Boobs. I’ve talked about them before, and had argued the case for context providing legitimacy for nudity in video games. Critics and gamers alike are too quick to call foul and point the finger when the bare female form appears on screen, yet happy to look the other way in the case of the odd sex bonus stage; a quick romp amongst a few hours of bloodshed is just a bit of fun, right?
Can the medium of video games show a bit of skin without being criticised for immaturity? In my previous piece linked above, I posit the view that it is the gamers and critics themselves who lack the maturity and level of professionalism to feel comfortable with the mature themes increasingly penetrating the hobby. Indeed, we are so caught up with being taken seriously that we are far too reactionary and therefore seen as argumentative, exclusive, and bratty. How can an artist appease an audience of children?
Nudity can be done badly of course, and most often is. In film the horror genre is full of skin-flicks and a shower scene or torn shirt is par for the course. It is here in the horror genre of film and video games, and specifically Shadows of the Damned and Splatterhouse, that the topic has been brought back to mind. As both have their own flagrant propensity to sling the odd boob around and both, at first glance, with no reason to do so.
Shadows of the Damned sees Garcia ‘Fucking’ Hotspur attempt to rescue his love Paula from the clutches of demons and chase them all the way to hell. Here, Paula traipses around in lingerie teasing Garcia onward. Further, in one particular chapter a giant representation of her is the ground for which Garcia walks, topless, moaning and generally conveying eroticism.
Splatterhouse has Rick attempt to rescue his love Jennifer from the clutches of a doctor gone mad (though as a doctor of necrobiology that was never in doubt), and along the way collect parts of photographs depicting Jennifer nude. The photos will show her in various poses and attire, and are scattered throughout the mansion of which Rick journeys.
Why the nudity here? Is there a particular point this is attempting to convey?
As mentioned previous, horror has an affinity to nudity and there are valid emotional responses that the creator wishes to tap into, beyond the surface level titillation. I did specifically mention the common shower scene before, and many horror stories will feature something happening in at least a bathroom environment. Why? The reason is simple; it’s where we are at our most exposed. Clothes-less, defenceless, sight can be obscured by water, shower curtain or mist, mirrors provide windows into nooks and crannies in the periphery. It is very easy for a story teller to project urgency and unease in the viewer using these environments that we all understand and find ourselves in every day.
Another common tool used to create such feelings in the viewer is sex; two lovers engaged in the act of sex being crept up on by a would-be murderer. The victims here are utterly distracted, exposed, and defenceless.
Abstracting these concepts further, the more basic visage of a woman topless will again heighten the feelings of vulnerability as the heart lay bare. Innocence too, flagrant in the face of violence. The viewer knows there’s reason to be cautious – it’s a horror film after all – yet the victim openly displaying how unaware they are.
So there are reasons for nudity in horror; It’s not just a bit of fun, but a conduit of emotion from creator to viewer. But that’s not to say all attempts work.
Shadows of the Damned and Splatterhouse? Not so successful. Obviously Paula was exposed as she traversed her way through hell, but no sense of urgency passed on to the player. Likewise, the assumed attempt at projecting innocence and intimacy between Jennifer and Rick a more miss than hit affair. The view into their playful relationship providing little back story needed to foster empathy or connection.
Regardless of the quality of the implementation present in the video games highlighted, the approach can be reasoned. Instead of dismissing these as immature and throw away, there are lessons to be learned. One; that video games have a ways to go in maturity of technique compared to film. And two; The critical eye must grow with the medium as it expands and explores adult themes and pushes artistic boundaries.
(This post has previously been published on Digital Romance Lab)