You might be asking yourself, how in the world can male nudity in video games possibly be good for the industry? Well young padawan sit right down and I’ll tell you how. In short: Main stream acceptance. For the past few recent years a war has been waged upon our beloved hobby claiming that games will never be considered art, even main stream figures such as Roger Ebert composing treatises about how and why it will never be so. Now this may be understandable if we were speaking of Custer’s Revenge featuring 8-bits of raging genocidal rape, there’s nothing artistic about that.
It’s easy from an outsider’s perspective to just write off video games as an art because they have no appreciation for how far it has come. Starting out with a Commodore 64 and aging with the industry I can remember that there was virtually no story in the early days of video games. “Thank you Mario. But our princess is in another castle!” isn’t exactly Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut. But, as the years have progressed our industry has matured along with its audience and has started to develop games that contain stories that rival the writing of movies and television shows.
One of these developers pushing the envelope in more ways than one is Rockstar, the famed developer of the Grand Theft Auto series. GTA 4 has gained numerous accolades for its writing and overall excellence. In the expansion, (The Lost and Damned), just recently released, there is a scene containing full frontal male nudity. Now, being a male of the heterosexual persuasion, my first reaction was; “Really? That’s not necessary at all.” Upon thinking about it more, though I came to the conclusion that sometimes letting it all hang out, pun intended, is the best way to advance a movement. For example, when Mortal Kombat was first released it was railed against as incredibly violent and in my eyes totally awesome. If you haven’t played Mortal Kombat, the game features “Finishing moves” that allow the avatar to perform amazing feats of martial arts expertise such as removing the head along with the spinal chord, thereby killing ones opponent. Legislative happy mothers of the time, including Tipper Gore, lobbied congress to remove such games from the shelves opting for legislative parenting. This is, in my eyes, an extreme over reaction. Upon my parents viewing these totally awesome moves, they were also appalled, but then started to play with us…for hours. My parents made sure that we understood that these acts in all of their blazing 16-bit glory were in fact not real. This is what parenting should be people. The government should not decide what is acceptable for children to view. The parents should because that is what real parenting consists of. I digress.
I think that part of the hesitation on pundits to label video games as art is that it takes a whole team of developers often consisting of 40 plus people to complete a game. To that I answer this: It takes just as many, if not many more to create a film, on top of that who says that art needs to be created by a single person or a small team? It scares pundits that art can exist outside the bounds of their frigid paradigm. Continuing along this thread of thought, since we consider much of what makes up a game as microcosms of art (technical artists, concept artists) and do not yet accept coding as an art (many would argue the virtues of beautifully written code) we write off the entire end product as a whole because a portion of it is not “art”. I would argue that video games CAN and often times are art. Just because some games are pure trash (X-men 3: The Movie: The Game anyone?) doesn’t mean that the rest of them should be dismissed as a slight. If we did that to movies, ‘Transformers’ would have ruined it for ‘The Departed’, (I’m sorry Michael Bay, but don’t leave so many damned plot holes in the sequel and maybe you wont get called out.) This all seems fair enough, right?
Pushing the envelope is essential to gaining acceptance into a category; this is the wonderful part about art. We don’t need talking heads to say “OK, I say that this is so and it now is.” As long as we ourselves see and understand that our chosen hobby is many things to many people, we may view them as whatever we want them to be. If a person can look at a pile of trash and claim it to be social commentary then we too can say “Hey, maybe Mario never finding the princess in the castle that the damn little toadstool said she was in was a metaphor for perseverance in the face of adversity.”