Teen Sex, Advertising, and MMOs

(Warning! The subject matter highlighted in the article and many of the graphic images may not be suitable for younger aged persons. Discretion is advised!)


by Cody Hargreaves
Sex. It everywhere. It why we’re here. It how we’re here. It responsible for everything we were, are, and will be. It biological. It natural. It naughty. It raunchy. It”¦ sexy. Sex is good, and we love it. But it not always good, is it? We like to think it is, but it not. Rape isn’t good. Rape is terrible. Taking videos of your ex-girlfriend in compromising positions and posting them on the Internet isn’t good. Teen sex isn’t good. And that what we’re here to talk about today. Teen sex. Teen porn. Teen pregnancy. Teen abortion. Teen parenting. Teen abduction. Teen suicide. Oh, and MMOs. Be warned, this is going to get ugly.
Let me begin by saying that I’m not opposed to teen sex. In its purest form, I don’t see anything wrong with it. People as young as 12 have been having sex for thousands of years, and I’m in no position to tell them that they were doing the wrong thing; however, in today technologic world, things aren’t so simple. I wish it were. I wish I could say that it depends on the individual, that when a boy and a girl reach an age where they consider themselves ready to have sex, they have my blessing. But I can’t. There too much at stake.
This isn’t a new discussion. It been around for while now, and there are a number of issues involved; teen pregnancy, for example, is right up there. Sex, as outlined above, often leads to babies, and what teenager is ready to raise a child, or worse, kill one? Teen porn, there another. How old does one have to be to truly understand the repercussions involved in selling videos of themselves to make a quick buck? Age difference. Two 15 year-olds alone in a dark room might not be so bad, but what about a 16 year-old and a 26 year-old? Where do we draw the line? Influence. There another, and this one is most important, as it a fundamental part of every other. Why is it illegal to have a sexual relationship with your teacher? How far will a 12 year old girl go for a PRADA handbag? How many boys in a room with one girl does it take to make an omelette? 
You might think me a terrible person for even suggesting such scenarios, but believe me, I didn’t invent them. I said it before, this isn’t a new discussion, and it not the one we’re going to be discussing today; however, it a paramount element of the true topic at hand:
Every issue outlined above has its own place in the world of online gaming, as do several more we’ll discuss as we delve deeper into our well of depredation. The most obvious connection, of course, is that an online world full of teens with hidden identities can say and act however they like. At first, it could be simple banter. But eventually, you party with a guildie and learn that you both live in the same state. Nay! The same town! And the sparks fly. And before you know it, thousands upon thousands of teenagers are connected to one another and”¦ well, you know the rest. This is the part that I’m okay with. This is, in my humble opinion, part of the good that MMOs can provide in the way of sex, both to teens, and everyone else. Sadly, that about as good as it gets. 
From there, we begin down the path of similar issues. More teen sex equals more teen pregnancy equals more teen parents and more teen abortions. And more teen porn. And then it happens. You meet a guildie, you make love in a park, and you break up on MSN. You log back into your favourite MMO only to find that the guild message of the day contains a link to your adventure in the park. Another guildie was hiding in a tree, he filmed the entire thing. The whole guild has seen it. Next stop, teen suicide. Think I’m making this up? This is only the beginning.
Online predators. What happens when the 16-year-old girl you’ve been chatting with all these months, turns out to be a 47-year-old pervert? I’ll tell you what happens, he grabs you, throws you into the back of a van, and you’re never heard from again. I can’t get graphic, it wouldn’t be allowed, but I’m sure your imagination can. Let it run wild for a second. 
Not pretty, is it? But it happens. And when you really think about it, you know why it does. What next? 
Ah. Influence. Persuasion. Peer pressure. Incentive. This is a big one, and it goes deeper than you think. I’m going to begin with a story a friend told me the other day; we’ll call him Mr. X. He was telling me about how his relationship with his girlfriend, Ms. Y, had ended. They’d had a rough relationship with MMOs to begin with, having met online, and both understanding the issues therein. In the beginning Mr. X wasn’t particularly happy with the way Ms. Y was speaking to other members of the guild once they were together. “That how I’ve always talked to them,” she proclaimed, and she was right. It wasn’t until a boy arrived at his doorstep, 15-years-old, in a little black suit, holding a little bouquet of flowers and with a look that personified smitten spread wastefully across his face, that Mr. X started to realise that there was a problem.
“I’ve made a big mistake, haven’t I?” said the boy, standing at the doorway. Mr. X explained that he had, and sent the boy on his way. Ms. Y did have a problem, and as time passed, it became worse. Mr. X stood by his girlfriend to the bitter end; to the very last time, when she made a deal with another guildie that Mr. X simply couldn’t abide. He had discovered that she had made a trade, 800 gold in World of Warcraft for oral sex. Mr. X said his goodbyes. That was all he could take.
It a sad story, and my condolences go out to Mr. X, but it highlights my point well. Here was a person willing to do anything to progress her WoW character, and she not the only one. How did this happen? Incentive. Persuasion. Peer pressure. Influence. Teenagers are some of the most impressionable people on the planet, and it something advertisers know only too well. Sex sells. It always has, it always will. MMO advertisers were bound to catch on eventually.
And so we come to the crux of the issue, advertising. Well, advertising and greed. The lengths some people will go to bring new members to their game, and ultimately, to make more money. Sexual advertising outside of the video game world is commonplace; we see it everyday on television and in magazines — half-naked men and women selling everything from make-up to ringtones — and while I don’t condone it, it doesn’t really hurt anyone. But when MMO advertisers representing video games targeted at teenagers join in the fray, well, we’ve already discussed the results.
Don’t believe me? Take a look for yourself:
These are just some of the advertisements from the developers of the MMO Evony Online, a fantasy-themed MMORPG available to all ages for free. Pitiful. Can we really blame teens who rush out and have sex with the first person to buy them an epic chestpiece when these are the images they are exposed to upon joining? It being engrained into their minds before they even begin playing. I’ll be the first to tell you not to talk down to teenagers; the first to tell you that a number of them are already smarter than you and I; the first to tell you that we should be treating them like mini-adults and preparing them for the real world — but this is something else entirely.
Let take a look at another example, this one (if you can believe it) even worse:
Wow. That advertising for you. Notice, though, that they don’t have the same level of quality as the Evony versions. Do you know why? It because they were created by players. Yes, am unrated MMORPG, Dragon Call, opened a competition asking players to create ‘hot’ advertisements for their clearly teen video game, using themselves or pictures found on the internet in conjunction with the logo of the game. Take a look for yourself:
“Dragon’s Call is already burning up the Internet; we want to burn up the whole earth.

