The pic above is a snapshot of the first few questions I was asked after opening a University of Southern California survey that aims to collect data on why and how people play digital games. As Bugs Bunny would say: Look out for that first step, doc. It’s a lulu.
The order of the question pages appears to be randomly generated, so the second time I initiated the survey I was not immediately asked if I like to gaze at “sexy” characters while I play video games.
Some quick correspondance with one of the people behind the survey revealed that this research aims “to see if there are common motivations for people to play games.” Asking if players are motivated to play games because of included erotic or sexual content is valid, as recent examples of Mafia II and The Saboteur suggest. Mafia II allows players to collect actual 1950s-era Playboy magazine centrefolds as bonus content. Earlier this year, EA notably made day-one DLC available to purchasers of The Saboteur that allowed women at an in-game nightclub to appear topless. Both cases probably stimulated some players into buying these games.
However, it would be nice if the question of whether or not sexual or erotic content was a motivating factor for playing video games wasn’t presented simply as a matter of subjective gaze as it is above. Explorations of sexuality in media, as a cultural reality and human condition, don’t need to be limited fleeting visual pleasures. Asking if “I enjoy looking at sexy characters in games” trivializes the possibility that sexuality might be differently addressed in gaming.
It’s one thing to feel pervy for playing certain games (No More Heroes 2, I’m thinking at you), it is another to feel pervy filling out a survey about them.
Participate in the survey by visiting here. (Note: you will be asked for demographic information towards the end)
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