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Levine: Current game sex like “puppets with their clothes off”

Thursday, 7th April 2011 10:58 GMT By Nathan Grayson

Are videogames allowed to depict sex? Aren’t they? Speaking with VG247, BioShock creator Ken Levine posed a different question: should they? For the time being, he’s not so sure.

“I think it’s not about being interactive. I think it’s more about people not understanding what it is. If you think about the amount of, for example, nudity in a videogame… it’s not even nudity. It’s a puppet with its clothes off. There are other problems as well. It’s kind of silly in videogames right now, because – again – puppets with their clothes off.

“It’s more like [the movie] Team America. The sex scene in Team America as opposed to, you know, the sex scene in Black Swan,” he said, speaking on the phone.

Levine, however, doesn’t think that’s the sole reason games don’t often tackle what is – like it or not – a fundamental life experience. He continued:

“The fact that’s even controversial says that the perception of the industry is that we’re making toys or something, as opposed to making creative expressions for a range of audiences – including adults. I think there’s still some prudishness.”

He added: “There’s even some prudishness in the industry itself. I did an interview recently and someone pointed out, ‘Ken, you use a lot of foul language.’ And I was like, ‘Jesus, come on. We’re all big boys and girls here.’ If I’m going to drop an F-bomb, I’m going to drop an F-bomb. I’m a big boy and I get to do that. It’s one of the privileges of being an adult.”

Look for the full interview later this week. Sadly, there are no more Team America references, but – while we know it can’t hope to fill the hole in your heart – some new BioShock Infinite info is a decent consolation, right? We’d like to think so, anyway.

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36 Comments

  1. YoungZer0

    “Ken, you use a lot of foul language.” Really? Lol.

    #1 4 years ago
  2. OlderGamer

    Well I just lost a fair amount of respect for him right there.

    Being an adult doesn’t somehow entitle you the use a foul language as you please. Being an adult grants you the wisdom and understanding that doing so is not always welcome in certian circles.

    You can’t simply walk around and F-this or F-that. That isn’t mature, thats high school(that is to say juvenille, very 10 – 25yr old male). And if your still doing that in your 30s, 40s, and 50s…I think it sad.

    Also lets talk about sex.

    I don’t think that it needs to be in 90% of the games it is in at this point. Not only is Levine correct in his puppets analogy, but again it has to do with the mispreception of what mature is.

    If your 15 years old your thoughts are consumed with sex. You want it everywhere, in your TV shows, Movies, and video games. Your jumping on the PC and goggling everything you can think of anytime you get the chance.

    But a 15yr old is not an adult, nor is a 15 yr old mature.

    Of course thinking about sex isn’t limited to 15yr olds. But at my age I have the understanding, and the maturity to handle sex. I am married for a very long time and have a loving and healthy releationship with my wife. The kind of sex I have is far different then what is often being portraied in a video game.

    The sex is video games is often closer to rape or prostitution. Not exactly loving and healthy. Again lets expose our 15 yr old to that. What does that teach him?

    And yes, I understand that this is a media wide problem. From TV, Movies, Music, Games, and porn. Execpt we all agree that kids shouldn’t be exposed to porn.

    Now before someone gets the idea that kids shouldn’t play those type of games, ask yourself if they do? Take a look around. And of course the best and most well meaning intentions aren’t going to sheild kids forever. And to tell truth, we prolly shouldn’t shield them altogether. Not like sex isn’t a natural and normal part of adult life. But I think we should be very careful of what we are putting out there and in what context.

    #2 4 years ago
  3. YoungZer0

    @2: Rape? Really? I’m sorry, but i guess you only talk about those Japanese Rape-Simulation Games. I have yet to see any Rape in my videogames. Do you have any specific games in mind? This intimacy you’re talking about? We won’t see this in videogames. We don’t even see this in films. This is something that can only be achieved in a relationship.

    The first game that went a little bit closer to this intimacy was with Jack from ME2.

