Posted by Ever Accountable Team | For Families, How to, Pornography Facts, Prevention
Reading Time: 10 minutes

It’s unlikely that playing the 1980s game of Pac-Man will entice or encourage porn use or introduce suggestive imagery to the unsuspecting. But that can’t be said across the board for modern video games. 

Because of the prevalence of adult themes and explicit material in gaming today, we can intuitively conclude there is some type of link between gaming and porn, at least on a consumer level. 

But are there other links between video games and pornography?

To answer that question, this article will dive into: 

  • The history of video game development and the gaming industry
  • The commonalities and differences between gaming and pornography 
  • The anatomy of a gamer | mental and physical effects of gaming vs porn
  • The overlap of pornography in gaming and the crossover between them

It’s important to note that Ever Accountable does not take a stand against gaming nor the video game industry but understands those struggling with pornography are in a unique situation when it comes to any media. Because we care about your unique struggles, we’ve included a section at the end to help you navigate the gaming world to avoid triggers that might hinder your progress towards your goal of freedom from porn. 

The First Link Between Gaming and Porn

Some would suggest nudity and scantily clad figures are not explicitly pornographic by citing how some dictionaries define pornography as erotic behavior or material of that behavior intended to cause sexual excitement. 

However, like those struggling with overcoming porn well know, porn can take the form of any medium or media purposed to elicit sexual arousal — meaning, although erotic behavior and imagery are most certainly pornographic, suggestive or exposing imagery might also fall under the category of porn as well. 

Okay, I hear you asking, ‘Why does that distinction matter when talking about the link between gaming and porn?’ 

Well, long before the inception of the personal computer, arcade games such as pinball machines arrived on the scene as early as the 1930s. By the early 1960s, it was common to find pinball gaming machines peppered with scantily dressed women in provocative and compromising poses. 

Some would argue that images of that nature are simply marketing ploys and not pornographic. But whether the intent was to elicit arousal, the precedent was set that marked a change in society’s acceptance of public displays of explicit imagery on gaming machines — and, the first link between gaming and porn was established. 

Video Game History and the Tie that Binds

From Pong to Pac-Man, the first video games were innocuous and completely family-friendly. But it wasn’t long before designers were not only pushing the limits of decency within a game but were designing video games with pornographic intent and themes. 

From the advent of the personal computer of the early 80s and the in-home personal gaming machines that quickly followed, as technology advanced it ushered in new ways for pornography to enter the home. Pornography in the home went from print material that could be quickly hidden in the back of a closet to being introduced into games that sat in prominent rooms of the house as early as 1981 when Apple II released the first softporn adventure game selling over tens of thousands of copies within the first year.  

As an early adopter of gaming consoles, playing Frogger and the like, this new PC gaming world was different to be sure. 

Walking down memory lane takes me to the late 80s where I played my first PC game. I had full control of Indiana Jones and could direct him through his quest by interacting with the text adventure. Y for Yes, N for No — right and left — my fingers on the keyboard for too many hours to count. Those basic commands and some highly grainy graphics; fully immersed and caught up in the fantasy and thrill, I was hooked. 

Back then the graphics were more akin to playing Snake on your phone today. Pixelated and choppy, so not much room for highly detailed explicit material. 

Although game manufacturers started dabbling with creating adult PC games and adding video game nudity, it wasn’t until the mid-90s where the porn and game industries became linked in a more substantial way. 

What made that change, you say? About 10 years after personal computers started reaching homes, the internet became a global commercial network accessible to the public. In the early 1990s, there weren’t many sites to reach but it also wasn’t long before the porn industry took root on the world wide web. 

Fascinating fact break: In August 1991, there was one lone site someone could visit. Fast forward to 1994 when Yahoo hit the scene, ‘netizens’ were able to choose from over 2700 available internet pages available. Today, there are over 1.5 billion websites on the web. 

For more data facts about real-time internet usage check out Internet Live Stats

Not only were PCs becoming gaming machines connecting to the network of playable games on the internet, vintage video game consoles were quickly being replaced with more sophisticated consoles that also connected to the web. 

Gaming manufacturers were quick to start adding enticing images and adult themes to games that were now very easy to access. In addition to using video sex scenes to sell games, it created an entirely new industry: video game porn. No longer did someone need to find clever ways to access and hide porn, it was available by a quick click of a button — and the final link was developed between gaming and pornography. 

