Like anybody that writes about this, I’ll start with the obligatory statement: I’ve been playing games all my life! Ok, but really… I grew up online, so downloading demos, game review sites, game cheats, easter eggs, and game walkthroughs where all a regular part of my intellectual diet.
I make this point because it’s strange how little regard I had for sex in games. To me ANYTHING sex, sexy, sexual, was just superbly annoying. I think I lost regard for the topic at around the release of Heavy Metal FAKK 2, it was completely downhill around the time of the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas’s Hot Coffee incident. I also heard a rumor of there being a sex scene in Kingpin: Life of Crime, but I really never bothered to look. Maybe it was just a rumor spread by fellow gamers to show how edgy they where. At this point I’ll stop Googling for it… Beyond that I’d occasionally read the Hentai Game Reviews on Something Awful out of curiosity for how horrible a bad thing can get. In latest news you can first person sex it up with first person prostitutes in first person GTA V. By now I don’t care. You get the point. Sex in video games has just been generally bad, irritating, nasty, or only there to panic parents with another taboo that’s poisoning the minds of their children (added shock value).
Before you go on to correct me with the fact that you can sex it up with Mass Effect characters, I’ll stop you right there. First of all, yes. Mass Effect is a great game. Mass Effect is everyone’s favorite example. Mass Effect is way too commonly used as a positive example for gender representation in games. So before we use it as a positive example for sex, I’ll just say that the sex in Mass Effect is not good sex. No really. To me, it’s more of a joke. I laugh.
I remember this one incident when I and a friend where playing and we where talking to this blue lady, not of our crew, she was in this big city-place-thing (I’m terribly sorry, I loved the game, but it’s been so long since I’ve played Mass Effect I can’t remember much of any names), and she extended this cryptic offer. It was phrased convoluted enough that we didn’t catch on that she was talking about sex, so we chose the “yes” option from the dialogue tree. Then, bam! Out of fucking nowhere our character is being sexed up. Just sex out of the blue. Ok… I’m about to get totally carried away with metaphors, but I thought it was hilarious.
Sex in Mass Effect is just sort of there. Yes, I know it does sort of impact your relation to characters, and that’s great, congratulations on the creativity, but that’s about it. It’s just ok and a bit uninteresting.
Now that I’ve made that point. I’m not asking for a sexy game that’s so realistic, or immersive, you would get an orgasm playing it, or lose your virginity to it. It’s not about that. To be honest, the topic came to mind while I was playing Octodad: Dadliest Catch, and I got a bit bummed out that it didn’t have a lovemaking scene in it. No, wait! My mind is not in the gutter. I was just thinking how hilarious it would be given the control scheme of the game. It could really capture all the “ouch, your elbow” moments of a sexual encounter… as well as being delightfully frustrating to play.
The point here is, maybe games can (and should) explore the topic beyond shock value.
So where do I begin? Naturally I turn to the indie scene for answers, inspirations, and better examples. I was not disappointed! Following is a little collection of sexual, sexually absurd, love, and sexy games. I’ll be adding more here as I find them. It is a relief to see this sort of subject matter approached with a level of dignity, or at least lightheartedness, that I thought nonexistent in the game medium. As with all art, dignity is a vital property.
I found this one via Kill Screen Daily’s “Enjoy the hot man-on-man action of Coming Out On Top”
The article is a wonderful commentary on the game, so I won’t go into too much depth here. I quote:
Following a pretty fool-proof method of creation, Obscura says she simply “made the game I wanted to play. Funny, sexy, absurd, and sweet. I wanted to hang out with likable and interesting characters, I wanted to see sexy scenes, I wanted to laugh my ass off. I wanted to be surprised.” After discovering a free game engine called Renpy, she set to work on a short game about a dude coming out in college, and a few months later published a version of Coming Out On Top to dev forums which “didn’t have any wang in it at that point. It was all very sweet and innocent.”
But while Obscura thought she was just making a game for herself at first, the Internet quickly flocked in droves to tell her hell yes and more plz. She received tons of emails, mostly from gay men, saying they really liked her quirky game with such relatable characters. “So I decided to crowdfund the game, expand it to include four more relationships, and make it erotic (always a crowd pleaser).”
