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Looking For Love in Online Places - Sex Games Discussed at SF Conference

While the retail video game industry does some serious navel-gazing over the FTC's recent ruling on Hot Coffee, another group is planning on stuffing as much adult content as possible into their video game products. And they don't plan to disclose any of it to the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB).

No, it's not Rockstar's secret scheme for Grand Theft Auto 4. It's the adult entertainment industry (you may know them as "the dirty movie people"), some of which was represented at this week's quite respectable Sex in Video Games Conference in San Francisco.

Mainstream speakers at the conference included game development pros like Sheri Graner Ray and Savannah College professor Brenda Brathwaite as well as media types such as Wired News "Sex Drive" columnist Regina Lynn.

In examining the adult entertainment industry's interest in the video game space, Reuters reports would-be erotic game makers are taking lessons from the recent political and cultural war between game producers, ratings groups, and governments. Hence, they're likely to avoid retail channels - and ESRB ratings - altogether.

"I'm not interested in playing the political game of getting a game out in a box and getting it rated. Games have been sickeningly violent over the last decade. Now that they start to show breasts, the government is up in arms," said Utherverse CEO Brian Shuster. "[Online distribution] is a more practical way, ultimately, to deliver adult content."

Retail marketing of adult-oriented games is also problematic because the big three console developers (Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo) have historically declined to license development software to companies for sex games.

Nor has the success of massively multiplayer online role-playing Games (MMORPGs) such as Blizzard's World of Warcraft (WoW) and Linden Labs' Second Life been lost on would-be X-rated game makers. Several adult titles are currently in development, including Utherverse's RedLightCenter (screen shot at left) and an MMORPG from NaughtyAmerica.com. RedLightCenter allows player avatars to engage in animated sex with other characters. In reality, however, the game is really more like a naughty version of Second Life, with players also able to run virtual businesses, listen to music, chat, and go shopping (including for erotic, uh, enhancements).

"Sex isn't as much of a game as it is a way to connect,"said Utherverse boss Shuster. "We're coming in as a way to fill that gap."

CM:Online pay-for-play games may be the best way to control access. They can require credit cards, which by most state laws can't be issued to minors without adult permission. In addition, filtering software can block naughty websites, so parents should have full control over whether their kids are able to sign up for such a game. And, without console support, kids won't be passing around game cartridges at school and snickering in the locker room...

Currently hiding his complete collection of Leisure Suit Larry games in the attic, GP Correspondent Colin "Jabrwock" McInnes

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Tags: adult entertainment, brenda brathwaite, naughty america, red light district, sex in video games conference, sheri graner ray, utherverse, x-rated games
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