simulating complex character interactions or in-engine naked-bodies-and-fluids without falling into the horrors of the uncanny valley is quite difficult. Thus, games tend either to ignore the subject, or just toss in some pin-ups at reward points.

    Then, of course, you have the US market's rather curious stance toward sex vs. violence. Violence may well get you rated M; but M is hardly the kiss of death. Sex will probably get you AO, which is.(Even if the selling point of the violence is realistic depictions of human suffering and death, and the game is all about tasteful loving relationships or something; but so it goes...) Even as the market of adult videogamers expands, you still can't get a mass-market game out the door if it won't be at least tacitly accepted by the households of millions of 14 year olds(because who else is going to scream "FAGGOT HACKER!!@!!" into the microphone all night on XBL?)

    Finally, there is the matter of competition and competitive advantage: For things like violence and empire building, most people either have no options, or only options that are actually pretty costly, and thus not competitors as entertainment(Well, let's see... I could download America's Army or I could join America's Army...). There is some competition from film; but that is about it. For things like sex, a decent percentage of gamers old enough to be interested in a serious in-game depiction are substantially more interested in real life. Failing that(because of technological limitations, as described above) the conventional pornography industry is arguably pretty superior to the video game industry in terms of efficiently titillating depictions, and the film and novel industries are substantially ahead if you want deep characters and romance and things.
  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2011 @12:19PM (#35419726)

    This seems to be more of a problem with the way US thinks about sex, while we here in Europe can just have it casually and not make a big deal out of it.

    I also admire how you Europeans have mastered that whole arrogance thing.

  • by BrianRoach ( 614397 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2011 @12:38PM (#35419976)

    If I walked up to a guy and said "Nice shoes, wanna fuck?" -- there's a chance he'll say yes, despite this being one of the worst ways to go about it.

    If you're even remotely attractive (Lets say, shy of disfigured), I'd say there's a very good chance. If the gender roles are reversed, there's a very good chance of getting slapped. I don't know if that's societal or biological, but I suspect it's societal.

    Women decide when/if sex happens. Us men have to figure out what conditions have to be met in order for that to occur. The video game treatment, while simplified greatly, works along the same lines.

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2011 @12:48PM (#35420114) Journal

    I wonder why religions even have made sex to look like a bad thing.

    Historically, sex out of wedlock HAS been a very bad thing. Venereal diseases, unwanted pregnancies, death and sickness (really....the list of famous people who died of venereal disease at a young age is surprisingly long). Of course that's not really a problem anymore, but that's only been true for the last 60 years or so. For the thousands of years before that, religion was right on in their recommendations. Religion moves slowly to deal with new developments, especially on relatively minor issues (seriously....pick up any holy book and count the number of paragraphs talking about sex. It's a small proportion. Usually significantly less than 1%).

  • by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2011 @01:16PM (#35420450)
    You're not very observant are ye? I mentioned oxytocin by name in my original post. I'm already thoroughly familiar (at a layperson's level) with what you're talking about. If you want to pretend, contrary to evidence, that emotional bonding is some simple static procedure akin to "push oxytocin button receive love", that's your prerogative. Just make sure that when a stack of books falls on you about the psychological dimensions of emotional attachment and sexuality you close your eyes lest some of that non-deterministic knowledge poison your lopsided, exclusionary viewpoint.

    Humans are much more than their physical contents, and I say that without any allusion to superstitious nonsense like 'souls' or what-have-you. If you cannot account for the social constructions and archetypes that both create and reflect the shared experiences between people, you will never be able to understand the broader motivations individuals have emotionally, with regard to sex or anything else.

    What happens in a human brain physically may be reducible to a "simple" electro-chemical interaction, but that does not resolve at a stroke what each iteration means in concert over time.

    To return to the subject, go talk to somebody who routinely has sex for money. Barring that, read some autobiographical work of somebody like that. You'll find your "sex leads AUTOMATICALLY to emotional attachment" theory sorely tested by those realities. Hormones only go so far in adjusting conscious experiences. That's why I spoke of self-fulfilling prophecies and placebo effects. If you already have a developing or latent emotional attachment, an oxytocin release will probably increase it significantly. If you already view a person negatively, either individually or as a class, an oxytocin release is probably not enough to change that already surfaced conscious position. When a person has a concrete idea, some vague, hormone-driven feeling is generally not enough to immediately reverse it.
  • by vadim_t ( 324782 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2011 @01:19PM (#35420488) Homepage

    If I walked up to a guy and said "Nice shoes, wanna fuck?" -- there's a chance he'll say yes, despite this being one of the worst ways to go about it

    Were somebody to try that on me, I'd start looking for the first convenient excuse to get away as quickly as possible, or just plain run like hell.

    That's because I'd start wondering, why would somebody do that?

    One reason I can imagine is "look at me, I'm shameless enough to go and ask that to a random guy", which is done for the sake of amusing or impressing somebody else, and so almost certainly not a serious offer.

    The other is that the one asking is crazy, high or drunk. Which very likely leads to problems later, because that would be statutory rape.

    A much less likely one is some kind of drama, like "I'm angry at my boyfriend, so I'm going to screw with the first guy I come across". I highly suspect that this is inexistent in reality and only exists in bad movies.

    Either way I can't imagine a single reason for asking such a question that wouldn't lead to complications later. And IMO, if you ever ask it and somebody replies affirmatively, run like hell, because you just found somebody without the slightest bit of common sense.

  • by Livius ( 318358 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2011 @02:27PM (#35421374)

    Seriously, when does a video game deal with *any* topic other than in a superficial way? What part of 'game' is confusing people?

"I think trash is the most important manifestation of culture we have in my lifetime." - Johnny Legend