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Default Brenda Braithwaite Interview at Joystiq about Sex in Games

February 28th, 2007, 11:21
This is only of tangenital interest to most RPG players I'm sure, but Brenda Braithwaite, one of the key people behind Wizardry 8 has an interview over at Joystiq on the topic of Sex in Games. Here's a very brief snip from the introduction:
"We're doing two roundtables this year at the request of previous attendees: designing erotic games and, second, the business end of erotic games. This will give attendees a chance to really get into each issue deeply. When it comes to designing erotic games, I expect we will probably cover such things as appealing to a diverse sexual audience, incorporating fetish play, MMO design, and pitching games to existing adult stars and publishing powerhouses. There's also interest from many people in solving that M-rated issue: how can we maturely incorporate mature themes into the narrative of the play – the same stuff you'd see in an R-rated movie – without being locked out of retail? Games have certainly done it, and as our ability to tell stories in games increases, figuring out how to do it well is becoming more an more an issue. The average gamer is a guy in his 30's, you know. Shows from Lost to Grey's Anatomy feature mature storylines that we, in games, feel at risk to take."
If you're interested in reading more, then you'll find the entire interview right here .
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February 28th, 2007, 11:21
Freudian slip.

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February 28th, 2007, 12:30
I think it is of somewhat importance to the RPG community.

Most review or studies of the computer, and also the RGP market now show that yes, today, the average gamer is a guy (or girl) in his 30's. And yet, the game developing houses as well as the publishers still treat the customers as if they were adolescent boys beteem 13-19 (sort of).

If we widen the perspective a bit, I do think that we will se games with more
Mature content (and no, this doesn't only means just more boobs and that sort of stuff) which appeals to the older audience which now plays computer games.

Sadly , the game industry seems to be locked in a fix about this: They still think that most gamers are about 15 or 16 years orld, and that these 15-16 year old boys typically want action & more action.

My point is that there really ius a market out there for M-rated games which someone somwhere sometime mistakes for being equal to or similar with
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February 28th, 2007, 13:43
I fail to see what the average age of gamers has to with sex in videogames… honestly. I would argue that sex and erotic in video games is widely overestimated. I don't doubt that there is a market for games that it some way or another feature porn (after all, a lot of people seem to enjoy xxx movies), but creating games that mainly focus on sexual themes are (at least from my point of view) doomed to failure. If you look at the prevalent themes in video games then you'll find mostly action, adventure, and sports. That is not without reason, since these areas offer the greatest possibility of interaction. While sex and love can be incorporated into these genres, they will always be a by-product - very similar to movies where sex and love are very often a by-product as well. Now, you might argue that there are love films which have basically no ther content than love and sex (and usually a tragical or comical story), but I doubt games can fill that role yet. Right now movies seem to be still much more suited to transport feelings than games are. In the future, when games are becoming more realistic that might change.
Personally, I have the feeling that games that adress a mature audience by implementing sex and love might end up with an audience consisting primarily of 12 year old teenagers.
I also firmly believe that sex and love are best experienced in real life, and not in a video game…
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February 28th, 2007, 13:51
The brothel in G2 was an interesting experiment, not repeated in G3. The one in ToEE, was cut and then partially restored by Co8. Nudity disappeared from TES after DF, yet sex was a part of several Ultima games. Not sure what it all means, but the issue has been around for some time!!

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February 28th, 2007, 14:08
Perhaps they are implying that all those 30 year old men are living in their mom's basement. Pursuit of a stereotype? I'm 30 something - but married +2 kids. I have no interest in gaming pron. Silliness.