How Do You Do It? (Nina Freeman, Emmett Butler, Deckman Coss, Jonathan Kittaka)
I ran into this at both Fantastic Arcade and IndieCade. The game certainly deserves all the attention it has gotten simply because of how it depicts “that moment when you wonder…”. It’s short, and adorable.
I don’t want to spoil anything, but the premise is that you’re a kid, you have this innocent question, you have dolls, and your mom’s not home. So go play it! It’s free. No excuses for not trying. :)
Hurt Me Plenty (Robert Yang)
On a more somber note there’s Hurt Me Plenty. The subject here is incredibly important. If any medium can influence our culture’s views on consent, and mindset that enables rape, it’s games. I know we like to deny it, but entertainment is what ultimately shapes views. I believe so at any rate.
The game is extensively commented on in Identities.Mic’s “This Kinky Videogame Is Challenging How We Talk About Rape — One Spanking at a Time”
“In an unconventional twist, one new online game could very well be part of the solution. Developer and university instructor Robert Yang just released Hurt Me Plenty, which uses virtual simulation and BDSM culture to give players a hands-on approach to responsibly navigating sexual boundaries.”
“Yang told Mic that few video games demonstrate intimacy in action, largely because it’s difficult to express those types of actions and emotions through joysticks and 3-D characters. Hurt Me Plenty encourages players to role-play and follow a general framework for engaging in BDSM with a virtual partner — discussing what will happen, playing it out and then checking in afterward.”
I’d like to underscore how important that last statement was: “Discussing what will happen, playing it out and then checking in afterward.”
Ok, wow! This is what games ARE. What they could be so much more of.
In my opinion (rant following), it seems we love to defend the violence in them. We love to point out that we’re just blowing off steam with all this violence and killing. That’s fine, and good, but the strange thing is that it’s something that games don’t play out. We rarely (if ever) see the repercussions of our actions. If it where a true “genocide simulator” wouldn’t we also explore the aftermath trauma? Shouldn’t the player be made to feel the emotional consequences, guilt, self-hate, disgust, afterward? It seems superficial, almost hypocritical… But I digress. I don’t care to get into a discussion about violence being good or bad. No hard feelings here, simply opinions. The above is inspirational, and it’s amazing to see someone put games to such use.
I’ll end this commentary with another quote from the article:
“Focusing on consent can help us make better, more diverse games.“
Pornography for Beginners (Holly Gramazio)
This list would be nothing without Pornography for Beginners by Holly Gramazio.
It is funny, ridiculous, and all around sexy. Well… as sexy as working in porn whilst circumventing UK’s censorship laws can be. Pornography for Beginners is a brilliant “protest game” relating to the internet censorship of porn in the UK. I had fun with this. The soundtrack is perfect.
Spoiler: don’t push the penis into the electric outlet. It gets electrocuted. That is not sexy.
The game is free, and you can play it in your browser. Again, no excuses! Go try it!
Realistic Kissing Simulator (Jimmy Andrews)
It would be a crime if I failed to mention Realistic Kissing Simulator which is a seriously realistic game about kissing. Actually, it’s more of an impression, or impressionistic, or abstract game about, or… I would love to see this psychoanalyzed by a Freudian.
You need a friend to play it. You can’t kiss alone. Actually you can, but maybe that would be weird. I kissed alone and liked it, so don’t ask me.
This game is also free!
In conclusion, I will mention BrokenFolx. This game is not sexy, or funny, but completely relevant to the topic of sexuality. “BrokenFolx is a game about the lived experiences of individuals who are Queer. The capital on the Q is important.” This game really touched me. It becomes obvious why this topic is so important for the video game medium. We need more of this: experiences that encourage empathy. It’s “free” (donation based). It is well worth playing.
“BrokenFolx is a game played with mouse or touch. I focused on simplicity, as I wanted to lower the barrier of entry, because this is about narrative.”
This concludes my collection thus far. I will be updating this post as I find more examples. I’d love to have a giant list of games that address the topic of sex, sexuality, sexyness…
We need more sexy games! <3