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A Brief History of Gaming Sexual Failures part 2

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Adrian Hatwell
Adrian Hatwell

Previously we took a look at one of the most shameful artefacts in the gaming museum, an irresponsible dalliance that contributed to sexual scarring of the medium that is still healing decades later. As defence mechanism against the outcry and fearing further moral panic the industry warped to the least controversial state it could manage.

Golgo 13 - 1988

So that was that; sex was now off limits and video games were squarely a child’s pursuit - omitting mature content wasn’t just sensible, it was a duty. This was the mantra inherited by the ensuing generation of home consoles, lead by the particularly puritanical Nintendo.

Nintendo of America issued strict content guidelines during the reign of their 8-bit NES system that ensured nothing like Custer’s Revenge was a possibility on their watch. The resulting generation of games were very tame indeed.

As ever, there were exceptions and when it comes to sex those expectations are best searched for off American shores, in this case Japan. The typical Western view of Japanese culture is one of repression and propriety, but in fact the Japanese view of sexuality is a wildly different conception than the more judgmental Euro-centric outlook. Which is why adapting a popular Japanese manga about suave assassin Duke Togo to the NES conjured the sort of pixelated grit that made publishers very nervous indeed.

Nintendo did take a swing at cleaning up Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode before release; the protagonist’s job description was tweaked from assassin to spy, and his opponents were no longer revealed to be a resurrected Nazi regime lead by a cyborg Hitler. Even after Nintendo’s nannying interference, however, the game still featured more graphic violence than was usually acceptable, a chain-smoking hero, a few sly drug references, and – most devilish of all – a little super spy coitus.

Throughout the game our charming rogue runs into plentiful female agents who will surrender vital intelligence and a little more besides. The actual deed is depicted in a cute little voyeuristic scene in which two clunky silhouettes collapse into each other before killing the lights, leaving their high-rise hotel framed in the twinkling night sky.

To be honest it might just be the subtlest handling of sex in any video game to this day, elevating the mediums maturity slightly from that of a deviant, animalistic six-year-old to laddish James Bondian levels. To really emphasise the sex as a positive experience the game even rewarded a health boost come morning. Not bad for the positively Victorian era of the NES, alas Golgo 13 (and its eventual sequel) was to remain the exception in a dry spell lasting almost a decade.
Next: Back to the nasty with Phantasmagoria.

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