    Also, since then is the use of foul language a sign of immaturity? He might have a different reason to use it when you do.

    #3 4 years ago
  4. Deacon

    I can’t honestly think of ANY game in existence that would be in any way enhanced by the inclusion of a graphic sex scene. So I really don’t understand the need for this kind of conversation.

    If they were talking about a game where sex is a gameplay mechanic, then yes, make it realistic.

    I don’t see any such games being released on the mainstream anytime soon though.

    #4 4 years ago
  5. viralshag

    @2, Without knowing what games you are referring to, I have to agree with Zer0 and say I wouldn’t link any of the sex scenes I have seen in games to rape and such.

    At the moment I would say sex scenes in games are closer to what you would find in cheesy action movies.

    I personally don’t think there is anything wrong with it being in games if it fits within the context. ME2 wasn’t exactly explicit in what it showed and it wasn’t exactly material worth having a wank over but when I nailed Miranda AND Jack, I won’t lie, I high-fived myself in my head.

    I’m in my mid 20s and whether it is “mature” or not doesn’t mean much to me, I’m gaming for fun and relaxation.

    #5 4 years ago
  6. OlderGamer

    I was talking about games that range from said JP Rape sims to Fable to GTA and more.

    I think for many this topic will about different focul points.

    It might be about what age it is ok. What age constitutes mature. To some is the sex any good, is it believable. Does it fit the story. To others, and I am in this group, they will ask does it need to be there in the first place?

    Does it enhance the game?

    I think that the answer your going to recieve is going to be very demographicly devided. An over 40yr old that has already raised or is raising kids will likly give you a very different pov then someone that is 24 yrs old. Also male vs female, prolly going to get a different pov.

    I think through all of it, the thing to ask is simply does it enhance the game? And not all things need sex. Would Aliens have been a better movie if Riply had been 3/4s nude all of the time, and had sex in each movie? Do we need to see Dom getting some in Gears?

    Where does it fit, and where is it just there for the TnA to sell to a certian demographic?

    I think this is one of those things that could be debated for a very long time. I think there are a few povs with merrits. I also think that to many here in the video game world visiting this site, I prolly just seem old and out of touch.

    I think a guy like Levine is saying we should hold of from sex in video games until we can make it look better, I ask the question of do we need it at all?

    #6 4 years ago
  7. YoungZer0

    @6: I have nothing against it, but i’d either have it one way or the other. Either show something, or nothing at all. I think the dry humping with Miranda in ME2 was horrible. So horrible in fact that i wouldn’t have put it in there in the first place.

    But there is a factor that’s more important than the sex itself:

    Sex seems to be the ultimate goal in most games. After that the characters stop to progress and that in my opinion is fucking horrible!

    I’d love to see more shades of the character Jack. The relationship with Shepard had a huge impact on her, but besides the somewhat tasteful “sex” scene with her, we get nothing. No more shades. She’s “healed”, back into society, her faults all erased, apparently. Now i have been in some trouble some relationships in the past, and let me tell you; this is where the hardest part begins.

    There could be so much more, but instead we have the option to call her to sit on the lap, or lie with her in bed, cuddling. That’s the only interaction you’ll have. So far i haven’t seen a game that delivered more than that.

    #7 4 years ago
  8. Deacon

    I agree OG, and you don’t sound THAT old… ; )

    There are far more effective ways of establishing a bond between two game characters than to have some awkwardly animated sex scene.

    I can see how in a very story-centric game it may be a key part of the plot. But even then, would the player really mind if all you saw was the removal of a few clothes, some shuffling in the sheets and then a fade to black?

    I think only tits-obsessed teenagers would wish to see more.

    #8 4 years ago
  9. ManuOtaku

    #6 I think sex is a part of very human being or any being in this world for that matter , so i dont see the problem to having it on videogames, but it needs to be well done, and in that part i agree with you.

