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November 13, 2002 07:52am
Video Games Kicking Sex Up a Notch
Source: USA Today
by: Mike Snider

Women go topless, and strippers bump and grind. Highlights from the latest Girls Gone Wild video? No, it's some of the action in a new breed of video games that has retailers and family activists in an uproar.

Violence always has been an integral and controversial aspect of video games. Now sex is coming to the forefront:

* BMX XXX. Topless female bikers spice up this humorous take on extreme sports, released this week for Microsoft Xbox; Nov. 29 for Nintendo (news - web sites) GameCube; rated M for Mature. Some retailers, including Best Buy, Circuit City and Wal-Mart, say they will not sell it.

* Dead or Alive Xtreme Volleyball. The scantily clad curvaceous heroines from Tecmo's Dead or Alive fighting series are transported to a fantasy island. Early next year for Xbox; rating pending.

* Outlaw Golf. A dominatrix and a stripper are among the characters. Out now for GameCube and Xbox; rated T for Teen, ages 13 and older. The stripper, Summer, also will appear in the more risquA~(c) Outlaw Volleyball, due early next year.

The cheesecake goes beyond that in the Tomb Raider games, starring Lara Croft, whose generous figure is fairly well-covered. Gamemakers say they are justified in exploring more sexual themes because the average age of those who own this generation of powerful console game systems is 23.

"You go back a few years and (it) was below 21, and a few years before that it was in the teens," Jupiter Research's Michael Gartenberg says.

Mature games already are a fixture in the $8.5 billion industry. Their popularity is at the highest in eight years under a voluntary rating system. In 2002, nearly 13% of all video games sold have been rated M, or Mature (ages 17 and up), and that doesn't include sales of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, out for two weeks, the NPDFunworld Trsts Service says. The previous high was 10% in 1995.

Older gamers want something beyond "cute, warm and fuzzy" games featuring Mario and Sonic, says Greg Fischbach, CEO of Acclaim, publisher of BMX XXX. Regardless, Sony asked Acclaim to tone down the PlayStation 2 (news - web sites) version. Players will not be able to create a topless character, and in the virtual strip club, the BMX XXX logo will cover the dancers' breasts.

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