Sex-and-Nudity

Sex and Nudity: Storytelling and the Advent of Mature Games

Caution: there are pictures here that are of adult nature (both male and female nudity). Reader discretion is advised. This article takes a serious look at how themes like sex and nudity are presented in video games. 

We live in a world where video games are trying to become more “mature” to gain recognition in the larger artistic community. “Mature” stories  often includes themes like sex, violence, harsh language and the like. So for video games to no longer be considered childish, the overarching narrative was pushed in a far more mature direction. That means, we get nudity, swearing, blood, maiming, killing and murder. But what does this add to the video game experience?

So for now, I will be taking a look at some sex and nudity scenes (as well as scenes that are clearly eye candy) in video games to see if the scenes added at all to the game. My main concern is if the nudity or sex establishes the scene, reveal something about the character, or help advance the story in some way. Nudity for the sake of nudity or sex for the sake of sex is pandering rather than good storytelling. If the sex or nudity does one of those three things, then it is used to help with the story… which makes it useful rather than mere pandering.

Dante’s Inferno

Visceral Games developed this strange masterpiece, which amounted to a God of War style game with a number of sex and nudity scenes. A lot of them felt awkward. So lets get into it.

dantes-inferno-video-game-beatrice-boobThis scene comes from the opening, when Dante returns home to find his betrothed, Beatrice, was killed by someone Dante seriously wronged during the 3rd Crusade. Beatrice was run through after a brief struggle which tore her clothing and exposing her breasts. So, we get this scene up there, with her chest fully exposed for the viewer to see while Dante mourns the loss of his love.

The point of this scene was not about nudity, but the cost of sin. Beatrice represented innocence and betrayal, as Dante broke a vow to her. He cheated on her with a slave girl, and the slave girl’s husband killed Beatrice for revenge. The husband did not sexually assault Beatrice. Her murder was not sexual in the slightest, but the exposure of her chest definitely puts that spin on it. It detracts from her murder and Dante’s loss and changes it into something far more awkward… checking out a dead woman’s chest.

640px-Cleopatra_Tower_BattleYep, that’s a giant Cleopatra in the background. Believe it or not, she releases razor babies from her nipples that Dante needs to kill. Why does she do that? I have no idea whatsoever. She’s the Queen of Lust, I guess. And spider boobs shows that… somehow. Dante’s fighting her lover, Marc Antony, in the foreground. This entire fight is just uncomfortable. I get why they have Cleopatra and why she’s naked. She’s the one woman who is most associated with sex and lust in history. And the easiest way to convey lust visually is with a naked woman. Although… they could have used Don Juan just as easily. It would have been an unexpected, yet fun, twist. The guy was known for his lust. But then we’d miss razor baby boobs and everything disturbing that it entailed.

These are just two examples in the game, but hopefully it demonstrates how not to do nudity in a game. Dear lord, I hope it does. It was very uncomfortable. When there’s nudity, make sure that it makes sense. Don’t show breasts for the sake of showing breasts. If a woman’s shirt is torn open, make sure it works in the scene. And for crying out loud, don’t overuse it!

God of War 3

god-of-war-3-aphrodite-boobs-topless1

The sex and nudity in God of War 3 makes sense in context of the game. Heck, the game’s story was just an excuse for violence… so the sex scenes didn’t really take away from it. In a strange way, it added to the game. Kratos is a brutal killer, closer to a primal force of nature than a human being (yes, I know he’s a deity, but work with me here).  And, let’s face it, he’s a dominant Alpha male. He kills in horrifically brutal fashion. He does what he wants and when he wants it. Nobody tells him what to do. So yeah, him getting laid adds onto his primal nature.

Yeah, even the sex scene was primal.. passionate. I think this is an example of a sex scene done right. Keep in mind, though, that it is within the context of the game. It helps define the character.

Silent Hill 2

This is an oldie but a goodie. Those of you who are fans of the series needs no explanation. But for those who haven’t heard of it probably won’t get it. Before getting to the scene, I need to set it up. You play a character named James Sunderland. He’s come to Silent Hill after receiving a letter from his dead wife. The player learns more about James as the story moves forward, and what they find it is weird. He’s a sexually frustrated man. His wife was dying and he resented her because he couldn’t be intimate with her in any way. He ended up killing her, suffocating her with a pillow.

