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Lola enters the erotic video games conversation

This past week the internet has been ablaze with discussions surrounding the removal of erotic video game, Seduce Me, from Steam Greenlight. You can read “Sex Game Pulled From Steam Greenlight. You Can Guess Why”, on Kotaku to understand the whole shebang.

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When asked on the official website if the images will be censored in the final version of Seduce Me: No. There will be no censorship in the final game. Developer  

The argument for: Allowing erotic games on a public distribution platform

  • Video games with violent content are allowed, erotic games should therefore by default also be allowed.
  • The average age of gamers is 30 years and explicit content shouldn't matter.
  • Mainstream games like Mass Effect 3 and The Witcher already have some form of eroticism in it, therefore games with eroticism as its main theme should be allowed.
  • People view sex as scandalous and or wrong and this taints their judgement of accepting erotic content.
  • Gamers should have the power of choice over what video games they want to play; it should not be the decision of a distributor (Steam). 
The argument against: Allowing erotic games on a public distribution platform
  • The platform owners have the right to decide which type of games they want to release.
  • Most erotic flavoured games are of bad taste and lack any meaningful gameplay, skill or story.
  • Erotic games should feature on an exclusive platform catering for people who has a taste for it.
I want to include someone in the conversation for whom I have tremendous respect. Tauriq Moosa is a gamer, a critical thinking guru and he writes for “Against the New Taboo” on Big Think. Since controversy is his daily bread, I asked him to jump in as a soundboard for this delicate subject. His opinion varies greatly from mine, but I believe we should always be open to receive input from different points of view.

Should erotic video games be allowed on a public distribution platform as Steam Greenlight?

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“The answer should be nuanced, so I'll highlight some obvious points first. 

Like most things involving sex (between or involving consenting adults), I don't see reason for authorities to oppose it. Sex should be viewed as no more immoral than, say, cooking food (you can pay for it, do it yourself, woo someone into doing it; and there are bad and immoral ways to acquire it, etc.) This is compounded here by the fact that we're not even dealing with physical humans but digital pixels grinding.  

The average age of gamers and that there already exists gratuity - in terms of violence and swearing – give the lie to the awful argument of "protect the children". Furthermore, and more importantly, "banning" or "opposing" undermines our ability to make choices as adults. Why can you choose not to buy or engage with a game, a book, a film? Are we that incapable? "Protecting" children shouldn't equal imposing on adults.  

However, what I've outlined is mostly a focus for an already existing platform for sexy products. This argument really only make sense for consumers, not the platform. The point here isn't whether we should ban it but whether a business is allowed to prevent such products completely. In this instance, there are few reasons to think they've done anything "wrong": yes, they may be prudish, be giving into Puritanical views on sex, etc. But it's entirely in their interest to cater to their customers, should they have access to data we do not. We could amass a boycott – ala Mass Effect 3 ending – but judging from comments and knowing how most people view sex, I don’t think Steam will lose out should some liberal boycott occur.  

Do I think Steam should allow sex games: yes, definitely. They will show they respect us as adults to make choices for ourselves. Do I think they're wrong not to allow it: Yes and no: yes, since there's no good reason ethically to oppose sex and games, but no, if their data indicates that selling sex games would drive down their sales. The point of a business, my business ethics prof once said, isn't to make sales: it's to survive. To demand a business commit suicide for the sake of my views on morality is itself an immoral consideration - especially for a business that is beloved and brings joy to others. I, however, don't think Steam would lose significantly if they did allow erotic games – despite their pearl-clutching, face–fanning reactions.” Tauriq Moosa 

 We accept violence in video games, why not erotic video games?

 (These are my own personal laymen’s opinions and not scientific facts. My arguments are from a consumer’s point of view only.)

I want to argue that the way the human psyche reacts to violent content differs widely to that of erotic content. Before we therefore hastily shout our approval of erotic video games, we need to look at the broader significance and impact this would have on the video games industry. Whereas violence only triggers a fight or flight reaction, eroticism triggers four different responses in the mind. It sets of a chain reaction on a cognitive, an emotional, a motivational, and a physiological level. What this inherently means is that when we see erotic content our minds and bodies instinctively respond to it. We are set on a course of either satisfaction or rejection of it. Within the context of a video game, sexual imagery’s lingering effect and consequent behaviour has a much greater impact on the mind than a violent scene would have.

