| Mail |
You might also like: WoW Insider, Joystiq, and more

Reader Comments (9)

Posted: May 30th 2008 9:22PM (Unverified) said

  • 2 hearts
  • Report
I have to agree that this is a sticky area.

Sex, just plain old fashion sex without emotional involvement, as you find in most porn, is not hard to do. But this would be graphic, and with some countries huge hang up's about sex being wrong and video games being for children, I don't see this happening. They freak out over nipples in a game, so I can't imagine what would happen if you had actual graphic sexual acts depicted.

Emotions though are an even worse area to delve into. It's okay for us to care about characters and what happens with them, but when you start getting into the realm of relationships, something that already happens in MMO's between players, it becomes a much more dangerous situation. Relationships already happen, both in games and out of games, and we grow bonds with people we play with and chat with. But I can't imagine us growing that attached to non-player characters, and if we did, I can only imagine it would be a bad thing, as a computer cannot love you back.

I think the closest way to involve emotions with an NPC without it being dangerous is the pet situation. I've known many people who have developed attachments to their pets with classes like Hunters in WoW to where they have genuine feelings about those pets, and I think this is an okay thing, because it shows natural human caring, but is a paternal caring, not a partner caring.

I also know people who have had relationships suffer and end because of relationships developed in a game. In fact, I had an ex who when our relationship was bad, and ending, she met someone else in City of Heroes, because real emotional bonds can be formed in games. I'm not sure how well that carried over for her, I hope it did okay, but from my personal experience, sometimes online bonds are best left online.

Posted: May 30th 2008 10:12PM (Unverified) said

  • 2 hearts
  • Report
I completely, utterly and totally disagree with this article.

While the MMO industry faces some challenges with respect to presenting sex, I utterly disagree with your contention that it can not be handled in a mature and engaging fashion. In fact you fail to make any sort of case at all on WHY MMO's should not address sexuality in the first place.

What is the compelling reason for a completely G-Rated world? What disaster do we risk if we allow mature themes to creep into our online entertainment?

Mature themes such as romance and sex do limit the audience to adults, but that's primarily a financial concern. But just because family-friendly films make more money at the box office, it doesn't mean mature themes should be banned from the cinema.

As for denying sex in MMO's because you can't force the player to act in a certain way when they encounter it, I hate to tell you this, but sex exists, even if people don't act like you think they should when they have it.

Posted: May 30th 2008 10:26PM (Unverified) said

  • 2 hearts
  • Report
I didn't say that MMOGs shouldn't explore issues of sexuality. In a nutshell, I said that if they can't do it tastefully and appropriately, I don't think they should do it. Then I explained why I think that MMOGs can't do it tastefully yet.

I'm not saying we need a G-rated world, but if the way that our X-rated game is portraying sex is silly, unrealistic, and offensive, then what's the point in having it at all? Unless, of course, the game you're playing is about silly, unrealistic sex (which is fine)... but porn is a lot cheaper and easier.
Reply

Posted: May 30th 2008 10:26PM (Unverified) said

  • 2 hearts
  • Report
Also, in response to "As for denying sex in MMO's because you can't force the player to act in a certain way when they encounter it," that's kind of the problem. If you're encouraging sex with an NPC, your options are necessarily limited (you actually have to force the player to act a certain way, because you can't code infinite possibilities). If they weren't limited and the NPC could portray all the depth of a human relationship, then is that something we really want in our games? I don't think that encouraging emotional relationships with NPCs (even if possible) is at all healthy.

As I said in the article, the only other options either involve encouraging sex and relationships between actual players (which is a bad idea for many reasons, outside of the dedicated sex-themed games for consenting adults), or observing sex and relationships between NPCs (which doesn't work because of the narrative issues that MMOGs already face).
Reply

Posted: May 31st 2008 11:57AM (Unverified) said

  • 2 hearts
  • Report
Can someone come up with a definition of 'tasteful' and 'appropriate' that we can apply to sex, that everyone will agree with?

On the point that games should not explore sex simply because they are not willing to cover all of the complex interactions that go along with it, is it even possible to cover the myriad possibilities of a simple 'boy meets girl' story? At one time, you argue that games lake the narrative of old media, yet seem to also argue that creating the fixed story lines of a relationship is a bad way to go about the issue. It will not work both ways, games will not approach the story telling styles of books and movies while trying to allow the player to create a role for them self in the world.

Some games do adopt the 'player in the other world' style, roleplaying games particularly. The player builds up their idea of what the character will and will not do. This does not restrict other games from doing otherwise. Take the Half-Life series. The games creatively use the other characters and settings to project the character of Gordon out for the player to understand, instead of allowing the player to project their feelings into the game. While you argue that it does not approach the narrative styles of books, it does provide a way for the player to watch the story unfold interactively, with out the player influencing the story directly.

On the other end of the game spectrum are the player driven games, MMOs and single player roleplaying games. The NPC interaction would not currently support relationships simply because the artificial intelligence isn't up to that yet. What happens when it is? Well, the question might not be 'should players have relationships with an NPC in a game.' but instead 'why does the player want to have a relationship with a computer character?' If the demand is there, it will either happen in games, or in custom software, even to a relationship with a chatbot. The problem there goes much deeper then 'should games explore sex' and delves into why we seek out the relationships we do.

Games will explore these topics, make not mistake about it. Just like books and movies, there are games that will cover this area.

