You know the place I'm talking about.
No, not Mos Eisley. Star Wars Galaxies has been shut down. Though I wonder if that protohive in our consciousness eventually came to represent what wise old Master Kenobi said of it.
I'm talking about those places you find those role players. That hive of scum and villainy. That digital meat market where everyone is cruising and morals sometimes fall by the wayside.
A Road Paved In Rubber
There's nothing wrong with sex. In fact, if you were to poll people, I'm reasonably confident sex would rank up there as one of the most fun things to do. Solo, in pairs... more... people love sex. Why shouldn't they?
Sure sex has its own issues and troubles. How much of the hate we see on the internet is down to someone being the "wrong" sex, or interested in a different sex, or a fan of a particular fetish or worst of all... just having more of it than others.
If sex is the ultimate expression of passion, it's no wonder that passion sometimes blinds us to rationality where sex is concerned. I'm not going to preach a type of sex or a gender decision or anything of that nature. I shouldn't have to. What happens with consenting adults is their business and if they have found happiness, I wish them well. So put down your pitchforks, I'm not going to rile you up against people nor am I going to tear down others decisions. Mostly. Probably.
We'll see. I'm only human and it's a passionate subject.
The problem with sex, and it is a problem, is the taboo nature. If you talk about it too much, you risk being maligned. If you don't talk about it enough, you're a prude. If you keep it personal you're strange, if you spread it freely, well that's a rabbit hole full of insults all the way down and often unfairly given ones.
The problem with digital sex then is catering to it. Or not. That hive of scum and villainy? The one that I often remember was Pocket D in City of Heroes. It's not the only one. We've all seen the story of the Dwarf hiding and catching two Night Elves under the Deeprun tram. If you cater to the possibility of relationships and sex, like you would have seen in single player games, notably Bioware rpgs.... then mainstream media and society considers you a pervert. If you don't cater, well people will find a way. Enter the glorious slash fictions and deviantarts full of .... let's be honest and most of the time call them actual perversion.
Part of the problem is the attention seeking types who aren't happy just to make a connection for a little flirtatious (or more) fun. It's the ones you see who tend to have Rape As Backstory, as though an intensely traumatic event like that is just a little quirk for their character. Like fidgeting or really long hair. Can a trope be used well? Sure, but it can also just be used cheaply.
It's the others who have to go all out. Who have to be causing gossip and complaint. After all roleplay isn't necessarily against the terms of service but some people have to push the bounds of good taste and social acceptance until they break.
I wish I knew why it was. I wish I knew why certain areas of the WoW community were known to be dens of pure perversion. It's gone beyond just "erotic roleplay" and into the realms of nightmares and grimdark idiocy. I wish I knew that we as players could be trusted, but someone will always try go that little bit further and .... get accepted.
Walk down a city street and behind closed doors, there's going to be people of all colours and creeds enjoying themselves in all manner of ways. That's their business. Maybe you have tastes, maybe you don't. Maybe you find the whole idea abhorrent.
I wonder though if giving players the tools to do digitally what is being done on those city streets is the way to go.
Venus Rising is trying to create an MMO where sex is a central part of game play. Personally, I think it's going to be awful. The porn industry is always willing to try new technology and can be seen as a champion of technology acceptance in some regards. Personally I don't want to dwell on the possible ultimate evolution of certain... items. Lets just say, sooner or later there's going to be an interesting accessory for the Oculus Rift. It's an inevitability at this point.
Finally there's the social problem. Role play communities need a concentration of people. They need those paths to cross, those stories to meet. Community can't be had in quiet corners of twos and threes. Relationships yes, but communities no.
Is then the hive of scum and villainy something that's going to always be with us? If you give players the tools to remove themselves from the thoroughfares of the game, you've practically removed them from the game. Someone hiding in his house in WildStar or refusing to leave his farm in ArcheAge is as much of a non entity as a non player. After all if you aren't interacting, you aren't there. It's the Schrodinger’s Cat of online gaming. People you can't see are both online and off until observed.
Maybe we need the hive. The place where "good" players don't go and where "bad" players get what they want from consenting adults. Maybe we'll always have the hive, no matter what we need or want. If you let players slip away and go behind closed doors, the bar gets empty. The trading house goes quiet. A hush falls upon the digital streets while the willing are between digital sheets.
Will the first mature exploration and embracing of human sexuality online be the last? Will a game that lets you live a life, die from poor subscribers or low numbers? After all domesticity isn't why you slay dragons and save cities.