The representation of sex in video games is the source of some of the most heated debates in the history of the medium. With opinions and situations ranging from ridiculous to downright humiliating, it is easy to see why some developers would receive negative attention from using sex appeal in their games. What I would like to discuss here is the varying effects of sexuality in games and whether or not it is warranted and if it hinders the experience.
Platinum Games' Bayonetta was one of the definitive sexually charged games from the last generation. One doesn't have to look far in order to see the titular protagonist strike all sorts of suggestive poses while disposing of the various enemies she encounters. However, anyone familiar with the game would know that the amount of technical depth to the game is immense, with elaborate and flashy action being the norm of the genre the game falls in. It would be easy to dismiss the sexuality found in the game to be nothing more than a marketing ploy, and it would be hard not to blame someone for thinking so. That said, it is such an integral part of the game that it is more entertaining for it. The ridiculous snapshots and poses perfectly juxtapose the vicious sadism that Bayonetta exhibits. The games unabashedly presents itself as what it is, and whether you agree or not on the subject matter, it's plain to see the amount of detail and care put into the game is extraordinary.
Another game that fell into the risque category was Atlus' Catherine. Rightfully acclaimed for bringing the important subject matters of relationships and infidelity to discussion, the game utilized an interesting way of creating a tense environment while still maintaining sexual character. One of the possible antagonists, Catherine, brings playfulness to the title. The way she talks and moves, as well as the various text messages she sends the protagonist Vincent throughout the game all create a type of energy that only compliments the events of the story. In truth though, the game is far from raunchy. Vincent often reacts to her advances with either horror or inaction, and many of their encounters are played for laughs or suspense. It is also worth mentioning that there are never any explicit moments on screen, with any situation only being referred to in conversation.
Despite this, too often games aim to have a more salacious approach to the subject. Recently, the beat 'em up series Senran Kagura comes to mind. The first installment in the series to reach North America, Senran Kagura Burst found a decent amount of success. However, when analyzing it as a game, it befalls criticism. The action, while at first quite enjoyable, eventually becomes quite tedious as you end up using the same combos over and over again. And with too much on the screen, the frame rate becomes abysmal. The game doesn't make any attempt to hide that the combat is just an excuse to dress the cast up in various outfits. Obviously there is a market for these kinds of games, it's just a shame that the game couldn't be inherently engaging, rather than depending on scantily clothed girls to move units.
The Soul Calibur series has also been known to revel in titillating design. Nearly every female character has a revealing outfit or two, which again brings up the popular topic as to why female characters wear armor that would be of little to no assistance. Many fighting games are guilty of this, and regardless of the counter argument of "suspension of disbelief", certain characters transcend the idea of "sexy" appearance and move in to terrible character design. Given this criticism, it should be noted that the Souls games are well made, and even with some balancing issues, are quite entertaining given their varied rosters and diverse move lists.
Sex in video games has a far way to go. Graphics, storytelling, controls, these have all advanced so much. With limited examples as to how sexuality is properly used, it becomes apparent in order for video games to be taken seriously there are changes that need to be made.