Not the source I expected on this one
There are a couple of scenes in Wolfenstein: The New Order where the hero, BJ Blazkowicz, and his love interest, Anya, have sex. What is shocking about this is not the act of sex in the historically sex shy video game scene, but rather that it was shown with a modicum of maturity that isn’t present in even gaming’s most mature franchises. The act of showing two character engaging in sex as a normal function of their relationship and without gratuitous Playboy shots runs counter to the games industries typical depiction of sex from a 13 year old view point. The games industry, as a whole, has trouble breaking free of the immature perspective of sex. New Order gives us a glimpse of how easy it would be to move away from the youthful swamp in which most video games are mired.
The most common depiction of sex in games is the mindless titillation of big boobs, skimpy clothing, and prostitution. It’s often done from a straight male point of view (a topic worthy of its own article) and captures the simplest conception of sex there is. Off the top of my head, I can think of strippers in Saint’s Row, the giant breasted sex minigame of God of War, and just about every game that includes prostitution ever. One of the many problems with this depiction of sex is that it represents the act as conceived by the average teenager, rather than by the many adults who both make and are the audience for these games. Consider the strip club minigame I tried in GTA V. I approached a busty stripper, got a lap dance, and, when we went back to her place, the screen bounced to an unshown good time and faded to black. This is pretty much what your average teenager thinks of when they conceive sex. Hot women, sensual moves, and some kind of black box that is supposed to be super cool. In contrast, New Order has two individuals who, as part of their relationship, have sex. No lurid strip club, no sex crazed prostitutes, just people who enjoy sex as part of a greater relationship. This is how most adults approach sex, yet it is one of the few times a game has depicted it as such.
The sad part is that even one of gaming’s greatest series has trouble with sex. Mass Effect is well known for depicting the act in the exact opposite way. Rather than showing sex as a dirty act between a man and oversized, throw away genitalia, Mass Effect sanctifies the act as the crowning achievement in a relationship. Each romantic option climaxes when Sheppard and his partner having sex. This is the pinnacle of the relationship when most adult relationships include sex well before some kind of mystical understanding is reached. It is a fun part of the relationship that can start anywhere between the first date and the wedding day and is rarely considered an achievement. Rather than be the sex mad teenager, Mass Effect chooses to be the virtuous abstainer whose refusal to have sex puts the act on a pedestal that it doesn’t deserve. Again, New Order provides the more mature counterpoint. BJ and Anya’s first time isn’t a vaunted relationship defining achievement nor does their subsequent encounter suggest anything more than stress relief and a good time. Sex is neither glorified nor objectified in New Order, it’s just a healthy part of two character’s relationship.
I don’t want to oversell New Order’s achievement. While BJ and Anya’s relationship is believable, it isn’t particularly well developed. Condoms were never shown despite how important avoiding pregnancy would be while living in the heart of an insurgency. Furthermore, most sex does not occur between a giant ball of muscles and a model with a fantastic rack. Still, the general tone is something that few games have nailed. New Order’s decision to depict sex in an adult way rather than as a 13 year old might is refreshing and laudable. I can only hope other developers will follow suit.