To tell you the truth, Halo 2 makes me nauseous. I've played through a hundred odd "slayer matches" in the last year, and I still can't adjust my mind - or my fragile stomach, apparently - to the controls. Super Smash Brothers Melee makes my palms sweat. I know, no matter how hard I try, I will never beat that level-nine Mr. Game and Watch. Mentally, I've come to accept that. My hands, however, are still desperately convinced otherwise. And Super Mario 64... Let's not even start on the creepy carousel music that made me jump so far out of my skin I refused to ever go back into Big Boo's Haunt.
These are just examples, perhaps not particularly riveting ones, but different all the same from what you'll normally find in a videogame review, even one written using New Games Journalism. Why are physical reactions excluded from our consideration of a game's merits? Because they're peripheral to the gameplay experience? Because they're messy? Maybe because, as gamers who are often less than proud of our bodies, we don't want to attract attention to them. Or simply because, as virtual citizens, we want to believe we exist above our physical selves.
And what if a game gets you aroused?
Not a sex game, a sexy game, or even sex in a game. Just a game. What if it affects you, sexually? Talk about a topic not broached in reviews. Discussing sexual responses is even less popular than mentioning sweaty palms or queasy tummies. Sex may be a delicate and highly personal subject, but we always love to hear other people's secrets, so that shouldn't stop us. What seems to get in the way, instead, is that sexual arousal crosses the borders between emotional and physical reaction. We don't know how to classify it, so we don't want to be responsible for it.
Still, sexual arousal is itself a valid form of response. Does a game incite attraction? Repulsion? Whole reviews could be written about the sexual effects of a totally "non-sexual" game. Would they go over well with the general public? Of course not. But what would make them any more or less valid than pieces that record other types of human response?
I would like to humbly propose, if I may, a new New Games Journalism, one that will perhaps never catch on with anything near the ferocity of the old, but which never the less deserves its place - a New Game Journalism based on the sensual as well as the emotional. Let's call it a Sexual New Games Journalism, where sexuality comes to stand for our sensual relation with our environment, and specifically with games. And let's consider, if even just for a little while, what our brave new world is still missing.
Bonnie Ruberg is a sex and games writer, a MMOG researcher and an all around fun-loving dork. Check her out at Heroine Sheik.