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February 28th, 2007, 15:09
Sometimes it can add a bit of flavor, such as the brothel in G2. I don't like that feature because of the cinematic, which isn't overly sexual exactly, but because it adds something to the harbor district. Historically, brothels were very common near the harbor in trading ports, due to the high number of sailors that stayed in the area.
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February 28th, 2007, 16:20
personally, i find the thought of buying a sex focused game stupid. i might as well just get a porno to watch with my wife, it'll be way more interactive than a game

that being said, i do like the thought of including a lot more situationally appropriate mature content inside games, because quite frankly i think that at 32 i am mature enough to handle the content. i like how games are starting to include more cussing for example, that add (in my opinion) a lot to many kinds of games. company of heroes for example has your squads cussing from time to time, first time i heard that i couldn't believe it. then i thought to myself, what would these guys really be saying with shells flying over their heads all the time? they'd be cussing up a storm, i know i would be, and i'm sure the guys on the fronts right now are as well. adds realism.
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February 28th, 2007, 17:42
Originally Posted by Ionstormsucks View Post
I don't doubt that there is a market for games that it some way or another feature porn (after all, a lot of people seem to enjoy xxx movies), but creating games that mainly focus on sexual themes are (at least from my point of view) doomed to failure.
Leisure Suit Larry and the Lula games didn't fail, but they weren't exactly… mature.

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February 28th, 2007, 18:58
Sex??? Where?? When?? Ooopppsss……guess I am in the wrong frame of mind for this topic today.

Seriously, I wouldn't mind a mature level of conversation or a discrete cut scene. But I don't see any real value to having the topic play any great part in a game. As others have said, if you want porn, you can find that somewhere else.

Bart and Corwin should just admit that when it gets down to it, I will have the final say.
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February 28th, 2007, 20:02
The kinds of things this snip focused on don't sound like they have much to do with an actual gaming experience—just a porn setting—I don't see how you're going to focus on any kind of gameplay unless you are going to have a character skillmastery rooted (oops) in the Kama Sutra.

I'm all for mature content in games where it fits the setting—brothels exist in the real world and so does sex and profanity, but most people don't spend their real lives totally focused there, so why should a game character? Sounds like another sexploitation racket to me.

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February 28th, 2007, 21:04
Originally Posted by magerette View Post
I'm all for mature content in games where it fits the setting—brothels exist in the real world and so does sex and profanity, but most people don't spend their real lives totally focused there, so why should a game character? Sounds like another sexploitation racket to me.
That's been a real problem around this discussion. There are people who want to make games which have more sexy/sexual content, and then there are people who want to make games which are fundamentally oriented around sex, or whose treatment of sex is their primary distinguishing attribute. And their goals are almost as opposite with each other as they are with people trying to keep sex out of games altogether.

Braithwaite runs an IGDA mailing list on sex in video games. Although it has pretty much flamed out into dormancy now, for most of its active existence it was dominated by people who want to develop sex-focused games (particularly multiplayer games), rather than those who want to use sexuality to "punch up" a broader narrative. There was extremely little interest in discussion of the latter.

I'm not saying that the goals of the so-called "MMOEG" developers are Bad, but they have remarkably little in common with the goals of people who just think there's room for more than a comedy brothel and the occasional fade-to-black in an otherwise "mainstream" kind of game.

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February 28th, 2007, 21:26
Originally Posted by Jaz View Post
Leisure Suit Larry and the Lula games didn't fail, but they weren't exactly… mature.
Ya, but here you could argue that it wasn't really the sexual aspect that kept people playing these games. Larry is more or less an adventure style game and Lula a manager-type of game. I think these games profited a lot from the fact that these types of games were very popular at the time they were released. As far as I know the later installments of these games were not overly successful.
It's also questionable if their success could be repeated nowadays. Larry and Lula were developed at a time when games were not as abundant as they are today. Even I did play games at that time which I probably wouldn't even install nowadays.

Don't get me wrong… I don't have anything against sex or erotic in games. It's cool if it fits in. If you have an adventure game in which you play a detective that tries to solve a murder case in the porn branche - why not? But again, here sex and erotic would only be a by product. I just don't think you should make games that feature sex and erotic as their only content… well, I mean you can do that of course, but I won't buy these games.
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February 28th, 2007, 23:01
Sexual themes in a complex story driven computer game targeted deliberately at an adult audience - sure, could be interesting.
Porn games targeting the testosterone flooded young adults, and lonely dirty old men - no thanks.
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March 1st, 2007, 00:55
I almost stopped reading at "lead designer on Playboy: The Mansion,". Had no idea Braithwaite was in on that.

