R-rated... but is it grown-up?


R-rated... but is it grown-up?, by Jason Hill - 3rd June 2004
(Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald)


By most criteria, the games industry has grown up. As the fastest-growing segment of the entertainment industry, game sales are now worth more than $50 billion a year worldwide.

In Australia, more than 70 per cent of players are over 18. But for an industry with an increasingly large adult audience, it still suffers from an immature attitude to sex.

Countless controversial games have stretched the boundaries in terms of realistic depictions of violence, but sex remains taboo for most publishers.

Obviously the censors have played a role, with classification guidelines stricter on the interactive realm compared to films. There is no R18+ rating for games in Australia.

No publisher, however, is beyond using sex to sell its products, and buxom game heroines have been common since Lara Croft first squeezed into a tank-top a decade ago.

But shameless flesh-flashing such as the abominable BMX XXX, which featured topless bicycle riders and strippers, is not going to earn respect.

A new PC simulation in the vein of The Sims is a promising step forward.

The aim of Singles: Flirt Up Your Life is to encourage two flatmates to get it on.

The sex scenes are naturally the game's "climax", but there is a refreshing depth to the relationships. More revolutionary is the full-frontal nudity, which is presented without the usual sniggering.

But in testimony to how far the industry still needs to go, close to Singles at the recent Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles was a stand proclaiming the (unwelcome) return of Leisure Suit Larry.

Larry's latest exploits in Magna Cum Laude might feature more polished presentation than his 1987 debut, but the game showed all the maturity of a Carry On film.

Also on show was Playboy: The Mansion, which lets players assume the role of Hugh Hefner, building a swanky mansion, holding celebrity parties and organising photo shoots. The developers promise that it will be class, not arse, that sells the game. We'll see.

Links:

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