  • Me shooting a zombies head off – forgotten within seconds.
  • Me doing the deed - only forgotten after hubby gets home ;) 
Just me? Before you judge me, please remember we are not talking about a game that has sexual related content in it (The Witcher or Mass Effect 3); we are talking about a game in which the gameplay, storyline, visual effects, every single aspect of it, is focused on erotic content. Not to mention that there will be no censored images in the final version of this game. 

On a more serious note, let me just point to the effect pornographic material has on people. I could just ask the question, “How many people, (happily married or single) dabble around in porn, hmmm? Do we honestly want to open this door, stamp our approval on it and release it as a mainstream option to play? Would you honestly want your partner to play a game such as Seduce Me? How would games that further exploit the female body and our roles within relationships influence player’s perceptions of the fairer sex? Then there’s the whole issue of devaluing sex, its importance within relationships and its addictive properties. How many people would get addicted to a violent video game and how many would get addicted to an erotic game? 

Always within context 

What would be the purpose of such a game? I am still struggling to understand the intent of Seduce Me. Is it to teach a player how to seduce a woman? Is it for some eye candy? Maybe so you can see some girl on girl action? Surely there are better options to explore these for even the most socially inapt person? From watching the demo I can only deduct that the purpose of the game is to have an interactive soft porn experience, as opposed to just watching an explicit story. The official website describes the strategy of Seduce Me as, “Do you have what it takes to seduce your way into the hearts and bedrooms of Seduce Me's gorgeous women.” 

Let me just add that I don’t have a problem with sexual content in video games per se. I’ve played the Hentai game, Katawa Shoujo, I do not remember it for its explicit sexual content, but for its story and characters. Sex was part of the story it wasn't THE story. It added meaning and depth to the unfolding drama. I have a problem with releasing a video game on a public platform which has sex as its central theme, just as I would have a problem with the release of a game that would have violence as its central theme. I also don’t think that games with erotic content should by default be given the banhammer, but that each game should be assessed based on its own merit. 

I want to argue that violence in video games mostly serve a purpose within the content of the story. I am a first-person shooter fangirl, I’ve been playing the genre for years, and I've yet to play a game where violence is THE theme. When violence is used the game presents a challenge in terms of hand eye coordination, strategic deployment, player skill and it’s mostly connected to a purpose in the story.

If a game would feature violence as its only theme, then I would hope gamers will also rally to have it shut down. In the recent case of the Lara Croft “rape and inappropriate violence”, gamers were quick to express their displeasure.  

The odd notion that sex is dirty 

It seems that most people who objected to Valves decision to remove Seduce Me from Greenlight based their judgement on the assumption that humanity (in particular Americans) has a warped view of sex. That it is seen as ‘dirty and sin”. I want to counter that assumption with this question, “Do you think by distributing erotic video games this disposition towards sex would be addressed or amplified?” What would be the side effects of allowing erotic video games in society? If we already mostly have a warped view, will these video games warp it further or give us a better perspective on sexuality?

An inconvenient truth

If we are all bluntly honest, we will have to agree that: 

  • Violence upsets us; we instinctively reject and condemn it, we are repulsed by it.
  • Whereas we are drawn to erotic content, we want to explore it and push its shady boundaries as far as we are allowed to. 
Maybe I'm just a weakling and overly cautious, but honey, please don’t open Pandora’s door of temptations for me. Once erotic content has a foot in the public distribution door, who can predict where it will end. I for one am grateful that this decision is a bit removed from us. We all want to declare how liberal and open minded we are, but I am not ashamed to admit how fickle my human nature can be and how I sometimes welcome external governance. There are more important things to consider in the matter of erotic video games than just my right of choice.

I thank the lords of Valve for finding Seduce Me too hot for Steam, for now. 

Check out the gameplay video for Seduce Me. Remember that the developers clearly stated on the official website that the final version of the game will have no censorship as we see in the demo version.  Do you think it deserves a place alongside the other titles in your collection of video games? 

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