Tobold's Blog
Friday, April 04, 2014
Fifty Shades of Grey Online

I hope you didn't get too excited about the title, because there is no such thing as a massively multiplayer online game called Fifty Shades of Grey Online. I am just using that example to discuss the curious fact that Fifty Shades of Grey, the novel, sold 100 million copies and most people considered that to be okay, but you can't make a video game with the same sort of content. As Ben Kuchera recently remarked in Polygon, if you would offer a person the opportunity to go anywhere in time and space and have any sort of encounter, they would be more likely to choose something sexual than an encounter where they kill other people. But video games, which *do* give us the opportunity to go anywhere in time and space, in many cases only allow us to kill stuff.

One frequently cited reason for the absence of sex in video games is that games are for children. As an European I always had trouble understanding why extreme violence would be okay for children, while even mildly erotic stuff wouldn't. But there are even stronger arguments that tell me that games aren't really for children any more: Polygon reports that over 90% of mobile games have in-app purchases, and those require an adult understanding of the value of money. Children accidentally spending money in games because they can't understand the limits between game and reality, or the value of money, is not okay. And companies like Apple or Google need to do more to prevent those "accidents" from happening, e.g. with better parental restriction options in the iOS and Android operating systems specifically aimed at in-app purchases.

But the average video gamer is not a child. And just like it is okay to have books for adults, it should be okay to have games for adults. And I don't just mean sex. I would consider it far more important for games to grow up and cover a wider range of human interaction than just shooting each other. If we can manage to protect children from content in books and videos that they are too young for, we should be able to protect them from content in games that they are too young for. And then we can make games that have a greater appeal to adults, or have business models that are more suited to adults.

Been there, tried that. The idea does have potential.
I guess "Games" will be about sex as soon as the non-precomputed graphics and animations of the human body are in every sense photo-realistic.
Erotic games do exist, even if they tend to be frowned upon by the intelligentsia of both right and left. As for the Oculus Rift, somebody pointed out on the comments to the link that there's erotica for it already. And the special groin attachment isn't out yet, though I dare say some with electronic skills are well into the test phase by now.

But to me it's an old, old argument. We had it about films fifty years ago. We'll be having it fifty years hence.

Pro tip: arguments about the harmlessness of sex versus violence as a way of convincing someone who believes otherwise that greater sex-related liberalisation is in order for whatever is the media under discussion has always and will always have precisely zero effect.
Silly assumptions aside (There is a unified European point of view, that said point of view differs fundamentally from the rest of the world, that Tobold is in anyway representative of that point of view, that there are no software developers in Europe, or if there are that they somehow do not subscribe to that theoretical European point of view and so do not make sex games) there is the big error in assuming such games do not exist.

There have been sexually focused games since the dawn of the computer age. I saw a hacked, sexually focused version of Hunt the Wumpus back on CP/M. There was Leisure Suit Larry which, while silly, is still about seduction if not so much about the sexual act. Virtual Valerie was one of the first big CD-ROM titles. There were plenty of sexual MUDs. And if you search Kotaku for "Japanese sex games" well... no, don't do that. Seriously.

But some Google work will show you what is out there.

Such games do tend to be low key. They are not on the front page of Steam or on the shelf at Fry's... well, Virtual Valerie was back in the day, but I am not sure they knew what they were doing.

And in part I think that low key nature is because sex and violence, as much as those two get paired up, are viewed differently.

Killing a raid boss, or even ten rats, is in the scope of the game a public service, something to be hailed by your peers.

Sex though... I am going to guess that is still a private thing for most people. Even in Amsterdam, where the women are visible from the street in the red light district, I am pretty sure that customers go back to a private room for actual copulation.

And then there is what buying games might say about you. If you buy a swords and sorcery game, nobody is going to think that is because you can't manage such things in real life. But buy a sex video game and what is the message people will take away?

And do we even want to entertain the idea of an online sex game like WoW, with the inevitable "seduce 10 maids" quest and the outcry about the objectification of women that would cause, even if there was an equivalent quest for women to seduce 10 men?

Now, I am admittedly being flippant and a bit silly myself, but sex is so deeply ingrained into our being as humans in such strange and complex ways that it makes our relationship with violence look pretty simple.

Halo death match is very shallow. Sex is complex, and all the more so when we try to say it isn't.
Always been a little confused by how people freak out about exposure to sexual content, but not to violent content.

Most people do have sex at some point in their lives, and generally consider it a very positive and validating thing. Most people seek it out.

Very few people ever experience being shot at in real life, and those who do generally consider it a very negative and traumatic thing. Most people try to avoid it.

I don't understand how someone can want to have sex and not want to be shot at, but then endorse games where you get shot at and denounce games where you have sex. It seems horribly inconsistent.
Relationship smiulators are massively simplified compared to real life. They are dull and shallow, lacking in stimulation.
Games cannot simulate emotional connections, and what emotions they can stir are based on scripted story-telling.
Games can let you go anywhere and do anything, but don't expect the AI reaction alone to feel meaningful.
Seduce ten maids. Lol.

Part of the problem is that women have managed the really amazing trick of confining everyone, including themselves, that their porn isn't porn.

I've seen women carrying copies of 50 Shades of Gray around in public at nice restaurants. Never seen a guy doing that with a copy of Playboy.

But honestly, and maybe this is just my Americanness but video gamer erotica would just make me feel like, well, a giant loser. Press F1 for foreplay, press X to thrust?

Eh. Just sad. You want porn, watch porn.
Forget the porn mmorpg's really should give ESO another's actually new and different and fun.
I am pretty sure that almost all of our girlfriends/wives are perfectly fine if we play violent games. But what if we play sexy/erotic stuff instead?

Would your wife accept to watch you having a multiplay session with other gamers, in a game where you can have sex or just play around with naked women and stuff like that? I don't think so.

Virtual crime/homicide are still "better" than mild sex, cheating and -obviously- explicit sex. Because if you virtually kiill someone that's just playing with your fantasy. But if you have virtual sex with a 3D model... that's like "hey, why do you need that!?!?"

Also, I am pretty sure most of us would have some problems to admit they love playing "World of Sexcraft" on a daily basis, for example. Sex is still kind of "taboo" in many ways.
About in-app-purchases and children: I think IAPs should not be allowed to use some made up currency like green gems but only the currency used by the app store. And all apps should have to use the same Euro/Dollar symbol.
Speaking on a tangent -- any purchases on my devices in Google Play are protected by password.

What else do you think there needs to be to prevent children from spending money?
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