In his Yahtzee inspired video Savannah College of Art and Design student Daniel Floyd explores the shaky relationship between our favorite art form and our favorite past time – which, let's face it, is exploitive, superficial and shallow at best. From tastelessness (Custer's Revenge) over prudishness (Nintendo's NES' content policies) to hypersexualized characters (everything from the 90s to now): Games have not yet come to terms with sex. This sad fact causes Floyd to raise the warranted question: How can you take seriously an art that denies sexuality? And whose fault is this sad state of affairs?
According to him there are several aspects of this: First of all games (still!) suffer from public misperception as being children's toys. Never mind the fact that they never were designed solely with the little buggers in mind – which doesn't stop sensationalist media from reporting on alleged pornographic content even when it's just some harmless making out. After all videogames give traditional media some stiff competition; every hour you play a game is an hour not spend in front of the TV. Sensationalist claims surely come in handy here.
Then there's the problem of legislation. Games with sexual content basically have a subscription for an AO rating (at least in the comparatively prudish US), which virtually amounts to a ban (due to the console manufacturer's as well as retail policies). A further problem: Games which openly flaunt sexual content saw surprisingly (?) poor sales. Just think of titles like BMXXX or Playboy Mansion.
Then there's the developers who, so far, hardly produced any mature material. But these are the people who could reverse the trend – by learning when and how to use sex. Floyd suggests they should draw on films as inspiration. If don't know if game should really orientate themselves towards an older medium to achieve something unique but he makes a good point: Sex scenes can enhance the quality of a movie, they help build a story and reveal characteristics of the protagonists. All the while it's the cause of the game that should dictate what is appropriate (instead of some random cutscenes which hypersexualized models which hardly disclose anything about story or character).
A way to appropriate sex is to explore intimacy in relationships as these provide the context for meaningful interaction between characters. Intimacy is certainly a given in videogames – often on a subtle level, but this subtlety can enhance intimacy even more by revealing less, not more (although this goes for other arts as well).
Floyd concludes with the statement that games should be free to include sex where it belongs without having to fear backlash; a point I raised myself several times as well, also under the viewpoint of games being a burgeoning art which must be afraid to explore this crucial element of human existence (in a hostile media environment and an unfavorable political economy) . After all, as Floyd rightfully points out, sex is one of the defining characteristics of adult entertainment and sets it apart from children's pastime.
A few question remain though. If games are to orientate themselves towards movies in terms of appropriating sex – does this solely apply for cutscenes? Games are an interactive medium after all; therefore they have to deal differently with narrative elements and convey a story differently. Also: How do you design an interface that doesn't make you feel awkward while performing sexual acts in a game? The thought of tenderly treating a thumbstick like a body part to be stimulated certainly has something slightly weird about it… And then there's still the Wiimote...