June 4th, 2008

Education, anyone?

Maybe you’ve already seen this Yahtzee-style video on sex and games put together but an MFA student at Savannah College of Art and Design. Not surprisingly, the nine-minute animation project relies heavily on Brenda Brathwaite’s textbook on the subject (Brathwaite teaches at Savannah). In addition to being vaguely amusing, it’s also a pretty decent summary of the history of sex in mainstream games and the problems developers face when deciding whether to include adult content in their titles. Of course, it downplays any and all potential in sex games themselves–those poor, under-appreciated if under-developed things.

The most interesting point of the video: the tasteful inclusion of sex and relationships in games could help elevate our little medium to the status of art. It also claims that the immature sex content that’s been included in mainstream games so far is partially to blame for the juvenile reputation games have in general. If sex is what separates adult entertainment from children’s, it’s true that most games would look like kid’s toys. Of course, all of this pondering–directly addressed to the developers of the world–is a lot easier to swallow with fast moving pictures and cute animations. Congratulations, Yahtzee, you’ve found a format that can hold the interest of the attention deficit.

So what do you think, Heroine Sheik readers? Would the introduction of more “tasteful” sex content help games achieve the level of art–or at least public recognition as such?

Tags: game art debate, sex

8 Responses to “Can Sex Help Turn Games into Art?”

  1. The Guy Says:

    Makes me wish even more I majored in gaming…

    He touches on a lot of subjects, though a lot of them are semi-off the mark and he basically repeats everything that’s been said.

    I doubt the introduction of more tasteful sex will do anything. It seems everyone’s whining about games being art when really they’re just clamoring for acceptance from American society and hoity-toity fine-art types.

    Games are art, and have always been (long before video games, if you believe chess can be considered art.) And while video games might not have any notable and well crafted examples of what most people will collectively agree as “high art”, the first few steps have already taken. Yes, if everyone got together and toned down the immaturity in games a bit we might see a drastic change in the way games are perceived. But do we really need to spend so much time focusing on a few quick-fix schemes?

    So long as we don’t go the sequential art route I’m certain the opinion of games will change in a few decades (heck, it’s already happening as the kids who played videogames in their childhood are bringing games into their adult lives.) So instead of focusing on what games are missing to be considered art by everyone and everybody why not just… Make art games?

    Why don’t we let the public stumble in our wake in deciding what we are while we spend our efforts perfecting the medium instead of worrying “what makes games art?” or “what is art?”

  2. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    I totally agree with you that games are *already* art, even if it’s not in the “high art” form. Still, I see his point that if we toned down the immature sex appeal we might receive more positive attention–which would, at the least, convince game makers than an artistic approach could also be a lucrative one and steer things in a more “mature” direction. It’s not ideal to pander to outside perceptions of us, but it might help.

  3. BrainFromArous Says:

    This was lame – and riddled with historical errors and canards.

  4. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    Like what? Do enlighten us.

  5. The Guy Says:

    Custer’s Revenge wasn’t the first sex game, I’m sure. That’s the one historical accuracy I can remember off of the top of my head.

    Also the Atari controller being some sort of phallic symbol? Either he’s willingly seeing that, or stretching for content… Or both.

  6. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    You could certainly make the case that Softporn Adventure predated Custer’s Revenge as the first sex title. I suppose because he’s not running scream mad from the idea of sex in games as constructive, I still give him points.

  7. Scott Jon Siegel Says:

    The joystick is modeled after the aviation peripheral of the same name, so titled for its resemblence to a penis — particularly when, erm, manipulated between the legs of the pilot (as it used to sit back in the day).

    So, yes, incredibly phallic symbol. All the way back to its origins (and its name).

  8. BrainFromArous Says:

    Well, to pick just one:

    Contrary to what the video claims, the earliest home gaming systems – Home Pong, Odyssey, Channel F and esp the Atari VCS which really kicked things off – absolutely WERE designed and marketed for children’s play. This doesn’t mean older siblings and parents couldn’t enjoy them as well any more than I can’t enjoy playing Candyland… uh, not that I play Candyland or anything… but these were kids’ toys. Period.

    I posted about this on a long-ago Heroine Sheik, but the short form is that the whole “gamer culture” thing did not exist until commercial arcades took off and became their own “scene” just as pinball parlors and billiard rooms had done for our parents’ generation.

    The home consoles were not the point of entry to a “gamer” subculture any more than owning a copy of Risk or Stratego made you an SPI wargames dork. They were toys for kids, like a bicycle or a badminton set.

    As Nintendo and the NES ascended, “gamers” – for now you could use such a term coherently – looked back over the previous decade and realized that they had seen the emergence, rise and fall of a new hobby/subculture; a concluded age complete with its own mini-apocalypse (The Videogame Crash of 1983).

    The thing to remember, though, is that the emergence of ‘gamer’ demographic and cultural self-awareness was retroactive. We looked back and said, “Oh, so THAT’s what we were doing!”


    As for “adult” games, the companies which made them were scorned and often harassed / blacklisted / sued into oblivion. They had NO significant presence in the videogame marketplace and the vast majority of gamers, even older teens who would presumably be keen for such material, were wholly unaware of them.


    Important differences between Softporn Adventure and Custer’s Revenge make comparisons tricky….

    (1) SA was a text game a la Zork for 8-bit systems whereas CR was a side-scrolling VCS cartridge. Two very different markets there, to put it mildly.

    (2) SA was a giant hit for one of the then-leading software companies and received massive coverage in the gaming press (such as it then was). CR was released by the little-known Mystique and was promptly forgotten until later criticism made it infamous.

    (3) SA was a game featuring sex. CR was a game rewarding sexual assault. ‘Nuff said.

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