The 10 Sexiest Games of All Time
Like many of you, I grew up with joystick in hand, with furtive peeks at Playboy between the local newsstand's racks, as my tastes matured from Atari 2600 to Xbox 360.
Consider the facts. The average game player is now 35, according to the Entertainment Software Association. As of 2008, 26 percent of Americans over age 50 have experimented with the hobby. An impressive 40 percent of gamers are female -- women over 18 representing an even larger segment of the population than children and teens. Studies show that seniors and suburban housewives rank among the fastest-growing markets for digital diversions.
Isn't it high time we found ourselves ready to have a frank, honest discussion about sexuality in how it specifically pertains to the games people play?
Damon Brown, author of Feral House's new volume "Porn & Pong: How Grand Theft Auto, Tomb Raider and other Sexy Games Changed Our Culture," certainly seems to think so.
In the spirit of opening the floor for earnest discussion and debate in an era where same-sex relationships and even eroticism on prime time television remain controversial, we invited Brown to present his thoughts on the 10 most erotic games of all time. Agree, disagree or just marvel at the many omissions here (Bully, BMX XXX, Softporn Adventure, the old door games that kept you glued to your local BBS, etc.) -- you're invited to do the same in the Crispy Gamer Community.
There's no denying that, over the years -- speaking directly to the medium's continued growth and maturity -- there have been at least one or two titles that have pushed your buttons, right?
Grand Theft Auto series
The Watchword: "Maturing"
"There's an evolution occurring here. The developers are still fumbling, but we're seeing a definite progression. Earlier games such as Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City limited you to interaction with prostitutes. San Andreas resorted to crudeness, as seen in the "Hot Coffee" segments, which differ little conceptually from Custer's Revenge, which was released two decades earlier. But by Grand Theft Auto IV's virtual girlfriend system, we begin to see creator Rockstar introduce the concept of relationships. And what I find sexy here is all these women's widely distinct personalities: Some are prudes and bookish; others are wild and want to go to the strip club. I don't think the creators get it entirely yet, but they're moving in the right direction. Each new installment progresses what sexuality means inside the game. Ultimately, I'd love to see a more mature Mass Effect-type vibe here. The problem is that every time Rockstar tries and resorts to making a parody of sexual relationships, they stumble, and accidentally wind up setting the standard, which tends to set the medium back."
Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards
The Watchword: "Denial"
"A funny game, yes ? But isn't actual sex funny a good 75 percent of the time, as much as we don't want to acknowledge that? It had excellent timing too: Many of us playing the game at the time of release (1987) were just starting adolescence. It was a good mirror of what we were going through at the time -- our bodies were complicated, awkward and changing. And the relationships we were trying to build (and I use the word "relationships" loosely here) just seemed complicated too. I think that the game was this great reflection of that, featuring this idiot basically stumbling around in the dark. Designer Al Lowe also did a great job of making having sex feel like the Holy Grail, and didn't it feel like that to all of us back then? The game was extremely hard too -- it makes Maniac Mansion look like a cakewalk. We're being denied as much as Larry. That kind of tease can be pretty erotic."
The Watchword: "Freedom"
"It would've been higher on the list, but it's not really a game, although it took a lot of elements from massively multiplayer online games and role-playing games and gave us a bunch of cool tools and told us to go at it. It's actually the first true sandbox title. And if people are provided the technology and tools to make anything, they'll always go and make something sexy -- history tells us that over the past century. It never fails. It's almost like the realization of the Holodeck from "Star Trek." Some of the first items sold on here by a guy named Stroker Serpentine were digital penises and vaginas that allowed you to simulate intercourse. And these products have actually done him very well. Freedom to explore and experiment, have a five-way if you want, is the big thing here -- other games restrict players in the way they can interact. You have the freedom to do anything, or anyone, you want in Second Life."
The Watchword: "Curtain Call"
"One of the earliest NES games, it was based on a major anime and comic book character who's like a Japanese James Bond. He can actually bed several of the female characters he meets. There were these interludes where you'd hook up with women. You'd hear cheesy '
'60s mood music come in, they'd go up to his apartment suite and you'd see two silhouettes in the window crudely moving toward each other. The lights would go down, the view would slowly pan up to the moon, the music would get all funky, and your energy would go up afterwards. It was a prelude, two decades earlier, to what would happen in Grand Theft Auto III. But it was all done very tastefully -- it afforded the act this dignity it didn't have to have. There was this level of sensualness available on the NES that it would take us 20 years to recreate on more advanced systems. Ironically, if you were a little kid, you'd have no idea what was going on."
Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix
The Watchword: "Erotic"
"I struggled with this one, because much of the title was crudely done. What was interesting though was that there was a certain level of sensualness and sexual energy the game conveyed, almost despite itself. The biggest issue was the advertising: The game had 13 different endings, and ads showed the heroines on top of each other with a subhead that said "no one's surprised this game can reach 13 climaxes." You can't deny the sensuality though, and bringing it to the videogame forefront was pretty genius. As far as the title itself, it resorted to a lot of lesbian stereotypes and mythology. It can't be denied, however ? it was pretty sexy game."
Beyond Good and Evil
The Watchword: "Relatable"
"Had the first female protagonist that I could actually see as my girlfriend. She was funny, nerdy, kind of cute, smart, could get into trouble and get herself out just as easily. She was a very capable woman. That just struck me. Videogames have been around for 35 years and it took that long for us to have a semi-realistic female protagonist. Not someone who was a badass like [Metroid's] Samus Aran, or wore a traditional Asian gown like [Street Fighter II's] Chun Li. Nothing here was fetishized. She was just a woman, and that in itself was very sexy to me. I could relate."
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
The Watchword: "Chemistry"
"I loved the back-and-forth repartee between the arrogant, bull-headed prince and equally aggressive, but intelligent princess. It reminded me of a classic movie like "Adam's Rib." The jabs were great, and helped to create some chemistry between the characters. Having interviewed designers and discussed this subject with them, I can tell you that this is very difficult to do. There wasn't sexual tension towards the player, which is usually the default, here. Instead, we see this beautiful banter between the player's character, who has his own distinct identity, and this woman that he saves. They have a convincing connection ? very sexy in my book."
The Watchword: "Voyeurism"
"It was an arcade game which came out in 1990 and was imported from Japan. Picture an update of classic game Qix where you goal was to literally strip away pieces of the game board. Behind its shadow was a silhouette of a woman you were undressing. It was like strip poker: You'd strip her from clothes to underwear to a cartoon graphic to a real digital picture of the model used to create the design. What I found fascinating is that one, it was a top 10 game in America (amazing to me), and two, it was the first game (and one of few my research found) that actually showed nudity in a public place. There's a certain amount of fear of getting caught conveyed here, and I found very few examples of that happening again. It just was a simple, rare thing that speaks to the clandestine thrill of voyeurism?"
The Watchword: "Secret"
"Has a strong female lead, but you have no idea she's a woman. At the time, we had very few strong female characters -- maybe Ms. Pac-Man and the valkyrie from Gauntlet. It was a revelation to learn that the person shooting all these monsters and destroying the Mother Brain was female. You practically kill yourself playing, finally beat the game and learn she's a woman, and a beautiful woman at that, and it just blows your mind. This was an amazing Easter egg, and one that predates the Internet. The game's incredibly hard: I know people to this day who haven't beat it. So you finish this really tough adventure, and you get this great, totally unexpected reward, and because few people have experienced it, it because almost like a myth or legend, and part of the cultural canon. It's just a really defining moment, and one of gaming's best surprises."
The Watchword: "Relationships"
"I didn't have a choice here. The game itself can be kind of dry because of the pacing. But the fact that you're able to build up relationships with aliens, humans and countless races makes it fascinating. The sex scenes are also quite beautiful, and very well done, and it's absolutely clear that a romantic interlude took place. The way that the female alien's wrist goes limp against the headboard, or way the game concentrates on the eyes and glides over small parts of the body without showing anything explicit ? The most important thing to note here, though, is that developer BioWare is able to put this into a game so focused on meaningful interaction. You have a relationship with every single thing, be it person or alien, that you come across. This isn't a scenario where you're just trying to get off, or an attempt to fetishize an experience. You're building a meaningful relationship, so that when climax does occur, you're truly experiencing the merging of two people who've built up a bond. That's the future of videogames, in my opinion. Whether the gaming public's ready for that yet though remains to be seen?"