Sex. Sex. Sex. It’s everywhere, but it’s nowhere at the same time. A taboo subject that gets brought up in relation to gaming over and over again. Sex is natural and it sure beats digital violence, so why is one so commonplace and the other taboo? While I wouldn’t disagree with that popular sentiment, there’s another reason that gaming is not ready for sex.
Gaming is not ready for sex and sexual topics due to age. Not the age of gamers, which is cruising at a fairly mature 30. Rather, it’s the age of gaming. Video games is a newer medium than film or music. Thus, it’s still struggling to create truly great narratives. To compound the issue, the very structure of games make it very difficult to create a satisfying story. To put it simply, story-telling in gaming is garbage right now. It’s absolutely indisputable that even the best and well-funded gaming projects are mediocre, generic, and predictable stories when compared to the film industry’s greatest. And it’s not surprising. Gaming is focused on the gameplay experience while film is focused on the narrative. The entire point of a film is the story while gaming has to balance interactive portions with a story. Furthermore, directors had decades to formulate and master film techniques well before gaming even existed.
So how does this relate to sex? Sex is a very difficult subject to approach in media. Even in film, it takes great skill to pull off a sex scene that isn’t just gratuitous body shots. The emotional layers and personal feel of a sex scene is far too delicate to casually throw in. Gaming narratives are simply not good enough to pull it off. Video game stories are currently shallow experiences that only aim to emotionally move gamers with the most elementary of techniques. All the fault can’t be blamed on the writers and producers of game, though; it’s also with the structure of most video games. Shooter and action-adventures rely on five-minute cutscenes between 30 minutes to an hour of action. Other genres don’t fare much better, with some completely forgoing narratives. The short amount of time supplied is too difficult to fit in the emotional complexity that characters need to progress and be introduced through and the relationship dyanamic that must be developed.
It’s not to say that gaming can never use sex in a great way. Many games are trying new and inventive ways to further connect players with their characters as well as trying new story-telling techniques. Mass Effect is a great example of how far away we still are, though. Somehow hailed as a narrative epic, Mass Effect tried to incorporate sex into its story. The result is a clunky, emotionless mess that utilized sex as lousy reward for answering the right questions at the right time. It’s such a childish representation of relationships and sex that it is horrific that people find it as a standard of how sex should be done in gaming.
As it was stated before, though, progress is being made. There are also new ideas that could surely come up. With more intelligent AI and unique UI, the possibilities are endless. Not to mention, sex is a very interactive and personal experience. Gaming can be a very personal and interactive experience as well. The opportunity is there, gaming just has to grow up first.