Note: This contest is for Adults only, please make sure you’re 16 years or older before you participate.

How to Enter

– One way –
  Find the most non-nude Sexy Female photo you can find. (IE: Actress, Models, Your friend or yourself)
  Merge it with the Dragon’s Call in-game screenshot or character artworks.
  Blaze your creativity and Photoshop skill to make it real.

– Or another –
  Or ask your sexy friends to take a shoot directly while playing DC.
  Post your edited photos or your DIY photos to this thread.
  Don’t forget to attach your in-game name, if you want the prize.”
Oh. It OK. This contest is for adults only. I’m sure gamers will abide that. And besides, they’re non-nude photos. What the problem? 
Take a look at a couple more submissions:
Now, tell me. Which are you thinking of? A: Playing Dragon Call. Or B: Having sex with any (or all) of the girls in these pictures? Don’t worry; it natural to choose B. As I explained in the beginning, sex is a natural part of life. Your biological makeup dictates that you choose B (sorry girls, they didn’t have any pictures of boys, so I’m speaking directly to the guys here). Guess what? The advertising companies know this, too. I could very well be playing into their hands here, giving them exactly what they want; after all, there no such thing as bad publicity, which is precisely why we discussed the ramifications first. Believe it or not, this is how it begins. You already know where it ends.
And like the great sexual circle of life, we return to the beginning. Teen sex, and everything that comes with it. I’m no stooge — I’m not trying to take the fun out of the situation, or make mountains out of molehills. Believe me, the first time I heard Mr. X tell me that Ms. Y gave a guildie oral sex for 800 gold in WoW, I laughed my arse off. And the first time I saw the Dragon Call girls”¦ well, let keep this PG13. Hah —œ PG13. Think about that for a moment. 13 years-old is what we classify as material that requires parental supervision. I bet you I could find a player in Dragon Call that younger than 8. 
It fine to take this stuff lightly on occasion; I do all the time. But when I really sit down and think about it like I have today, it no laughing matter. This really is serious business. The impact MMOs can have on teenagers in regards to sex is frightening, and it sad to see developers abusing it in the name of greed. Well, that how I see it. Do you feel the same? Have developers gone too far? Are teenagers paying the price? Or am I overreacting? Post your thoughts below. 

About Cody Hargreaves

Cody 'NerA' Hargreaves has been writing cross-platform reviews and articles in the games industry for over five years across various websites and publications, including MMOGames and MMOhub.