A Response to A Bit of the Old Up, Up, Down, Down

Chris Pranger | 19 Jan 2012 10:00
Op-Ed - RSS 2.0

So sex in videogames is a popular topic these days. A lot of this spawns from games actually including sex (or what pre-teens assume is sex), so the conversation is expanding a bit to include something more advanced than Custer's Revenge and dating sims. Still, I couldn't help but read Martin McLauchlan's article A Bit of the Old Up, Up, Down, Down and start to think yet deeper on the subject. Do games really need to mature, or is it something more?

In the simplest form, I disagree with McLauchlan. Not to the extent that many games help to perpetuate the immature sexuality, no, that much is very much true. Rather, I feel there's a deep misunderstanding of the relationship between maturity and the medium itself. The game doesn't necessarily matter compared to the way we view it. To put things simply:

Sexual maturity doesn't come down to the game, it comes down to the gamer.

To jump from McLauchlan's argument, Catherine is praised by so many for portraying sex as a part of an adult relationship rather than just something to rope in the curious, but that very argument is undermined by the game's cover. When a mature gamer looks at the cover, they probably see what McLauchlan hopes we see: A game that celebrates temptation and features a character in tune with her sexuality. What many other gamers see is far different: Hey look, some cleavage on a Fapanese character.

Sure, you can play Mass Effect with the hope of seeing the sex scene at the end, but you can play Catherine for the same reason. Depravity does not stop when the game attempts to be more mature about it. Sex is sex, period. And even such, as a mature gamer, happily married, seeing a game like Catherine doesn't make me ponder the issue of infidelity as a narrative. Rather, I see the cover and roll my eyes, seeing yet another manic pixie girl, albeit an anime manic pixie girl, tempting me and every lifelong nerd to get a look at her pantsu. Regardless of how the game handles the topic of sex, the appeal surrounding it doesn't do much to dispel the myth.

Furthermore, the concept of sex in games isn't new and isn't always used in the extreme ways. There's a lot of subtle play involved, assuming you're looking for it, that is. Take Harvest Moon 64. I was absolutely enthralled by the idea of starting my own farm, raising my dog and horse, and eventually finding a wife (and yet Farmville bores me now, what a world). That last part, finding a wife, comes down to wooing one of the five girls in town with gifts, casual conversation, and nice deeds here and there. Yes, it's simplistic and feels a bit "pick the correct answer to get lucky," but when I was playing as a kid, I wasn't thinking about anything more than how cute the game was.

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