    #9 4 years ago
  10. viralshag

    Well like you said, the view will change on the individual. For instance, you ask if it is needed and I would ask does it really harm the game or the experience.

    In ME, you can pursue the relationships to the end which usually result in sex, which could be considered unrealistic but if you look at it in terms of being an equivalent to a movie, how often does the hero get with some chick who he happened to save or drag along on some crazy ride (not including the one she will get later, wa-hey).

    In terms of RPGs and open world games, I like having the option of “relations” if I want it. I f the game is rated accordingly, I don’t see an issue with it.

    EDIT: I just want to say that I only link ME and movies as I find it a very cinematic experience, as much so as an interactive one.

    But again I do agree with Zer0 that having sex as some kind of end-goal-life-healing experience, it is wrong. But didn’t they say the romantic actions you took in ME2 will impact ME3. Lets not forget that in terms of timelines, it’s not like you could get with them from the get go nor was it so far from the end.

    #10 4 years ago
  11. Zurtech

    Speaking from a female point of view, I personally think sex has every right to be in games just as much as other adult themes. As long as it’s written into the game as part of the game and not just there for shits and giggles. Like I think Bioware go about it the right way, you essentially have to make ye character “date” the person in question so they are in a proper relationship. I also think they generally go the extra mile too by allowing same sex relationships too so they cater for a whole range of people. It’s not like you ever see anything, you see ye character and their partner in their skivvies, they kiss then it fades to black. It’s not like it’s portrayed in a grapahic nature.

    I think it’s been implemented in Fable on good terms too, lets face it, you want a family in Fable, you get married and have kids.

    Imo, how can anyone be against sex portrayed in games if it progresses or adds to the story of a game, yet be fine with mutilation, gore, foul language and dismemberment? Personally I got nowt against any of those if they add to the experience.

    Regardless of what’s seen as mature and what’s not, games are made to be entertaining, it’s the very purpose of a game. Certain themes aren’t needed in certain games, sex and bad language have no place in say, a Mario or Sonic game. But blood, gore, sex, bad language and even prejudice do have places in RPGs imo. These help give the world a more real feeling and add to the immersion within the game to allow you to play the character you’ve made to be played how you imagine them.

    Needless to say such themes aren’t just exclusive to RPGs. If a certain theme helps move the narrative or a story forward it has every right to be there. This doesn’t matter if it’s in a sandbox game, FPS or adventure game. Games are very much about story now, it’s just as much a selling point as the genre and mechanics. If this was to be taken out or stripped down cos some adults let their kids play games that aren’t recommended for them then that falls on the parent or guardian to be at fault and not the developers for making a game with that content in it.

    #11 4 years ago
  12. OrbitMonkey

    I always found it amusing & something to go for in my rpg’s. After hours of slaughtering my way through the wastelands of Fallout New Vegas for example, it was nice knowing their were a couple of ladies I could visit for some relaxation time :)

    #12 4 years ago
  13. Freek

    Nothing in games is realistic. Do you go around chopping peoples heads of and then having a casual conversation? Is that a realistic way to handel conflicts?
    No, it’s just pulpy entertainment.
    Even kids know the difference between reality and fiction, sex in games is just another part of that fictional portray of events.

    #13 4 years ago
  14. Ireland Michael

    The reason people treat games like toys in because, for the most part, that’s all games are.

    I can count the number of games that express any sort of genuine artistic merit on one hand. Levine’s game is one of them.

    And no, none of them are Metal Gear Solid.

    Let me ask you all an honest question here. How many of you actually *want* your gameplay experiences you be thought provoking? How many of you want some video to present some message that makes you think about things and look at varied different aspects of the human psychie?

    I’ll wager not many.

    @2 He never said you can curse whenever you want. He said that people (probably American business people) need to grow the fuck up and stop being a bunch of pansies, and putting their hands behind their ears and going “La la la la! I can’t hear you!” any time someone utters a single lousy expletive.

