Presentation at multi.player 2011 by Ashley Brown (University of Manchester). Full title: "No one-handed typing: An exploration of formal and social rules for erotic role playing in World of Warcraft".
I was interested in this talk from the angle of layering on social rules that are obviously extra to the rules designed by the creators of the game in order to play quite a different game. This was a guild that was set up to erotic role play, with forums to talk outside of the game.
Because erotic role play is clearly outside the EULA and characters cannot actually perform erotic acts within the game, apparently to outsiders this will tend to look like a tableau, with no obvious interaction happening. The players use private chat, and maneuver their characters into vaguely suggestive poses. Blizzard ignores it as long as it uses private chat, but are motivated to keep their 12 rating so keep a lid on the public stuff.
In a further demonstration of the balance between Blizzard and the players, apparently anything went in the ERP guild - provided a clear content warning was posted at the top - apart from anything that even vaguely smacked of paedophilia. Apparently that was because although Blizzard turned a blind eye to most things, they had come down hard on a guild that had allowed paedophilia stories, and expelled all the players. Again, Blizzard shape what's allowed while the players attempt to push those boundaries.
There was a clear difference between erotic role play and cybersex. Erotic role play is for the characters. Players justify it with saying you make your character fight, kill, hate etc, so this just explores the other half of the spectrum with your character. Cybersex is aimed at the players behind the character. Hence the 'no one-handed typing' title, which was actually a quote from one of the participants in the study. People who use the ERP site to get themselves off were breaking the magic circle of the play (spoilsports in Huizinga's terms), and not welcomed.
Fascinating talk from an unexpected angle. Also kept getting mentioned throughout the rest of the conference. Seemed like the only thing that can get games researchers jealous is researching sex and games together!