Posted: May 31st 2008 12:41PM (Unverified) said

  • 2 hearts
  • Report
You bring up some great points. After thinking about them for a little while, here's what I've got:

True, you're never going to get people to agree on what constitutes tastefully done sex, precisely because people have such varied ideas about sex. However, designers do have to choose whether sex goes into their game (and how commonly it's used). I think that Daniel Floyd made a good point when said that sex is used appropriately when it would make the scene (or game) a worse experience without it. In other words, the presence of the sexual element makes the game deeper, more intriguing, or more realistic. It's not something you can make a rule about -- you have to take it on a case by case basis.

As for your second point, I don't necessarily think it's bad that games could use fixed narrative elements involving the player -- when it comes to romance, I just don't think that that's something most players would necessarily want, especially in an MMOG. However, I suppose that that's exactly what a dating sim is, and those are pretty popular. Huh. I wonder what it would look like if you put single-player dating sim elements into an MMO, and whether players would like it?

On the flipside of that point, MMOGs are designed to make us put a lot of time in. When MMO players already often have problems with their external relationships suffering due to the amount of time played, I really have to question the wisdom of providing a way for them to spend "quality time" with an NPC -- you don't see people's SO's getting a little jealous of that, if you already spend 30/hours per week raiding? (It's important to note that I'm talking about MMORPGs and games in this article, not virtual worlds, and I do think there's a difference -- specifically, structured and limited activity versus unstructured and unlimited)

Since you bring up the Half-Life series and narrative, lets talk about Half-Life. It's a great game with a great story. I agree. However, I still think it pales in comparison to a well-written book or most modern TV shows with multiple complex relationships. Also, Half-life is HIGHLY structured in a way that MMOGs just aren't. Your choices are very limited, and you really just play out the story to it's eventual conclusion. I think MMOGs focus much more on individual players and their adventures than they do on story, which is great, but also exactly why they have the narrative issues explored in the links I provided.

I agree that there will be games that cover this topic (in fact there are games right now which explore topics of sexuality all over the place) but I'm still waiting to see it done well, in a way that complements and enhances the story instead of being there gratuitously. In fact, the only game off the top of my head that I can even think of which does that is the original Japanese translation of Final Fantasy IV, when Cecil and Rosa's relationship is established (they're lovers) and developed throughout the game (albeit in very small flashes).

I'm wholeheartedly in support of using games as an artistic medium to explore all aspects of our lives, including sex and relationships. But cheap thrills are just stupid and make games look bad. I'm still not convinced that an MMOG could do sex well, and I stand by the points I brought up in the article.
Reply

Posted: Jun 2nd 2008 6:48PM (Unverified) said

  • 2 hearts
  • Report
Sorry to say, I've never really seen a single MMO attempt to encourage sex with an NPC, nor have I seen one where this is even POSSIBLE. Age of Conan may hint at it, but so far I haven't played an MMORPG where sex is even an issue unless someone brings it up. Second Life doesn't count, being a virtual world. Seriously, if someone DID form a serious attachment to an NPC, they would need psychological counseling. NPC responses are pre-determined, just as they are in single-player games. I also believe the idea that personal relationships suffer due to video games is fairly ignorant and somewhat discriminatory in nature. How many couples have you polled about this issue? I agree, it's not healthy, but I don't think it's an issue. Personally, computer-generated girls don't interest me in the slightest, so I just don't see how anyone could be interested in them. Also.. what do you think of The Sims series? I think those games should pretty much be the model for exploring sex in games, if such a thing is even necessary. Mass Effect seemed to do a fairly good job as well, in my opinion. Kept it from being central to the story.

Posted: Jun 4th 2008 2:46PM (Unverified) said

  • 2 hearts
  • Report
I suppose it is a compelling argument. I can totally get behind John Walker on the "video games as a storytelling art form" angle, but if you ask me sexuality just isn't necessary in most games.

Yes, sex is an important part of any coming-of-age tale but I don't think I would be willing to spend money to play "The Breakfast Club: The Game" or even "Boyz in the Hood: Online." Those are great movies but it comes to video games I enjoy a larger than life story that I can't experience just by walking out of my home, interacting with people in real life.

Going along those lines, I'm the one who sighs and rolls his eyes when I'm watching an action/adventure movie and--despite the end of the world going on--the two main characters begin to develop a budding romance from their first meeting, and inevitably end up taking a convenient 15 minute break from the apocalypse to knock boots--as if there aren’t more important things going on.

With all due respect to Hollywood, if aliens are invading the planet, zombies rising from the grave, or a terrorist is holding the world ransom with an arsenal of nuclear weapons, getting laid "one last time" is not very high on my list of priorities. They shouldn't try to shoehorn it into video games for that "extra spice" either.

If you back me into a corner, I guess I'll admit that sexuality is perfectly at home in games like The Sims or any other kind of sociality simulation, and the role playing purist in me would argue that you should be able to "do anything you want" in an RPG, but in 99% of stories out there it simply isn't crucial to the progression of the plot, and stinks of unneeded taboo or shock value.

Posted: Jun 4th 2008 2:49PM (Unverified) said

  • 2 hearts
  • Report
**My mistake, I credited John Walker instead of Daniel Floyd for the original author.
Reply

Featured Stories

Engadget

Engadget

Joystiq

Joystiq

WoW Insider

WoW

TUAW

TUAW