Wednesday, March 10, 2010

EXP Podcast #68: Naked Ambition

As games evolve, more mainstream titles are incorporating elements of nudity. This raises the question of nudity's importance. In one sense, its value is derived from what it represents in terms of the story or the characters. Nudity is also useful for examining wider societal issues and cultural norms. But what if we had to assign nudity an actual economic worth? Does $3 sound about right?

This week, we discuss G. Christopher Williams' article about nudity in The Saboteur. The game represents an intersection of monetized, optional, and artistic nudity, and is an interesting case study for how mainstream games deal with exposed flesh. We share our thoughts on the game's approach to bare bodies and then trade ideas about what the future holds for digital nudity. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments (clothing optional).

Some discussion starters:

- What are the implication of having monetized nudity?

- Do you think there is a difference between cutscene and interactive examples of nudity from a moral/ethical point of view?

- Can you think of any games in which nudity was essential to the complete experience? Are there games in which nudity ultimately weakened the overall experience?

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- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
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Show notes:

- Run time: 30 min 09 sec
- "The Value of Nudity: Considering the Saboteur," by G. Christopher Williams, via PopMatters
- "In the Nude for Games," by Jorge
- Music provided by Brad Sucks


  1. There are plenty of movies that 12-year-olds end up watching that have nudity. I saw Pulp Fiction when I was in 5th grade. There are sex scenes in lots of R-rated movies. I think it's silly to treat them differently from games.

    Heavy Rain's sex scene is meaningful to the story and executed in such a way that they don't come off as titillating for the sake of titillation. I have qualms about other parts of that game and its treatment of Madison, but the sex scene is an example of how to do it right.

    Not that titillation is a bad thing. I think that our history of puritanism is saddling us with all sorts of weird baggage, and the sooner we can throw it off the better. That's why I appreciate games like Dante's Inferno that go all out for the sake of going all out. Shock is a useful tool, and Visceral Games seemed determined to get as much out of it as possible.

  2. Hey Julian! As always, thanks for stopping by.

    It's a fair point that kids will inevitably see R-rated movies, but I still think that the film industry can use their rating system as a better defense against the "save the children" critics. Of course, all my evidence is anecdotal, but I've seen far more kids prohibited from movies and then allowed to play games with similar content. But, I agree with you in that I think that games should be treated the same way, both by players and developers. Adult games are for adults, they should be rated, and the rest is up to parents and retailers.

    You're right that titillation isn't always a bad thing, and I'm pretty libertarian in regards to what people should and shouldn't be allowed to do (regardless of who it offends).

    However, I do think that it is more ethical to employ shock and titillation in an environment with other material to counterbalance it. Nudity as is seen in Dante's Inferno may (and likely does) benefit from exploitation just as much as it does titillation. Besides outliers, such as your Heavy Rain example, meaningful nudity seems heavily outweighed by examples tied to old social problems.