A Fine Line: Sex Appeal vs. Gratuity

With the maturation of the gaming community at large, sex has become a much more influential factor in modern video games. Once upon a time, Colonal Custard’s Revenge was considered racey (and remains controversial to this day, for obvious reasons), but many games now feature sex scenes as cinematics – The Witcher 2: Assassination of Kings, The Secret World, and the Grand Theft Auto series are just a few of such titles. In terms of just how graphic these instances are,the scenes range from mere implication (the oral scene in The Secret World) to softcore pornography (every sex scene in The Witcher 2 – one of my all time favorite games, but the fact still stands).

Now, I’m not one to judge sexual content. Everyone likes sex. It sells. It’s fun. But what do we, the gamers, get out of having these racy scenes? Do they really add to the finished product?

Personally, I feel that there’s a very fine line between acceptable sexual content in video games and gratuity. A tasteful implication, which is difficult enough to manage on its own, can say so much more than a graphic cinematic. I have never found myself offended by sex scenes, but I feel oftentimes that the video game industry could take a hint from daytime television and instill limits on what sort of content makes it into their games. There’s a difference between sex appeal and fan service: the former can be subtle but powerful, whereas the latter is better suited for less mature venues. All that is required to make this transition is a little more effort on the developers’ part.

“Show, don’t tell,” is a cliche for a reason. We, the gaming community, don’t need our hands held to know what’s going on; treat us like adults, and the industry as a whole will benefit.

What do you think? Do you feel that graphic sex scenes have a place in games, or should we as gamers endeavor for a more conservative angle? Keep in mind that games with these scenes are rated “MA” and will not fall into the hands of a minor unless illegally obtained or through parental consent.



  1. I actually think it’s contextual to the game. We don’t expect a sex scene in a disney movie, but you can tell when someone’s holding back to get the pg-13 rating (or an R rating from NC-17).

    I definitely agree that there are cases where it’s overdone, but sex is a part of real life, and will always have a place in games.

    On that same token, there are always going to be people that objectify anyone they can to make a buck. And while it is insulting when this happens gratuitously the fact that it might cause you to not buy the next game by that publisher will say something as well.

    When it comes down to it, I’d rather have the ability to make my own choice on what I want to play instead of having restrictions placed on the game designer. Grand Theft Auto was fun, and I’ll admit to a few back alley experiences, but it wasn’t the only reason I played the game.

    Obviously there is parody to all of this (or at least what looks like parody now). As I mentioned on Twitter earlier today you left out the Leisure Suit Larry series in the post. That game was completely about sex and objectification but it was still fun because it was done overtly on purpose.

    Not that I’d be a different person if I hadn’t of played a few of those games, but it was the fact that I could choose either not to play those games or not to play those parts of those games.

    • I still can’t believe I forgot Leisure Suit Larry! That game had a great way of ensuring kids didn’t get into it. I always wanted to play (I didn’t understand what it was about at the time) but could never get past the questionnaire at the beginning. πŸ˜‰

      You make a good point about wanting the choice. As I stated in the blog, I’m not offended by it one way or another – I actually got a laugh out of the scenes in The Witcher 2 – but sometimes it’s nice to have things toned down a little.

      That and, well, we’re still in Eerie Valley when it comes to expressive characters in games.

      Those eyes have seen things, man.

  2. billiamhe says:

    Phantasmagoria… This game will stay with me until the day I die. It is a green screen cinema-game with erotic horror aspects to it. The writers and designers would likely be considered… Unhinged… By their depiction of the possessed serial killers actions, but are often ignored because of the busty heroines random nude or sex scenes. I don’t know about everyobody else, but after watching a flashback of a woman being fed her own entrails via gramaphone funnel it is nice to ease the jittery terror of that by suddenly seeing the heroine brush her hair in the nude. Makes the rest of it easier to digest. Still freaks me out to this day.
    Now let’s face facts. Games are not real life… They are fantasy. Now if I were going to save the earth from some alien\god\mastermind\amorphous blob, the least I could do is expect to get a little in my down time. look at half life… Freeman goes from start to finish never saying a word and killing creature after creature after creature, can anyone say that they relate to him? It’s pure crawl. At least the first diablo had the decensy to make the succubi topless to relieve the monotony in Hell.
    Now yes, sometimes it is pointless… God of war… Did we really need the 3 way? Push a button hear a moan and win soul points. Really? GTA… Lame on all fronts sex and otherwise. But who wouldn’t have wanted to see Cortana do a little dance? Sure it would have been gratuitous, but what part of halo wasn’t? Am I ranting? Sorry.

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