Darkwatch: Curse of the West, is a 2005 western / horror / steampunk mashup of a first person shooter video game. The game actually loses points right there, as I tend not to enjoy first person shooters (games where your perspective is first person, what you see on the screen is what your character sees out of his or her eyes). I find in these games that I have a hard time relating to the main character, either as a playable part of the game or as a sympathetic character, if I can’t actually see them as you can in a third person (camera over the shoulder) game. Since the game involved outlaws, vampires, steampunk, and was rumored to have at least one nekkid scene, I had to give it a shot.
Let’s start with the violence. As outlaw turned vampire secret agent Jericho Cross, you encounter a lot of violence. Constantly. There are elaborate supernatural gunfights in beautifully rendered Victorian gothabilly settings throughout the game. What I found is that I wanted to take a quick break now and then from the violence to take in the scenery. You can’t really do that, though. There is always some gunslinger zombie, flying witch, or dynamite totting golem screaming at you waiting to kill you. The dramatic tension is always in the form of violence, which is always solved with explosions or bullets. This is where I start to realize that what I want in a story is that same dramatic tension, but crafted in such a way that you can appreciate every part of the story that got you there. The novel Shane, for example, builds up tension in the small town for 115 pages before the release of the single gunfight the ends the story. Speaking of a long, slow, sensual buildup…
Darkwatch oozes sexuality. There are two main female characters that serve as the good and evil axis upon which the Jericho Cross dances. Cassidy Sharp is a blond, perky Midwestern farm girl- think 19th century Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Her counterpart is Tala, a generically Native American sexpot brujah (if you are offended now, wait till you read this article) who wants to become a vampire, I suppose so she can go out and kill some palefaces. Both of these women start as agents for monster hunting secret society Darkwatch, which apparently requires its female agents to wear high heeled boots and skin tight black leather catsuits that show off a lot of cleavage. The dynamic between Jericho and Tala plays out until you hit this tawdry (and NSFW) scene:
Didn’t know that kind of thing happened in video games? Scenes like this pop up periodically in games without notice, usually because video games like this fly under the radar. One game that did raise the ire of the noted morality experts at Fox News was my much beloved Mass Effect. Commander Shepard, the main character of the game, spends a good part of the game developing relationships with the other characters in the game. Depending on how you direct the story and (some may say unfortunately) the gender of the Commander Shepard you chose to play, you can also pursue a romantic relationship with one the characters. This clip is gameplay that culminates about half a dozen scenes of a male Shepard getting to know Space Marine Ashley Williams over the course of the game:
This scene, which shows genuine romantic affection, is the one that had Fox News in an uproar. I suspect that it is because in Mass Effect you have to make choices in the game to pursue a sexual relationship, whereas in Darkwatch fucking simply happens to you. Mass Effect also dangerously shows that a woman might want to have sex because she admires her partner and thinks he has a nice ass, rather than because she is a blood sucking vampire wannabe.
Finally, take the following passage from early in Robert F. Jones Deadville, where a young man new to the mountain man life takes his ease during a hunting jaunt with two young Blackfoot women:
…the Plover rolled against me and gave me a long, warm kiss full on the mouth, her tongue hungry for mine. Then I felt the Yellow Calf’s soft hands touch me… privily. Well, events ensued that might best be described in biblical terms, if you know the passages to which I refer. The Song of Solomon comes to mind… frankincense; sweet dripping myrrh, breast like unto two fawns of the roe deer. Back flowing dressed adorned their pretty heads; their lips smooth as hot oil.
This passage both anoints our narrator to mountain life and gives a sensual, emotional anchor to the tragedies and hopes he will share with these two women. A western should have action and adventure, perhaps even violence, but that violence should have meaning to the character and to the story. Likewise, to me a good western has some level of sensuality and eroticism, perhaps even explicit sex, but it has to be meaningful. Throwaway token sex scenes add nothing to a story, and do much to detract from it.