It's no secret that sex sells everything from cars to dog food. But now, the patina of sexual titillation has intruded upon the innocent world of blood-soaked video gaming.
At the end of this month, despite howls of protest from activists and parents, Simon & Schuster will release a new game called "Panty Raider: From Here to Immaturity," in which sex-obsessed aliens attempt to track down photos of models in their underwear.
Internet sites devoted to video-game reviews have already seen the official press release, which boasts: "One day on a planet far, far away, a catalog from a famous lingerie store inexplicably showed up in the mailbox at one horny alien's home. Some time later, he and his two buddies had worn out the catalog and they needed more! So they hijacked a flying saucer for a joy ride across the universe in search of supermodels in their underwear."
The release explains: "The player assumes the role of Nelson, an innocent bystander who is forced to help the aliens in their perverted quest. Nelson's job is to photograph specific models, wearing specific types and colors of underwear ... If Nelson does not get the photos the aliens are asking for, in the amount of time given, the aliens will destroy Earth."
The Nelson character attempts to make the models cooperate via "cheesy pickup lines" and credit cards. ("No self-respecting model can resist these items.")
Some video-gaming critics thought the posting was a joke. When DailyRadar.com discovered the game was for real, it dismissed "Panty Raider" as "heinously stupid" and started a contest to submit similar dumb concepts. (One proposed game involved watching paint dry.)
The biggest reaction to "Panty Raider" comes from angry parental watchdog groups, which have protested to Simon & Schuster, asking that the game be withdrawn. "It isn't just about this game," said Joe Kelly, executive director of Dads and Daughters. "It's about the cumulative effect of these sorts of messages conveyed in media aimed at our children -- really corrosive messages that boys are only interested in sex and violence and girls are only interested in how they look."
He told the Washington Post, "I fully understand Simon & Schuster means it as a spoof, but it's not funny. It has real consequences."
Another concerned citizen with her panties in a bunch is Elaine Alpert, a professor at Boston University and an expert on sexual violence. Alpert also complained to Simon & Schuster, and threatened a boycott of all its video games. "I am absolutely appalled that a seemingly reputable publisher such as S&S would even think of developing such an exploitative and damaging item," she said. "The material perpetuates several myths about behavior that are damaging and downright disgusting."
Simon & Schuster did not directly address the consequences of one middle-aged university professor boycotting its gaming products, and insists that the game will be released on schedule.
"It's humor," said Simon & Schuster Interactive spokesman Peter Binazeski. "Some people will love it, some people will not love it. Comedy is a very gray area."
"Panty Raider" will be released with an "M" rating, limiting it to purchasers 17 and older. The Victoria's Secret catalog is still available free of charge through normal postal channels.