NSFW: A Sorceress in the Centerfold -- The Changing Face of Video Game Sexuality
- By: CM Boots-Faubert
- Posted 9th May 2011
2009 was the year of change, and while the change was subtle it was very real. Game makers were no longer relying upon the shock value of nudity as a marketing tool for selling games, and the nudity in games largely presented in appropriate circumstances, save for a few exceptions.
Two games from 2009 stand out in the mind -- Afro Samurai and Godfather II -- both of which helped with the process of setting the bar both lower and higher by insisting that any nudity be in context -- though a case can be made that, as the nudity in Afro Samurai was of topless female Ninjas, the cultural element rule applies, and so it is excused. Ultimately the fact that the nudity in games began to appear in places and locations that one would reasonably expect to encounter it marked the beginning of a more responsible approach to the subject in gaming.
Triss Merigold's appearance in the Polish Edition of Playboy this month represents an easy to understand decision -- the best place to appear when you are promoting a video game is in the publication that many gamers read.
The nudity in Godfather II took place in an appropriate venue in the game, so in that sense it was not gratuitous in spite of claims to the contrary by vocal critics, who would have better served by asking the question of why it was necessary to the story for the characters to visit those locations than criticizing the environmentally appropriate activities in those areas.
The turning point and the beginning of the New Era of Video Game Nudity and the sexuality renaissance that we are now experiencing clearly began with Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned , a game in which full-frontal male nudity was finally given serious treatment outside of the traditional prison shower scene. Speaking of shower scenes, Madison's shower scene in Heavy Rain very quickly elevated the bar in the right direction, demonstrating that not all video game nudity is senseless, meaningless, or presented only for shock value.
In the historic RPG Saboteur , rather than confront gamers with nudity in a wholly appropriate and understandable environment -- the cabaret -- featuring artistic rendering of the nude form in a historically significant fashion, the developer chose to have the user opt-in rather than opt-out, requiring an active choice on the part of the gamer in order for nudity to be present in the game at all. If the player wanted the cabaret scenes to be historically accurate they were required to download additional code.
In Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days , the male nudity is portrayed in a manner that is completely consistent, and that helped to both drive the story line and provide an increase in tension and drama, of course the thousands of small cuts and copious amount of blood spilled in the room also helped to ratchet up the tension, but we shouldn't forget how tastefully and properly the nudity was handled here, even if it culminates in a naked man strangling another to death!
At least part of the reason for the change in how nudity -- and sex -- in video games is changing for the better has to be the realization by game makers that nudity -- or sex -- simply cannot make a bad game good. Now that this is understood, much of the motivation for using nudity and sex for shock value is gone, and that promotes a more responsible use of that form of expression, which can only be a good thing.
And that brings us back to Triss Merigold and her appearance in Playboy Magazine to promote The Witcher 2.
An Appropriate Venue
Much of the controversy surrounding the appearance of a major video game star in an adult magazine has to do with the fact that they are a video game star. Games still have a certain level of enforced moral image attached to them, and so the appearance in a form and format outside of that environment still has the power to shock.
The maturing of video game sexuality -- and nudity -- has brought a measure of artistic judgement to that entertainment form, but it is a freedom that does not appear to extend beyond the games into other media, despite the fact that clearly there is a long and demonstrated connection between the two.
Playboy Magazine has been featuring game character pictorials annually since 2004, and there were instances of cross-over previous to that, which should have had the effect of legitimizing that form of expression. Bearing in mind that it is not a media that is expected to be viewed by those under the age of consent, it comes down to an adult subject matter being displayed in an adult publication for an adult audience, and how can we call that inappropriate?