Reciprocal Demand

Ladies, what has the gaming business done for you, lately?

In the music world, we know it's not "baby." It's "Janet," if not "Ms. Jackson." In the movies, we know that pushing around the voluptuous secretary and her gal pals will get you tied up in your own home, if not served a cupful of rat poison. But what is gaming – its current leading ladies included – doing to even the score? As more women want in, it's getting in touch with its feminine side, that's what. And it's about time.

Leave it to the five-way panel of the "Secret Sex Lives of Video Games" to put you in the mood. Its moderator, Tony Walsh of Clickable Culture, drops some entendres: "I'm a game-sex virgin, so I'll be working a panel of experts to penetrate the topic from various angles appealing to both seasoned gamers and newcomers to sex in games." Historically, the angles offered to women have been limited: a damsel in distress; a hyper-feminized heroine; or a side character robbed of any personality, let alone strength.

Then, online gaming reared its wildly popular head, allowing both women and men to create characters for themselves. Female gamers can now create strong virtual representations without looking like a cross between Pamela Anderson and Xena. Then again, the average massively multiplayer online game consists largely of acquiring weapons and maiming anything that ranks below you in the evolutionary hierarchy. We men imagine that the average woman can find something more constructive to do with her time.

Glennis McClellan, co-founder of Republik Games, agrees: "[Women] like beautiful environments. They like to be able to customize their characters. Most games offer that, but then there's the violence. Big turnoff."

And the alternative?

"Second Life has a lot of women on it, and that's not really a game. I don't think it's any secret. Women just like to socialize, they like to interact with other people," McClellan says. She knows the adage is true: If you build it and populate it with women, men will come. "What makes The Sims interesting is the fact that your characters can socialize with each other and you can even make them have sex once they get to know each other. It's blurry, but the make-out sessions are pretty hot."

Not settling for blurry sex (as no one online is these days), McClellan has created Spend the Night, an as-yet-to-be-released hybrid of an online game and a dating service. Speaking from her office in Hollywood – on Valentine's Day, no less – she demystifies her venture, saying, "Being able to have sex in a game or go on a virtual date: We just thought that was where the market was going to go. So, we were trying to anticipate the trend." When pushed to define the game as more of a wine-and-flowers or a whips-and-chains affair, McClellan counters, "It's kinda what people make of it. Were just giving them the tools. If they want to [have sex], they can, but it's absolutely not necessary – and not the point, even. The point is more just having fun, dating, going out, exploration."

Fellow panelist Kyle Machulis fights on the frontlines of gaming sexploration. "I've managed to wedge myself into pretty much anything and everything involving sex in games at the moment," he says via e-mail. As founder of MMOrgy.com, Machulis is nothing if not in tune with sex in MMOGs, but how is he representing for the fairer side? One word: SeXbox. "It's a [modified] Xbox controller that you can hook sex toys into so they vibrate when the game vibrates." Check out Machulis' SlashDong.org for the details you are certainly demanding right about now.

It's simple: The SeXbox – like McClellan's Spend the Night – is as much of its time as it is ahead of it. There is demand, and it is being supplied. As gaming's audience grows and diversifies, it's a principle we had better get used to. "What if what you want doesn't, or even can't, exist? What if you want to explore and experiment with fetishes or something new?" Machulis ponders. "That's where virtual worlds thrive in terms of sex. You can try anything, be anything, all with much less hassle and (seemingly) less consequences than real life." end story


The Secret Sex Lives of Video Games

Thursday, March 14, 3:30pm, Room 18D

Julianne Greer

Kyle Machulis

Mark Wallace

Glennis McClellan

Tony Walsh

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

SXSW Interactive 06, The Secret Sex Lives of Video Games, Julianne Greer, Kyle Machulis, Mark Wallace, Glennis McClellan, Tony Walsh, Spend the Night, SeXbox

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