A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…. Actually it wasn’t that long ago around 1980 a company named On-Line Systems, who you would probably most recognize as American company Sierra Entertainment, created one of the earliest, perhaps the first video game with sexual themes. The games title, Softporn Adventure. On-Line Systems or Sierra wasn’t pulling any punches and labeled the game for exactly what it was an adventure choose your path text-based video game all about sex. That’s right, a sex game without any graphics. The game was released for the Apple II and sold 25,000 copies, which is a huge market share considering there were only 100,000 Apple II’s sold at the time. Yup a full 25% of Apple II owners purchased a copy of Softporn Adventure. As you can guess the game was heavily pirated which makes the volume of sells even more impressive.
It didn’t take gamers long to decide they weren’t satisfied with risqué text-based games. Instead of reading about sex, gamers wanted to see a couple in action. The founders of Koei, a husband and wife team, Yoichi and Keiko Erikawa based in Japan created the first video game with a graphical representation of people having sex in 1982. The name of the game, Night Life.
That same year Koei produced the first game with sexual graphics in color for the NEC PC-8001 computer called Danchi Tsuma no Yuwaku (Seduction of the Condominium Wife). Danchi Tsuma was a Role Play Adventure game. Like On-Line Systems, Koei had much success with its sex based games. This success propelled Koei to become a major software developer most known for games like Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Dynasty Warriors, and Samurai Warriors.
Although sex in games was first implemented on the PC consoles wouldn’t be far behind. In 1982 a company called Mystique released the first console based games with sexual content on the Atari 2600. Mystique was the off shoot of a porn company called Caballero Control Corporation. Although the games were sold under a Swedish banner, they were programmed in the United States, and manufactured in Hong Kong. Mystique released three unlicensed titles of note Beat ‘Em & Eat ‘Em, Custer’s Revenge, and Bachelor Party. The games weren’t well received, especially Custer’s Revenge which portrayed General Custer raping Native American women. This was the first instance of video game controversy and soon after Mystique went out of business, despite great sells numbers.
These companies found out early on that sex sells in the gaming industry.
Fast forward a little over 30 years and sex in gaming has evolved from mere text-based adventures to high-definition cinematic experiences.
If a societies values are reflected in its entertainment, what does our gaming culture say about sex?
Financially it should be said that there is great value in sex, as I’ve already discussed from the very first instance of sex in a game, sex sold very well. We all know that a large part of a game’s success is dependent on the hype and buzz it creates from the moment it’s announced. Certain IPs like Mass Effect and the Witcher series are specifically known for their sexual content. This reputation for sexual content naturally becomes part of the buzz and hype in anticipation for the next release in the series. The games mentioned here are produced at a top-notch quality so I am in no way insinuating that sex is the only selling point for these games, only that it’s part of the overall strategy to get as many copies in the hands of consumers as possible. Sex is financially beneficial, and if you are a publisher profit is king.
I know that there are some who like to think that gaming companies have this great ideal as to what gaming should be, and fan boys get behind certain development teams because they’re able to build a social community ,i.e., fan base around whatever project they’re working on. These teams are able to connect with their fans on a more personal level, but lets not get it twisted companies are in business to turn profit.
They’re not real women.
The good thing about sex in video games is that you don’t have to worry about pesky actors and their contract negotiations. You don’t have to worry about any awkwardness between your female and male character. You don’t have to worry about anyone questioning your motives when you ask characters to step a little further out their comfort zone. Game characters are just a digital figment of someones imagination their not actual women, they don’t actually represent … wait … they do represent our perception of women in society.
A classic example is Lara Croft from the tomb raider series. Lara is a strong no-nonsense modern women who would just as soon shoot you in the face as look at you. She doesn’t need a man to do her dirty work, she’s capable of handling any situation. Lara is fearless diving into the heart of trap laden tombs, she’s unafraid to fight, she’s unafraid to die. Lara is truly a powerful woman, except for the fact that she was stripped of all of those qualities when the developer, publisher, or whoever was responsible for her look decided to dress her in booty shorts and a tank top. Lara went from being something truly spectacular to something less spectacular, a cheaper version of herself.
Laura is basically a glorified spelunker (cave explorer) so I did a little research to see what a tomb raider might expect to wear while raiding tombs and none of the outfits I found resembled Lara’s. She would be climbing over sharp rocks, hanging from ledges, and squeezing through the tightest of spaces. Realistically she would need gloves, long sleeves, and long pants. Anything so drastically unrealistic as the outfit Lara wears in Tomb Raider is a blatant sexulization of Ms. Croft.
Lara is just one of countless heroines, side kicks, and romance interest that we see over sexualized in our games. With each instance we are basically saying that a woman should be nothing more than eye candy. Just an object to be mentally fondled while we slip away into our fantasy world.
Everyone’s Doing It!
If you’ve read many of my articles then you know for me story in gaming is king. A game must have a great story for me to consider it any sort of success. Isn’t that why we play, to emerge ourselves in a fantasy world where we don’t have to worry about our problems, even if just for a minute.
The Witcher story lines are some of the best around. Witcher 2 opens with Triss lying nude beside Geralt, but as the story unfolds you realize that Triss is a capable warrior who deserves more respect, then she is given in the sex scene, that’s a little less than halfway through the game.
So you’re going to say it’s a M rated game and the average gamer is 30 years old, it’s not a big deal we’ve all seen sex before.
I ask you if it’s not a big deal, and we’ve all seen it before, then why do we have to see all the details? Why do we have to treat it so carelessly? Sex is the most intimate experience a couple can have.
There is just something missing in the Witcher 2 sex scene … Oh I remember what it is love. There is no love.
We find out that Geralt is a womanizer and will sleep with anything that will lie with him, including trolls. Where do you think the scars came from? Women are treated as nothing more than toys to be played with and discarded.
The Mass Effect series is another example. You can sleep with anyone on the ship with a few clicks of a button a couple flirtatious looks and it’s a roll in the sack for you. Women are dressed in the most ridiculous outfits in an effort to sell more games. Sex is treated as nothing more than a casual encounter with no more meaning than drinking a cup of coffee.
Take the Asari for example, an intergalactic race of women who’s only supper power is Sex. I think we have taken the sexulization of women in gaming to far!
Sex sells and the perception of women in our society and their value is revealed through the content we consume. Look around and you will see that sex is treated with the same carelessness in every other form of media.
Sex sells and the casual attitude we have toward it as a society will continue to increase. As gaming evolves maybe the sexulization of our female counterparts will decrease and women will be treated as the wonderful creatures they are. Maybe gaming will go down the same path as TV and every storyline will revolve around sex. Who knows where gaming will take us in the future, what is sure is as long as women are treated as less than equal in the gaming industry they will continue to be seen as nothing more than a form of cheap sex.