I can't quite see any eroto-centric game being much beyond faintly awkward, slightly embarassing titillation.
If sex, the erotic imagery and sound of it is the sole objective/attraction then I think it'd make for a pretty dull game.

I'm not sure where it could go pertaining to RPGs. There've been a few examples of "adult sexuality" in the genre, though of the literary variety rather than imagery. Viconia's romance strand in BG2 springs to mind. Starts off quite loveless, sex as recreation and/or power play, then goes off into romance.
Sex as a tool or weapon in Fallout 2 (or was it 1? Can't quite remember), manipulating wossname's wife and/or daughter in order to get into the safe or whatnot.

I'd say the adult themes are there already, in adult games (though there are arguably precious few such games around). "Adult themes/games" meaning written by people who appreciate that their audience isn't necessarily entirely composed of libidinous teens.
Whether one needs to see it all, and decries the Fallout-style fade-to-black, is down to the individual I guess. Personally I don't think it's necessary to let it all hang out. I can understand the message loud and clear and its place in the narrative with a simple "make love to me monkeyman!" or the like, and a fade-out. I wouldn't view a game negatively if it was more graphic than that though, but I'm not sure what it would add to the game.

I think I'm just going a roundabout route to saying "I think it's mostly a non-issue in the context of RPGs/any current genre", which is really stating the obvious. It would be nice to have more mature themes tackled in more games, but that doesn't necessarily begin and end at sex and nudity.
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March 1st, 2007, 01:54
What constitutes "mature content"? Ignore the physical act of sex. I've never played GTA, but Hot Coffee sounds so incredibly cheesy (maybe if I were 12 again, my opinion would be different). That's something best relegated to a fade-to-black, or G2-style FMV.

Would it be something that includes rape? You could argue it would invoke strong reactions in the players, motivate them to achieve a goal or get vengeance. And if the player were a woman who'd either experienced rape first hand (either violent, or coerced "date" type), or who had a friend who'd experienced it? You'd likely lose a player, and the response provoked would not be what you intended. And the inevitable adolescent response: "Oh cool, she got boinked! <giggle giggle>" Also probably not the response you'd want.

Passing references to mature content is hardly something new to RPGs. Actually presenting them in an interactive way isn't something I can remember in any games. And I'm kinda thinking that's a good thing.

These are RPGs. Not power-gaming them is difficult. If you find out that there's an easy way into the castle, and all you need to do is let a party-member (or random NPC) get raped by a party of bandits, would you do it? Even if it's not intended: unpleasant, mature subject matter is likely to fall victim to the standard reward metasystem in games. We're all too likely to let the maiden get eaten by the dragon, the old priest get beaten to death, steal the money from the poor box ourselves, and kill endless hordes of monsters/nazis/whatever. If we get rewarded for it. And games are good at rewarding us for things we'd never even think about doing in real life.

I've tried to put mature content in games before (mostly int-fic games, which makes it even more abstract), but I always end up finding it distasteful, disgusting, or at the very least something beyond my own limited writing ability. Then I get rid of it. Or turn it into something that only appeals to the chuckle factor.

You might be able to controllably present it through cutscenes or movies, but if it's a playable element, remember: we're dealing with RPGs. Choices and consequences are important, but if you're going to let the player have a choice, I think the most reasonable response from players is "I don't want that to happen." You don't want bad things to happen to your characters. Maybe it's for the best when some things are left out of games.

Yet it's still a game. Rewards and metagaming. I have much apprehension about trying to mix mature content with the way we play games. I don't want to blow up a bus full of children. But if I get "points" for it (however conceptualized those points may be), I'll do it. It's just a game. And when players have a choice, all too often, what they try to do won't be what the game designer intended.

Granted, my mind is wrapped up in the more extreme things that fall under "mature content". Sex is the other thing people keep throwing out.

What else is there? That was what I started off trying to ask. What do you consider to be "mature content"? And are you really sure it's something you'd enjoy doing in a game?

Every time I think about it, in the end I decide "this would not be fun."

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