Similarities and Differences Between Gaming and Pornography

We can all agree that consuming porn and engaging in video games are completely different activities. 

But it’s easy to see a correlation between the potential addictive aspects of gaming and the progressive history of using sexual content to gain market shares; resulting in a crossover effect that video gaming and pornography present. 

Gaming vs Porn Comparison Infographic

5 ways gaming and pornography are similar

  • Gaming and porn both stimulate and provide dopamine, a neurotransmitter that engages the pleasure center of the brain. Interesting to note is that for many, dopamine loses its effect with repeated hits and requires more stimulation to satiate that need. 
  • Both gaming and pornography offer interactive and immersive options — where the player or participant interacts with the content. 
  • Escapism is a real aspect in both gaming and pornography use, as is isolation. 
  • It can be easy to become engrossed in porn or gaming and both can do great harm to self and others with uncontrolled consumption. 
  • And, they share the same pain points and are both difficult to quit. 

5 ways porn and gaming are different

  • There is nothing inherently neutral or good about viewing porn but gaming can provide positive opportunities for skill development. 
  • The interactive nature of gaming can lend itself to growing relationships and being a part of a community, where porn lends itself to destroying relationships.
  • Gaming as a whole doesn’t seek to exploit others for gain or aid in illegal activities such as sex trafficking, drug abuse, and sexual crimes — but pornography on the whole does. 
  • Playing video games can bring a sense of accomplishment but porn leaves viewers feeling empty, fearful, and shame. 
  • Although both can increase impulsivity, aggression, depression, and anxiety – porn use amplifies those and can impact physical health such as porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED). 

The anatomy of a gamer | mental and physical effects of gaming vs porn

What do you picture when you hear the term ‘gamer’? 

Do you envision someone in a hoodie hunched over a gaming console in a dark room (or basement) for days and weeks living off cold pizza and diet soda? 

That stereotype might be describing someone who is struggling with a gaming addiction but the picture painted above doesn’t describe the average gamer. 

Most true gamers are proud to wear the title. Just as ‘nerd’ and ‘geek’ turned from a negative descriptor to a compliment, being called a gamer is not a derogatory slur in this day and age.

Some characteristics of a gamer: 

  • Self-identified gamers make it a habit to prioritize playing video games (and other types of games such as role-playing) for enjoyment and entertainment in a healthy manner.
  • Many gamers are not isolationists but participate and are connected in the gaming community.
  • They thrive on overcoming the challenges within the game to accomplish a goal with a successful outcome.
  • Gamers come from all types of backgrounds and can be neurotypical or neurodivergent. Specific types of gaming have been found to be helpful for neurodivergent players to learn to navigate a neurotypical world, improve focus, and relieve ADHD symptoms.  
  • Playing video games can increase skills and abilities from the experience. Because some games require dozens to hundreds of hours to complete, gamers are often described to have the qualities of tenacity, sticktoitiveness, teamwork, problem-solving, and the like.

What keeps a gamer engaged with video games? It’s that chemical neurotransmitter with a powerful punch: dopamine. 

Our brains are wired to desire dopamine as it triggers the pleasure center of the brain. Video games can provide those hits of dopamine our bodies crave. However, just as with any overuse of a substance, too much dopamine becomes unregulated or loses its power to provide the same amount of pleasure. Dopamine plays a large role in both gaming and porn use. 

 

For analysis and a deeper look at this topic check out the Ever Accountable article | Pornography & Gaming [Do Video Games Affect Porn Use?]

 

The overlap of pornography in gaming and the crossover between them

As we try to establish the link between gaming and porn in a more direct way, we find two distinct intersections: 

  1. Similar to a struggle with pornography, a gamer who loses themselves to gaming in an unhealthy manner follows a similar pattern.  
  2. Porn has seeped into video gameplay in ways that make it easier for gamers to not only become addicted to gaming but also pornography.

The internet is quick to make light of and meme just about anything which brings us to two rules, which are not actual enforceable rules but more of an internet maxim:  

Rule 34 asserts that internet pornography exists concerning every conceivable topic.
Rule 41 simply states everything is someone’s sexual fetish.

