Throughout modern history a dedicated band of men have held a candle, or indeed anything cylindrical, for ladies who don't wear clothes. Or were dressed like a sexy cowgirl or something. I can only assume that it's a common complaint among young gentlemen even today, otherwise all the pretty Babestation ladies talking on phones would be displaying clear signs of mental illness.
Looking to capitalise on this societal obsession, for several decades game developers have been working tirelessly to perfect the art of interactive titillation. Inevitably, however, nearly all of these game developers seem to have been socially awkward talent voids. For years the sexiest thing most of them could come up with involved either strip poker or a version of Tetris with a poorly lit jpeg of a boob-lady as background, alongside the rudest falling blocks that could possibly be imagined.
Me? I'm a prude. If I were to meet a metaphorical pretty lady wearing nothing but her birthday suit I'd proffer a copy of the Guardian and ask her to cover up – the Berliner-sized main section for the top, and the G2 supplement for down below. Morbid interest however, AND NOTHING ELSE, has led me to a lifetime fascination with the new dawn of erotic gaming that began in the 1990s. I'm talking about FMV sex games: creations that are as sexy as placing a dead fish in your mouth and slowly pulling it in and out so the scales get stuck between your teeth.
With the added storage space provided by CD-Rom it must have seemed logical to fill games with flabby nineties bottoms and worrying boob-jobs, and the shallow end of the games industry certainly didn't disappoint. My personal journey with curly-haired ladies (who presumably didn't maintain their acting career much beyond wearing sexy pants in front of a ponytailed development team) began within the pages of PC Zone. As a young testosterone-tinged teen, you see, my mind was blown by an advert for a game called Space Sirens. A game in space with nudie women? Stop the world, where did I have to sign? It then became a personal quest to track it down – a mission that would one day end, years later, with a drunken student purchase on eBay.
Space Sirens wasn't, amazingly enough, very good. The game I had actually got a hold of was actually its sequel, Space Sirens 2: Megababes from Ajia, and it proved to be one of a litter of contemporary CD-Rom creations that honestly believed that merging a 3D artist's spaceship portfolio and QuickTime FMVs of space ladies taking their tops off was vaguely sexy. The 'game' here was to raise both your OrgasMeter and that of your chosen Ajian babe by prodding her unmentionable-bits in loving ways, but presumably the only real challenge was doing so one-handed.
You see, not everything was quite that blatant in the world of abysmal nineties FMV. During the entire run-time of Star Trek: Borg the entity known as Q never once approached the camera and asked you to stroke a nipple.
Voyeur and Voyeur II, for example, even had half-decent 'Rear Window' narrative approaches as you flicked between cameras and window views to follow the US soap opera plot and/or waited an interminable amount of time before someone showed off their bra or climbed out of a hot tub.
Tender Loving Care, meanwhile, was a decently well-acted affair about a sexy blonde psychologist who's been hired to constantly undo and do up her loose fitting porn-blouse while entwining herself in the lives of two bereaved parents. In amongst it all, meanwhile, John Hurt (yes, that John Hurt) occasionally pipes up with sex questions that will determine whether or not said psychologist takes her top off in the next scene. Really deep stuff like "Do you like watching people through windows?" and "How much would you say you think about sex?" The powerful eroticism that can be heard in Hurt's voice is simply astounding: after playing TLC for several months I could only reach a state of arousal when I could hear a DVD of The Elephant Man playing in the lounge. (I'm relieved to be able to say, however, that the fourth Indiana Jones movie cured me of this affliction.)
On top of these there are countless erotic FMV games that are even lower rent. Games that, if I were ever to hunt them down on eBay, would result in me having to admit that I've got a problem. Thank god for intrepid CD-Rom game curator fmvgamer2010 on YouTube, then, without whom we would not be able to sample countless FMV delights. There's Hollywood Body Double, for example, starring the world's most famous body double Shelley Michelle – and a flickering trek around a movie lot asking women whether or not you recognise them from a recent orgy and other ladies applying blusher to their cleavage. Or there's Ghostly Desires, which essentially seems to be Luigi's Mansion with prostitute ghosts and perms.
That, then, is what Hollywood was up to in-between lines of coke and sessions on the casting couch. That's not to say, however, that Europe wasn't hot on their needlessly high heels. I mean, in Germany the nineties saw the birth of the Lula franchise and spat out the Days of Oblivion games – the basic ethos of which can best be understood through the most brief of vaguely NSFW YouTube nuggets. Days of Oblivion 2 is quite simply the most epic naked lady adventure I have ever played: peasants murder Venetian scientists, old ladies threaten you with shotguns then give you pudding and OAPs get ninja-starred next to skips. It's all in German though, so I could never explain the plot – but I can confirm that you can watch videos of a lady in the nip patting herself down and winking while you're in a space taxi.
But what about Blighty? The United Kingdom of the nineties: spiritual home of gentleman's periodicals thrown into hedgerows or hidden beneath moss-covered logs in woodland environments? The nation to whom highly-charged erotic behaviour was once Robin Asquith's spotty bottom thrusting up and down in a pool of industrial detergent in Confessions of a Window Cleaner? I'm proud (not very proud actually) to say that, as part of a 1994 package called Interactive Girls, we had a game in which you had to guess the right door and the right day on which you can deliver milk to Jo Guest. Then you had to tap the space bar like an excitable ape to make her, frame by frame, get in the altogether in praise of your milk delivery skills.
It was powerful stuff. Forget your idle flirting with Kelly in Mass Effect 2, this was truly the interactive medium's answer to Lady Chatterley's Lover. Go home D.H. Lawrence: as of the mid-nineties and the dawn of QuickTime your florid erotica became entirely unnecessary. Quite whether humanity as a whole could ever quite be forgiven for producing, or indeed playing, these games however – well that's a quite separate matter. For my part at least (standing, as I am, weeping in a cold shower) I am truly sorry.