Gawker Media's video game culture blog Kotaku has a tendency to go very, very broad with their coverage from time to time, stretching away from video gaming news, rumors, previews and reviews to deliver the occasional feature piece, such as a lengthy interview with an industry personality, an opinion regarding the role of video gaming within our lives, or (occasionally) something from way, way out of left field.
This is one of those left-field pieces.
One of the largest trends in video gaming as of late has been customization: the arenas you play in, the character you play as, or the items you use, with some games going as narrow as a character's emblem, and some going as broad as being able to create entire planets in your desired image.
The thing is, for a lot of people, that image tends to be a phallus. From Kotaku (note: the images in the link are NSFW):
There are, truth be told, better things a reporter can do with their time than to keep asking why people seem to love drawing dicks.
Nevertheless, I did inquire. A bunch.
"There are many different possible explanatory frameworks for considering this question: Freudian, Marxist, Feminist, Deconstructionist, Evolutionary-Psychologist, Existentialist, etc," game designer and head of New York University's game studies program, Frank Lantz, told me last fall when I began to interrogate the matter.
"You might as well use the question ‘Why do people draw dongs?' as a proxy for ‘Why are we here?' 'What is the good life?' ‘Why is there something instead of nothing?' or any other Big Philosophical Question."
We probably all have good guesses, right? People draw penises because they think it'll shock people or because it's one of society's few visual taboos and because they're not that hard to draw.
"Every time we've given people the ability to arrange things of their own-bread, ships-inevitably people want to leave a mark that people recognize," Ultima's lead creator Richard Garriott recently told me when he recently visited our offices in New York. That mark they leave, he said, is "not just something like ‘Killroy was here,' but something that was purposefully shocking or affronting. And if you're going to draw a purposefully affronting and shocking thing, a stick and balls is a pretty good easy basis to create a reaction."
The best part of the article isn't that it's about, well, dicks. It's that it makes an attempt to understand why people, from seemingly all walks of life, attempt to draw penises whenever they're afforded the opportunity to create images in a game, and looks at the topic from cultural, psychological and anthropological perspectives.
It's an interesting read covering an incredibly immature topic. Check it out, if you're so inclined. Just be warned: beyond that link, there are penises EVERYWHERE.