The point of sex in gaming

A new trailer for a mobile platform game demonstrates some rather important core truths about the culture of gaming:
She plays Greek goddess Athena in brand new game franchise, Game Of War: Fire Age and Hollywood actress Kate Upton looks sexy in a new trailer.  
The 22-year-old can be seen charging forward on a horse during a battle scene, in which she showcases her ample assets in a eye-catching ensemble. 

Dressed head to toe in period costume, Kate looks incredible in a plunging silver corset which has a dramatic shoulder detail during one of three upcoming commercials.  
She wears matching armoury style wide cuffs on her arms and a billowing white skirt. Letting out a giant roar as she fights, the blonde is a force to be reckoned in the newly released short video clip.
Kate seductively invites players to 'come and play with me in the new clip 
'You can meet some of my friends,' she says, as a dragon breathes fire through the war zone. 'They are really excited to meet you.' [Didact: Er... is this an advert for a game, or a phone sex line?]
As the dragon is slain, she tells the camera, 'So tell me. Do you want to come and play?' [Didact: Phone sex line. For sure.]  
Kate confidently walked through a battle field of armored soldiers and a giant fire-breathing dragon dressed in a plunging white gown with sexy thigh-high slit. 
The blonde beauty resembled the goddess of war, donning gold plated accessories on her shoulders and forearms with her long tresses flowing around her shoulders. 
She had no trouble distracting the fighting men with her killer curves and stunning figure as she treks through the dangerous war zone.  
According to Forbes, Game Of War dished out a costly $40m to acquire Kate as the face of their new mobile game and to feature her in their high budget trailers. 
Fans will be able to see more of Kate as she will not only star in more adverts, but will also be an avatar within the game serving as the player's host. 
She looks identical to her character in the commercial also showing off major cleavage in the same white dress. 
When the advert was released on November 13, Kate talked to AdWeek about her decision to lend her star power to the popular game. 
'It is fantastic to be instrumental in the start of a new era in gaming and communications,' she explained. 'I love playing the part of Athena.' 
'She's such a bad-a** character, commanding armies, slaying hydra, charging into battle - the work shows how much fun it is, and I am proud to be part of it.'  
Kate also expressed her excitement for her new partnership via Twitter. 
'So excited! I've waited so long to be in a game! Check me out!' she wrote along with a link to a free download of the mobile game.
Here's the actual trailer that inspired such a breathless discharge from two reporters at the Daily Mail- both of whom are female:

The reason I bring this up is that this trailer demonstrates everything that is right about gaming, from a gamer's perspective- and everything that is wrong about it, from the same perspective.

The fact is, this trailer demonstrates a fundamental truth about games: no matter how good or bad a particular game happens to be, sex sells games.

And there is nothing whatsoever wrong with this.

Gaming is, and has always been, about fun and escapism. The core audience of gamers has always been heavily skewed towards young men- and I'm talking serious gamers here, not the housewives and HR bunnies that you see on the train playing Candy Crush Saga or any of its bajillion derivatives and facsimiles.

It is for this reason that games are geared toward showing larger-than-life characters doing fantastical things. It determines what kinds of games sell, and why. And it also determines the advertising methods used for games.

Why do you think the Soul Calibur series is popular? Because gamers like playing a fighting game where they can play as, or engage against, women with titanic tits who also happen to be highly competent fighters. This is not even slightly realistic, but it sells.

Basically imagine a glamour model in bondage gear wielding a chain-whip, and you're there
The Dead Or Alive series is popular for a similar reason. There is no question that sex is heavily involved in selling those games. After all, it's a game in which bikini models engage in full-contact mixed martial arts and the game's creators built a separate physics engine just to animate the breasts of the female characters.

Busty women in high heels doing muay thai... This should be amusing...
Uh... I know that's a WWE move, but why is she cross-eyed???
Even games with actual, believable female protagonists- like, say, the Metroid series- revert to this method of shipping units. There is a reason why Samus Aran is a tall, buxom, leggy blue-eyed blonde who curls up into a tiny ball.

It's funny because it's true
So this new trailer for a mobile game that is unimaginatively called "Game of War" certainly conforms to the archetype. Sex sells, which is why the creators of the game forked out a not-exactly-tiny sum of cash to have a 22-year-old blonde "bombshell" represent them. (Personally, I only really like three things about Kate Upton: face, breasts, and ass. Okay, technically, that's really four things.)

Indeed, I can't be the only one who sees the tremendous irony in letting a woman whose primary achievement in life is flouncing around in as little clothing as possible, play the part of the Greek Goddess of Wisdom. (This being the same young woman who very wisely uploaded naked pictures of herself to her iCloud account, which was then hacked...)

And that brings us back to the problem with games like this.

The best game franchises either subtly incorporate sexual escapism into games that are a hell of a lot of fun to play, or ignore it altogether.

When sexuality is used to enhance the quality of an already solid game, it works- often brilliantly. But when it is used to sell the game, you can generally bet that the game itself won't be great.

Game of War might be a good game. It might even be a great game. But if it is, why is the company selling it spending so much money focusing on Kate Upton's appearance in it, rather than on the gameplay itself?

Truly great games use sexuality to make the player's experience better. They don't put the women front and centre just for a cynical exercise in marketing.

