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The naked truth: Junk and jubblies sell games

The month of February has reminded me that video games and sexuality have nothing if not the kind of awkward, fumbling and utterly juvenile relationship you’d find between two be-zitted adolescents.
Image: Congressman Stubbs - \"The Lost and the Damned\"
Congressman Stubbs lets it all hang out in "The Lost and Damned," an expansion pack for "Grand Theft Auto IV."Rockstar Games

This just in: A penis is on display in a video game!

You heard right, a penis. A man’s sexual organ. A willy, if you will.

No, it’s not a pair of bouncing boobies (for once). It’s a penis.And I, for one, say … yeah! And, uh, ick!

As you might expect, the Internet is absolutely abuzz with all the nude news. Meanwhile, parent’s groups are busy tossing out their usual warnings (Save the children! Save the children!)

And in what game did this outlandish organ make its appearance? Well, “Grand Theft Auto” of course.

Yes, surprises all around.

Hold on a sec. Let me get this off my chest: Penis. Penis. Penis.

I know. I know. I’m acting like a 13-year-old girl, all red-cheeked and tee-heeing.  But, I can’t help it. The month of February has reminded me that video games and sexuality have nothing if not the kind of awkward, fumbling and utterly juvenile relationship you’d find between two be-zitted adolescents. That is, the two desperately want to get it on like grownups, but can’t seem to make it past first base without getting thumbs caught up in bra straps or without mom walking in and spoiling all the fun. Meanwhile, when they finally do start rounding the bases toward home plate, the experience tends to have all the charm of a roll in the hay after a few too many shots of tequila.

My question then is this: Video games have been around for decades now. Decades. So when are they — and when are we — going to finally grow up?

To review, let’s take a look at the previous month in gaming — a month that has presented a veritable smorgasbord of titillating (emphasis on the first syllable in that word) gaming fare.

At the end of January, “Afro Samurai” launched on the PS3 and Xbox 360 bringing with it plenty of stylish swordplay as well as a scene in which players get to slice and dice four topless ninja strippers.

And then came two games that offered more bared booty and bouncy boom-booms than a month at a strip club. “X-Blades” is a hack-and-slash game for the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC that features the curvaceous Ayumi, a sword-swinging relic hunter who’s capable of finding all manner of hidden treasures and yet, strangely, remains incapable of finding herself a pair of pants. Dressed in her bum-baring thong and a bikini top, Ayumi makes Lara Croft look like a prude in her sensible khaki shorts and t-shirt.

Image: X-Blades

Meanwhile, Ayumi seems to be sharing her wardrobe with Aya, one of the two “sexy samurai sisters” who star in the zombie-killin’ “Onechanbara” games launched for the Xbox 360 and the Wii. In addition to the teeny-tiny undies and barely-there brassiere she wears, Aya has added a cowboy hat and feather boa to her accoutrements. (Cuz nothing says zombie hunter like panties and a boa.)

After all the jiggling jubblies, a gal gamer can’t be blamed for cheering the appearance of some man meat – even if it is a highly unsightly bit o’ junk.

Last week, Rockstar Games launched “The Lost and Damned,” a massive downloadable expansion pack for the Xbox 360 version of “Grand Theft Auto IV.” The expansion takes gamers on a road trip into the violent world of biker gangs, putting players in control of a biker named Johnny Klebitz. During one particular mission, Klebitz meets a crooked congressman named Thomas Stubbs as he’s in the midst of receiving a massage. Stubbs, not being the shy sort, drops his towel to converse with Klebitz, displaying his flaccid middle-aged tool for all to see.

And jaws everywhere have been dropping ever since.

The parents’ group Common Sense Media was quick to point out the obvious: That this M-rated game “should be kept away — far away — from children.”

Meanwhile, the gaming sites have been having a field day coming up with clever penis-themed headlines to trumpet the news of the knob’s arrival just as gamers around the globe have been weighing in with their reactions to the dude-ity.

Writes blingbling078: “gta always tries to push the envelope but to have full frontal male nudity? with pubes and all? Wtf ... just beat that mission last nite. after that i had to stab my eyes out.”

All of which illustrates my point:  Something just isn’t right when the appearance of a penis — an organ that at least half the planet sees on a daily basis — makes headlines when it shows up in a video game … not to mention makes people want to stab their eyes out.

If all was right with the world, depicting sex and sexuality in video games meant for adult players would raise nary an eye brow. After all, adults in the real world have sex. Adults in movies have sex. So why shouldn’t adult characters in video games get it on or, you know, appear in their computer-generated birthday suits?

Bits and bobs shock and awe
The problem comes down to how these bits and bobs appear in games and have appeared in games ever since the beginning. That is, game makers have been stunting the growth of their own entertainment medium by using sexuality primarily as a means of shocking players and, more importantly, as a means of moving their product … rather than as a natural extension of the story or the game experience they happen to be creating.

“X-Blades” and “Onechanbara” are perfect examples. Young women hunting monsters in the near buff just doesn’t make sense on any level other than the most manipulative one — the publishers want to sell games to hormone-drunk young men. And while some say it’s an insult to women, I say it’s an insult to those poor hormone-drunk young men. Because the games stink. Look beyond the flashy flesh and you’ll find titles that are sloppily put together, repetitive and, ultimately, a bore to play.  The only thing that seemed to have been handled with any attention to detail was the programming to make the breasts bounce with an elastic zeal. And surely even hormone-drunk young men deserve better.

But thus it has been for as long as I can remember — flesh used almost exclusively as a tool to sell games.

Meanwhile, nobody knows what sells better than Rockstar — sex, violence and controversy. And they’ve certainly mastered this triumvirate with “The Lost and Damned.” Rather than doing the predictable — which would have been to trot out some lady parts — they stunned everyone with some naughty bits from the opposite sex. And shazaam! They earned instant coverage from the gaming press and the mainstream media (yeah, me included).

That said, there’s a reason I’m cheering the arrival of this particular CG penis, as calculated as its appearance may be. Not only is it nice to see, you know, some guy parts used to sell a game for a change … this particular penis actually makes sense in the context of the story. “The Lost and Damned” is a gritty tale full of debased characters living shady lives, and thus it doesn’t feel out of place to come across a scene in which an arrogant and power-hungry character displays his package as a sign of confidence and dominance. Plus, as far as games go, “The Lost and Damned” is really really good.

And that’s all I’m saying. Video gaming might finally grow up a bit if sex and sexy bits were incorporated with more thought and aplomb — if they were put on display as part of the natural flow of a well-crafted story and as part of some intelligent gameplay ... rather than simply for shock value and sales numbers.

Of course, the excellent game “Mass Effect” featured perhaps the most well-implemented sex act in video game history — a sexual encounter between two adults that actually furthered the story and was tastefully depicted — and still, it was vilified by some in the media (cough … Fox News … cough).

So who is it that needs to grow up? Video games developers and publishers looking for a cheap-shot way to sell their games? Check. The gamers who buy crappy games just for some digital boobage? Check. Myself and all my fellow game writers who find this stuff so irresistibly titillating that we write about it as though it was groundbreaking news? Roger that.

And on a final note: Penis! Penis! Penis!