Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Breast is a Breast is a Breast

There are a couple of aspects about society that will, from time to time, confuse the hell out of me. People cramming together to walk in the door of a building when there is another perfectly good door right next to it. The need people feel to make small talk to avoid a perceived uncomfortable silence. Our ability to forget about catastrophic disasters a month after the entire world rallies around those effected. My favorite however, is our obsession and simultaneous repulsion with nudity and sex – mostly the former.

I’ve recently gotten wind of something interesting going on over at It seems that those who stream video of themselves playing the recently released “Dante’s Inferno” have been permanently banned without any type of warning. The reason? They violated the terms of service. Which terms you ask? No nudity is allowed on the site even if the specific page has placed a mature content warning on the feed. There is, however, nothing in’s terms of service which define what exactly nudity is. It is a bare backside? A bare female chest? Exposed breasts with the nipples covered? There is no way to know.

What we do know however is that the image of nude bodies – both male and female – appear quite frequently in Dante’s Inferno. I myself have not played the game yet but I certainly saw my share of pixilated breasts in the demo, which is what ties in nicely to one of my points: are animated breasts really as “offensive” as real ones?

I, of course, use those quotation marks with intense sarcasm. Call me a crazy, liberal hippe but I do not, in any way, shape, or form, find the naked human body even remotely offensive. I’m not referring here to explicit sexual imagery or pornography here, but rather the naked human form as designed by nature. Plain and simple.

Now, Dante’s Inferno does provide a unique problem because again, while I have not played it, I have read the poem and have very vivid memories of the fun to be found within the lust circle which I’m sure Visceral has taken advantage of. Basically, the images within Dante’s Inferno certainly have the potential to be offensive. It is not the content found offensive by though – it’s the nudity. What’s interesting to me are two underlying issues: one, that the naked human body is automatically offensive and two, that this nudity is far more damaging than the brutal and graphic violence so often found in games today.

To me, might as well come out and say, “yeah, play your Modern Warware and Bioshock and have fun graphically gunning down enemies and boring holes into them with giant drills but don’t you dare show a woman’s breast.” The reason for this fear of female nudity is of course the result of years and years of society taking an essential body part for which nearly all of use owe our lives and reducing it to a sexual object.

My more relevant musings (this is a video game blog after all) come from the backlash again nudity in general in video games, such as the fiasco over the Mass Effect “nude” scene. Is nudity in video games “worse” than nudity in film or in paintings? Personally, I tend to think that it is perceived as such not because it is, of course, any worse but rather because non-gamers remain increasingly hesitant to regard video games as art forms which they without question can be. Not all of them certainly (just like not all other forms of media are art) and for sure in a less traditional sense but I will absolutely argue that Dead Space was one of the most beautiful and artful games to come out in recent years. Is it beautiful like Michelangelo’s “David”? No. But is it any less of an art form? I don’t think so.

You know . . . when I started this post I had a goal in mind. I fear it’s gone into a potentially pointless ramble. I suppose I’ll just end with this question: do you think video games are judged more harshly for nudity than the average show or film? If so, why is this?


  1. I think they are judged more harshly because of the interactive element...

  2. I dunno, the nudity in Dante's Inferno has purpose, it actually represents something rather than: "oh look, we put sex in a video game!"

    It's quite amusing(probably not the best way to describe it)though how much more we censor something like *gasp* the naked human body over something like: disemboweling/eviscerating/maiming/(insert term for some sort of violence), usually being quite graphic too. Don't you just love how the world turns?

    However I can already see Fox News gearing up to go all Mass Effect on this game...I mean have you ever heard of a "News Organization" doing "research" about topics/important issues they're discussing? Apparently that's not journalism...-_-

  3. This reminds of an old game. Did anyone play "Indigo Prophecy?" Remember the sex scene? I distinctly remember a full bare-chested shot of the female, but she has no nipples. I was offended that they would bother to drop in a sex scene and half-ass it. Even more ludicrous, the game was rated 16+, so instead of implying the relations and cutting away as to not offend, the player viewed a very pixelated sex scene. Whyyyy even bother.

