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Ken Levine On Sex In Video Games

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In an interview with VG247, the Bioshock creator expressed his feelings on the topic. Explaining what he believes to be the innately ridiculous concept of steamy, pixel-on-pixel lovemaking, he said, "It's more like like [the movie] Team America. The sex scene in Team America as opposed to, you know, the sex scene in Black Swan." He also talks about the general spirit of "prudishness" within the industry, flying headlong in the face of his love for foul language. The role (or lack thereof) of sex in video games is ultimately dependent on the degree to which one can suspend his or her disbelief. I'm in a sort of incidental agreement with Mr. Levine on this one, Granted I've never found sex, or even sexual tension to be especially compelling in any medium, but it stands out much more clearly in video games. Less concrete ideas such as love, longing, etc. translate just fine into the gaming realm -- I was one of those sissies that shed a tear or two at the end of Shadow of the Colossus -- but I've never felt anything of any substance when faced with intimate encounters between video game characters. Still, as games are an ever-evolving art form, perhaps we will see something more sophisticated in the future for those, unlike myself, who do not fall into the category of "cold, asexual robot." VG247 will be posting the full interview soon, so be sure to check out their site in the coming days.

What are your thoughts, gamers? Is sex and nudity in video games akin to "puppets with their clothes off," has it been done well at times, or is it altogether unnecessary? Sound off in the comments section!

via VG247

13 Comments

Limeade said:

I tend to agree with the basic sentiment about sex in video games. For one, the Uncanny Valley issues can make it awkward. For another, I find that sex and sexuality and romance almost always are intertwined together and told from a heterosexual male gaze point of view. Perhaps therein, too, lies some of the problems with this?

It seems to me as though it usually is less about love and romance for the sake of love and romance, and more about sexualization (of women) and titillation for a hetero male audience. And video games have problems enough with portraying realistic and empowered women in their own right, too, opting instead for exploitated sex objects and damsels in distress. As non-hetero folk, we rarely see depictions of couples, love/romance, and storylines and content that we can better identify with, relate to, and feel more interested in. That, I suspect, may be another contributing factor to feeling disengaged from such usual love/sex storylines in games, no?

Gogoedward said:

The issue with sex in games, and truly any kind of relationship pursuit in gaming is that it is a game. It's an adolescent quest to be conquered ala American Pie. It's got an end goal that is normally in the form of an achievement or some extra points.

I see no issue with gaming moving into the realm of more mature themes, sex being one of them, but to do so properly we need to start looking at sex, and sexuality, with the maturity it deserves.

naruhodo said:

First of all, can someone tell Mr. Bioshock creator how silly the female lead of Bioshock Infinite looks with her boobs popping out Lulu-from-FF10-style? :p

Secondly, sex and romance are handled in a pretty immature way in most games I can think of right now, and I don't think it has to be that way. It's just somewhat unrealistic to expect current Western game makers to be up to the challenge.

I recently detailed an example of a more sophisticated romance/sex system here:

http://social.bioware.com/forum/1/topic/141/index/6936400

He's a yummy looking furry creature. I don't play city or civilization building games, but I imagine sex is what actually makes these cities grow/populate. Sex in games is a byproduct of a gaming culture pushing too hard for realism.

Jonathan said:

I don't care about sex in games but I do enjoy romances and relationships in the games. The sex scenes are usually lame so why bother; a kiss is all you really need. However I do like developing relationships and romances in games a great deal.

Jonathan said:

I don't care about sex in games but I do enjoy romances and relationships in the games. The sex scenes are usually lame so why bother; a kiss is all you really need. However I do like developing relationships and romances in games a great deal.

Rosa said:

I liked the sex scene in ME1 a lot. Some of the "sex" scenes in DA2 were very well done, the Fenris one especially. Otherwise, yeah, it mostly looks like puppet sex ... so far.

rrr said:

I think that as acting and writing become more prominent in games, sexual situations will become more appropriate. But I think I prefer a cut-to-a-fireplace euphamistic approach to a digital porn experience.

Unless we're talking about Nathan Drake.

Pauwow said:

Well everyone is different but I rather see afection in a videogame than sex. For me sex in videogames is always kind of silly (kind of like sex in anime). Also I'm European so the "let's have sex with the pants on" in the American movies (not indies obviously) is kind of a turn me off because the lack of realism. The only exception could be Spartacus, yes the scenes were exagerate but people at least didn't try to fornicate with the clothes on (I don't recommend it is quite uncomfortable) and the sex look sweaty and not really clean. If I game is a adult enough to show me brains popping out every 5 seconds it should be mature enough to show me full frontal nudity in both sex if not I don't care.

Charlie said:

When it gets to take center stage it can be fun, think of the old Leisure Suit Larry games. Those didn't have to hold back and the sex didn't feel "tacked on."

I'm a big fan of the relationship sequences in games like Mass Effect 2 and Persona 3/4. Most of those didn't show any intimate touching and focused on the relationship. Some of the ME2 relationships went a little bleh (Jacob...) but some of them were incredible (Garrus).

When game developers and writers can take sex maturely enough, I say bring it on. Considering most games are just about spraying brainmatter all over the place, well... I don't think we're there quite yet.

raindog469 said:

Hey, if the motion capture's good enough and it moves the story, have at it. But right now the motion capture's not good enough... so please, no. Even kissing isn't there yet.

Unless they were to do deliberately cartoony sex, like TA:WP but even sillier. Some of those 1930s and 40s visuals and sound effects they used on cartoon characters in the WB and Disney oeuvres could be used to awesome effect for some comical sex that nonetheless arouses prurient interest in those with a pulse.

I'm by no means a furry or plushie or whatever you call it, but I really wish Conker's Bad Fur Day had spawned an entire genre...

g_whiz said:

The worst case of this I can think of in recent history was in the God of War games. Where, in typical mysoganist fashion, mini games consisted of naked preening women taking the "hero" to bed and restoring his health by pressing buttons to ...make them moan suggestively....nothing redeeming whatosever except pandering to 15 year old horny boys who think the wooden, souless exploits of the character are worthy of emulation. Why wouldn't the depiction of chambermaids as a cheap mini game (now with exposed nipples!) be surprising in a game where no women (to my knowledge) are depicted in a competent or meaningful way, unless it serves to drive the male hero's story or reinforce that he's "the Man (tm)".

And girls who like girls who like rumble packs!

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