Sex, sex, baby
Ever since man first invented the pixel he dreamed of the day he could put his penis in it. Fact is, sex in games is as old as games themselves. Before there was Super Mario Bros. there was Gigolo, an Atari 2600 game where you played as a naked woman attempting to have sex with strange men; before there was Tetris there was Beat 'em & Eat 'em, a game where... well, we think you can figure that one out on your own.
But gaming has evolved since the sex-crazed '80s, right? Not exactly. Though tastes have matured, video game sex is still, in many ways, as juvenile as it ever was, and we see no reason it'll ever get better. That might sound cynical, but wait... are you already opening another browser for porn?! Stick with us for a minute, and let us change your mind...
7. The uncanny valley is approaching, and it's horrifying
In 1970, robotics professor Masahiro Mori coined the phrase "uncanny valley," a hypothetical situation where a humanoid would look and move almost perfectly, but just incorrectly enough so as to signal psychological triggers. In other words, if something (a robot or CGI) was a hair shy of perfect, it would be disturbing to look at, since the human brain would misidentify it as being sick, disfigured, or otherwise jacked up. Gaming has been rapidly approaching this level for a long time, and with the power of next-gen, it's nearly here. And guess what: Mori was right.
Hyper-realistic graphics still don't look like real people , even with the increased power we have coming later this year. Take the fact that better-looking graphics are occupying the uncanny valley and apply it to something that already looks kind of weird (see: sex), and you're in for something pretty disturbing. We might eventually make it out of the uncanny valley (developers are certainly working on it), but in the meantime our brains will be actively working against any attempts at making something genuinely "sexy."
6. Developers favor exaggeration over realism (when it comes to boobs)
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is an enhanced version of Ninja Gaiden 2, with improvements to the camera and the ability to shake the Sixaxis controller to make boobs jiggle. Seriously. You're able to make the characters' DD breasts flop around unrealistically, ignoring gravity, physics, and the women's rights movement all with the literal flick of the wrist. At some point, someone thought this was a good enough idea to not just test, but actually include in a game that would ship and be sold in stores.
Problem is, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 isn't the exception; even when games don't have tacked-on boob/motion control, they usually favor totally insane breast physics that would quite literally break the back of your everyday woman. Sure, live action films and television shows try to sex up female characters, but they're still tethered to pesky reality, something game developers don't have to worry about. They have complete control over the bodies of their characters, which usually leads to women that look more frightening than attractive, even without factoring in the aforementioned uncanny valley.
5. Americans are still ashamed of sex in general
This one is pretty specific to North America--sexually liberated friends around the globe, go ahead and jump to the next entry. Those of us living in the USofA have been told our entire lives that sex is a thing done by yourself with the door closed and a bucket of soapy water nearby. We can watch someone get bludgeoned with a tire iron on TV, but the second a nipple pops out everyone starts screaming "think of the children" and calling for boycotts, lawsuits, and other acts of bureaucratic desperation.
And things aren't really getting better, either, so it's going to be a good long while until the concept of having sex in a video game isn't seen as the dirtiest thing you can do. Hell, we're having problems convincing the media that video games aren't just for kids--mix sex in with that and you're looking at a catastrophe. For as long as showing a butt on TV is seen as controversial, the ability for game developers to put butts in their games is going to be hindered.
4. It'll never not feel pervy
Your palms are sweaty as you sit, alone, gripping the controller. You press forward towards the bed and hit X to sit down. A woman walks over and straddles you, and you're given a bunch of options as to what to do next. Do you hit the left trigger to softly kiss her on the neck? The right bumper to slowly unbutton her see-through dress? Hold A to whisper sweet nothings into her ear? Or do you realize that you're doing something incredibly awkward and put down the controller, walk outside, and cry in the street? We're guessing the last one. Definitely that.
It's one thing for sex to be a cutscene in a video game (which is... kinda weird in its own right), but it's another thing entirely to actually partake in the act by hitting buttons. That slight alteration totally changes the mood. It goes from watching two characters making love to smashing action figures together, living vicariously through an avatar and feeling nothing. The closest thing mainstream gaming has to this is God of War's occasional orgies, but even they have the decency to do the deed off screen.
3. You're more peeping Tom than participant
Actually, let's talk about that a little more. Since you're in control of an avatar having virtual sex with another avatar, you're not actually even participating in the act. Instead, you're simply telling the characters what to do. While the game might pretend you're in control by dropping a camera behind a character's head and giving you button prompts, it's actually just you controlling a puppet. That's how video games work--you're not actually doing something, you're making someone else do it.
With things like wanton murder that's fine (no one is going to complain that they're not directly in control of a psychopathic killer), but when you consider that you're essentially yelling at people, telling them how to have sex, things get pretty deviant. Now you're sitting in the room, on a chair, watching it unfold like you're directing a virtual porno. "Move to the left," you're saying when you hit a button. "Now... a little to the right." It's perverse--you're sort of back-seat driving, getting to watch the act take place through a digital peephole.
2. Futuristic tech will just make it creepier
We know what you're thinking: the future of games will be different. There are already games you can put your dick in, and before long you'll be wearing a virtual reality helmet, where no one can see a screen to judge you. Plus, once there's haptic feedback to provide actual stimulation, things can really evolve. That technology is coming sooner than you might think, and while it's easy to look at it and think that it's going to make things better for video game sex, it's actually going to make things worse.
Besides it being significantly creepier (like, seriously, so creepy), it's also immeasurably frightening. What if something goes wrong? Software frequently has problems; what if there's a glitch, and the other character's head clips through its body? What if its arms freak out and disappear? You could be mentally scarred for life! What if the haptic feedback glitches out and hurts you? You could be physically scarred for life! Video games will never be truly perfect, and wandering into that kind of situation is just begging for trouble.
1. "Sex" as a win condition is gross
There's a point in Mass Effect 2 where you're about to embark on what is ostensibly a suicide mission. The crew is gathered, the ship is upgraded, your biotics are maxed. But first, you can finally go get yours. By getting to the end of the game--by succeeding--you're being rewarded with sex. The better you do, the better chance you have of having sex. And that's disgusting.
And there's really no way to separate sex and the feeling of a win condition. How could you put sex in a game without making it a reward? Even if you include a dating simulation, with different paths and the ability to have deep, thoughtful interactions with characters, you'd still be rewarding a player with sex by having it as the end of a path. It's not a healthy mentality--the idea that, if you do a good enough job, you'll be rewarded with the ability to have sex with anything you want.
Sorry to burst your bubble, everyone, but we're really doubting this whole "having sex with a video game character" thing. We know, it sucks. In the meantime we'll just have to play games without having sex with the characters we encounter--a lesser existence, to be sure, but we think we'll manage. What about you? Do you think the golden age of video game sex is upon us? Let us know in the comments!