Internet safety expert accuses The Sims Social of promoting cybersex

The Sims Social Woohoo
The Sims Social Woohoo

I hope you packed some dry clothes, because we're about to lead you down one slippery slope. (Zing!) Charles Conway, self-proclaimed UK-based Internet safety expert and editor of Scam Detectives, alleges that EA and Playfish's enormously popular The Sims Social promotes cyber sex between children and adults (fat chance). And it's all thanks to The Sims Social's Woo-Hoo feature.

While playing the game, players can build asynchronous relationships with one another that can quickly grow into romantic relationships. Ultimately, those relationships will draw the players' avatars closer and can result in them having Woo-Hoo. And like any social activity in the game, players are rewarded Social Points for this that they can use to buy new items.

"Even if Facebook did verify the age of it's users (which it doesn't), at what age does it become acceptable for a child to engage in "virtual sex" for rewards," Conway asks. "Does it ever become acceptable? Isn't sex for rewards the very definition of prostitution? How is playing this game different to children having "cybersex" in a chatroom?"

The list of questions goes on. Sure, Woo-Hoo in The Sims Social is an allusion to having sex, but the "sexual" act displayed is arguably far from lewd--way less provocative than what children have access to on basic cable. More importantly, Woo-Hoo does not allow players to directly communicate within the game in real time like a chat room would.

"When 40% of kids admit that they have Facebook 'friends' that they don't know in 'real life,' there's a real risk of a predator using a game like this to build a relationship with a child that could lead to real world abuse," Conway writes. However, what is not pointed out is that all social relationships requested between The Sims Social players--including romantic ones--require the consent of the player from the start and at every stage of advancement.

If a player feels uncomfortable during any point of the "relationship," they can halt its progress. As for Playfish and EA restricting adult content (which suggestiveness is debatable), there are a number of Facebook games that arguably promote drug trafficking, serial murder and nearly genocidal manslaughter. Maybe it's time for Facebook to meet with the ESRB and PEGI.

Do you think that Woo-Hoo in The Sims Social promotes cybersex or prostitution? Would you agree with a rating system for Facebook games like one that exists for traditional games? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.