I live a very comfortable life outside of the mainstream.
I write for a website based around a network of pornography. I listen to music that is typically protested and condemned in parental gatherings. I watch films featuring deviancy, debauchery and decadence. My sex life would scare the ever-loving shit out of every single Catholic school teacher who tried and failed to put the fear of God in me…although apparently the habit of capitalizing “God” is a habit I cannot shake.
I have zero issue discussing all aspects of sex, sexual activity and sexual habits. Male friends of mine, straight and gay, regale each other with past stories of conquests. Seconds later, we can switch to philosophy or comedy. One thing I have never been is afraid to talk about something, but after seeing the absolute freak-out over Seduce Me on Steam’s Greenlight service, it looks like the rest of this sorry American culture will never be able to have an adult conversation about an adult topic.
Even if I were a PC gamer, I would likely not be putting up the cash to purchase Seduce Me. It does have some stunning illustrations of the female body, but so do thousands of others on DeviantArt. I prefer to keep my porn and gaming separate, and while I understand there is a market somewhere out there for the type of erotic visual novels Seduce Me can resemble, I don’t belong to that market.
The whole point of Steam Greenlight is to get players directly involved in the process of whose indie games get approved for digital release through the Steam platform. While not without merit, there are times when people simply don’t know what is good for them. Taking a simple look at comment threads on gaming websites and digging through the garbage juice of people’s Twitter accounts will give you enough of a nauseating sample to show that sometimes, putting the decision-making process out of the hands of a consumer has a chance of working out.
The people who were offered a chance to vote on Seduce Me (before it was pulled by Valve) separated into two areas. A small, civil portion formed a consensus that while the game was not innovative in any form, it had a place in the world as an artistic presentation of interaction among adults that could lead to sexual encounters. The other side of the camp reminded me of why “butthurt” is a part of my everyday vocabulary.
Let me see if I have this straight: Fifty Shades of Grey, a sophomoric, thinly-veiled adaptation of Twilight fan fiction about a college student lusting after a billionaire whose best qualities are his pilot’s license and a cock the size of a Cholula bottle, is the most talked-about publication in this country since Stephanie Meyer sewed up several million vaginas herself. Meanwhile, a game like Seduce Me which openly depicts various female characters getting plowed, is met with reactions much like those which were shouted at the Salem trials in 1692. Why the double standard? Simple answer: it was a slap in the face to everyone who turns off their brain when playing video games.
This isn’t about the tired talking point of how we can show buckets of blood being spilled but can’t show a nipple; that’s been debated and dissected a million times and I’m not going to add my name to the list. The problem is that most people still play video games as a passive activity to run away from the issues that face them in real life. When something like Seduce Me rears its sexy head and demands people give feedback on something that happens every day – in this case, people fucking – the deepest and darkest fears come out of hiding and knee-jerk reactions like those of the people on the Steam forums happen.
Much like I don’t fall into mainstream classification in other aspects of life, I do not play games to “relax.” In fact, if I stopped playing video games, my blood pressure would fucking plummet. I smoked more cigarettes getting the Perfect Run star in Super Mario Galaxy 2 than any other game I’ve ever played, and when I finally got it after what seemed like weeks, I had another smoke to celebrate. Of course, most people play video games to forget about all of the other bullshit in life. The trouble is that they lose sight of the fact that video games are just like every other aspect of their supposedly important life.
If nobody is comfortable enough to acknowledge sex as a part of life, they sure as hell are not going to want to “escape” into a world that revels in it. Erotic visual novels sell just fine in other parts of the world that, naturally, are not so uptight about what happens underneath the sheets. It doesn’t look like the makers of Seduce Me are even that shocked about Valve’s decision and have made no effort to appeal it. Did they really expect it to become a hit, or were they looking to simply fill a niche that is already small?
The people who buy the million-selling games are the ones who come home from work, crack open a drink, smoke a bowl and want to shoot anything that moves without considering the repercussions of their actions. They don’t give much thought to what they do inside a world that doesn’t exist, and whether they do the same to this real plane of existence is up for debate. Since they don’t open fire on people in real life, there is no reason to react so jarringly in a game that requires killing. Through a bit of the old in-out into the mix and suddenly it jars everyone out of the dream.
Last year, Catherine was released and asked players to confront a lot of things they don’t ever want to consider. Ask someone who played it and didn’t enjoy it why it wasn’t their favorite, and their reason will most likely not be the maddening difficulty. They will remember whether or not they responded to Catherine’s messages and remained loyal to Katherine. A few weeks from now, Seduce Me will be forgotten about, but the reminder of sex for gamers will present itself somewhere else…whether we want to acknowledge it or not.
Catherine Cell Phone: Kotaku