Adult Entertainment Drives Video Game Industry's Future

Oct 12, 2008 6:00 AM PST
PORT TOWNSEND, Wash. — Sometime in 1972, adult entertainment met its match. The release of the first mainstream adult film, "Deep Throat" and the Atari video game "Pong" started one of the most powerfully pervasive, subversive and enduring cultural relationships in our time.

That's the starting point for Damon Brown's recently published book, "Porn & Pong: How 'Grand Theft Auto,' 'Tomb Raider' and other Sexy Games Changed Our Culture" (Feral House, 2008) Brown, Playboy's technology reporter, has a unique vantage point for his thesis, and he guides us through an exhaustive history of the pairing.

The widespread market penetration of the VCR and the simple Atari home video console at roughly the same time may have driven the two forms of entertainment together. Brown does identify the first sexual video game as the early 80s title "Custer's Revenge." The simple game featured a digitized figure whose goal was to avoid obstacles and have grainy, fuzzy sex with a captured Indian. Released in 1982, it sold $4 million worth of simulated, pixilated sex.

In a recent post to Salon.com, Brown outlines a history of how sex instructed the development of blockbuster video games "Lara Croft," Leisure Suit Larry" and even "Ms. Pac Man." But what no one could imagine was exactly how popular those games would become. By 2010, the worldwide video game market is predicted to generate $46.5 billion in revenue, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. That figure represents a projected 45 percent of filmed entertainment's projected revenue of $104 billion.

"Porn and Pong" looks deeply at what drives the union between the two industries. From early BBS systems to more evolved graphics-driven websites like Second Life, Brown probes the inherent human drive to have sex — even if simulated within video games.

Part of the union between the two industries, Brown asserts, is the ability to change one's identity easily. Women, he writes, often assume male avatars in cyber role-playing scenarios "because they got harassed less." Brown adds in his Salon.com interview, "for the men, they took on female personas because they felt they were actually treated better."

The fluidity of roles that technology has enabled leads Brown to envision a sexual future that we can not imagine — one that includes teledildonics run by remote professionals. "Our grandchildren are going to have amazing sex lives -- I can't think of a better way to say it."

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