Under the Knife: Sex vs Violence
From a week and a half ago, we have seen many headlines in the news. The announcement of the release for the Wii U, Bayonetta 2 being shunned by fans because it will be a Wii U exclusive, Bethesda still having trouble with DLC for the PS3, and sex being implemented into games. These have been a couple active weeks in the video game community (N4G included). Opinions are being tossed around about these headlines, so I figured why not share mine? It's time to take these things Under the Knife.
Now, the one thing that has been clouding my mind most out the four headlines I mentioned is how the gaming community is divided when it comes to sex in video games. In particular, Steam recently pulled a game called Seduce Me for being too offensive. I don't blame them for removing this game due to the content within it.
While most people don't know what this "game" is about, I decided to do a little research. At the official website for Seduce Me, I discovered a video link, some images, and the would be plot of it. The video link is to a Youtube video that pretty much shows what you do in the game. To be honest, it looked very bland. The images provided don't show much promise either. One image in particular has a speech text that reads: "PIETRA thinks ERIN needs a good screwing." Wonderful. The premise of Seduce Me is explained as follows, "The game was inspired by the lives of American socialites and celebrities. The game revels in their decadence and glamour. There are four main characters and twelve supporting characters."
There are initially four main women you can date and have sex with. No details were provided on the twelve supporting characters. The game play explained that you can "EXPLORE" the world through pre-rendered panoramas, and hand painted event images. You can "INTERACT" with the girls and play a card based mini game that gives you a score on your reputation with a woman. The next category is where the money shot is: "SEE EROTIC CUTSCENES". Would you like to know what those cutscenes actually show?
They show those hand painted event images that the website mentions, which shows your male character having sex with the woman you choose to seduce. There are also text captions reminiscent of sexting that describe the scene. So, ladies and gentlemen, this is basically Western hentai. It's a dating and sex simulator. It's interactive pornography. It's not a video game.
Let me blunt with you. If you're intent as a writer or director is to make a movie or a video game, then you have your ideas squared off already. However, if your ideas are centered on say one guy being able to have sex with five different women and that covers anything between sixty to eighty percent of the material, then you are no longer making a cinematic movie or video game. You are making a pornographic movie or interactive pornography. If sex is the sole purpose of a movie or video game, you are by all intents and purposes making porn.
I'm kind of baffled right now. After seeing so many people go the defense of this "game", it just made me wonder what the big deal was. Why were some people up in arms over Seduce Me being pulled from Steam? Why the sudden thought that sex will help video games "mature"?
Is it because that violence in games can be so intense that some gamers want explicit sex scenes now? Frankly, that seems to be the argument going on right now. What I'm hearing from some people is, "Well, video games have lots of graphic violence. Why can't there be sex in them, too? We can't hold up a double standard like this." There is a vital difference between violence and sex. Some of which I just explained up top.
When you look at violence in video games, yes, it can be graphic, but a majority of it is fantasy or cartoonish. People say that Grand Theft Auto is violent, yet it's really not that bad. Sure you're shooting and running over people, but do you see anything truly graphic aside from blood? Are there bullet holes in them or crushed parts of their body? No, because while the acts you commit are violent there is nothing shown that is too graphic.
Then again, you have some of the more extreme violence like Dead Island and Mortal Kombat. Again, though, the violence portrayed in there is fantasy and has to be exaggerated or fit into the genre and ideas of the game. How else is someone going survive a zombie outbreak with no guns? How else is Johnny Cage going to finish off Kano in a tournament that demands it?
Violence seems to have more of a place in gaming than sex does. Think about it, what is the basic principle of interacting characters in a story? There will always be a protagonist and an antagonist. A majority of stories told over the course of human history have those who rise up and those who challenge them. Conflict is a part of every day life. While most conflict is not extreme in any given person's life, in terms of fiction, violence has to be emphasized.
In horror, there will be grotesque, frightening, and terrible things that will happen. Monsters, killers, ghosts, zombies, and supernatural creatures are not completely bound by the rules of reality. The actions of these things have to be emphasized in order for the story to meet the terms of the genre. Fear and paranoia is what will drive violence in horror up.
In fantasy, there will be fantastic wonders, mysticism, and species of varying types. Sorcerers, dragons, elves, orcs, and gods are in worlds that go beyond the conventional. Magic is used to either heal or to summon dreadful beings. War in these types of stories are brutal and have no limit on violence.
In science fiction, there will be new technology, alien contact, and ancient mysteries. Futuristic weaponry, warp technology, nanotechnology, aliens, and robotics are some of the basics of science fiction that go to what can be. Alliances will be made, while war breaks out between one species and another.
These genres of fiction need to have violence emphasized. Now whether that violence is to show what one army or person is capable of or even what this new type of technology can do, violence ultimately has purpose. Granted, quite a few writers and directors use violence for shock value, but they are far and in between per media outlet. Violence is what can help drive the plot and character development no matter how graphic it may be.
Sex, on the other hand, does not help as much. While a sex scene may commence in a relationship that is developed between two characters, it should not be interactive beyond that or explicit. Nudity or even partial nudity is acceptable, but don't need to be emphasized sexually in a scene. Kind of like how in anime there is the "swimsuit episode", to have an explicit sex scene in a video game only leads to fan service. If sex is the only goal in a video game, then it's pornography.
Sex in video games has been limited. I think for good reason. God of War and Mass Effect had sex, but not explicitly shown. It was done in a tongue-in-cheek way and only showed so much. When you have games like Seduce Me and the very offensive RapeLay, then it's nothing short of making porn. These are no longer video games.
Oh, and before anyone goes to the defense of RapeLay, let me just say that that game is sickening. Reading the premise and the overall arc of the "game" is disgusting. Stalking, groping, trapping, and raping women is something only the sickest of things a person can do. For those writers who have said that "rape is a lesser crime compared to murder" let me just say that to kill in a video game is entirely different as opposed to planning and raping someone. This is not a double standard. This is something that was just taken to an extreme for the sake of shock value. It's like the movie A Serbian Film where the violence and sexual content is taken to such a high degree that it doesn't leave a dramatic impact on you as much as you wanting to throw up because it was so tasteless. Shock value comes from plot twists and sudden action, not from grotesque or disturbing imagery. That doesn't shock anyone. It makes them sick.
As a writer and an experienced actor in theater, I can wholeheartedly tell you guys that the argument for sex in gaming is weak. There are times in a story or when you're doing improv that sexual material can have a place. The thing that you learn, though, is to avoid going blue as much as you can. What do I mean? Going blue means to incorporate adult themes in your scenes (i.e. explicit language and sexual ideas). The reason behind the idea of not going blue is to force yourself to be more creative and to contribute more to a scene or idea, rather than go for the obvious or quick route.
Am I against sex in gaming? No, of course not. Sex, in general, can have a place in fiction, but it should not be the center of the action. Sex scenes should be used to show the relationship between two characters, not just for the sake of seeing nude bodies. Again, when sex is the main idea of an entertainment medium, it is no longer applicable to its original meaning. In the end, it just becomes pornography. If people truly want video games to "mature", then ask for stronger writing, better stories, and characters that actually have souls.
To demand physical eye candy just because it's considered "adult" reverses the idea of video games being "mature". After all, doesn't the classic joke "watching porn for the acting" apply here? Besides, if you want explicit sex scenes...use the internet! There's plenty to go around! It's not that hard to find! Agree with me, disagree with me, whatever your thoughts are write them down. Do you think that gaming really needs sex to "mature" or do you think that gaming is okay the way it is? You decide.