MR. MASTER SAYS
Recently Brian Hoisko, a Product/Logistics Specialist at Tecmo posted this on Tecmo's User Forums: "We're creating a Beach Volleyball game that we envisioned a long time ago. Yes, it will have beautiful women and some objectionable material. We're creating the game the way we want it to be, we are not striving for a Teen or Mature rating. Whatever ESRB gives us, is what we have to live with. We will not have any Sexual Intercourse or Penetration in the game, that is the only thing that can make it a Adults Only game. Having nudity will not necessarily mean will receive a Adults Only rating. Rated R movies is like having a Mature rating in a way. The game will not suffer in gameplay, just imagine the fluidness of DOA3 but playing VolleyBall. Plus, it's not only a VolleyBall game?"
He was of course referring to Tecmo's newest project, a volleyball spin-off of the Dead Or Alive fighting series titled Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball. DOAXBV (what a mouthful) was first revealed at E3 this year in a trailer that featured the ladies of DOA bouncing a volleyball (among other things) around. After this announcement it's safe to say that more than volleyball will be going on.
Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball is roughly equivalent to a normally serious actor taking a big payday to star in some lifeless action movie to help fund less mainstream fare. This is no doubt what Tecmo is doing. They are using the recognized brand name Dead or Alive and the obvious sex appeal to sell many copies of a game that would be very surprising if it is anything more than fluff. It will sell well based on nothing more than the boobie factor. They can add in all sorts of fancy buzzwords to show the gaming world this is a deep volleyball sim, but the fact remains this is still a volleyball sim. Without the half-naked (and now possibly fully naked) DOA girls this would have fallen into the same pit that swallowed Gallop Racer, Jet Set Radio, Earthbound, and countless other niche games.
Thanks to these early screenshots, DOAXBV has created a buzz on message boards all over the Internet and in game stores everywhere. Not surprisingly most of these conversations revolve around the digital cleavage that all of the girls sport. This is not helping Tecmo's claim that Dead or Alive really is a deep fighting game and not just a game that floats by on it's polygonal breasts. Most reviewers seem to think there's something to it, but Tecmo isn't helping matters any.
Games that use sex are nothing new. Fear Effect 2 turned the "rescue your kidnapped girlfriend" cliché on its ear by making the hero a woman too. Lara Croft's breasts on the original Tomb Raider boxart were about equal in size with the word "Tomb" on the cover. Aggressive Inline and the DOA series used the words "authentic breast physics" in advertisements.
This is to say nothing of the adult game "classic" Custer's Revenge for the Atari 2600. In all it's pixelated, blocky glory Custer's Revenge is an infamous skeleton in gaming's closet for more than being the first sex game. It also stirred up some major controversy over it's "rape is fun!" message by having a naked Custer trying to score with an Indian woman (also naked) tied to a pole as it's only gameplay feature. Thankfully, Custer was the exception. Most games that use sex appeal only use sex as a selling point, not as the only gameplay subject.
The same cannot be said about Dave Mirra BMX XXX. Also first unveiled at E3, Dave Mirra BMX XXX uses the slightly upgraded engine of Dave Mirra BMX 2 and adds in a few bumps to the road. No longer are you racing around as pro BMX riders. That option still remains but in Mirra XXX the real game is stepping up to the handlebars with models that have the option of riding topless. There's nothing blatant about that. Gone are the standard bike parks of Mirra 2. Now you're biking through Jackass type situations. Mirra XXX takes it a step further though by promising rewards for high scores with still photos of nude models and really high scores will be rewarded with DVD quality video clips of strippers stripping.
I have nothing against breasts, nudity, sex or any of that. I am still a red blooded American male. I own Wild Things and Starship Troopers on DVD, movies not exactly known for their cinematic quality. I watch Undressed on MTV. But I have to question whether they're needed to sell video games. In an ideal world a good video game should be able to sell based on being a good game. But we don't live in an ideal world do we? Sex is sometimes needed because sex sells. Just look at Tomb Raider. On the surface it looks like just another video game starring a big-breasted woman. As soon as you play it though you can see the classic gameplay shining through.
For some reason I just can't see Dead Or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball or Dave Mirra BMX XXX becoming classics of the video game world. All I can picture is a room full of drooling fanboys like the two guys from the Dead Or Alive 3 commercial gawking at the screen while saying there's more to these games than sex.
It's all about context. Using sex as a part of a grander story has worked in storytelling for thousands of years. These two games do neither. Sex and pornography have become a means to an end. A reward for spending your $50. I don't think this debate would be raging if it were over a low-key sex scene inserted into Final Fantasy X.
It's also all about timing. Developers have only had the ability to place these high-quality images and graphics into games in the last few years. The pixelated strippers of Duke Nukem 3D are quite different from the photorealistic DVD clips in Dave Mirra BMX XXX. Like kids on Halloween night, the developers are going a little overboard. Although "should we?" is not nearly as important a question as "who draws the line?" Who's to say where the line is that games and sex shouldn't cross. For me, receiving pornography as a reward for playing well just doesn't sit right. I'd prefer my porno and my games to remain separate.
It's only fair not to judge these games until they're released. Playing a game yourself is the only true test of whether a game is good or skating by on it's graphics. But the question remains, how far is too far? Do gamers really need DVD clips of Scores girls as an incentive to play? Gamers everywhere are trying to prove their interest in gaming is a mature and adult hobby, but sometimes the most mature thing is knowing where to stop.