When gaming was the new sexy

The expression "sex sells" has been tested time and time again in the gaming industry, to various extents.

Josh Watson
21st June 2022
Images: Eidos, Nintendo, Platinum Games and miHoYo
Sex has always played a significant role in advertisements. One of the first advertisements -  for Pearl Tobacco - portrays naked women in a pose similar to the Birth of Venus - going as far as to show a nipple. Since then, sex has been used to sell anything and everything, from fast food to life insurance.
Game Boy Commercials Were Much Hornier Than You Remember
Image: Nintendo

As always, gaming is no exception. No surprise given that the industry has been targeting young male adults for its sales - a group that sex sells for the most! But there are so many different ways sex has sold gaming, so let's have a look at them!

Pornographic and semi-pornographic games are the first place we will stop on this tour of advertising. Games such as Leisure Suit Larry use a large range of sexual imagery to show you what's inside. In reality, most of these games are tamer than they look - but at least this advertising makes sense.

Leisure Suit Larry - Wet Dreams Don't Dry finally comes on Xbox One
Image: CrazyBunch

You know Samus? The original badass female video game character? I would like you to look up the original character art from the early games. Metroid: Other M did her so dirty. And yet, so many other female characters in video games have been used the same way.

The most infamous example of this is Lara Croft, with barely a game going by without her body being used to advertise the game. My favourites are those that use the early model,  which is comprised of only a handful of polygons. The features that are normally the main attraction for that kind of thing don't look as good when they are cone-shaped. Fighting games and RPGs fall for this the most and are still in common practice today. Whether you see Bayonetta as empowering or not - you can't deny that her body is a focal point for the eponymous series' marketing. 

So when I started writing this article, the first example that came to mind was the "The new Game Boy Pocket is seriously distracting", featuring a lady tied up on the bed - with their original plans for the night interrupted by a game of Tetris it seems. This advert is particularly funny as there is no way she could have put herself in that position, suggesting the bloke tied her up and then decided now was a good time to game.

19. Tomb Raider III
Image: Eidos

After more searching, it turns out there is a treasure trove of gaming adverts about how much gaming is better than sex. The Sega Saturn ran something similar: a page with a naked woman in the background, with a handful of small screenshots scattered across. And then it goes on to tell you she is there in case you hadn't noticed. This kind of advertisement is particularly effective in magazines, as you find your eye quickly drawn to the strangeness presented to you.

I have barely scratched the surface of the world of sex in gaming advertisements - it's almost as if sex sells

This is just a huge number of games. Early adverts for game cabinets would be able to get away with an attractive female at the controls in some tight clothing  - but as the game came into the house the advertisement got stranger. The original Pro Fishing ran with a ‘clever’ pun about how much the size of the fish you catch does matter. This is relatively understandable compared to Forsaken, which is just a naked woman (nipple and all) with a small tattoo as the game logo - it takes up less than 10% of the total advertisement!

I won't lie, I have barely scratched the surface of the world of sex in gaming advertisements - it's almost as if sex sells. However, as you can tell from the example I have used, sex in advertising is dying off at a fast rate. The last example I can think of that was close to this was with Lady Dimitrescu from Resident Evil Village - and that was much more to do with people's reactions than the advertisement itself. While sexualised characters are still a thing - just ask any Genshin Impact player - the era of half-naked women selling the next Nintendo console is over.

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