How are games using sex?

I’ve been thinking about how sex and sexuality gets portrait in computer games and why it’s a touchy subject. I don’t really want to get into whether it’s desirable to include it or not, but thought I’d take a loot at how different games use them.

The most tasteful example that springs to mind is Mass Effect.
Mass Effect Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect 3 Mass Effect 4

Though controversial for depicting gay and lesbian scenes (oh my!), sex is used as a dramatic tool to progress the relationship between the characters. They’ve grown to trust and respect each other and the sex emerges out of that.

Scarlet Blade does things very differently.
Some would call it playful and sexy, others objectifying and exploitative. In whichever camp you fall, it has more to do with porn than it does with real sex.
The game’s unique brand of over sexuality seems to be a way to give the game a unique flavor, as it is the only thing that separates this game from a million other MMOs based on the standard formula we all know by heart by now.
Normally I would call it a crutch, except it is so heavily tied into the narrative and overall design of the game that it can’t have been tacked on thoughtlessly. This game was consciously built from the ground up to show scantily clad women.

 Scarlet Blade adScarlet Blade Ingame Scarlet blade screenshot 2 Scarlet Blade Lineup

I don’t want to poop on anyone’s parade if they enjoy this sort of thing, but personally I found it uncomfortable to play. Like one reviewer said “You don’t want someone to catch you playing it”. Even if nobody was around to catch me, I just don’t want to be constantly aroused when playing a game. (though maybe my mistake was to use both hands to play)

Evony did something completely different again. They only used sex (read: porn) in their ads, and not in the game. This is what their ads looked like:

Evony ad 1  Evony ad 3Evony ad 2

This is what their game looked like:

Evony Screenshot 1 Evony Screenshot 2

One has nothing to do with the other. The imagery is used merely to mislead people into signing up for the game. I’m sure it worked, too. If I see tits on my screen, I’m at least going to look in that direction.

But it’s important to ask why the sex is there. Is it just to mislead people into clicking the ad? Is it there as superficial entertainment? Or is it there for drama and development of relationships? Is it really sex, or is it porn? Is there constant arousal, or is it being done to make a point?

If we can answer these questions, it becomes a lot easier to argue whether sex has any place in games.

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