Xbox One (se)X enhanced?

As a general rule, I don’t like sex in cinema. Not in a prudish way, but typically a prolonged bout of bedroom billiards strikes me as a sign of a bad movie. Likewise, I’ve no issue with cinematic nudity if it’s in context, but a long lingering look at a starlet having a shower is, again, generally indicative of a movie with issues. We’ve come a long way since the nineties, when a glimpse of Sharon Stone in the buff had VHS bootlegs changing from one sticky hand to the next with disturbing regularity. In 2018, if you want to see people get it on, there’s some pretty easy and accessible ways to do so.

But, I do like sex and nudity in video games.

Be it the long game seduction in Mass Effect 3, the Witcher’s brothels, or the recent amorous encounters in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, I not only enjoy these encounters, I seek them out.

I’m at the risk of sounding like the behind the bike sheds perv at school, so let me expand.

I’ve frequently railed against the knee jerk negative categorisation of video games as an art form. The ‘violence in games creates violent people’ argument has been debunked many times, yet still persists in the mainstream media. Every GTA release leads to a round of tabloid teeth gnashing about the ability to bash a hooker (as if that’s all the game entails). There’s little or no critical examination to accompany these soundbites and headlines. The so called experts rarely point out the in game consequences of these actions, and they delight in boiling games down to their basest level. The occasional counter argument is allowed, but generally these voices are lost in a deluge of misplaced moralising.

As gamers, we can see the nuance. Yes, you can attack a prostitute in GTA. But there will be consequences. Yes, you can shoot faceless bad guys in COD. But you can also gain insight into PTSD (see Spec Ops: The Line for the best example of this). And these instances don’t begin to encompass the whole spectrum. Picking on these facets of games is low hanging fruit for lazy journalists. Experience Journey with a stranger to remind yourself how transformative games can be. Watch your kid build something amazing in Minecraft and you share in their development. Have one of those epic FIFA encounters where both you and your opponent revel in the joy of the contest. These are equally valid aspects of games, are they not?

But, I digress. We were talking about sex.

Graphically and artistically, we’re reaching a point were sex can be realistically depicted in video games. It’s still a nascent art form, arguably comparable to where the movie industry was in the mid-1960s. But the technology, and the story tellers, exist to move us beyond the chaste encounters depicted in Mass Effect et al, and move us towards realistic (even graphic) sex scenes. At the risk of being a hypocrite, I don’t want that. ‘Press RB to grab boob’ is something I never want to do. But I want to see the realism continue beyond the knicker glimpses of Nier and the bouncing boobs in Dead or Alive, and mature. That maturity is within reach.

I like that we’ve reached a point where video games can explore adult themes, both visually and in narrative. It contradicts the tedious categorisation as games being fodder for teenage boys, and only teenage boys. That meme is disrespectful to teenage lads, and everyone else who plays, regardless of age or gender. Games are for everyone. You rarely, if ever, encounter someone who says they don’t like films. Rather, we accept that everyone loves a good movie, but may have a preference for a particular genre, or a dislike for another. It’s OK to like historical epics but dislike romantic comedies. It’s just plain weird not to like movies at all.

And there’s the rub with gaming. There’s a genre for everyone. A Fortnite nut may not like Farming Simulator and vice versa, but they both co-exist as fans and participants in the same industry. One may enjoy the titillation in God of War 2, the other may not. But that’s OK, because the available choices are varied enough that they can seek out games which cater to their individual taste.

The mainstream media will continue to moralise about violence in gaming. But we have an alternative media now (yay Absolute Xbox!) and a generation of us have grown up with a joystick in our hands. We’re not swayed by these half-baked theories which suggest we’re all potentially violent, even if our parents might be. As this debate runs out of steam, the next obvious target to shame gamers will be sex, and its depiction in games. Undoubtedly, there will be some gratuitous titles. The Japanese (sorry to generalise) have a thriving market for the likes of Summer-Coloured High School. That title, and many like it, have been denied an international release due to their hyper-sexualised content.

In the near future, expect to see a news report or headline with (ironically) pixelated nudity. It will be explained by the mainstream media that this is the fourth horseman of the apocalypse. Sex in games! Teenage boys corrupted! Ban everything!

Nonsense. Just like in movies, sex has its place. It’s a sign of a maturing, growing art form which is taking its place amongst the mainstream and offering an unprecedented variety of content and choice. Handled correctly, and tastefully, it will aid the evolution of gaming. There will be bumps along the way – movies had their exploitation phase too – but we will eventually reach a point where it’s there, but no big deal. Just as we’ve come to realise that violent games can be just for fun, or convey grander ideas, we’ll come around to the normalisation of sex and nudity in interactive entertainment.

And that will be exciting, for all the right reasons, right?

(A special place in the pantheon of pervs awaits anyone who can find every piece of innuendo above).

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