During the build up to all of this, James sees something very disturbing. Heck, I found it disturbing when playing through it. He was going through an apartment complex and entered into one of the many apartments. And what he saw… wow. One of the monsters, called Pyramid Head, was forcing himself on another monster, a mannequin. At the time, it made no sense at all. It looked flat out bizarre. But, with everything else in Silent Hill 2, it was symbolic.

That’s the beauty of Silent Hill 2. Everything that James sees is a symbol for something else. It forces the player to take a deeper look at the story..

Mass Effect Series

Eye Candy

While not strictly nudity, eye candy fulfills very similar purposes. It’s there to be visually appealing in some fashion… to keep the attention on the screen. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it’s overt.  It’s difficult for eye candy to really be part of the narrative. I’m not saying that it’s impossible, but the writers and developers would have to work extra hard to justify it.

Let’s start with Miranda Lawson.

MirandaYep. Meet Miranda Lawson. This is what you see of her in Mass Effect 2 and her appearances in Mass Effect 3. Sure, they show her face. But with her… and specifically her… they make sure to put her ass on screen as much as possible. There wasn’t a good story reason why they would show it that much! I mean, they probably showed it over fifty times, easily. I can a justification for showing it once to demonstrate that she was designed by her father to be physically perfect. But that much?

vlcsnap-2012-12-01-17h43m50s67Kaidan Alenko looks like Adonis. No wait… he looks like he’s chiseled out of Adonis, with all the lesser parts thrown out leaving us with male perfection. He’s recovering at Huerta Memorial Hospital after a vicious beating. And what do we see? A shirtless Kaidan hanging back, on display for all to see. As far as I can tell, he’s pure eye candy for this scene. Since turn about is fair play and all, I don’t have any problem with this on principle. Plus, it doesn’t detract from the scene. It is justifiable for him to be shirtless… I think? Not completely sure, but I can imagine some tests might require this, for some reason… but anyways, this is an interesting example of using sexuality to keep attention on the screen.

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There’s plenty of other examples of eye candy moments in Mass Effect. So rather than go through them all, I put some of them up for you to see. A lot of times, BioWare threw in eye candy for the sake of it…. Samara for one. Jack’s outfit in ME-2 for another. Though, BioWare did use eye candy to avoid nudity for the romance / sex scene. It presented the scene in a visually erotic way. So in that way, and that way alone, eye candy was used to help advance the story (romance helps create fun experiences for the player, critical for the enjoyment of the game).

GTA 4

This is the first game that I remember showing full frontal male nudity. So congratulations to Rockstar for having it. Here’s the set up for it. Johnny Klebitz went to Jouster’s Club to meet with Congressman Thomas Stubbs. Stubbs was getting a massage at the time and was naked. But since Johnny wanted to talk, he stood up, showing Johnny and the audience the full monty. And let me tell you, Johnny’s uncomfortable reaction was exactly the same as mine. But I think that was the point of it. It emphasized how uncomfortable we were with this guy.

GTA-IV-Congressman-Stubbs-Penis-Naked-The-Lost-And-The-DamnedSo does the nudity work for the scene? I don’t know.

The dialogue could have easily played out the same way. It would have gotten roughly the same message across. But you know, I think it worked the more I think about it. Without the nudity, it would have missed that uncomfortableness (is that even a word?) that was there with the scene. Congressman Stubbs was a guy who didn’t give a damn about anyone or anything but himself, and the nudity showed he. He didn’t care who saw him or how they reacted.

Closing Thoughts

As I said in the beginning, video game developers are working hard to make video games more mature… more adult. I believe what I showed is a decent spread at an attempt to use sex and nudity to do just that. Nudity and sex provide new ways for developers to tell and advance the story, as well as establish characters in ways that weren’t available before.

To be honest, I am concerned about sex, violence, and nudity being used to make games more ‘adult.’ Because if being mature means only that, what does that say about the industry? Or us as human beings? Fortunately, my concerns are being addressed by the newer generation of games. Last of Us and The Walking Dead have powerful, mature stories that do not hang on nudity or violence to make they mature. Sure, there’s violence in them.. but what makes them mature is the content and complexity of the story.

I don’t think nudity or sex in games is a bad thing. But I’d like to see it make sense in the context of the story rather than have it be there for the sake of being there.

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3 comments on “Sex and Nudity: Storytelling and the Advent of Mature Games

  1. what an awesome article. Altough, I got distracted when you showed Miranda. That really is perfection. I was lucky with regards to Mass Effect. I loved the eye candy in it primarily because it’s a space soapie. lol

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