    It also reminds me of [and I swear this is on video game topic] the commentary of an Invader Zim episode, where the creator states that the network told him red things [i.e. blood] could not be red, but brown things [i.e. poop] could be brown. Brown things are far more repulsive to the average viewer than red things, I think.

  4. Apparently interactive violence may or may not make us killers but seeing pixelated breasts will turn us into rapists.
    Everbody wants to complain about something and people can no longer get up and arms about naked people on TVs or moives because society has degraded those media to a point where there's nothing to get up and arms over. But videogames? They're still relatively new and unfortunately many people see them as children's toys and not getting beyond Pac-Man. Putting boobs in that? Blasphemy.
    I think people letting nudity into a "children's" activity is what it all boils down to, regardless of the fact that the games which feature nudity are NOT for children and should be no where near them. Now if a game that was relatively safe for children began featuring nudity this would be a cause for problems. However, until we see Princess Peach do some topless sunbathing on Isle Delfino I don't think this will be an issue.

  5. Grant - that could very well be a part of it. After all, people like to bitch that violent games are worse than movies because you're pushing a button.

    Devin - I agree 100%. I have never understood why graphic violence is more accepted than sex. Also, I'm getting really curious about Dante's Inferno. Hopefully, I'll be able to rent it soon.

    Kendall - I very specifically remember having the exact same "wha?" moment in Indigo Prophecy. That was such a great and mature game that was cheapened by that ridiculously scene.

    David - Great point you make about games being considered "children's" entertainment. I think that plays very much into it, just like video games not being seen as art.

  6. Hmm. I'd say that violence is more accepted than sex (in America, anyway) because of our cultural heritage. I'm going to try to find a way to put this so that it doesn't come off as a political screed, and yeah, it's a little reductive, but still, here goes:

    America was founded by puritanical religious exiles via decades of bloody conflict featuring genocide, bloody revolution, slavery, and civil war. Taking that history into account, it's not so hard to fathom why we might be more comfortable, like, as a people, with bloodshed and violence and not sex.

    Have you ever seen that movie "This film is not yet rated?" Fascinating stuff, digs into the MPAA and how they rate movies. The filmmakers share a lot of data, too, which I appreciated - I'm paraphrasing their findings, but suffice to say: A sex scene freaks out the ratings board much, much more than a scene of extreme violence. And a homosexual sex scene is a one-way ticket to an NC-17 rating.

    Games freak Those Who Rate Things out even more, perhaps due to their interactive nature as well as their general newness, coupled with what David already pointed out - the fact that many still think of games as products for children. So it stands to reason that those same ratings folks would be extra-super touchy about sexual content in games.

    But the violence, on the other hand, seems to actually be worse in games, which is perplexing. I saw some shit in Bayonetta and Gears of War that I haven't seen in a mainstream movie in maybe ever - in both cases, a clearly-framed depiction of a person ripped in half through the crotch by metal weapons - yet there those games are, at the top of the retail heap.

  7. Kirk - I get exactly what you're saying and I do agree with you. It's hard to shake history. I have seen "This Film is Not Yet Rated" and I very much enjoyed it. It really opened my eyes.

    On the issue of Bayonetta, holy crap, the first time you used a special move on Joy? I just about died I was cringing so hard.

    ~ Cary

  8. Word - leave it to Bayonetta to choose the most over-the-top, intense, offensive torture-kill possible. And to revel in it. Though of course that sort of balls-to-the-wall anything-goes approach is sort of what makes the game so great...

    And cool that you've seen "This Film!" I thought it was pretty intense how it turns out that the MPAA is sort of this shadow group of civilians deciding what the public can and can't see... like, literally deciding, since an NC-17 will essentially force a studio recut a movie.

    I wonder who staffs the ESRB? It's most likely a similar group. Their website is utterly opaque and makes it clear that they have no outside oversight, plus makes no mention whatsoever of who is a member.

    So there are just these... random people deciding what's acceptable and what's not... God, censorship has no place in a free country.

  9. Kirk - my favorite part of "This Film" - which perfectly sums up the issues I was making in this post - was the part about "Boys Don't Cry". The MPAA was going to give it an NC-17 rating for showing Hillary Swank wiping her mouth after engaging in oral sex but they had no problem whatsoever with the graphic shot of her getting her head blown off.

    Go figure.