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Book Excerpt and Review - Sex in Video Games
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Book Excerpt and Review - Sex in Video Games

December 12, 2006 Article Start Page 1 of 15 Next

For today's Gamasutra feature we are pleased to present a review by former Gamasutra editor Brad Kane of industry veteran and Savannah College of Art & Design professor Brenda Brathwaite's new book Sex In Video Games, published by Charles River Media.

Following the book review is the first chapter of Brathwaite's book, "Defining Sex," in which she introduces the topic of sex in video games, and categorizes it by its usage, its range and its purpose. Brathwaite also looks at sex in the industry outside of games themselves, including a history of E3's infamous "booth babes," sex as used in game advertising, and unintended sex in games, be it emergent, modded, or hacked.

Book Review

4 out of 5 stars


  1. Objective, academic examination of the past, present, and future of sex in games.
  2. Examines social, moral, legal, financial, and ethical issues surrounding a controversial topic.
  3. Author presents multiple viewpoints without becoming preachy.


  1. Book gets a touch heavy – over-seriousness itself could be said to be a kind of non-objectivity.
  2. This is a debate book – not a lot of practical advice for companies currently developing adult titles.
  3. More inter-industry facts and stats might be useful, to give a better sense of how adult games compare with other adult industries.

One of the most notable chapters in the history of sex-in-games is last year’s now-infamous “Hot Coffee” scandal, in which a modification to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas allowed players to play a XXX mini-game, which involved intercourse with a female NPC. Anyone with an eye on the industry will remember the spectacular fallout of that scandal, involving Hillary Clinton and ultimately leading to an industry-wide investigation by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). Brathwaite brings the entire incident into new focus in this book, delivering a play-by-play account of the scandals’ key events, and placing the episode within its proper social and historical context.

The Hot Coffee incident is certainly memorable, but it’s the ramifications of such episodes that ultimately leave their mark on the industry. And so “Sex in Videogames” – an IGDA-approved textbook by expert Brenda Brathwaite – comes at just the right time. This academic exploration of the role of sex in interactive entertainment is based on extensive historical and social research, and provides the first thoroughly objective published perspective on this highly controversial topic.

Much of the book is dedicated to exploring the social, legal, and moral issues raised by sex in games, and examining the various perspectives – both liberal and conservative – that contribute to the growing debate on the role of sexuality in interactive entertainment. Yet even this academic work gets steamy at times, for Brathwaite leaves no corner of her topic untouched. So hold onto your hard drives as we explore the sometimes exciting, sometimes offensive, but always controversial world of Sex in Videogames.

Long Time Bed-Buddies

Leisure Suit Larry. Virtual Valerie. Lara Croft. Jenna Jameson. Even the booth babes. Sex and gaming share a long and sordid history together.

The book begins by with an examination of the history of sex in games – a history which dates back to the earliest text-based adventure games and runs parallel with the technological growth of the industry. Beginning with pioneering titles on the early Atari and Apple machines, and carrying the exploration along the changing landscape of Full Motion Video, networked gaming, and the modern console, Brathwaite thoroughly and faithfully traces the evolution of gaming as medium for risqué content. She also examines current trends in the industry – such as the current trend toward sexy characters in non-sexual games (e.g. the girls of Dead or Alive Beach Volleyball), and the continuing evolution of more directly sexual (e.g. Playboy the Mansion) or outright pornographic games.

She also explores another aspect of the history of sex in gaming – “emergent sex,” or unintended sexual content emerging from player behavior. This comes in many forms, be it in MMORPGs like the Sims Online, in online worlds such as Second Life (in which an entire prostitution district has sprung up, along with associated economy), or in more unexpected forms – such as in the case of Rez, Sega’s musical shooter, which in Japan shipped with a force feedback controller that many users took for a vibrator.

Article Start Page 1 of 15 Next

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