Progress: it’s all in the eye of the beholder. Back in 1983, when the Atari 2600 was burning up the sales charts, a game called Bachelor Party was firing up the libido of geeks across the country. Well, it tried to, at least, but the game’s pixelated, Pong-style gameplay represented a pretty low level of erotic stimulation. Fast forward two decades and think about how far we’ve come. Erotic games have progressed from low tech paddle twisters through Leisure Suit Larry adventure games and BMX XXX action to today’s Hot Coffee and Naughty America. The flesh is more realistic, the interaction more human, the gyrations more elaborate. But is it progress?
Sony America takes no position on this delicate moral question, but it does have doubts that the US market is ready for the same level of erotic activity as that approved by Japanese consumers. The company has decided to take a pass on publishing the Rule of Rose in the US due to concerns that the game’s semi-erotic interaction between children might not go down well here. I wonder what, exactly (*cough* Janet Jackson *cough*), gave them (*cough* Hot Coffee *cough*) the idea (*cough* MySpace predator hype *cough*) that this might prove controversial?
State of the art video game eroticism, circa 1983
The game itself is meant to be a psychological thriller, centered around the plight of a 19 year old girl who is trapped in an orphanage and tormented by other seemingly evil, childlike girls. The developers reportedly wanted to catch the natural interaction of young girls, but they are aware of the possibility that onlooking adults could see their interactions as possibly erotic. Readers may be interested to visit this trailer for a taste of the game’s eroticism.
Controversy sells—up to a point. But some kinds of publicity are, in fact, bad publicity, and being associated with underage sexuality comes bang at the top of the list. The game will still be published on this side of the Pacific, just not by Sony America, so if you’re inclined to try out the game, you won’t have to import it in a brown bag. Given the current climate of suspicion toward video games, this is probably a wise move for a company that has been reeling from a succession (*cough* Sony Connect *cough*) of missteps (*cough* rootkit *cough*) lately (*cough* Network Walkman *cough*), but it does nothing to answer the normative question of whether or not such material should be published, or whether you should play it.
It’s clear that the current legislative climate surrounding video games and sex in the media has real effects on the marketplace. Companies are starting to hold back or tone down products that might have been published a few years ago. While pundits have long lamented America’s “puritanical” attitudes toward sex and its comfort with ultraviolence, it’s interesting to note that violence in video games has actually come under far more scrutiny than sexuality. Progress, or even more puritanism?