The Future of Video Games is a series that takes a look at the past of video games in order to examine certain pieces of technology to figure out the direction the industry is taking.
The third part will look at how the growth of technology allowed for greater expressions of sexuality in video game characters.
Sexuality in video games. Outside of “violence,” has there ever been an easier target for really bored politicians who need talking points? Or parent groups who want to blame something for the degradation of the moral fiber of today’s youth. I’m sure some would claim sexuality in video games is nothing more than programmers / male gamers living out some sort of adolescent male power fantasy (cough, Anna Sarkessian, cough), but it seems like many expressions of sexuality in the media are classified like that. The term is a blanket statement, and kind of offensive. Why call it adolescent? Seems antagonistic. Also, isn’t most video games about fantasy and the expression of power? Heck, I’m almost positive that chess is an expression of power to some extent, with the capturing of pieces and conquering the opponent’s king.
It’s not enough to use a pejorative term to describe it. Especially when sexuality in video games can be used in so many interesting ways. For the purposes of this article, it will be used to help measure exactly what video game technology can do and see the general progression of it through the generations of consoles. The article will look at how sexuality is portrayed and why, expressing it as limitations of the generation. By looking at video game consoles through the lens of the sexual content of video games, it can offer ideas on the potential for complex graphics, storytelling, audio, and so on.
2nd Generation of Console Games
This generation of console games had some of the most ambitious and sexual games out of all the generations. It dove right in with some of the raunchiest and disturbing storylines that I’ve ever seen. Ejaculating to put out fires. Raping a bound native american woman. The native american woman raping a bound man. Ejaculating off of a rooftop for hookers to catch it in their mouths a few stories below. These sorts of games would make Larry Flynt stop and go “what the hell man?”
These games demonstrates the technological limitations of the 2nd generation. While the stories are hyper-sexual to the point of unrealistic, the graphics fail to reflect that. The low-quality graphics of the 2nd generation were fine for games like Pac-Man or maybe Q-Bert, where the graphics were adequate to portraying the scene at hand. The graphics of this generation could do very little to convey the sexuality of the game. They were adequate enough to allow for the game to be played and let the player’s imagination take control.
This generation’s technology only allowed for simple games with the most basic of plots. So the exclusive focus on sex was a limitation of technology. Look at the other games of its time. All of them were very much one-dimensional with stories. The games were about accomplishing one specific task. So the programmers had to take sexuality and find a way to make a game out of it. Deviant sexual acts offered far more potential for gameplay than traditional sex, so they went with outlandish act to try to make things interesting. It’s almost understandable why the games did what they did.
3rd and 4th Generation of Console Games
The 3rd and 4th generation of console games made a serious attempt to give a rough approximation of the human form, in both men and women. And in doing so, we can see the first examples of sexualized characters in both men and women. Take a look at a small sample from the 3rd generation:
The 3rd generation’s sexualization happened mostly in cut scenes, as the graphics aren’t good enough to properly convey it in actual gameplay. Female characters had their breasts, legs, panties, eyes, and hair sexualized. Yes, even the hair. They tend to have perfect bedroom hair. Male characters had chiseled bodies, strong jaws, and a dominant alpha-male stance. It’s kind of like an idealized form of a human being rather than an actual human. That’s the most fair way of seeing it.
This is just a small selection from the 4th generation, but it should be enough. The features that were beginning to stand out in the 3rd generation are far more prominent in the 4th generation. Yes, most of these pictures are from the SNES, but that’s because the graphics were somewhat better, so they have better pictures. But as it should be clear to see, the features are far more defined. Muscles, curves, stances, and far more are clear to see.
The 5th and 6th Generation of Console Games
The 5th and 6th generation saw a real growth in how sexuality is expressed in video games thanks to improved consoles. The 3D element was introduced successfully, as well as advancements in graphics and sound. This allowed for a greater cinematic experience, and allowed for greater ways for sexuality to be expressed. We saw a major advancement on how the characters were expressed physically as well as how they were portrayed in the story.
The trend continues strongly for the female characters. So there’s no surprise there. More skin exposed. Better and better defined body parts.But for the male characters, we see a dramatic change in sexuality. There’s a greater emphasis on multi-cultural ideas of sexual rather than the alpha-male model. While there are still tough guys that look like they are chiseled from concrete, there are others that look dainty and almost feminine. Some male characters have very long hair while others have angular faces normally only seen on female characters.
What could be more noteworthy is the growth of sexuality in complex narratives and gameplay. God of War is a fun one, having quite intense sex scenes. They were raw and primal, emphasizing Kratos’ alpha male personality. Sex was treated like a mini-game, not quite in the same vein as the 2nd generation console games, but there was a vague resemblance. It wasn’t just sex. These generations showed dating and romance rather than only sex. This was most apparent in roleplaying games like Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and Jade Empire. Each of these had a boy be awkwardly attracted to a girl, or vice versa. This is a consequence of technology allowing for greater narrative variety.
The 7th Generation of Console Games
The 7th generation progresses what the 5th and 6th generation began. Just like the 4th generation did to the 3rd generation. The technology allowed for great leaps in !
Let’s start with the obvious. The features on both men and women are far more defined. But… unlike the previous generations, the face is also very well defined (the non-anime inspired). The men look rugged and worn. The female faces look almost realistic. They look like actual people who are supermodel level attractive. The graphics are a very reasonable progression from the previous generations.
This generation saw a huge growth in complex relationships between males and females, as well as male/male and female/female. Exemplars of this can be seen in Mass Effect and Dragon Age, where romance and courtship is emphasized. These games use the audio and graphical advancements in the console to create a cinematic experience like none other.
What Does Sexuality Tell Us About The Future Of Gaming
I strongly believe that technology is allowing for greater chances for video game developers to create complex relationships in video games. Every generation tended to build off the previous one, making it far better in some way. Objectifying men and women in gaming will not be going away. With every new generation, there will be a chance for developers to create incredibly sexy eye candy for us to enjoy.
But with greater advancements in technology, there will be far more complex ways for sexuality to be expressed. Perhaps there will be mini-games like in God of War to get the gamer more involved in sex scenes. Or, we can have a far more dynamic relationship within games. As of right now, relationships can only take shape in one way with one outcome. It’s very well possible, with consoles growing more powerful, to have multiple outcomes factoring on dozens of decisions.
Sexuality and the form it takes is dependent on the power of the console, and how it was expressed in previous generations, not developers living out their fantasies of male-power.
Coming Soon: Part 4 – Motion Sensors