Debate Club: In Defense Of Nudity In Games

The combination of the technology to create realistic human bodies and the ever-advancing age of the average gamer have lead to mature content in games becoming more and more commonplace. And while that generally just means swearing and bloody violence, it is also increasingly meaning nudity as well. It’s kind of funny to think what a huge controversy it was when BMX XXX was peddling bare breasts – both on real and digital women – when now a game having topless women gets about as much publicity as an R-rated movie showing exposed boobs.

The difference is, while the film world has long since learned to handle nudity with maturity, the video game industry still has a long way to go in that regard. And I’m not even talking about guys going ga-ga for gazongas. Actually, what frustrates me more are the people at the opposite end of the spectrum. The ones who automatically roll their eyes and shake their heads at the sight of nudity in a video game, in spite of the context. Honestly, I don’t find that reaction to be any more “mature” then that of men who can’t see a pair of polygonal breasts without turning into horny 12-year-olds. Being pretentious by default about nudity in games without any consideration to the context behind it doesn’t make you better than anyone, and as with anything else, taking the opposing view of it doesn’t automatically make you “right”, no matter what the internet may lead jaded people to believe.

I will admit that video games still have a ways to go in terms of their overall respect for and portrayal of the fairer sex, especially in the way they are built and what they are(n’t) wearing. Every time I feel like we’ve turned a corner, something like this happens:

The Sorceress from Dragon’s Crown

Unfortunately, that’s not a character from some free-to-play RPG that you see advertised on Facebook. She is from a legit game, from a legit (and quite well respected) company. But I don’t want to go too far down the cleavage rabbit hole of the unrealistic proportions of video game heroines. Video game artists didn’t invent that and are hardly the only ones guilty of it. And when someone rolls their eyes at something like that, I’m certainly not going to get all self-righteous at their self-righteousness, because even as an admitted fan of very curvy ladies – and not being completely opposed to them in my games – that right there is damn ridiculous.

The judgements and scoffing that I object to are that of absolutely any overt sexuality in games, visual or content-wise. Like in movies, there is plenty of gratuitous nudity and near-nudity – but like movies, that doesn’t apply to all of it. The “draw me like one of your French girls” scene in Titanic, for instance, just wouldn’t have had the same impact or sense of passion and intimacy if they wouldn’t have actually shown Kate Winslet naked. And going a few steps further, a sex scene in a movie or TV show that takes place in the middle ages and involves a king or some man of high authority and a hand maiden or prostitute would hardly carry the same weight (or accuracy) if it takes place under the covers. They aren’t making sweet, romantic love, and the scene should reflect that. Why wouldn’t the same thing apply to games? Many games are striving to be more movie-like, to represent mature, sophisticated storytelling. If movies can have tasteful nudity, or nudity that makes sense contextually and is necessary to convey the mood or message of that particular moment in the story, why can’t games?

It’s not unlike graphic violence in games. Sure, we spend a lot of time massacring people for pure visceral thrills, like a violent summer blockbuster. But there are moments when a really intense scene of violence can have an emotional impact. When Lara Croft is forced to commit her first murder in last year’s Tomb Raider reboot, purely out of self defense and for her own survival, it’s a graphic moment, and it needs to be in order to make you feel the gravity of it. If she had just shot him in the chest, and off camera, it wouldn’t have been the same. But that she has to shoot him in the face, and then you see what she sees – his features a bloody, pulpy mess – is what makes it powerful. That scene needed to be that graphic. So we as gamers can handle and accept something like that, but the minute an exposed female nipple makes an appearance, no matter what the situation is, suddenly we are too good and too sophisticated for that? And what if it IS just a fairly straightforward sex scene? Or a gratuitous shower scene? Or a strip club scene? How often does there NEED to be blood in a violent game, or for developers to design character models that come apart at the limbs for when a grenade drops at their feet? You just murdered 200 people in the most violent, gruesome way possible, and then you walk into a room where there’s a naked woman and THAT’S where you draw the line and get on your moral high horse? It doesn’t make a lick of sense to me.