Does video game sex still sell?

According to a Guardian writer, the reign of realistic boob jiggle may be coming to an end.

Published May 8, 2009 12:15PM (EDT)

Videos games and sex have a storied history, as anyone who's spent time in a dorm room full of freshman boys playing "Tomb Raider" could tell you. But despite the genre's reputation for exploitative babes in hotpants and the notorious "jiggle physics," an article in the Guardian argues that sex does not, in fact, sell video games.

Here's the case, made by Alexander Gambotto-Burke: In 2004, Playboy began publishing a yearly "Gaming grows up" feature showing video game heroines in the buff. But many of the games included in the issue have either reported huge losses or ceased production entirely. 

Far from the porn-crazed sex ghouls they're frequently portrayed as, male videogame players appear to be developing quite a potent resistance to exploitative, sex-based marketing practices. Indeed, even Lara Croft has given into this progressive zeitgeist: her breasts and lips have shrunk in recent years, and the rest of her body has been reduced to more anatomically feasible proportions. On cue, her critical stock has risen, and while the first two games in the post-2006 Tomb Raider revamp (Legend and Anniversary) sold unfavourably compared with past instalments, the latest, Underworld, is selling healthily after a lacklustre launch.

The evidence here isn't conclusive, but the shift makes sense. Sure, the bouncing boobs of "Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball" might be fun for a few soft-core novelty thrills, but the serious gamers I know aren't interested in cartoon cleavage; they're interested in strategy and gameplay and characters. Porny gimmicks, eventually, get tired.

According to a statistic that Gambotto-Burke quotes, a whopping 40 percent of gamers are now women -- the vast majority of whom probably don't see "jiggle physics" as a major selling point. So let's hope programmers pick up on the trend and get with the, er, program.

By Judy Berman

Judy Berman is a writer and editor in Brooklyn. She is a regular contributor to Salon's Broadsheet.

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