The violence versus sex argument in video games has gone on for a very long time. It still continues to this day. The vast majority of gamers and those within the video game industry are totally fine with gratuitous violence. It's a hallmark of video games. We enjoy heads exploding and organs being ripped asunder. So why then are we so closed minded about sexual content?
This subject has reached the mainstream once more due to House Party. It sold over 35,000 copies on Steam within the first month it was on sale. This isn't too bad, considering Eek! Games, the developer, is a relative unknown. It would have seemed that House Party made it past Steam's terms and guidelines and was in the clear. Live streamers were giving the game a go, and everything seemed pretty well and good. Then, the content really started to irk certain groups of people.
Many started complaining about the nature of the video game, going so far as to call it misogynistic and vulgar. Eek! Games took to Steam to explain that they don't think Steam is in the right to remove the game, but they respect the decision. The same developer said that they would comply with Steam's request and put a “watered down” version of the game back up. It was not happy about this however, because current fans of the game will have to stoop to playing an unoriginal version of the game.
The same developer quoted the gratuitous violence versus gratuitous sex argument when they said they didn't see what the problem was with the game. Much like games like DOOM, where the entire point is to enjoy a fictional environment with lots of gore, House Party was supposed to be a fictional environment where players can enjoy sex. I feel this could be a thinly veiled version of the “violent games don't make violent people” argument. My reasoning for this is a particular scene in which the player blackmails a girl at the party into sexual acts by using stolen photos from her phone. This is just a game, and the point is to do things that you wouldn't do in reality. Just because you blackmail someone for sex in a game doesn't mean you would do it in reality.
This sort of storyline and gameplay exists in porn games and videos around the world already. The reason this one is getting attention is because of its release on Steam. Something I find interesting is this developer quote, “I don't consider the game pornographic, as it's not intended to titillate, but rather is intended to be a humorous and quirky game.” There's two sides to this. There's the obvious: “blow jobs happen in this game, sex happens in this game, obviously some people are going to get turned on, and you know it.” But then the opposing side is that some people get their rocks off just watching regular television shows without any pornographic scenes in it. You could say Game of Thrones isn't “intended to titillate,” but you know those sex scenes are what some look forward to more than anything else.
So where does the line get drawn? Who is right, and what is wrong? Personally, I think this whole thing falls in a rather gray area. Gamers aren't serial killers, despite some playing violent video games 24/7, and the vast majority of people who play porn games aren't going to abuse other people. If you don't like gratuitous violence, don't play the games that have that in it. If you don't like the idea of gratuitous sex in some games, don't play them. If you don't like something, leave it alone.
Steam left House Party alone for a solid month, so it's highly possible they were giving that concept a try. Maybe they wanted to see if the game flew under most people's radar. In that case, they might have potentially revised their guidelines to be more lenient. Or quite possibly, maybe House Party just slipped through the cracks. No matter the reason for House Party's initial existence on Steam, it definitely created quite a stir. The game should be re-released on Steam in a different version some time in the future. Otherwise, House Party still exists in its regular form on Game Jolt or Itch.io.
Porn games are always going to be a thing. Most people who play them are just curious or bored. They aren't all going to turn out to be sex offenders. What people do in the privacy of their own home is really their business. And it feels like the drama around House Party might finally bring the violence versus sex argument into the mainstream.