CLIM THE MISSING AX
WHILE VIDEOGAMES SHARE A WELL-DOCUMENTED RELATIONSHIP WITH VIOLENCE, THEIR RELATIONSHIP WITH THAT OTHER GREAT HUMAN NEED—SEX—ISN'T QUITE AS CLEAR AND WELL DEFINED.
This is rather curious. A cursory glance at other entertainment media—books, films, television and the Internet—reveals that sex and violence are present in roughly equal measure. Why then, the skew in gaming? Why do videogames favour the wrong kind of Boom Boom Boom ?
The answer perhaps lies in the beginnings. When vidoegames were born, the midwife was the geek—that species which is defined by a love of tech, sci-fi and junk food. And the geeks loved to make games in which you shot things to pieces. Starting with Space War, on to the phenomenal Space Invaders, the geeks were more interested in blasting than in bonking. Until Nintendo unleashed Donkey Kong upon the world, and a little man named Mario began his long career of saving princesses, something he continues to do to this day.
Once Donkey Kong introduced
the first romantic motif in videogames, there was actually a surge in sex-themed videogames before the pendulum swung inexorably towards violence again.
Early text adventures such as Leather Goddesses of Phobos actually featured fairly explicit storylines with quests that involved getting virtual ladies into the sack with the male protagonist. The whole “get the girl” genre saw its pinnacle with Sierra’s smash-hit Leisure Suit Larry series where the immortal Larry Laffer had to solve all kinds of mindbending puzzles in order to get sex. The games were funny, clever and memorable—and featured puzzles where you’d catch diseases and die if you forgot to wear a condom before jumping into bed with a hottie.
Sadly, not all sex-themed games were of high quality. The most famous example, the bizarre Custer’s Revenge for the Atari 2600, featured a ridiculous sex scene at the end of every level
where the game’s white hero would ravish a native American lass in 4-bit pixelated glory. It caused an outrage, made news for all the wrong reasons, and probably set back sex themed games by several years.
Despite violence facing even more media heat, they remained strong, primarily because violence was an integral part of gameplay, unlike sex, which was at best a gratuitous extra—with the notable exception of the Larry series, which was sadly buried by the death of the adventure genre.
In the intervening years, the only truly sex-themed game to emerge (outside of Japan, but then Japan is outside the scope of this article. In fact, Japan is outside the scope of most things) was the curious Singles: Flirt Up Your Life— an adult spin on the hugely successful life- simulation game, The Sims. Singles tried to take advantage of the success of The Sims