The Saints Row series took a hard left turn into absurdity with the third installment, and in Saints Row IV, the madcap irreverence is dialed up to whatever’s beyond 11 on the amplifier. Most of SR4’s jabs are at the Grand Theft Auto franchise, as the game apes the formula but makes everything utterly ridiculous. But there’s room left to poke fun at BioWare’s Mass Effect and Dragon Age series, both of which are routinely lauded for supposedly complex “romance” options. But while these romantic storylines may be well written and include –gasp- gay and queer relationships, they’re certainly not complex: almost uniformly, BioWare’s games present sex as the culmination of a relationship, and as something “rewarded” for completing a series of quests. In short: sex is portrayed as transactional.
This is what makes Saints Row IV’s complete turnabout on that formula so effective. The game takes place in a virtual version of Steelport controlled by aliens (a nod to the Matrix series), and back in reality, aboard a spaceship, you can interact with the various characters introduced in previous Saints games. No matter who you are or what you look like, “romance” options are available with any of these characters – ask a couple times, and Johnny Gat, Shaundi, or anyone else will give you a go (just not Keith David, who plays himself in the game – nobody gets to bang Keith David). There’s no impact on the story for sleeping with one or all of the other characters, but you’re not expected to complete a laundry list of tasks for it, either – sex isn’t being offered as a reward for anything. It’s something that happens between people who care about each other. Or who just think each other are hot. Either way, Saints Row IV turns BioWare’s quest-reward model of sex on its ear and, in its own toilet-humor kind of way, manages to be a celebration of mutual enthusiastic consent.
This is just three examples – I’d love to hear your own favorite portrayals of boot-knockin’ in video games.