Sex in Videogames and the People Who Cover It

The Escapist. Computer Games Magazine. Computer Gaming World Magazine.

Why does everybody suddenly have a hard-on for hard-ons (in videogames)?

I’m chalking it all up to a conspiracy of videogame journalists with a unified vision fed to them by certain videogame publishers. And Second Life.

Discuss.

Spring fever?

Troy

Damn you Goodfellow, I was just about to post that.

I found the article in CGW on cyber-prostitution in games like Second Life to be simply pathetic. It was one of the few times in 15+ years of subscribing that I’ve been embarassed to be a reader. Honestly, who cares about this? Wouldn’t those pages have been better off commited to actual gaming news, previews and reviews instead of pushing some “sex in games is cool” agenda while basically acting as an advertisement for Second Life and the handful of “cyber-hos” they interviewed? Why do I care that there is a digital Chicken Ranch online someplace? The day I’m so pathetic that I need to go to the trouble of creating a game account, working for hours to make fake game money, just to spend that money on toon-sex while I wank off is the day I should just eat my handgun.

On the other hand (no pun intended), the article in CGM that highlighted the early days of sex in computer games made me laugh out loud. While I understand the author’s intent was to show a history of acceptance in the medium and that “Hot Coffee” didn’t start or define the trend, what really made me smile was the memories all those screenshots brough back. I remember being maybe 14 years old and seeing Strip Poker on the Atari 800 for the first time (a friend had obtained a pirated copy) and thinking “computers ROCK!”. Haha!! Little could I envision at the time that within a decade the internet would serve up more real porn than you could shake a…well, you get the idea.

The whole “sex in videogames is eating the brains of our youngsters” arguement that seems to be so popular among politicians these days is total bunk. I don’t mind a couple of news blurbs or a sidebar about it in my gaming magazines, but please lay off the multi-page spreads (again no pun intended) and the racy article titles on the cover. I’m buying Computer Gaming World, not Cosmo. If the politicians could see what I see everyday they’d change their focus. When someone brings me their home PC to repair, it’s not Second Life, GTA or Playboy:The Mansion that I find on it, but gig upon gig of downloaded REAL porn.

That’s a good point, and probably along the lines of what I really should’ve started the topic with (but most people don’t even read posts that long, so who knows). Anyway, I still find it an awful coincidence that everyone and his mother wanted to cover sex in videogames at the same time. And why does the fringy non-game Second Life have to be the focus?

I thought the Second Life piece was interesting.

We’ve already had two canceled subscriptions by people who don’t want our particular kind of filth in their house. (They’re okay with the pictures of disembowelments, but I’m thinking Kelly Wand’s use of “clitoris” put them over the edge.)

Personally I thought it was rather amusing that your latest issue lamented gaming’s immature or prudish take on sexuality, even citing the example of having to remove nipples from Giants: Citizen Kabuto, yet all nipples and butt cracks in your screen shots were carefully censored…

Maybe sexuality in gaming doesn’t advance because the developers and publishers are just as, uh, “courageous” as your magazine? You’re one of the progressive free-thinking intellectual outposts of video gaming, and even you won’t dare to print a pixellated nipple?

I don’t see the issue with covering sex in videogames, or sex videogames, or whatever the genre is called. It’s just one more type of game. These games must have a substantial following, or people wouldn’t keep making those types of games. If consumers want them, and they are legal, and they are (by whatever standard) a game, then why wouldn’t gaming magazines extend the coverage (er, no pun intended) to them that applies to shoot-em-ups or MMO games? The consumers are apparently out there; give them the information to make informed choices and buy the games they would most enjoy.

At the end of the day they are just games, after all. Gaming magazines cover (often graphically) games that include as play elements death, destruction, gore and all manner of deplorable human behavior. Why shirk at a little T&A once in a while?

Sex is scary while violence is dandy. It’s the American way, at least until some violence happens somewhere against white kids by other white kids, in which case they will have been avid Doom players, never mind that I highly doubt any kid today would be playing the original Doom.

As to why the “press” is covering it, it’s because it sells copies. It also allows some of them to appeal to their snobbish tendencies by trying to highbrow the topic, usually injecting the author of the piece into the copy as much as possible. I’ll never understand that, but that’s a whole other discussion.

Really, it’s just a hot topic at the moment so it’s going to get coverage. I just wish more of these journalists, as well as developers, would stop, on the one hand, proclaiming how great interactive entertainment is because it can involve the audience on a level that no other medium has in history while, on the other hand, they’re also crying foul whenever anyone suggests that games may have a social impact on the folks playing them. You can’t have it both ways, and it’s time to own up to that and either say that games are just toys or that they are, in fact, much more than that and do have an impact on those who play them, especially the younger and more impressionable ones amongst us.

Maybe sexuality in gaming doesn’t advance because the developers and publishers are just as, uh, “courageous” as your magazine? You’re one of the progressive free-thinking intellectual outposts of video gaming, and even you won’t dare to print a pixellated nipple?

That’s a fair criticism, though we don’t have ratings for the magazine to let people know that there’s pixellated nudity. Also, prisons will yank copies if they contain nudity. (I kid you not. And yes, we apparently have readers in prison.)

