Last time I set out to explore the seedy underbelly (is there any other kind of underbelly?) of sexual video games. The kind that aren’t sold in stores and are generally banned from consoles. The games your mama would have warned you about if she’d even suspected such a thing could exist. The ones we dare not speak their names because…well, I’m not exactly sure about that just yet.
My first stop was Japan, where most good things in gaming originate from and I left pretty underwhelmed. Considering the extreme and constant presentations of violence and other unpleasantness in video games and the general pleasantness one associates with the act of making love, I’d have thought there would be a whole world of quality sex games on the market, but I found a pretty shallow pool filled mostly with visual novels featuring a few really explicit images, but also some real promise. Let’s see if America is looking any better.
I remember playing Playboy: The Mansion on the original Xbox. I’m still pretty surprised that ever got released. I mean, it was a cool game and the only magazine/social sim I’ve ever encountered, but I was pretty shocked by the amount of sex in it. There’ something kind of awesome about a game that let’s your character pretty much command any two people to get it on.
As far as I know, this is the only modern console game with as much explicit sexual content as it has and it was somehow assigned the same rating as a Halo title. How this happened I don’t really know, but what I do know is that I haven’t seen any comparable game released, aside from a couple of failed Leisure Suit Larry console titles (to be fair, Magna Cum Laude was pretty funny) that featured some pretty explicit content.
It’s not exactly a trade secret that sex sells. Fantasy games typically fit female characters with hilariously impractical armor just to hypnotize us with hotness and T&A in general is the order of the day across the board in entertainment, even in the less visual realm of popular music. You’d think this sort of thing would eventually lead to its natural extension of more innovative interactive sexual content attached to quality games, but it remains a rarity. Why choose this medium beat around the bush (so to speak)?
Nonetheless, when you get into the underground of PC gaming you can shake some things loose. One thing I noticed was the prevalence of multiplayer. This seems like an obvious direction for the genre to go, replacing the pastime of cybersex via text, but I’m afraid I couldn’t go there myself. Being a married man I’m pretty sure my wife wouldn’t go for me actually interacting with real people in that context (and I’m not entirely sure I’d want to) so I’m sticking with single player.
Titles like Red Light Center and Sexpexfex are places where you can get virtually intimate with strangers, but I find it hard to imagine that these places aren’t rife with trolls. I mean, the comedic possibilities write themselves. Maybe I’m just not a serious enough person to imagine cybersex any other way. This concept isn’t for me.
Thrixxx’s 3D Sex Villa 2 is a name that comes up instantly when searching for sex sims, and hey it’s free! Pretty graphics, true interaction, tons of customization, a thriving mod community; sounds too good to be true. Can you say “insane microtransactions”?
From a technical standpoint, the game’s pretty impressive, allowing you to use your mouse to stimulate your partner of choice in various ways, which is interesting. But with so very little initial content, charging you for every character model, outfit, location, animation and even paid access to mods is kind of lame for such a shallow experience. It’s not like there’s an actual story or anything.
It’s mostly just character models in a room doing stuff while you fumble with the camera and try to figure out what your partner likes. Rather than buying everything you want to do, Sex Villa gives you the option for a monthly subscription where you earn points by playing the game which you can trade for content, but I don’t personally find the experience fun enough to justify that.
So much was put into the actual sex that that’s all there is. Maybe I’m a spoiled malcontent, but I want more to do. I like the idea of interactive sex in a video game, but not a video game that is JUST interactive sex. Give me actual characters that make me earn it, at least!
So while on the lookout for something different, I found Outcast Academy Naughty Girls Sim from Lessons of Passion, who provide a number of online sex games. This one was low-budget and had limited animation, but it actually gave you stuff to do and had a story and characters. In fact, it tripped my RPG fanboy switch and I ended up going through it multiple times. The story is not what one might call “good”, but it sure beats just putting two digital models in a room to screw.
This one featured an almost entirely female cast, which is unusual in any capacity. The premise is that you are sent to an all-girl reform school for a finite time and you choose how to spend it. You can make friends and enemies, take on quests, study, and (of course) get some. Building relationships and your own personal stats in order to accomplish various goals and attain different endings is my kind of thing. If you play your cards right, you’ve got several options for sex, including everyone from faculty to fellow students to delivery boys.
Another approach is in the downloadable premium game Bonetown. It is described as being inspired by Grand Theft Auto and features the talents of Ron Jeremy in a quest to obtain bigger balls by banging chicks and beating dudes up. At first, you can only bang fat chicks, but once you balls are bigger you can upgrade to the “hot” ones. Sounds pretty brotastic. The price is high, the graphics look weak, and the premise appears to be moronic so I haven’t played this one and don’t plan to, but it does represent another approach to integrating explicit sex into gaming.
While finding myself actually enjoying aspects of gameplay from some of the games I played it struck me; there is the possibility of someone making a really great sex game in the future. By combining the interactive sex of something like Sex Villa with branching storylines like Katawa Shoujo and RPG elements like Outcast Academy and free form Sims -style gameplay like Artificial Academy I could definitely see a lot of potential for something really worthwhile between these different approaches.
Will we ever have it? Probably not. Western gamers have a lot more options for interactive sex games, including the likes of Lula 3D and Virtually Jenna, but none of them appear to be worth much. Shallow gameplay, weak to nonexistent stories, and/or a general sheen of jankiness seem to be typical and the ones that do have a good presentation are drowned in microtransactions.
So the line of questioning reverts back to my initial premise when I started this: why do video games spend so much time and money bringing us the finest, nastiest violence possible, but shy away from graphic sex? Given the prevalence of pornography -which people still pay for even though infinite amounts of it are viewable for free online- it doesn’t seem to be an issue of demand. I mean, why watch two people get it on when you could be participating?
There’s the issue of regulations, I suppose. The dreaded AO rating assures that there’s more money in decapitations than orgasms. Plus all you need to make a serviceable porn film is two moderately attractive people, some cocaine, and a camera. A quality video game is a much more involved investment so it may not be worth the investment to create a sex sim that can’t be sold in stores when the same investment in a violence sim could make you rich.
Obviously, even at this point where gaming is becoming a nearly universal pastime there are still hurdles to be cleared and misconceptions to overcome. People seem to assume that playing a game based on sex makes you a pervert more so than playing a game based on killing makes you a psychopath. This flimsy line of reasoning is unfortunately the manner in which entertainment industries are regulated, and regulation of art is the surest way to stifle it.
So it looks like if you want to get your virtual groove on, you’re either going to have to settle for scraps in quality games like The Witcher and The Sims or deal with the shallowness of the interactive sex genre as is. Japanese and American games have different approaches to sex games, but they are both defined by their limitations more than anything else at this point. It seems unlikely that the laws governing content are going to loosen up anytime soon so there you have it. I guess I’ll put the sexy games away for now and be thankful I’ve got an IRL option. Speaking of which….got to go!