Gaming Is Not Ready For Sex

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.

Written by: Alex Wen

Find me on Steam, XBL, PSN as havoklegend. I'd give you my Wii friend code too, but nobody remembers those.

  • Bob

    I love sex scenes.

  • Luke Frazier

    As long as video game sex scenes require player input to influence the action, they will never feel mature.

  • KingSigy

    I’ve written about sex in games in the past and always get strange responses. People claim I’m being a puritan or I don’t understand how progress works. I’d say we stop trying until games can produce consistently good stories.

    The best counter-argument, though, is that you have to attempt something before it becomes good. You don’t pick up a Samurai sword and immediately master it. If we cut out sex from gaming completely, then it will never become better.

    I just don’t know if gaming is the best medium for sex to be portrayed in. I can’t even think of films that do sex scenes justice. Sex, itself, is very physical. Without that physicality, you just have people moaning and groaning for a few minutes.

  • AkariK

    This is basically spot on. In movies, sex can just feel gratuitous and unnecessary unless it’s set up right. As it stands, even fan service in games is generally already at the gratuitous level, so there’s a long way to go before sex can be fit in and feel right. In a game that focuses on action-oriented gameplay, there’s no way sex will fit.

    I want to say Heavy Rain was probably the closest you can get to a somewhat acceptable sexy scene, but even with a good premise and set-up, it didn’t click with me.

  • Jay Curtis

    “It’s absolutely indisputable that even the best and well-funded gaming projects are mediocre, generic, and predictable stories when compared to the film industries greatest.”

    I wouldn’t say that. I certainly think that movies tend to have better narratives, but gaming’s best stories are just that- great stories. They hold up against any other medium. That doesn’t mean that they’re better, but that also doesn’t mean that they suddenly become “mediocre, generic, and predictable” when compared to film.

    Just my two cents. Fascinating article!

    • Luke Frazier

      I want to agree with Jay on this one…but I really can’t. Alex may have a point here, Jay. Gaming narratives are unique in that the direct user controls allows you to influence the story to some degree, yet what happens when you strip that? What if, say, BioShock Infinite’s story was a movie? You’d have Booker, no longer in the first-person, walking around a floating world with very little dialogue. He finds a mysterious girl, frees her, and they walk around shooting people while trying to escape. A twist or two happens, but that’s really it. The atmosphere is lost when you’re not experiencing it yourself.