Baldur’s Gate 3 was recently released and surprised many by becoming one of the biggest games of the year. In a video game version of the Dungeons and Dragons tabletop role-playing game (RPG), players can create their own characters and customize their race, class and background. However, whilst changing their character’s appearance, some might be surprised to find that one of the features you can alter is your character’s genitalia. This is because, more than simply slaying monsters and learning spells, players can engage in romance and fully animated (more specifically, motion capture) sex scenes with the other characters they meet. But should we be so comfortable with this kind of content, and what are the possible steps we can take in order to protect children from such content?
This isn’t exactly a new feature in video games. Cyberpunk 2077, released in 2020, also got a lot of attention for including genital customisation. It would then go on to win the awards for Best PC and Best Role Playing Game at Gamescom, the largest gaming event globally.
One of the clearest causes for concern is the audience. Gamers under 18 are the second largest gaming cohort, only beaten by the 18-34 age group. While this includes the 8-year-olds playing Pokemon, it also often includes children playing games that are more mature than is ideal. Speaking from my own experience, games discussed at school were often rated for older audiences. For instance, Saint’s Row: The Third (rated MA15+ here in Australia), with its porn actress cast members and weaponised sex toys, was a topic of conversation well before any of us turned 15. Frequently, children are playing games bought for them by their parents or older siblings that are intended for a more mature audience.
To the credit of games like Baldur’s Gate 3, the sex scenes and storylines are intended not simply to shock viewers and generate and do not glorify stalking or sexual violence. Rather, they are intended as just another facet of the relationships the player character develops with their traveling companions. Furthermore, these features can be entirely turned off in Baldur’s Gate 3, allowing players to play the game without the sexual content.
If video games, especially successful mainstream video games, are going to continue to include such content (and it seems folly to think they won’t), then the ability to opt-out will hopefully be a feature we see again. But going forward, it should not be the only measure taken. Especially for protecting children, the most crucial feature should be parental monitoring. Knowing what your children are playing will be key, and hopefully, the coming generations of parents who themselves were children in the internet age will be better equipped than our parents were. Legislation, unsurprisingly, is a more tricky and controversial countermeasure; simply banning nudity and sexual content in video games is very unlikely, but perhaps classification systems and warnings, as well as ID verification, are possible.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.