GDC 2008 - The Scarcity of Sex in Games
If love is a battlefield, then sex is a cold war.
Brenda Braithwaite is worried about sex. In this day and age, sex is seemingly everywhere in the media except when it comes to videogames -- and that's a problem, she says. As the founder of a sex special interest group for the International Game Developers Association, she's bothered by the lack of sexually explicit material in the mainstream industry. During her "Hentai, Hardcore and Hotties" discussion at the GDC, she cited the dreaded AO rating as the main cause of gaming's sexual drought. An AO rating basically means you're screwed as a publisher, since nobody will distribute your game, and, sometimes, even M rating games aren't immune to similar scorn, as she cites the example of Wallmart, Best Buy, and Target refusing to carry Leisure Suit Larry and 7 Sins.
She took the talk in a very different direction, however, when she lamented shortcomings in the ratings system that prevent publishers from releasing sexual education games. "You can make a game about safe sex for teenagers, and it would automatically get an AO rating."
It's ridiculous to her that such a fuss has been made about the romance scenes in Mass Effect and comments that "if we don't have any sex in games at all, we're going to end up with just those happy Disney games."
[As a side note, reporter Cooper Lawrence apparently regrets attacking the game after receiving a heap of criticism, and you know, actually playing the damn thing. The New York Times quotes her as saying, "Before the show I had asked somebody about what they had heard, and they had said it's like pornography, but it's not like pornography. I've seen episodes of 'Lost' that are more sexually explicit."]
Views about sex are not universal, she reminded the audience. Countries in Asia and Europe tend to be much less uptight about sexual content in games (although they frown more on violence).
It seems like she just wants the industry to grow-up. Retailers need to realize that there's a big potential market out there for adult games. While discussing the controversy over the God of War mini-game, she said candidly, "If you were watching that on TV, you know with that kind of the vase wobbling on the table stuff, that would barely be a 13. Come on, that's almost Happy Days stuff."
Sexual repression is so 1950s, and North America needs to realize that gamers aren't 10 years old anymore. I think she's championing a great cause, but we're talking about a place that:
A)Is still freaking out over ancient games like Counterstrike and Doom
B)Made a huge deal about an exposed nipple at the Superbowl
Things have a long way to go before we'll see any kind of open acceptance of nudity in games, let alone full blown intercourse and sexual intrigue. It may be less an issue of getting the industry to open up and more of a commentary on the current state of our culture. For the moment, it seems like digital distribution is the best bet for developers wanting to turn on that red light.
[Original source: Emma Boyes, Gamespot]