Alex Raymond, of the While !Finished blog at the Iris Gaming Network, explains how games have established a rather simplistic view of relationships in her post “Women Aren’t Vending Machines: How Video Games Perpetuate the Commodity Model of Sex“:
What the vast majority of these games inevitably do is present relationship mechanics that distill the commodity model down to its essence-you talk to the NPC enough, and give them enough presents, and then they have sex with/marry you.
This design approach is extremely simplistic and perpetuates the commodity model of sex-the player wants sex, they go through certain motions, and they are “rewarded” with what they wanted (like a vending machine). Furthermore, when sex is included in a game, it is generally framed as the end result-the reward-of romance, rather than one aspect of an ongoing relationship/partnership.
Using as a basis for her comparison Thomas Macaulay Millar’s “Toward a Performance Model of Sex” from the book Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape, she illustrates how this creates a problem when trying to make a compelling world with which to interact, as well as one that does not dehumanize its inhabitants. While this is in response to the recent MTV Multiplayer article on Alpha Protocol, she also takes a look at Mass Effect. As she points out:
In addition, it perpetuates the narrative of the Nice Guy (described in Millar’s essay, and elsewhere): that men are entitled to sex from women if they follow the rules and do the right things, or in the case of Alpha Protocol, “select your responses wisely.” It is not only dangerous but just plain unrealistic to portray a world in which every single woman is a potential sex partner: in the real world, there are lesbians, and there are straight or bisexual women who won’t sleep with you no matter what you do, because they are human beings with their own preferences and desires and interests.