There’s an endless list of computer games released each month, marketing machines work in overdrive, trying to grab the attention from an immense army of gamers. Game magazines and gaming website’s compete to get that latest demo or mind nibbling game review first, feeding their audience, hyping some games, ignoring others. And then there are the game rating boards, deciding what’s healthy to play, but above all reflect some sort of cultural and political agreement on what’s acceptable and what’s not. This well-oiled money making machine has worked for years now, all targeting that typical gamer, young males between the age of 14 to 30.
But times are changing, that typical gamer doesn’t seem to exist anymore, gamers have grown up, and women entered the gaming arena. The Internet made the old distribution and marketing strategies less dominant, or at least it’s not the only way to publish a successful computer game anymore. What we are witnessing right now is a change on both sides. Besides those well-known large international gaming companies, small publishers are gaining ground — even without a million dollar budget — creating “niche games” for an audience that’s more diverse and demanding then ever. The role of the Internet can’t be exaggerated in this, it provides the opportunity to bypass the beaten, and highly protected, publishing path. It gives the gamers a voice, and the possibility to choose the games they want to play themselves, without a marketing machine, or rating board, interfering.
One of these typical gaming niches is adult games, in this case games with erotic or strong sexual content. They seem to exist for quite some time now, in there own, small and hardly known, spot among mainly pornographic websites. But recently this niche is prospering more then ever before. New titles are released, and gamers are more then willing to buy them, as a relatively normal extension of their game collection.
Game magazines and websites are still ignoring these games, with a few minor exceptions, and the rating boards are going berserk. How do you rate them? Where to draw the line? Is partial nudity pornographic? They tend to hang on to an outdated concept, computer games are solely intended for kids, and excessive violent is acceptable, but sex or erotica isn’t. It’s important to protect children and minors from accessing sexual content, I surely agree. But strict local ratings don’t mean that much in an international market, and ignoring these games won’t make them go away. Remember that most gamers are adults, distribution trough the Internet is relatively easy, and there is money to be made.
It’s really time to revamp the system; partial nudity is not going to make young adults jumping on the person sitting next to them (even Playboy the Mansion: Private Party received an “Adults Only” rating). International guidelines should be set up, with a new definition of what’s potentially harmful or acceptable. And the game media should start talking about adult games, in a more normal manner, informing the public on what’s out there. The game studios, creating these adult games, should also take their responsibility, and prevent minors from accessing their content. What a wonderful “gaming world” it would be…