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May 6, 2006

Game Eunuch No More!!!

Filed under: Thoughts and Rants — Tom B @ 8:49 am

I have been playing Elder Scrolls: Oblivion for a few weeks now. It is pretty good. But for some reason I felt something was wrong with it. Was it not engaging enough…too repetitive and boring…I could not pout my finger on it. But it was a decidedly unsatisfying play experience. Then two apparently unrelated events happened that brought things into the light. The first was the ESRB change in the rating of Oblivion from Teen to Mature. This was apparently due to the level of Violence and Gore, as well as the potential to take the shirts off of the female (and I suppose male) models by deleting a set of textures. Seems the ESRB is hip enough to understand that if you model naked breasts under a model of a shirt, deleting the shirt will reveal the breasts.

In the age of the Internet and easy access to hard core porn, this seems really stupid. In Europe sex is on commercial government sponsored TV channels. At least bare breasts are on TV in many parts of the world as well as on almost all of the beaches. And where they are, the people are healthy and well ajusted for the most part. And where they are not people seem to be decidedly more screwed up! Moreover, pandering to the religious right is a bad thing. It emboldens them into believing they are right when, in fact, they are wrong. Last night I was in Coconut Grove and there was a Jesus Nazi standing on a box railing about the evils of secular life and fornication. He had the temerity to call a cute young girl a harlot because when he looked at her he wanted to jump her bones…so she was “evil.” The hypocritical jackoff. If Jesus had any message it was to love and care or each other. Don’t be judgmental, forgive. But these judgmental Jesus jerks are for sure taking over the US and the rest of us are letting it happen…but I digress….

The other seemingly unrelated event was this week’s Escapist eMagazine whose topic is Sex in Games. I don’t take the time to read much these days. I pretty much read for a living and taking the time to read a magazine is something that I usually reserve for long plane rides. But I have been taking the time to read the Escapist and this issue was of particular import to me. Why? Because I am a human being and aside from survival, my sex drive is primal. The articles in this week’s mag had a broad range. Online games, text MUDs and RPGs. R P G s! In a flash I realized why Oblivion was a such and stone cold bore. It completely ignored by sexual nature. I was effectively emasculated while playing…neutered like a eunuch. No wonder every time a take a break from playing I feel a little like I have been cheated. No sex and no romance (the possibility of sex) anywhere in the game.

It has been said that men think about sex about every seven seconds. This is probably an exageration. But a recent ABC poll revealed that70% of the responding men admitted that they think about sex every day. And I doubt that includes simply admiring the curve of a female neck or taught female calf in high heels. I also suspect the response would have been much higher if it had included “romance” and “admire the opposite sex.” Men and women are supposed to think about sex all the time. Life in large part is simply about the procreation of the species. And that makes sex a core drive.

And if that’s the case (and it is!) then why do I have to leave my libido at the door when I enter Oblivion? Not only is it unnatural, it is an insult to me as a human. And it is just as much of an insult to women playersl. Shame on any Studio that lets the ESRB rating decide their content anyway. Any story driven game that ignores the libido will not fully engage their users in a meaningful manner. Think of the story potential with even the most superficial “love” interests and the need for this sort of character interaction becomes obvious. And if you look at social multiplayer games you will have to admit it. WoW, Second Life, Everquest all have sex in them and lots f it. How did it get there…the people playing these games brought it with them. It is their nature!

So, will I continue playing Oblivion now that I realize that it is an emasculating virtual experience. Probably not. My day to day life is plenty emasculating enough for me!

GL & HF!!!

Tom B


  1. A good observation, Tom. As people have pointed out several times before, the U.S. has no problem with violence, but a bit of sexuality is just taboo. Notice during the whole “Hot Coffee” incident that everyone was getting bent out of shape by a bit of poorly-rendered and animated sex, but said little about the detail provided for violent actions in the game. The only real cry about that was over the fact that you could beat up hookers, once again tapping into that sexual taboo.

    It’s interesting to notice a few things about the Elder Scroll games. In Daggerfall, you could strip down your character to just underpants. That meant female characters had exposed breasts. Morrowind changed that, but modders came to the rescue. One of the mods that gave the biggest improvements in Morrowind was “Better Bodies”. These were much improved models for characters, and had the option for full nudity.

    As for as relationships go, modders also stepped in and provided that in Morrowind. One of the better mods was Laura Craft, which created an NPC that would follow you around. You had quests which advanced a storyline and your relationship with the character. It even included a bit of (off camera) sex which gave you some points in Athletics. ;) The mod is a bit cheezy since it gives you a well-stocked house and a teleportation object (after completing some quests), but the actual interaction with the NPC was quite thoughtful.

    One problem is that it’s very hard to do this type of thing “right”. Let’s face it, most game developers aren’t expert storytellers. Yet. Games still largely focus on juvenile power fantasies, and the sexuality tends to fit in with that regrettable theme. To be fair, most entertainment media doesn’t portray relationships very well. You tend to get very simplified versions and everyone lives “happily ever after” in most stories. But, I think there is a market for a well-told relationship story, even if it is in a game. :)

    Anyway, you got me to register to make a comment. Great blog, Tom. Keep up the good work! I look forward to reading more of your insight.

    Comment by Psychochild — May 25, 2006 @ 1:41 am

  2. First of all, America may be the World leader in most ways, but we are lagging far behind the rest of the World when it comes to the ‘Sexual Revolution’. Our society simply deems anything Sexual in nature as Unnecessary Evil.
    Sadly, it’s something for which there is no easy fix. We just have to wait for our Society to ‘open it’s eyes’ to the subject.

    As for ES:IV Oblivion:
    Although I can see parts of the points you want to make, I’d have to disagree with other parts.
    There is defiantly Sex and Romance within the game. There are NPC’s whom display Lust, Love, {as well as a reference to Necrophelia.} There’s even an all-female gang that lures men to their remote cabin under pretense of having sex with them, just to rob them. The fact that the main character can’t participate in those things, is simply due to the nature of the game.
    For gamers with in interest in falling in Love, or getting married, there are games specifically for that; for RPG fans, there’s Fable.
    For gamers that want such material an their Elder Scrolls game, the developers have supplied all the tools necessary for them to mod anything they may desire into the world they provided. Such mods as Marriage, and even a Brothel are already developed and may be downloaded for free.
    The main problem I have with Oblivion, is the fact that the developers changed the gameplay from that of a True gamer’s ‘Hardcore’ RPG, to a more easily playable, general audience-friendly game. It simply didn’t have the Depth that other games in the series had.
    I admire the fact that someone in your profession can relate and understand the common person, and has the courage to stand up for them. I’ll be keeping an eye on your future work, and hope you all the best.

    Comment by Mephistote — June 28, 2006 @ 3:20 pm

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