Bouncing tits, swaying hips and hookers, all just one click away. Videogames are becoming more and more realistic and graphically impressive. One of the latest examples of this is the Witcher 3. With this level of realism and graphical capability a question rises about the place of sexual content in games. Sex has been a means of selling everything, from cars to deodorant, but where does it stand in games?
According to indie game-artist and game-tester (for Final Fantasy 14 and World of Warcraft) James Griffiths, this position is nuanced. “Honestly I think it’s entirely acceptable if done right. Especially in a dark fantasy like the Witcher 3.” has been a highly anticipated Role-Playing Game (RPG), featuring the slayer of monsters Geralt, a Witcher. Sex does not stand out in the game due to the general atmosphere of a dark fantasy world, with sex being nothing but a common happening, or a means of connecting characters closer together.
Sex however is used far more than just for story. “Sadly developers do it to reel in the consumer,“ says James. This is in contrast with games that incorporate it as a story element: “For instance in Grand Theft Auto or the Witcher where sex and sexuality is part of the culture. It’s not just there as bait.”
This is confirmed by avid gamer Chandler Bullock: “the position of sex in video games is entirely dependent on the game in question.” He goes on to explain that “sex is not an entirely important component to video games.” So when used as a relevant part of a universe it is not a big deal, movies do it all the time. “Graphic sexual encounters seen in games such as The Witcher are in no way different from a sex scene in a film.”
Sex in the Witcher series has been discussed several times due to its minimalistic attitude. Not by ignoring it, but by including it as something completely normal, nothing different from what you might expect from that world, it normalized the aspect. Games like Dragon Age: Inquisition use sex as part of the world of the game a step further, incorporating sexuality of all sorts into the universe without. But these love-stories are sidelines which can be chosen or neglected without true repercussions, the game remains fully well playable with or without.
Inquisition leaves out the actual action, although not leaving a single seed of doubt about what has happened. Sex can be pursued or neglected, but more than that it offers inclusion on a large scale. There is a pursuable love partner for everyone their interest, including LGBT characters and interspecies endeavors. It does this without hesitation, despite being one of the first titles to, in Chandler’s words: “depict an exclusively gay male character as an optional love interest.”
Right now the position of sex and sexuality in games is different for everyone. “Players are often left with the choice to pursue sex in a game or avoid it entirely,” says James. But for the marketing things are different. “Often to sell a game sex will be used to promote it.” This is exemplified by trailers such as the one for Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate. Chandler remains unaffected by it: “it just serves to make games a little more pleasing to the eye, which, depending on your ideological stance, can either be argued as sexist or simply good marketing.”
But the amount of sex in the game industry itself has developed as well. Whereas older games such as were games primarily focused on the sexual thrills of seduction, new games take that and run with it. Recent releases such as have turned sex from a commercial selling strategy and sideline into the main story arch.
This however does not compare with the sexual content such as can be found in the Witcher. James explains: “A game like that [Huniepop] is tailored to people who want it. When you want to catch a fish, you have to use the right bait. This is the same.”
As such, the position of sex in games is different per game and player. A point exemplified by Chandler when asked about the effect of sex on games: “I neither feel that sex in video games is offensive or damaging, nor do I find it very important or useful. It’s just sex, really.”
By Jeroen de Vries