Friday, February 15, 2013

GDC Topic: Sex and Sexuality

You try to Google "Sex in Video Games" and come up with
a non-NSFW image.

The Game Developer’s Conference schedule is up. You have the usual “model this,” “shade this,” “how to keep your company running.” And then you have the thought provoking topics such as Contextualizing Violence Through Narrative, hosted by Walt Williams of 2K Games, which runs through how violence can help create emotionally complex characters. Ok that I’d like to see. Or When It’s Only Sound, creating a video game solely focused on sound.  My sound design professor would love that. Part of my Master’s thesis was on a similar concept to create a narrative (creating sounds and music, and allow them to articulate the development of the story).

This is the one that caught my eye the most: Sex in Video Games, headed by David Gaider, senior writer at BioWare. Ah yes. The meat and potatoes. From the description it looks promising.

Games have reached the point where realistic portrayals of sex and adult relationships are possible, but what does this mean to us as developers? How much responsibility do we have in addressing issues of sexism and sexuality, and are we inadvertently making statements about what is acceptable, even when we don't mean to say anything at all? Our industry is struggling with a conflict between the desire to be taken seriously as an art form, and the desire to avoid addressing social issues because what we make are "just games." These things have implications on our sales, and while they can be addressed, it can only happen if we are willing to acknowledge that greater discussion of the topic within the industry is merited.

I’m not surprised that a BioWare writer would be involved in the topic. They have produced a number of products that push the limits on character development, sex, and sexuality. They have also defended the position that they do this to give validity and a reality to the characters that allows us, the gamer, to better identify with them.  It’s not with the intent to be controversial or to make a statement, but to give credence to their product by making it feel real. 

And based on Gaider’s past comments via Twitter and the BW forums, he also has a strong following for female characters not being overly-sexualized in games. I would love to see a recording of this on YouTube, or somewhere after the conference, to see what he has to say and the discussion that follows. It’s good that developers are seriously looking into these issues. It’s not just a female sex discussion, but something for both genders and all sexualities to be involved in. Topics like this are important to help elevate the medium and move it forward. Thanks BW and GDC!

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