Video Games Go Hardcore

Cindi Loftus
Editor's Note: Among the many confluences of technology underway, one that offers an intriguing appeal is the merging of adult entertainment with immersive video game technology. While still in its infancy, such hybrid offerings illustrate not only the maturation of the gaming marketplace, but of video gamers in general – pointing the way for forward-thinking marketers.

One of the earliest versions of an adult video game was 1982s controversial "Custer's Revenge" which depicted a very pixelized naked Custer having sex with a tied-up Indian maiden. Needless to say it didn't go over very well with women's and Native American groups. And its maker Mystique went down the drain shortly after. But jump ahead 20 years, and, boy, have times changed.

Over the last few years, the market has grown to include numerous titles containing adult content. Whether it is the topless, swearing strippers in "BMX XXX" or the happy roommates who finally have intercourse in "Singles: Flirt Up Your Life," video games are no longer just for kids. Many games rated M (or mature) contain nudity, sex and adult language.

According to the Entertainment Software Association, the average game buyer is 36 years old. In 2003, 92 percent of people who purchased video games were 18 years or older. ESA Spokesman Dan Hewitt states that 11.9 percent of the games issued in that year were rated M.

In the first quarter of 2005, Playboy will release its first video game, "Playboy: The Mansion." Introduced at gaming expo E3, reviewers glowed with praise at the layers of sophistication the game displayed, the many play options, and, oh yeah, the nudity and sexual activity.

In "The Mansion," marketed by Arush Games, the player gets a chance to role-play as notorious playboy Hugh Hefner and build up the business, the house and his social calendar. The player can also arrange photo shoots with Playboy cover models. However, there are reports that the toplessness and sex play have been toned down since the game's E3 debut, despite its M rating.

Two Vivid contract girls, Sunrise Adams and Tera Patrick are also reportedly starring in a (not yet rated) video game called "Back Yard Wrestling," which does not yet have a release date.

And another M-rated game, "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City," lets players take a job working in an adult film studio and listen to the sexy voice of Jenna Jameson as she portrays Candy Suxxx. Players can also buy a strip club and pick up prostitutes for sex play.

According to the Video Software Distributors Association, "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City" ranked as the sixth top-selling video game of 2003, and as the second most-rented video game of the same year.

"There is an unrealized demand for games with more mature themes," said VSDA spokesman Andrew Mun. "We are facing challenges from the Legislature though, who are trying to restrict certain ages from buying certain games."

The newest version of the game, "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas," is the top 10 mostsearched term on many gaming websites and was recently released before Christmas, its maker predicts.

"We sell games that are rated M," said Scott Paul, a manager for Arush Games. "'Grand Theft Auto: Vice City' is one of the most popular, best-selling games we have. So yes, M-rated games are hot. The gaming industry is going to evolve to meet the needs of the generation X'ers, who are now in their 30s."

Stay tuned for more on this exciting new venue for adult entertainment!

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