Sex in Games: It's a Turn On
SAN FRANCISCO -- At the first annual Sex in Video Games Conference this weekend, developers, distributors and players converged to answer the question: What really turns people on?
There's no shortage of sex on the internet, but getting users hot with sex-based video games is more complicated than just booting up a computer.
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"There's a whole demographic out there who's tired of the magazines and the photo galleries and the passive DVD experience," said xStream3D president Brad Abram. "We're giving them what they want."
XStream3D Multimedia's VirtuallyJenna (NSFW) takes a single-player approach to arousal. Much like porn, VirtuallyJenna focuses heavily on visuals but with the added bonus of interactivity. Users can prod and play with a simulated Jenna to their hearts' content. Where's the fun in that?
"People love playing with the sex toys, posing the girls, trying out the different dildos and butt plugs," said Abram. "That's the number one thing." Abram said players rarely use the game's first-person mode. "People want a voyeuristic point of view," he said.
VirtuallyJenna is only one of many steps toward realistic computer sex. Pretty soon, "you're going to see technology give us more options," said designer and programmer Dave Taylor, whose conference presentation focused on the bright future of sex graphics.
"My personal fascination is with giant, inflated breasts," said Taylor. "That's what attracted me to this, to the technology."
Across the world, thousands are logging on to virtual worlds like Second Life to meet, flirt and experiment with others. Free from the constraints of real life, they use text chat and sexy avatars to get it on in the digital realm.
"There's an enormous turn-on when the user realizes there's another person on the other side of the screen," said Brian Shuster of Red Light Center, one several massively multi-player online erotic games entering the market this year. Similar in many ways to regular MMOG's, MMOEG's will offer players entirely sex-based environments.
Conference chair Brenda Brathwaite also pointed to the appeal of playing with others.
"The number one thing that turns players on is other players," she said. "Two players can respond to each other better than any computer ever can."
For MMOG regular and single mom Andrea Fryer, it's not sexy graphics that get her in the mood; it's World of Warcraft. She finds questing with potential partners "makes you feel quite frisky."
Of course, not everyone is turned on by the same things.
Kelly Rued, creative director at Black Love Interactive, publisher of an upcoming MMOEG, Rapture Online, said: "I like fem boys and boys with cat ears."
Rapture Online, however, will accommodate a wider range of interests, said Rued, including "vanilla sex, BDSM and furries."
In her conference keynote, game designer Sheri Graner Ray reminded developers that what's arousing for men isn't necessarily arousing for women. Psychologically, she said, men and women react differently to different forms of erotic content.
Men usually prefer visual stimuli, said Ray, "(Women) want sex; there's no question about that.... But for them, there has to be an emotional connection."
"I like written erotica, but I'm in the minority," said Gabe Zicherman of Boonty. "Most guys, if they can't see it with their eyes, it's not going to turn them on."
Sex therapist Dr. Marty Klein sees arousal along less gender-oriented lines. "Desire is created by anticipation," he said, and by non-physical influences like imagination. "The ultimate turn-on is a sense of freedom, the feeling that sexuality is an adventure you can design."
Jonathan West of the sex simulator Virtual Hottie 2 (NSFW) agreed that freedom can be arousing. When playing with the game's model, users have choices, West said: "Maybe I'll leave her clothes on and touch her. Maybe I'll take her clothes off and have my way. But those options, that's what turns people on."
In addition to freedom, video game sex also offers safety. "There are no consequences," said Fryer, "that's what's sexy for me. In real life ... there's so much danger, especially for a woman."
"You could be a plain Jane out in Duluth, but at night you could be a furry dominatrix," said Brathwaite. "You're not going to get an STD, you're not going to end up accidentally pregnant. It's safe."