Might Sex in Video Games be Changing for the Better?
by Calico Rudasill, Sssh.com Porn For Women
As a child of the 1970s, I was part of the first generation to grow up with video games. My earliest memories of playing games involve classics like Pong. I remember Pong quite fondly as the game which transformed my father from being vaguely against the whole idea of video games in the home to hogging the machine by mercilessly and sequentially besting his own children in “winner stays” fashion.
As I got older, I found that most other girls just weren’t as interested in playing video games as I was, so I’d mostly play against my older brother at home, or traipse down to the local arcade – “Supercade” it was called – to vie against the boys around my age who had adopted the place as a home away from home.
In my teens, as my interest in sex began to blossom, I often wondered to myself whether (well, more like “when”) sex would begin to be incorporated into video games, a development which might even have propelled video games into First Place on my list of youthful interests, nudging sci-fi novels from their exalted perch.
Not Exactly What I’d Hoped For
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the first video game to incorporate sex – Softporn – was already on the market. Granted, it was a text-based game that merely referenced sex, essentially, as opposed to depicting it. And as observed by the Atlantic article linked above, with its decidedly male-focused bent, the game also “presaged today’s ongoing debates about who computers and games are for.”
The first video game featuring sex that I played was Leisure Suit Larry, which wasn’t particularly explicit either, as screenshots from the game demonstrate. Honestly, more than finding the game insulting for all the quite valid reasons people objected to it, I found it a bit dull.
Maybe it was because of the time I’d spent around my older brother, his friends and my fellow Supercade denizens, but I just wasn’t all that disturbed by the casual misogyny and lowbrow sexism in these early games. To the extent that I experienced the same sort of attitude from boys who played the games with me, that I objected to. But so long as they kept that bullshit to themselves, I was happy to play Centipede, Defender, Tempest and Track and Field with them. (Not Donkey Kong, though; I never did get any good at that one – I think because I always identified more with Donkey Kong than with Mario.)
At any rate, for the most part the games I played were entirely nonsexual. The closest they came to even referencing sex was connected to the occasional need to rescue a princess, with at best some implied hanky-panky to follow in the post-rescue, happily-ever-after phase referenced on the game’s closing credits screen. That implied hanky-panky was strictly in my own mind, of course, gestating from my reflections on the first things I’d want to do once released from an evil wizard’s tower after years of isolation and imprisonment, or whatever.
My Teenage Self Would Be Thrilled. (For That Matter, my 50-Something Self is Still Pretty Stoked)
Modern video games that incorporate sex are much, much more explicit than their forebearers, of course. But, by and large, they’re no less straight-male-focused and no less adoptive of standard, ‘mainstream’ ideals of beauty and sexuality.
The good news is that there are some game developers out there who are looking to change the sex-in-video-games dynamic, by authoring games with much greater diversity in perspective and representation.
As recently covered by Axios, game designer Sharang Biswas gave a Game Developers Conference talk that looked at how “sex is, and can be, depicted in games.”
“Expanding the conversation about sex through our various artforms, including games and playful experiences, is important,” Biswas said. Biswas talked about Consentacle, a two-player card game from developer Naomi Clark that Axios describes as being “about navigating boundaries and figuring out how to please a sex partner.”
“The game is all about when you have a body that’s not considered normative, how do you have sex?” Biswas added.
The Axios article references other new games that challenge traditional notions of sex and explore areas that Leisure Suit Larry would no doubt fear to tread.
It has been years since I played video games regularly. These days, my gaming amounts to occasionally consenting to playing the role of goal-conceding doormat to my husband in a round of FIFA, typically after he’s experienced a stinging defeat at the hands of his nephew and finds himself in dire need of an ego-saving win or two.
Reading about games like Consentacle has rekindled my interest in video games, however. And while Supercade long ago closed, I’m hopeful that the communities that spring up around online multiplayer games, driven games that encourage greater inclusiveness, might eventually offer a female-friendlier version of the camaraderie I experienced when I was a kid, when we all huddled around the Tempest screen, awaiting our turn at the dials.
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