    Ken Levine does not curse that much. If people actually think that’s a lot of cursing? Jesus…

    #14 4 years ago
  15. JonFE

    Shoot your enemies in the face and no one bats an eyelid; show a nipple and all hell breaks loose. The same 15 year olds that are obsessed with sex will be allowed to drive or vote in a couple of years; are they mature enough to handle one but not the other? Or are we afraid that our kids will learn about sex (and the responsibility it should bring) through a videogame, whilst it’s actually our job?!?

    I do agree that not all games need sex; context is king. It could fit right in games like Heavy Rain or RPGs, while it could be embarrassing or even dreadful in many others. Also some boundaries should be drawn regarding age restrictions vs how explicit are the sex scenes. But developers should not be restricted from sex, as long as their games are properly rated and customers are able to make an educated choice.

    /a 40 year old father of a 12 year old, in case anyone wonders…

    #15 4 years ago
  16. YoungZer0

    @14: Actually i do. I’d like more games to touch thought provoking stuff. But i like this stuff to be thought out. Like the airport shooting scene from MW2, that was a marketing stunt and nothing more. Thought Provoking is the reason why so many people loved the Ending of Shadow of the Colossus.

    #16 4 years ago
  17. DSB

    My main problem with sex in videogames is that it’s so unbelieveably boring and harmless. You push the button expecting something to happen, and you’re just left watching someones back doing some kind of choreographed dancing scene for 2 minutes. It’s mindnumbing.

    At least get a cramp or something.

    Sex has always been used as a token feature, though. They do it in shitty movies so the famous female lead can get a few articles saying she gets fucked in the movie for everyones benefit, and I feel it’s the exact same thing they try to do in games.

    We all slut around in our personal lives from time to time, but in terms of forming a narrative, it would be more obvious to go for the kind of meaningful sex that means you’re intimately fused together, and yet that’s never the case in videogames, because the sex is so boring, predictable and totally without any sort of passion or fun, and usually the reactions NPCs have in games after the fact, is equally tame and dead.

    To each their own of course. If I dig a girl, inside and out, I want to rip her to shreds in bed. Not lull her to sleep.

    I’m with Levine, videogame sex is made of fail. It feels like they want to attach the word sex to their game, without daring to actually go there.

    #17 4 years ago
  18. YoungZer0

    “I’m with Levine, videogame sex is made of fail. It feels like they want to attach the word sex to their game, without daring to actually go there.”

    Nicely said. + 1 Internet

    #18 4 years ago
  19. Zurtech

    @17
    You mean like in Fahrenheit where ye push and up and down on the analogue stick? -_^

    #19 4 years ago
  20. YoungZer0

    @19: If you’re lucky that is. I had to push my mouse up and down the whole time. :P

    #20 4 years ago
  21. OrbitMonkey

    Fahrenheit sex was fucking hilarious xD

    #21 4 years ago
  22. DSB

    Haha, I played that game, but I don’t remember how the sex went at all.

    The only game I recall playing where sex actually meant something to the game itself was the original Leisure Suit Larry.

    Don’t forget the prophylactic!

    #22 4 years ago
  23. Ireland Michael

    @22 Ah yes. Game Over if you don’t wear a condom.

    Valuable life lesson learned!

    #23 4 years ago
  24. Aimless

    Videogames tend to depict sex like porn. Weird, animatronic porn.

    Including sex and depicting sex are two very different things. There’s a lot to be said for subtlety, for implication, but in general games don’t err towards that: if someone’s being tortured the player’s view will be fixed on them, probably zoomed in and playing in slow motion.

    Nudity, violence and swearing don’t offend me but the way they’re used can often be wearing. It’s all about intent and it’s pretty easy to pick up on when someone is using any of the above for a reason — whether that be driving the plot, characterising someone or otherwise trying to elicit a certain response in the player — or merely including them to be “cool”. For me the latter is insulting the audience.

