This post was originally a sidebar in another post I’m writing but decided it needs to be discussed on its own. Quite simply we need more Bad Sex in games, now I do not mean poorly written sex scenes. Although I’m kind of surprised their hasn’t been a Fifty Shades of Whatever game yet. I mean we need games that show us the less glamorous side of sex: The awkward first times; the bad sex that happens before you learn what you like, the fantasies that fall far short of expectations; the mechanical sex you have because your trying to conceive, the sex you have with X till you realize you’re only interested in Y, sex sessions that for any number of reasons don’t leave us satisfied. All of these are part of sex and sexuality; bad sex that teaches us what we don’t like is as much a part of life as the great sex that teach us what we love.
This is a rare in most media but I find it especially lacking in games. I can easily name some memorable bad sex example off the top of my head in other media. Lilly Allen has made several songs about bad sex, the HBO series Girls has had some very unglamorous portrayals of sex, the movie But I’m a Cheerleader had a comically filmed make out session that illustrated how horrible it was for the protagonist to pretend to be straight. Yet I can’t think of any comparable scene in gaming yet. I sure there are a few example somewhere that I’ve missed but like I said this is especially lacking in games.
However, here is what really made me interested in addressing this issue on its own instead of just a side bar. Games are defined by their interactivity and ideally a games story should be reflected in it mechanics. However, the way I see it there is a big irony in games: we use mechanics that seem built to represent bad sex to try to represent good sex. Games have yet to really figure out how to presented sexuality via the mechanics of a game. At least intentionally, there are some games that accidentally stumbled upon some interesting possible mechanics. The intense attachment that many players have towards the Companion Cube in portal may, completely unintentionally, be the best model available for how to replicate the intense attachments of love and lust via game mechanics we’ve stumbled upon; something that is a little sad but also amazingly cool.
However, when games intentionally try to use game mechanics we usually end up with something awkward such as quicktime event style sex scene. Neither the deep intimacy of making love in a decades-long relationship, nor the raw carnality of a one-night encounter with someone you just met in a bar, nor most of the other sexual permutations of life is done justice by a quick time event. The only forms of sex that I can see working with a quicktime mechanic are, you may have guessed it, bad sex. The disconnect and loss of immersion that happens when you try to represent sex via these awkward quicktime events could be used intentionally to demonstrate bad sex. Using some of my examples, the mechanical nature of quick time events can be used to demonstrate how mechanical sex can become if you’re only having it because you’re trying to conceive or because your try to pass as something you aren’t. If we can master how to create champion cube like mechanics, we use those in the beginning of the game to show the intensity of the opening moments of a relationship but then used quicktime event sex to make a point about the difficulties many couple experience in keeping their sex lives from become stale in long-term relationships. However, current attempts to pair game mechanics to sex are a little like trying to create a hot and steamy sex scene only instead of a hot and steamy soundtrack you have a laugh track or a tear-jerking piano piece.
I’ll finish by pointing out that this post in it of itself serves as a demonstration of shorts as to why we have to ask the question of about how game portray bad sex as much as asking how we portray good sex. While I had plenty of thoughts about sex in games before the point I just made ,the irony that we don’t focus on bad sex in games but basically have a bad sex game mechanic ready to go while using that bad sex mechanic to try and represent good sex, till I asked the “bad sex” question.