While the world at large seems to cast a blind eye to violence these days (with some rare exceptions) nothing seems to get the world’s collective panties in a knot quicker than people getting nude and possibly getting it on. Video games have been one of the hardest hit with this social taboo as any game that dared use nudity or copulation as an expressive medium relegated to the ranks of pornographic material. Recently though the world of video games has begun experimenting once again with the world of nakedness and fornication.
Many years ago I remember the first game I played that involved doing the nasty, Leisure Suite Larry. In all its pixelated glory you swaggered your way through the town in an attempt to get lucky. Considering the technology at the time I’m not surprised that it didn’t include any full frontal scenes but there was many scenes with dialogue strongly implying that your character and their virtual partner had been playing hide the sausage. This was the trend for most games of the time which used saucy dialogue and vague references leaving the viewer to make up their own mind on what happened. One of the funniest memories of such dancing around the bush (as it were) was in the game Superhero League of Hoboken, where you could send your characters to a brothel. All that would happen is they would come back saying “Whoa! That was an experience!” and then gain some experience points.
Really back in those days the idea of using sex as part of the game play expression was more comedic than anything else as the games industry and its consumers weren’t mature enough at the time to handle a game that dealt with sexuality in a serious way. Budgets and technology also played a part in this to since to effectively use sex for something other than titillation is extremely difficult. Plus trying to get budgetary approval for a game that uses something that is still controversial makes it hard for all but the biggest players to experiment with immersing their players in their character’s sexuality.
Fast forward a couple years and I came across the game Farenheit, one of my trove of guilty pleasure games I like to call playable movies. I had been recommended it by a friend after I extolled the beauty of Dreamfall: The Longest Journey to him, a game we’d actually played at the same time after spending 40 hours playing its prequel. As a game its nothing special: the graphics were dated, the controls simplistic and many of the main scenes were just gussied up quick time events. That didn’t matter though as the story drew me in with its deep character development. I found myself getting caught up so blindly with them that I followed each character until the plot could advance with them no further. I had to know what happened to them, and changing characters felt like I was going to lose them.
After I finished the game I decided to read up on some people’s reactions to the game, to see what they thought. After a very brief search I found that there was a hidden sex scene in the game which I had missed. Being the curious lad I was I fired the game up again and burled over to it.
(Spoiler alert here, if you’re planning to play the game I suggest you skip ahead.)
The point in question is when Lucas and Tiffany are reunited for the first time in the game. It’s an awkward scene as the characters have recently broken up and Tiffany has become worried about him. After talking for a while (and playing some guitar) you get the option to kiss her. Feeling my own memories of such moments well up I couldn’t stand the pain of seeing him try to rekindle the romance, so I didn’t. After trying that scene again and choosing to do so you’re quickly lead into the bedroom, and the awkward quick-time-event-sex starts. The dialogue after reflects on how difficult the situation is for them both, and still saddens me to this day.
The second scene was the one with Carla towards the end, although there was no interactivity. It felt a lot more apocalyptic in the sense that they were heading towards what they believed would be the end of them, and the only comfort to be found was in each other’s arms.
(Spoiler alert over)
Both of these are intrinsically human moments, one where we realise that no matter how strong we think we’ve become or what boundaries we put up they can all come crumbling down in an instant. The other reminding us of how fragile we are and that sometimes the only thing we have is each other. Fahrenheit opened my eyes to world of sex and nudity as an expressive medium when used in the world of games and it seems I’m not alone.
Bioware seems to be getting a name for itself for putting the naughty stuff in most of its famed RPG games. I remember the reviews of Mass Effect extolling that yes there was in fact sex in the game. Had I not known about it beforehand (and thusly chosen my target in Ashley, bow chicka) it would’ve been much more immersive when it happened. Although to be honest it didn’t add any emotion to the game that it didn’t already have as the scene was mostly ignored post-coitus, and the relationship of commander and subordinate continues as usual. I did manage to stumble across another one when doing some missions for the Consort and expressed my disinterest in a reward. It seems that this was the trigger word for the horizontal mambo and was again largely ignored as a plot point later on. Dragon Age: Origins also has a bit of the naughty through it, although I’m yet to see if it’s a defining plot point or merely a distraction.
I think it says a lot about the medium of gaming as a story telling device when they can experiment with taboo topics to convey such powerful messages. Sure a little T&A will definitely help sell a few more copies of the game to people who want to see something naughty but its use in games like Fahrenheit show how it can be used to draw us into the characters and feel a real connection with them. With the stories of games containing sex become passe we’ll soon be able to see it used more freely and hopefully to greater effect in more games.