We Built This City

We Built This City
Stripping Down the Nude Mod

Brendan Main | 26 Jan 2010 12:33
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Where once nudity in games belonged to the underbelly of the medium, more and more games are now embracing it in the mainstream. It seems redundant, even quaint, to imagine a nude patch for something like Bayonetta, which features a protagonist whose magical clothing literally flies off her body as she performs her attacks. How do you strip a character in a perpetual state of undress? Elsewhere, Second Life's Linden Labs has begun to work on official adult content for its virtual world last year, responding to the popularity of various nude skins and mature acts.

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Other publishers have embraced the notion of monetizing such content. In The Saboteur, players can enter a code - free with retail purchase, but $3 otherwise - that allows the strippers at The Belle du Nuit to appear without their faithful nipple pasties. And the upcoming Dante's Inferno seems poised to take gaming's love affair with birthday suits to its obvious conclusion: An ESRB rating outlines "a bluish devil/demon in boss-battle mode - its penis visible during the flying and fire-spewing." Purveyors of downloadable content, take heed: I'd pay a couple bucks to buy that demon some pants - it sounds like he could take an eye out.

With so many official options for in-game nudity, is the age of the old-fashioned user-generated nude patch coming to an end? On the one hand, it's a testament to its lasting appeal that game makers have begun to profit from nude content. They can hardly be blamed for it, either: With the epiphany that sex sells, they have begun to sell sex. But this plethora of legitimized nude content also stands to preempt the very curiosities that have inspired such unusual patches in the first place. Maybe we'll someday feel a strange nostalgia for the days when sex in gaming was a do-it-yourself affair, before it became slick and commercial and before we'd ever heard the phrase "jiggle physics" mentioned in polite company.

Then again, if past amateur efforts are any indication, perhaps it's for our own good that developers are reclaiming the keys to this kingdom. Inevitably, these "skins" change the meaning of the game in a way that is more than skin deep. By playing as the characters undressed through these patches, the player's role becomes inverted - the stripper becomes the stripped and the voyeur becomes the viewed. Rather than some steamy fantasy, it's more like that recurring dream where you accidentally go to school in your underwear. Everything seems normal ... but why are people staring? And does anybody else feel that draft?

In my own experience of piloting these digitally denuded characters, I felt precisely this effect: Rather than gaining some sense of agency, I felt frail, vulnerable, and more than a little silly. My experience as a player interfered with the tawdry thrill of watching my character prance around in the buff. I didn't realize how invested I was or how protective I had become until Colleen joined me to check on my progress. On-screen, a butt-naked beauty with twin revolvers mowed her way through hordes of enemies.

"Ooh, nice guns. And nice guns. Who is that?"

"Um ..." I hesitated for a moment.

And that might the heart of it. How can I ogle her when she's me?

Brendan Main hails from the frosty reaches of Canada, where it's too cold to strip anything but paint. When not meticulously crafting his nude patch for Tetris, he blogs at www.kingandrook.com.

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