There was this one time a videogame journalist sent an email boasting about what a brilliant feature he'd just written. Except he accidentally forgot to delete the draft notes that were attached to the end of it. Everybody who received it (and it was quickly forwarded) agreed that it provided quite a frightening insight into his psyche, full of unexpected violent threats towards 'chavs'. Imagine what people would make of the draft notes I composed for this article then. Here's a small smattering: Battle Raper; seminal; hentai; knob in your hands etc.; Custer's Revenge (first game to feature an erection?); Tomb Raider skinflick; Baldur's Gate, undressing elf; Japanese game in which you poke a girl's... Well, I think you get the picture. That's because, following my expert appraisal of hentai, Eurogamer has asked me to write a definitive history of sex and nudity in games. It would, of course, take too long to list every sexual moment, or nude patch in the history of videogames. What follows, then, is a history of the most seminal moments in the history of videogame sex, if you will. Or, if you're too young for that sort of thing, you won't.
Sex in games is now a serious business. Thanks to Eurogamer's earlier article on the subject, you'll no doubt already be aware of the hentai sub-genre, but sex is also starting to turn up in mainstream games like Mass Effect (lesbian kiss) and God of War 2 (topless females and threesome). It's also inspired fully-fledged sexy games like Playboy: The Mansion, as well as serious academic studies and one fairly mainstream book (Sex in Videogames, by Brenda Braithwate, lead designer on the aforementioned Playboy game - and on the rather less sexy Dungeons & Dragons Heroes). The IGDA has even set up a special interest group devoted to sex in videogames for any budding sexy game designers out there. In any given moment, you can rest assured that gallons of virtual body fluids are currently being spilt in a massively multiplayer universe somewhere near you. And the internet is awash with all sorts of tawdry cash-in mini-games with names like Orgy Escape, or Virtual Hottie 2 - the videogame equivalent of ringtones (Google 'sex games' if you want to see what I'm talking about. Actually, probably don't).
So where, in the words of the man from room service who found George Best cavorting, did it all go wrong? Probably as soon as someone realised that sex sells, which is at least as early as 1988, when the cover of Barbarian (or Deathsword, if you're American) fuelled countless millions of schoolboy fantasies thanks to the appearance of Page 3 stunnah Maria Whittaker (alongside Wolf from Gladiators). In October 2004, the games industry returned its debt to the soft porn industry by gracing the pages of Playboy with artistic imaginings of some of its hottest babes, like, um, BloodRayne. Heck, even middleware adverts have been spiced up with adverts that focus on erect female nipples.
Things got worse the moment the first person imagined they fancied a bunch of pixels on a screen. Chun-Li. Lara Croft. Zangief. In many ways, it's quite frightening to think that most people reading this will have fancied a videogame character at one time or another, whether they admit it or not (just to be clear, for example: I've never once fancied Dead or Alive's Lei Fang or Soul Calibur's Taki).
In fact, things got worse even before the use of pictures in videogames. Probably the earliest videogame to feature sex was Softporn Adventure, published by Online Systems in 1981. The game was a text-based adventure bearing the caveat 'For Adults Only!' above a picture of three topless females in a jacuzzi (one of whom was the game's designer and company co-founder, Roberta Williams). It wasn't the only sexy text adventure. The world's first licensed sex game was Avalon Hill's Dr. Ruth's Game of Good Sex, another text adventure (well, multiple choice quiz), released in 1986. That was the same year that Infocom's text adventure, Leather Goddesses of Phobos, allowed players to choose the game's level of lewdness.
One of the earliest games to feature an actual graphical depiction of sex was Custer's Revenge. It wasn't the only X-rated game released by Caballero Control Corporation in October 1982; there was also Bachelor Party and Beat 'Em & Eat 'Em. But Custer's Revenge managed to eclipse both of those titles by featuring, as a reward for dodging some crudely depicted arrows, the first example of videogame rape (and, maybe, the first display of an erect penis in a videogame). Nevertheless, in spite of the game's subsequent notoriety, it only managed to sell 80,000 copies - which was considerably less than a commercial success back then. Less controversial, and marginally less crudely depicted, was the Leisure Suit Larry series of graphic adventure games, which wowed American gamers in the late '80s - around the time that we Brits were entertained by the much more sophisticated Sam Fox Strip Poker (a game that featured 'a high degree of artificial intelligence', according to Your Sinclair).