    #24 4 years ago
  25. AHA-Lambda

    “Let me ask you all an honest question here. How many of you actually *want* your gameplay experiences you be thought provoking? How many of you want some video to present some message that makes you think about things and look at varied different aspects of the human psychie? ”

    Me =(

    #25 4 years ago
  26. Ireland Michael

    @16, @25 Sadly we’re the exception, not the rule.

    Until people want more out of their video games, we won’t get it. As it stands, people seem more than happy right now to just blow shit up in Call of Duty, and not much else.

    #26 4 years ago
  27. YoungZer0

    @26: Just like the movie industry i guess. They look at the numbers and say: “Oh, just look at how good Transformers 2 sold. Let’s make another one, with the same director. Maybe with less stupidity, i- nah fuck it.”

    At least videogames try to fix the issue. With every sequel they usually address previous issues. But even that seems to go away whenever developers are forced to release their product faster. Games like DA2 show this pretty clear, instead of addressing the issues and fix them, they throw them away and do something different.

    Truth is the market will always be dominated by the bigger crowd, people who don’t care about innovation or story telling in videogames / films.

    #27 4 years ago
  28. Ireland Michael

    @27 I don’t think that last paragraph is entirely true.

    Most of the time, the generic, unoriginal stuff is made to fund the company, and a lot of them use those funds to help finance riskier ideas every so often.

    You can’t just throw out new ideas all the time and expect them to sell. That’s a short road to a dead company. Without the “safe bets” we wouldn’t have most of the riskier ideas at all, whether that goes for music, television or video games.

    #28 4 years ago
  29. LOLshock94

    kevins awesome

    #29 4 years ago
  30. osric90

    Long comments, boring… Short one: Levine rocks and I hope Bioshock Infinite is even better than his previous masterpiece!

    #30 3 years ago
  31. blackdreamhunk

    After playing mafia2, mass effect2 and the saboteur I like the more mature games. Right I am playing wicther off on and on.

    #31 3 years ago
  32. DSB

    The problem is really with the lack of explored business models. The way the movie industry is set up, you can quite “easily” do a thoughtprovoking movie with the right director, and still make back what you put into it within a comfortable margin.

    Videogame indies are working their asses off to show that they can do a lot with very little, but they’re still lacking an infrastructure to accomodate them.

    The kind of independent business model that works for the movie industry is only in its very infantsy at the moment in terms of videogames, and that’s a shame. I have no doubt it could work.

    It’s not a question of forcing tweed patches onto everybodys sleeves or forcing them to gulp down a glass of cognac, it’s a question of the people (industry people) who want smarter games claiming their own piece of the industry.

    They’re a lot closer to the music industry than they are to the movie industry in terms of delivery, in spite of doing things that have a lot more to do with movie production in terms of workload and expense.

    Ken Levine is really the poster kid for that sort of ingenuity. He’s got the ideas and he knows how to sell them. Most people have an idea, but they have no idea how to keep the suits off of them.

    One without the other is pointless in a major industry like videogames, until you make your own little slice of the industry, that accomodates it.

    #32 3 years ago
  33. hitnrun

    Levine’s right, unfortunately. Sex in games is nothing more than softcore porn. It’s like the 21st Century equivalent of the “gore” in ’90s FPS games: meaningless titillation for an immature industry.

    The odd thing is, it seems to be getting better, not worse. The involved romances of Baldur’s Gate have given way to running around with your hands over your junk to ward off the horny party members in BioWare’s more recent titles.

    #33 3 years ago
  34. hitnrun

    Er…that’s worse, not better. D’oh.

    #34 3 years ago
  35. LOLshock94

    does this mean theres going to be nudity in some way in bioshock? ;D

    #35 3 years ago
  36. LiqMat

    I’m gonna swear cause I’m all grown up. I’ll show you how them there intelligent I is! Yep!

    #36 3 years ago

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