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Roleplaying and Romance

Love, Marriage, and Sex in Online Games

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When you're in an online world with thousands of other players, matters of the heart will inevitably arise, even if the game itself has nothing to do with romance. In any large enough group of people there will be those who are looking for love, those who are celebrating their love together, and those with an interest in expressing themselves in erotic ways. This is a quick look at how romance manifests itself in many massively multiplayer online games.

Meeting Places
On rare occasions, it actually does happen that two people find each other in the game, meet in real life, and go on to live happily ever after. While MMORPG players are predominantly male, there are women that play. I'd guess that on average, it's still well below 20 percent in most games, which is something to think about if you're gal seeking a guy.

Another thing I should point out is that there is nothing stopping men from creating female avatars and vise versa. You can't assume that the foxy Night Elf babe running around Stormwind is actually being played by a female. With a few exceptions, most MMORPGs probably have more men playing female characters than they have women playing female characters. You'll notice this immediately if you start using voice chat in these games.

There are a few other things to keep in mind before you decide to go beyond simply having an in-game freindship. As with any form of remote communication, people are not always who or what they say they are, and some of them have bad intentions. The samee safety concerns apply whether you're meeting through a personals Web site or a MMORPG.

Virtual Marriages
Although in-game weddings were once an exceptional event, they are getting more common all the time. These can be part of gameplay in titles with functions for marriage, such as Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies, but quite often they are staged re-enactments of real life ceremonies. Final Fantasy XI has gone to great lengths not only to allow marriage within the game, but to provide clothing and facilities suitable for such an occasion.

While people have taken their vows using instant messenging and video conferencing in legal weddings presided over by the same officials and witnesses required for a standard union, I could find no evidence of any couples getting legally married in a game yet.

Couples Playing Together
Playing along with someone you know in real life can make a game quite a bit more interesting, especially if that person is your significant other. It's long been said that couples who play together stay together, and this may turn out to apply to online games as well. Stories about wives that have been turned on to games by their husbands abound on game forums, and you'll even see a few cases where wives have lured their husbands into the hobby.

The flexible character creation in the City of Heroes/Villains has been a hit with couples, because it allows them to make superhero characters that compliment each other both in skills and appearance. The game now has at least one guild that caters to couples that play, which is something we're sure to see more of in MMORPGs.

Adult-oriented Content
Ever since the invention of Internet chatrooms people have been using them to engage in dialogue of an erotic nature. With the advent of 3D games, finding some way to arrange your avatars that vaguely resembles a sexual position never fails to get a few laughs. It was only a matter of time before games were going to start offering interactive environments that cater to these interests.

Second Life, which features a wide range of user created content, now has everything from wedding gowns to red light districts, complete with characters that ply their trade as prostitutes.

For a still more explicit approach to playing with sexuality, take a look at Sociolotron. The 2D graphics are a little primitive by today's standards, but this game was developed specifically for adults, and uncensored social interaction is a central feature. Characters live out dark sexual fantasies, become drug abusers, land in prison, and even die in this very unusual game. Interestingly, the developer warns against forming real-life relationships through Sociolotron.

Adult-only entertainment using massively multiplayer technology is clearly in its infancy, as is the entire industry in many ways. There are several games that focus on dating and sex currently in development, and it's reasonable to expect some titles to get truly pornographic in the next few years.

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