Hey, games industry. Let's talk about sex.
More specifically, where is it?
Sex and sexuality has been explored in art since people were drawing with sticks on the walls of caves. It's an integral part of the human experience - something almost all of us experience, and we experience it in different ways.
Usually in games it's ignored completely.
Off the top of my head, I can think of just a handful of games that feature sex at all, and they don't always do it artistically. There's only one game I can think of where characters have a seuxal encounter that's not off-screen and based on genuine affection for each other: Heavy Rain.
Sex in God of War is a button-mashing mini-game. In Duke Nukem Forever it's ... well, for the sake of our communal gag reflexes let's just forget that game forever, shall we?
There's a lot of implied sex in video games. Again, it's usually not the pinnacle of artistic expression. When I ask why sex doesn't appear in games, I'm not talking about Game of Thrones-style gratuitous sex scenes, or the jokey scenes that appear in some games. For the most part I'm talking about instances where sex would actually add to the development of a character. I think that storytelling sometimes happens between the sheets and video games tend to avoid that.
I've been curious about why games celebrate violence but exclude sex for quite some time now, and I have some ideas.
1. The ongoing belief that games are for kids
Gamers know that video games aren't all for kids, but does everyone else? When I was a kid, Sonic, Mario and Alex Kidd were the popular games of the time. All those games were designed to be family friendly, and their accompanying consoles were seen as devices to entertain the kids.
But parents of my generation - and members of my generation who never played games - still seem to believe that games are for kids. As they're unproductive distractions from "real" adult life, many believe they're a toy you grow out of like a Barbie.
Of course, the whole point of video games for adults is that they're a distraction from real adult life - the same way a TV show like Breaking Bad is, or a movie like The Dark Knight. I still find it bizarre that some members of my family are critical of me playing a few hours of games a week while they find solace in their TVs for hours every day.
2. Those gosh-darn classifications boards
I'll admit that the inclusion of sex in video games will automatically change an R16 game to an R18 one. But I still don't think that sex is excluded purely because of the censors - after all, there are plenty of R18 games out there that are hyper-violent but still won't go there. They'll explore sexual themes, sure, but there's nary a sex scene to be found.
3. No one likes romance in games
There's very little romance in games, in general. Because gamers don't like it - or at least the industry thinks that gamers don't like it. All they hear is that Squall was an emo baby for falling for Rinoa, or people complaining about the romantic options in Mass Effect.
Except ... remember Final Fantasy VII's Cloud and Aeris? How could you forget - people still talk about how sad they were when their fledgling romance came to an abrupt end. People talk about who Cloud took on a date to the Flying Saucer. They discuss on message boards whether the lovelorn Tifa spent the night with Cloud in more than the literal sense toward the end of the game. This is a game that came out 16 years ago.
Mostly, I think gamers just don't like it when romance is handled badly.
4. Games are still a developing art form
This is, in my opinion, my strongest theory. We didn't always have sex in movies or on TV, either. As the art forms matured, mature themes began to work themselves into the content. Video games have been around for a long time now, but they're only just now starting to be taken seriously.
The games industry needs to start taking itself seriously, too. If developers see themselves as artists, they need to stop tiptoeing around sensitive subject matter. Increasingly, I believe gamers want to see real lives and relationships represented on-screen - and yes, that includes sex.
It's normal. It's relatable. It should have a presence in every artistic medium.
* What's your theory? Do you think sex is underrepresented in games, and why?