Any nudity is too much for some folks. Didn’t some people lose their minds over a partially exposed areola in a preview a while back?

Well, the Escapist has been discussing sex & videogames since at least issue 4 and this week’s issue has been on their editorial calendar for months, so it’s not as though they “suddenly” have an interest. It’s CGW & CGM who are the conspicuous imitators here! :-)

Presumably they’re trying to keep their magazine suitable for a general audience; and like it or not, girl-nipples - even fake ones - are seen as more offensive in this country than a little blood, at least in many circles.

Part of gaming growing up will be learning more mature, sophisticated ways of dealing with sexuality - and, yes, violence too - than we have in the past. It is not hard to find lots and lots of puerile pandering: e.g., “sexy babes fightin’ in string bikinis = HOT!” It’s much harder to find depictions of sexuality an adult wouldn’t find insulting or just shallow.

For those who wish for gaming journalism to stay focused on the news / previews / reviews cycle, there are plenty of outlets for that. For those of us who wish to see something akin to critical theory or social trend analysis, however, it’s good to see efforts to tackle this and other issues.

Well, I would really appreciate if you could examine the political and societal context for such limitations. The juxtaposition of censored video game screenshots with criticism of censorship in video games was just too ironic. I understand that you’re subject to economic pressures that limit what you can show, but so are the game developers and publishers, and it might be informative to show the parallels.

This subject doesn’t concern me personally since I’m not an American citizen but I imagine it could be beneficial for your readers if the official and unofficial regulations for display of nudity were spelled out, and people were given some directions who to talk you if they want to change those regulations. Aren’t there at least some politicians and organizations in America that want to relax the strict rules on nudity?

Not if they want to get reelected.

Why is Second Life in a gaming magazine? It’s as much of a game as The Palace or MSCHAT.

The article wasn’t really criticizing censorship, though.

If memory serves, CGW ran a cover a few years back of a busty vampire in a bustier. I think Jeff Green made mention of it generating a much larger-than-normal amount of reader mail, a good deal of it negative. I don’t believe CGW ever ran another sexy cover, at least for the next couple years before I stopped renewing my subscription.

In fact, the ads in gaming magazines are a lot racier than the gaming magazines themselves. Aside from potentially large prison populations (as Steve mentions above) I presume that these magazines also go to a lot of kids. Nobody wants to alienate a large portion of their audience, clearly.

Still, most gaming magazines seem kind of, well, bland. Aside from the odd editorial about this-or-that impassioned topic (like censorship, or Jack Thompson, or defending against cries that videogames make our kids savage killers) really, they seem these days almost like technical reads, rather than entertainment reads. A game does this-or-that with varying degrees of competence. We give it a thumbs up-or-down, or stars, or points, or whatever measure we use as a yardstick. Heck, maybe we won’t even rate it, but will just describe it and let you dope out for yourself if we thought it was any good.

Back in the day I used to love reading game reviews. Those reviewers really felt like gamers. They would scathingly rake over a bad game and sing the chorus of ecstacy for the really good ones. I had no intention of buying Civilization or Railroad Tycoon or a dozen others when they came out. CGW or CG literally talked me into buying those, and the enjoyment those games gave justified my spending money on the magazines or buying from CG’s affiliate software reseller. Nowadays I’m not always sure if the rating I’m seeing is because a game is fun or because it is just technically very competant. Some reviewers (for varying reasons) won’t even -use- the word “fun” any more. Of course fun is subjective. But if I click with the way you describe things in a game and feel your passion for it, odds are I’ll “get” your definition of “fun.”

I personally think it is a pity that we can be so inured to graphic, expansive violence as to not worry at it being covered as entertainment. I’m neutral on the sex issue (assuming no actual nudity or explicit descriptions in the review), since I somewhere along the line became an old fart and don’t particularly care one way or the other. I also can’t judge gaming magazines, since it’s been about 3 years since I’ve read one. What I can do is say that it appeared to me that after 2000 or so the magazines appeared to be getting more and more conservative and bland. While this may have given a more professional or intellectual sheen to coverage, it also seemed to bleed out a lot of the enthusiasm that magazines like CGW and CG used to have. It became more like reading National Geographic than watching the Discovery Channel, if you know what I mean.

Again, that is just my opinion. I have not one fact to back it up. But that opinion did decide me (or maybe more appriately prevented me from being enthusiastic enough) against resubscribing to both mags a few years back. maybe a little raciness or controversy could be a good thing. You lost two subscribers, Steve. But maybe there’s a plus side in there somewhere too?

I’m only aware of one. If there are others, I’d like to know. :)

By and large, I agree with your sentiments, but you should probably reacquaint yourself with what CGM has been doing lately.

-Tom

I came across the Second Life escorts site and pursued my story from there. Not sure which publishers you’re imagining are feeding us stories or why. In fact, I chased the human interest angle, in part, because it was entirely detached from publisher rigamarole.

Magazines and websites are covering it because people read it. When I was working for Cyberlore there were a number of sites eager to get any new information on Playboy: The Mansion because their hits to the site would spike whenever something new went up.