|"Playboy: The Mansion." (HO)
As Valentine's Day approaches, we turn to thoughts of delicate romance, extended courtships, chaste cheek-pecks under a blossoming apple tree" - oh come on, who are we kidding? Let's talk about sex, baby.
As pointed out by the wise women of Salt N Pepa in their 1991 hit Let's Talk About Sex, "now we talk about sex on the radio and video shows / Many will know anything goes." And ain't it the truth. From mainstream hip-hop to star-studded TV shows like Shameless - witness William H. Macy handcuffed to a bed, staring at an enormous and anatomically correct sex toy wielded by Joan Cusack-- sex has penetrated most forms of popular media.
Except, for the most part, video games. Sure, you can find truly twisted, independently produced games that present sex acts in uncomfortable detail, just as you can find all manner of mind-melting niche porn in specialty sex shops and online.
But sex is one of the last taboos in mainstream video games. It's OK to commit incredibly graphic acts of virtual violence, but bare-naked naughty bits - or, heaven forbid, a scene in which consenting adults get their freak on - are as rare in games as cusses in a preacher's sermon.
Here's a (by no means complete) look at how sex has been famously or infamously depicted in mature-themed video games over the years, and whether any of these digital deed-doers managed to convey a true degree of arousal. Reader discretion advised. And don't forget to buy flowers.
Custer's Revenge (1982)
One of the earliest examples of sex in a home console video game, this independently sold title for the Atari 2600 featured a pixelated General Custer (sporting an extremely large and turgid member) dodging a hail of arrows to have his way with a busty Native American woman on the other side of the screen. Crude graphics, crude gameplay, crude subject matter. Just crude.
Arouse-o-meter: 1 (out of 10)
Legendary developer Roberta Williams was behind this groundbreaking PC game that used video footage of real actors, including a scene in which Adrienne, the protagonist, is fondled and ultimately forced into sex by her demon-possessed husband. While there's no nudity, it remains one of the most controversial depictions of sex in a video game.
Arouse-o-meter: 2 (out of 10)
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004)
When a tech-savvy Dutch gamer discovered the disabled "Hot Coffee" sex scenes in the PC version of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, a political firestorm erupted - even though accessing the raunchy sex mini-games required downloading third-party hacks. The coupling itself was somewhat explicit, but fully clothed (unless further homebrewed mods were used.)
Arouse-o-meter: 5 (out of 10)
Playboy: The Mansion (2005)
This Sims-type game (produced by now-defunct Toronto studio Groove Games) was not so much a sexy swing through Hugh Hefner's domain as an interactive advertisement for Playboy Enterprises as a whole. The "sex" was so tame and unrevealing, it almost made us wish Larry Flynt decided to try his hand at video games instead.
Arouse-o-meter: 3 (out of 10)
Mass Effect (2007)
Edmonton-based BioWare Corp. have made romantic subplots a part of their role-playing games for years, but Mass Effect raised the bar by showing brief glimpses of bare bum and sideboob as the characters made sweet love aboard the starship Normandy. Thing is, the sex fit naturally with the storyline and was handled in a uniquely mature way.
Arouse-o-meter: 7 (out of 10)
God of War III (2010)
God of War is one of the few successful game franchises that unabashedly features female nudity (if topless medusas and harpies count), and it's become standard for each game to have one sex scene, even if the actual copulation happens off-screen. In God of War III, the Kratos-craving Aphrodite and her handmaidens are especially blessed with heavenly endowments.
Arouse-o-meter: 8 (out of 10)
Heavy Rain (2010)
This mature, dark game sees players taking on the roles of four characters, two of whom - Ethan and Madison - can choose to copulate at one point. While it's probably the most "realistic" depiction of sex in a game (despite Madison inexplicably leaving her pants on), it proves that games are still a long way from being comfortable with sex, even if gamers aren't.
Arouse-o-meter: 9 (out of 10)