Fable 3 won't be the most awkward game ever. Just because Peter Molyneux says you'll be able to do something in a game doesn't mean it's going to make it into the final product.
If what he's being saying lately pans out, however, you will be able to get it on with co-op partners.
Okay, this sounds cool and fun in theory. Friends can have a good laugh about it, couples can bring their romance in-game or use it as an unsatisfying substitute when one of them has had a long day, etc. It would also make Fable 3, as far as I am aware, unique among video games as a game where virtual sex with another player is actually part of the game and not simply something imagined via chat fields by people with a 30-day World Of Warcraft trial in the basement of Goldshire Inn.
Part of me wants to drop everything I'm doing and make an EGS:NP comic about it as the potential for jokes are astronomical, but another part of me is simply worried about this being included. I don't have any moral objections, but I know others will, and while the potential for in-game sexual harassment has always existed (I myself was harassed in Champions Online), the fact that virtual copulation could actually be possible in Fable 3 takes it to a whole new level.
Of course, Fable 3 will not be an MMORPG. If you're playing with someone, it's because you've allowed them to play with you. The game will no doubt be rated M, so in theory, everyone playing will be adults. Theory is a tricky thing, however, and I can guarantee there will be people below the age of consent playing this game. Does that become an issue? Wait, what am I saying? Of course it's an issue. It's one I haven't seen brought up, but it's definitely a huge frikkin' issue.
What happens when an adult, knowingly or unknowingly, has a virtual affair with someone on their friends list who is underage? Is that a crime? Should it be a crime? Is the equivalent of "they were in a bar so I thought they were old enough" defense valid given the M rating?
What if someone asks for in-game gold beforehand? Is that prostitution? Can Microsoft points be gifted, and if so, can people effectively exchange real cash in exchange for in-game procreation? Granted, that seems like a horrible use of money given that the screen likely just goes to black with maybe a sound or two thrown in, but this is still one of those questions that will be asked by people other than geeky bloggers. Remember the turmoil over the Mass Effect sex scene? This entire concept makes that seem quaint.
I assume there's already an effective ruling on these issues given that, as with my Goldshire Inn example, one doesn't need the game's consent to engage in such activities. I suspect one could give a specific "place vs. person" court ruling answer to most of these questions. That said, would Fable 3 treating the virtual procreation as an authorized game mechanic make them liable when lines are crossed? Will it need its own terms of service independent of XBox Live to avoid such liability?
The number of potential issues that go so far as to bring up questions of legality make me wonder if this innovative idea is worth having and if the world is ready for it. The potential underage issue also leads me to wonder if this could backfire in another major way, that way being the ESRB slapping the game with an AO, or "Adults Only", rating. Given that most retailers refuse to carry AO games, such a thing would be financially devastating to the game and effectively require the removal of said content.
Having to remove content and test to make certain the game still functions properly is a costly proposition in and of itself, but avoidance of an AO rating is pretty much a necessity. If this mechanic is effectively a guaranteed AO slap to the face, someone needs to spare the programmers and play testers some grief and break the news to Molyneux.
In spite of all this, I do like the idea of being able to do more in video games, and I would be thrilled if this feature could be included without it being a big deal. I would probably never use the feature myself, but its presence and lack of opposition to its existing would be a sign of progress and tolerance. I just don't think that's going to be the case. I think I'm going to see things like "FOX News chastises Fable 3 Sex" and "parents call for ban of Fable 3" in my RSS feeds.
What do you think? Are my concerns valid? Should this feature be left on the cutting room floor?