Video Game Lets People Have Sex, But at What Cost to Their Health?

Video games have come a long way since Pac-Man.

"Naughty America: The Game" pairs a multiplayer, interactive game with the opportunity to be, well, naughty. Players around the country log on using webcams to find others who will indulge in a variety of sexual preferences -- sometimes taking the game offline.

While the new game and others like it have created a lot of buzz in the tech world, "erotic games" are also setting off an interesting debate among sexual health experts. With the Internet enabling porn addiction like never before, does this game go too far?

Sex-and-violence themed games have started to draw the attention of policymakers. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce, charged with consumer protection, will hold hearings about the violence and sexual content of these adult games and the ease with which teens may access them.

Author Ian Kerner, dubbed the sex doctor to generations X and Y, believes the erotic game trend has potential to be fun -- but also possibly addictive -- for adults.

"It's an extension of both porn and online dating," said Ian Kerner, a Ph.D. and author of "DSI: Date Scene Investigation: The Diagnostic Manual of Dating Disorders.

"I think our culture is autophobic -- where we're afraid to be alone. You can imagine technology as a real enabler, filling our time and protecting us from those feelings of loneliness. The flip side is you can lose yourself in it," Kerner said.

The game begins with players creating their personal game character. Then they explore numerous bars, clubs and sex shops in search of the perfect match -- also in the form of an online player.

With a live in-game chat function and a real-world profile, those who click with each other can head to a seductive setting. There, players can try out different sex positions and turn up the heat with webcam capabilities. According to the game's press release, "You will be able to have sex in a game, yes at last!"

This could be a good or bad thing, experts point out.

Dr. Hilda Hutcherson, a Cornell University professor of gynecology and author of the book "Pleasure," doesn't believe Naughty America is all bad. In a sense, the game could be instrumental in bringing couples back from their "boring sex lives or loss of desire."

"It's a fantasy. You engage in it to increase sexual desire and pleasure," she said. But she also stressed the importance of remembering that this is just a game and "the game should not extend outside that realm."

It's "a video game for adults. Those who want to partake, they should have the option," she said.

But for people already suffering from loneliness, this game may serve as a crutch.

Dr. Martin Kafka, a psychiatry professor at McLean Hospital in Boston, said he's worried about the exploitation of lonely and vulnerable adolescents. He said many of these individuals could be looking for an escape, and this game could "lower the threshold" for people to get into trouble, adding that sexual activity without a personal relationship is "not a value to be actively promoting."

However, Naughty America "is not new or more sophisticated than other sex games," said Mark J. Harris, editor in chief of American Sexuality Magazine.

And, it's a somewhat natural step forward as ever more things are going online.

"Work we do every day, the way we communicate everyday, it's electronic. It seems natural that sex would be mediated online," he said.

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