Violence is everywhere in video games, but sex is still strangely taboo. On the rare occasion when sexual content is featured in a game, it tends to be weird, completely isolated from the rest of the gameplay and devoid of intimacy.
But who says sex in games can’t be richly rewarding and even educational?
For Robert Yang, indie developer and educator at the New York University Game Center, sex in video games can be a good thing. Yang’s games have gone viral for their sophisticated but lighthearted approach to what happens between consenting adults. “These games should be a normal thing that talks about experiences a lot of people have,” Yang told International Business Times on Friday at the Games for Change festival in New York.
Most recently, his “Cobra Club” multiplayer game involving taking and sending pictures of your character’s "anatomy" to other characters who message you in the game, has generated headlines for its realistic portrayals and humor. It explores comfort with different body types along with issues of consent, inclusion and privacy, not to mention the titillation factor.
Yang has developed several games dealing with sex that have realistic consequences to a player’s actions. In another game, a player can be physically locked out if they go beyond the boundary of consent. In another game, players must arrive at the proper real-word time or else they’ll miss their encounter. All games start with getting consent to proceed. If a player says no, that’s totally fine, because it’s about choice.
Sex in video games can be useful teaching tools. “Games are logic taking the shape of something and made visible,” said Yang.
Players have control over their experiences, which means they can stop or proceed as they see fit. “When you’re playing ‘Tetris,’ for example, you’re doing all this spatial and cognitive thinking,” Yang added.
Any actions by the player, or questions that arise, can lead to new insights about who they are and what sex means to them. “With sex in games, you can perform your assumptions about sex and the system can respond to that,” said Yang.
It turns out there’s high demand for these types of titles. Other art forms can talk about sex, but there’s been baggage with the subject in video games, according to Yang. Consider that when sex in a game garners public attention, it’s usually for all the wrong reasons, whether it’s the incorporation of violence or negative portrayals of sexuality.
There are still plenty of barriers, but thanks to developers like Yang, there are more games letting players learn all the weird, awkward, funny and emotional aspects of sex.