Ha, got your attention, eh? But this is actually an important topic, of the 'reality is broken' variety. Like the fact that we're obsessed over sexting and other digital phenomena related to sex, yet we have done little to improve sex education in this country. In fact, we have vilified and cut funding to Planned Parenthood and other organizations that save people's lives by providing them critical information that affects them physically, emotionally, spiritually. I ranted about this on Quora recently:
Sexting isn't the issue. The lack of good, ongoing and honest sex education and support (from elementary school) is. I personally don't care what kids do in this regard, as long as they are well-informed and not succumbing to pressure from peers or romantic partners. And obviously this behavior is probably not appropriate in classrooms.
As an anthropologist, I will tell you that sex play in early pubescence and later is very, very normal, and in some cultures, very well tolerated with positive effect. We are extremely backwards in our proclivity to bury our heads in the sands.
I do, however, think all kids need to be educated on the potential ramifications of having a digital trail of activity like this, and what it can mean in terms of reputation (immediately) and career later. It's outrageous that kids learn most of what they know about sex from each other, tv/movies and the Internet. This leaves gaping holes in their knowledge and their judgment about something that can affect their lives in such profound ways, and can even lead to illness and death.
I've been thinking for some time that games could play an important role in helping to eliminate a lot of the misinformation that is spread among kids and teens. Typically this sort of thing is handled a la the serious game: take some existing curriculum - the sort of thing you'd see in a high school sex ed class (if a school is lucky enough to have it). 'Chocolate-covered broccoli'. Seldom about the realities of sex and the social and emotional contexts that surround it. And boring.
One of my favorite sites is Ask Alice, a community effort from Columbia University that provides a forum for kids and teens to ask any question about sex, drugs, what have you, and get a truthful and reasonable answer. I think it's an incredible resource, but most people don't seem to know about it. So where are people getting their sexual educations?
I was really inspired by a TED Talk a lovely woman by the name of Cindy Gallop gave not long ago. You should watch it yourself, otherwise I might ruin it, but I will tell you that she makes some rather stunning points about how porn culture has distorted the way people think about sex. Clearly we need to figure out some better ways to communicate all of this, aside from ignoring the groundswell of sexual activity that is incredibly normal for our species.
There's rather a dearth of recreational, digital sex games, a fact that surprises me given the proclivity of clever porn mongers who hawk every kind of sex ware imaginable. Have throughout history, using any available technology. It's well established, for instance, that early photography and film thrived on sexual innovations. And we certainly spent a lot of time discussing the ins and outs of cybersex back in the day, when everything digital was a novelty. Are we jaded? Or recession economics?
Well, it seems like a business opportunity to me. They appear to sell plenty of books and board games in those novelty sex shops. People could certainly use some variety in their sex lives. Yet the ecosystem somehow manages to eschew innovation, just like the video game industry. Microsoft, for instance, is blocking sexual uses of their Kinect device, citing 'unintended puposes' (imagine a mash-up of a Kinect device and teledildonics - long distance love, FTW!). I did find A-Chat , but it seems like a graphics enhanced chat room app, and that's boring, too... I suppose there's the seedy underbelly that is Second Life's sex subculture, but it seems, well, seedy. And not terribly educational. But if people are into it, great. Let's just have some other options.
Most sex and videogames conjecture has been about either glorifying or bastardizing sexual content. There are few balanced perspectives: Brenda Braithwaite's work is very insightful, and Bonnie Ruberg has made quite a few contibutions, too. That's sort of not the point I'm trying to make, though. Sure, we could be more mature about sex and sexual imagery in games. But I sort of don't care about that stuff. I want us to ask, yet again, how can this incredible platform for persuasion be used for the greater good? How can we inform people, encourage safe play and experimentation... delight with escapism, encourage fantasy and role-playing... do all the things that we know video games are so good for?
So, brilliant Terra Novans... what games would you design to solve this problem?