Some of the greatest games ever have nothing to do with scantily-clad women at all. Consider the entire Mario franchise. It's hard to think of a game that is more fun than Super Mario Galaxy (except maybe Super Smash Bros. or Super Mario 64). The game is good silly escapist nonsense. It delivers exactly what a great game should deliver. Yet Princess Peach looks like, well, this:

"The princess is in another castle!"
Or let's take the Metroid series that I mentioned above. (I want to make it very clear that Metroid: Other M was a sticky, smelly, disgustingly putrid stain upon the legacy of this otherwise-great series. Turning Samus from the badass plasma-cannon-wielding heroine that she was in the Metroid Prime series, into a whiny emo chick with serious daddy issues in that game, was one of the biggest mistakes that Nintendo has EVER made.)

The reason Samus Aran works as a protagonist in the Metroid Prime series, despite being female and ridiculously poorly proportioned- she's 6'3" and weighs 193lbs, according to the canon, which makes her both taller and heavier than me, yet she looks like an underwear model- is that she is part of a challenging, intricate, and very interesting plot. The fact that she is female is secondary to the gameplay; in the final game of the series, that fact isn't even slightly relevant until the end, where depending on the difficulty level that you choose, you can see her out of her power suit.

Probably the best female protagonist in gaming

Consider the Arkhamverse series of Batman games. These games were, and are, sold on the premise that you can become the world's greatest detective, the Dark Knight. You can play as the single most badass, most terrifying, and most driven superhero ever conceived. You can become a predator who preys on criminals; you can engage dozens of enemies and break their wills along with their bones; you can get amazing gadgets and solve challenging puzzles. You are the Batman.

In Batman: Arkham Asylum, both Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy are presented in rather revealing outfits, but the game designers very wisely made them incidental eye-candy to what was, and remains, one of the finest RPGs ever made.

Riddle me this, Batman: which one of these two ladies is more likely to give you VD?
In Batman: Arkham City- one of the greatest games ever made, of any genre- Catwoman is given... well, see for yourself:

That "DD" set of buckles on her left greave probably denotes her cup size
And yet, when you complete that game and then start playing through Catwoman's campaign, you never once think that she's over the top. She's given her own set of abilities, tools, and weapons, and you simply cannot play her the same way you play Batman. Where Batman is relentless, unstoppable, physically unmatched, and resilient beyond mortal comprehension, Catwoman plays like, well, a woman in a tight if armoured outfit. She is vulnerable to weapons fire and doesn't hit anywhere near as hard as the Dark Knight. Her set of weapons is much more limited, and you have to adjust your tactics accordingly when confronting enemies.

(I haven't had a chance to play the latest game in the series. But trust me on this- once I'm back in the States and finally get my hairy mitts on an Xbox One, there will be many weekends spent catching up on all the great games I missed.)

Consider also the Gears of War series. Now, I've played every game in that series- even "Judgement", which wasn't that good- and I can't remember a single example of overt sexuality being presented as a tease to the player. The women in that game are just as hardcore and badass as the men- they have to be, they're surrounded by brutality and horror and death every moment of every day. Even Queen Myrrah, the sole member of the Locust Horde who actually has anything approaching a decent physical appearance, is there to add to the plot and the experience, rather than to pander to the gamer.

Not exactly the types of girls you bring home to mum
And what about my beloved HALO series?

In HALO Wars, the smart AI Serina is demure and bland, and adds nothing to the game other than a wry English sense of humour- but then she doesn't detract from what is a very enjoyable, if workmanlike, strategy game. Eileen Anders, who fulfills the usual "brilliant but mildly annoying female scientist" trope quite handily, never really gets in the way.

Not very realistic, but hey, it's a game
In HALO: Reach, Catherine-B320 is there to provide character and depth to an already amazing game; her death has a real effect on the player, as it should. In HALO 3: ODST, Veronica Dare is an integral part of the plot; rescuing her and the Engineer that she is guarding is a real achievement for the player.

And in the main HALO series, Cortana's looks are there for eye candy- but her presence in the game makes HALO what it is. Through the four games (and counting) where you play as the Master Chief, she builds a deep and powerful bond with the Chief, and by extension with you, the player, to the point where her death in HALO 4 is genuinely difficult to accept.

The best partnership in gaming, ever
These examples, and countless others, bring home an inescapable fact about gaming and what makes a great game different from an average one:

A great game uses sexuality; it is not defined by it.

By all means, include female sexuality in gaming. There is nothing whatsoever wrong with that, no matter what the hideous orcs of the SJW set would like you to believe. But don't let's make it the be-all and end-all of gaming. Games are meant to be fun ways to escape into wonderful new worlds of vivid imagination and timeless stories, rather than barely-M-rated fantasies in which the more perverted lonely men among us can act out their most bizarre fetishes and fantasies.

(There are games available for doing this. They aren't blockbuster titles like HALO and GoW, and they're not meant to be.)

Games, at their core, are about escape and fun. That should be the ultimate point of gaming. There are many ways to get there- female sexuality is just one ingredient in that potent mix. But for those of us who love games, whether as players (like me) or developers, let us focus on the things that truly make games great- plot, story, gameplay, characterisation.


  1. You mean the Gianna Sisters weren't the greatest protagonist(s) ever??

    That Upton advert is straight blue pill/white knight. That being said, I applaud Upton being in more stuff since she not only is prime eye candy but perhaps maybe she'll stay away from Verlander long enough for his stuff to be filthy again.

    1. I can do you one better: Kitana and Mileena.

      The only thing that really stood out about that ad was Kate Upton's acting skills. Or severe lack thereof. I've heard a librarian read a dictionary better than Upton reads her script in that trailer. Given that she was hired for her looks and not her ability to act, though, I don't really see this as a problem.


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