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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

‘Gamification’ of love has serious consequences

By Andrew HanellyDaily Collegian (Penn State)(U-WIRE) UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. –

Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

The online gaming industry recruits people better than sororities during Greek Week. In 2005, U.S. computer and video game software sales grew to $7 billion, doubling the industry sales since 1996, according to the Entertainment Software Association.

It’s been a long, strange trip for society as more people-a figure that has reached 50 percent-view reality through a 20-inch monitor than ever before.

We’re used to tales of violence, war and “Grand Theft Auto” written into the scripts online gamers rehearse with, but this summer online game manufacturers are taking one step closer to simulated sin: They’re turning the keyboard into a sex toy.

And millions of people will be playing with it. The ironically named “Safe Escape Studios” will release the headliner in the concert of online sexploitation, dubbed “Naughty America: The Game,” which will be asking potential players, “Why don’t we do it in the Information Superhighway?”

“Naughty America” touts itself as the “evolution of online dating,” where players can log in to a simulated computer world as a voluptuous cartoon character with the mission of flirting and finding friends with benefits. The players have the eventual goal of spending the virtual night together at their own online apartment, or in a “public sex zone” built into the cyber scene.

If this is the evolution of online dating, then it’s time to turn off the computers. At least with online dating there is the shared notion that eventually the two parties will meet in what’s called “real life.” But online games offer a sex life acted out vicariously through animated cartoon characters, so you never have to do it the real way. Is this really an activity we’d rather do electronically?

For years, video games have allowed us to take on the role of Major League Baseball players, celebrities like 50 Cent and James Bond, and superhuman characters with the world in the palms of their hands. But now we’re putting flirtation at the fingertips of gamers, where sexual exploration is the new Super Mario world but with a different kind of scoring.

This combines Internet dating with the motel off the interstate: A seedy little place where sneaky little people can tiptoe out of public view and plant the virtual seed.

Sex is now sold to us in our movies, music, sports and even our fast food. The litmus test of our society turns red because we’ve packaged promiscuity into everything we do, including recreation.

But the “gamification” of romance sends the wrong message to kids raised by video games. Facilitating our basic instinct with computers is another shower of depravity on our already sex-drenched society. Sonic the Hedgehog wouldn’t have endorsed this.

Sex as a game? Sex as the exchange of coded bits of information transmitted through broadband connections? Sure does sound sexy.

But maybe we should be thanking technology for its take on “safe sex.” If people are going to fantasy worlds to act out their primal urges then maybe they won’t be practicing promiscuity in the proverbial real world. And those still in the real world may have a hard time practicing anything with cyber-sexaholics because their hands are more accustomed to typing than to … fill in your own blank.

So maybe the computer prevents the negative ramifications of real sex better than the condom. But we’ve now made it so that people don’t even need to leave their desk chairs anymore to pick up people.

Getting lucky now depends on the stability of your Internet connection. Video games by nature offer an escape from reality, a chance to be someone or something else and do things only imaginable before.

But these role-playing games toy with our notion of interpersonal relationships. Games are for playing, and love is for making … in real life.

We’re supposed to type love letters to loved ones, not type sexual innuendos in glorified visual chat rooms. Or maybe this is the modern version of “Love Story,” where the virtue of love is shared virtually.

If so, count me out. I have a real game to play. Pong anyone?