There are other rules sexual in nature on this list so I don’t recommend looking them up — but suffice it to say, because everything can be turned into porn, everything has — and those interested in perpetuating the industry will find ways to present that material to the masses; including finding ways into video games meant for a younger audience.

For instance, Roblox, the children’s gaming platform, has been struggling for years with oversite to counteract the uploading of pornographic games and system hacks meant to bypass those checks and balances. Roblox isn’t alone in the struggle as gaming providers such as Fortnite and Among Us are finding out. 

It just gets easier for our youth to be exposed and it is becoming harder for teens and adults to navigate the gaming world without crossing into triggering adult content. 

Console gaming machines
Computer downloads
Browser games
Smartphone and tablet apps
With so many options, it’s easy access to video gameplay.
But that easy access can quickly become the gateway to porn.

Games at our fingertips 

Not only are there many devices that can deliver pornographic content in covert and unsuspecting ways right from our fingertips, but some popular gaming genres are also more prone to overt and direct marketed adult video game content.  

Suggestive, simulated, and interactive adult content has been found in: 

Role Playing Games (RPG)
Massively Multiplayer Online Roll Playing Games (MMORPGs)
First person shooters (FPS)
Real Time Strategy games (RTS) and
Simulation games

From console to gaming genres, suggestive language and questionable content and explicit material are difficult to avoid. And once engaged, even harder to stop

For example, it’s easy to get caught up in a false avatar in a first-person or 3rd person game. The immersive nature having an alter persona creates makes it easier to fall down the slippery slope of thinking you are sheltered from the harmful grip traditional porn can have on a person. 

It’s even harder when sex and nudity in video games aren’t just added to a game (like those you find in video game sex scenes), but instead, adult porn IS the entirety of the game. The porn industry is enticing its current and potential customer base by manufacturing erotic games geared toward women, 3D adult games and sex simulator videos, hentai games online, and other porn gameplay. 

Link Between Gaming and Porn - Try an Accountability Partner

How to navigate the gaming world to avoid triggers and setbacks

The world, including the virtual ones, can be a minefield of temptation and challenges when we are trying to avoid triggering material and avoid relapses in our goal of freedom from porn. 

Unless we isolate ourselves from everyone and everything, it would be difficult to avoid sexual content and triggers. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take steps to limit those encounters and have ready a toolbox of resources when needed. 

Being proactive is the first best step in protecting yourself and your loved ones against being exposed to the onslaught of porn and adult content in video games. 

And if you struggle with porn yourself, and want to avoid those triggers and setbacks video gaming may induce, here are some ideas to consider:

Choose an accountability software and choose an accountability partner. 

Research games before playing or purchasing. You can find review sites such as Common Sense Media and Plugged In

Check ratings on games and read the rating descriptors. Internetmatters.org provides great information and resources for understanding game age ratings such as those established by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board.

You can research their guide here: ESRB Ratings Guide

They even provide a useful rating tool app available here: ESRB Tools | Mobile App

IOS gaming apps designed for an iPhone or iPad also have their own rating scale as does Google Play games. Google age ratings are determined by the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC). In addition, Google works hard to provide support for family-friendly content on Google products.  

Another way to stay accountable while gaming is to make it a family or friend event — don’t game alone or in isolation. Be sure to reach out to your accountability buddy to tell them about the games you play or are thinking of playing or any triggers or content you encounter.

You can also try to activity substitute online gaming with other game options like board games and puzzles. Working on your health goals and participating in sports or hobbies can provide a healthy alternative. 

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Conclusion

From crossover content to shared platforms to common marketing tactics, there are many tangible links between gaming and pornography. 

But they also share some emotional, physical, and mental health commonalities. For example, both gaming and porn encourage escapism. Escapism of itself isn’t inherently good or bad as we all at times need to disengage to regroup and rest. Having said that, when the default is to escape and to avoid real life and the responsibilities and relationships in our lives, then escapism is a detriment. 

They also share a link with some components of addiction and recovery. Addiction doesn’t necessarily mean how much time or money is spent in pursuit of the desire. Instead, addiction is when the behavior or obsession or compulsion disrupts and affects your life and the lives of those around you.

There are some great inherent benefits to gaming but it can also open doors of opportunity for porn to invade your home and family. You can proactively arm yourself with resources and tools for the best success while navigating the gaming world — accountability is key