Saturday, October 22, 2005

How the Video Game Industry Has Been "Maturing"

Next week, there's going to be a Women's Game Conference in Texas. One of the speakers at the conference is Brenda Brathwaite, who will be discussing the relationship between sex and video games. If you read about her background at the previous link and search the web for more information, such as her blog for the Sex Special Interest Group (affiliated with the International Game Developers Association), you'll get an idea of where the video game industry is headed. As one of the other contributors to the Sex & Games blog explains on their message board, they're "progressive". Here are some of Brathwaite's comments on Hugh Hefner, when she was working on a game about him:

"Believe it or not, I'm really grateful to him, as a woman. I don't know if you've seen the movie Mona Lisa Smile. It starts in December 1953 when a woman's job was to go to college so she could be a better wife. Hugh Hefner said that a woman's job just wasn't about pleasing men, she's also a sexual being. That's what Playboy was trying to say, that the girl next door is also a sexual being. And Hugh Hefner has done so much on the front lines of civil rights, with women's rights, he's done so many things. The Playboy Foundation has donated tons of money and I really respect that he got out there and did all the things that he did. Especially because it wasn't at all popular. He could've been vilified for doing that kind of stuff. I have nothing but respect and admiration for him."

Brathwaite spoke at a gaming conference earlier this year. SF Weekly reported on that conference:

"A striking woman wearing a short black skirt, high black boots, and a knotted Nintendo T-shirt...We notice a half-dozen other identically dressed women, working the crowd with identically broad smiles. Men surround a blonde, gripping the portable games wired to her belt. Ah. The scene exemplifies the way sex mixes with gaming: as a hook, a visual thrill....Later that night at the awards show, applause erupts as the freewheeling steer appears on-screen [in a PETA-supported video game that promotes animal rights and vegetarianism]. Everyone is slightly drunk, thanks to free booze at an earlier Booth Crawl. Steer Madness wins its category, Skinner's indie-band soundtrack scoring him an award for Innovation in Audio. He hustles to the stage, says a few inaudible words into a dead microphone, and the animal-activist genre is born, proof positive that in gaming, anything can, and eventually will, come to pass."

I went to the Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago in the spring of 1992, and the atmosphere was bad even then, though I don't think it was as bad as what SF Weekly describes.

This article in SF Weekly also discusses a round table on sex in video games held at the same conference mentioned above. The round table was headed by Brenda Brathwaite:

"The religious right is duly attacked. A former ESRB rep is stirred to action. 'It's not just the religious right,' he says. 'Even blue states hate sex in video games. People just don't like it.'...It's day two of 'Sexuality in Games,' and Brathwaite is holding up a magazine ad of a woman in muddy lingerie. It's an ad for a motocross game, of course....No other medium has quite this power. In gaming, you swing the sword that severs the head that topples the enemy, not an actor. You cause the bloody chaos, not Uma Thurman. It's this power that makes people nervous. No one wants kids simulating sex, and to Wal-Mart and most of America, games, even when stamped with an M rating, are still for kids."

Expect some changes in the future. People like Brenda Brathwaite are working on it. Expect the gaming industry to become more and more like Hollywood, with increasingly immoral content and antagonism toward Christianity. Most of the popular games will continue to have little or no objectionable content, but we'll probably see more games like Grand Theft Auto and a larger niche market for pornographic games, for example. I don't know how many more animal-rights-vegetarian-PETA games we'll see, like the one SF Weekly described. But, as SF Weekly said, "anything can, and eventually will, come to pass". The video game industry has "matured" into vulgarity.

I doubt that the fact that a change has occurred is news to many people, but the extent of the change probably is. When games like Grand Theft Auto are being made and are so popular, and people in the industry are making derisive comments about "the religious right", we're a long way from Pitfall and Super Mario Bros. This is part of a problem with the larger society, but parents, pastors, and others in positions of influence, as well as consumers, should realize how far it's gone. The video game industry isn't yet as bad as the movie industry, but the gap is narrowing.