Nudity in video games has been a mostly one sided affair – with the amount of visible female anatomy far outweighing that of men. Video games have featured women completely nude, breasts and groins exposed. Similarly to the movie industry, men - pardon the pun - get the shaft and rarely have their parts visible on-screen even during nude scenes within mature-rated content.
The absence of male nudity within games is ignorant, dismissive of a variety of demographics, and in some cases, nonsensical. A variety of scenarios across a breadth of genres have equal opportunity for tasteful and non-sexual nudity – as a means to show maturity within the medium.
There is an issue of inequality present. Publishers believe that the targeted male demographic can only handle seeing women exposed in video games. Bare penises in video games are few and far between. I'm not talking about the occasional suggestive joke image or dildo. Nor am I calling for more sexually explicit games with on-screen sexual activity. Logistically, we should be seeing far more male nudity than the game industry is willing to show us. Penises can be a vital storytelling tool to evoke an emotion out of the player – whether that be fear, comedy, or simply displaying a fact-of-life situation within a sophisticated narrative. But there is still a hesitation: a lack of contextual male nudity in popular media, especially in video games.
Let's start with my favorite genre; horror. Consider this scenario: an evil corporation has transformed human beings into terrible, disgusting monsters. The mutations have ravaged their forms and the need for clothing no longer applies. All body parts are intact, but transformed. However, there is a distinct lack of monster dong.
Let's look at this image of Resident Evil's Tyrant. Its arms, legs, and body have increased in mass, and its skin a dull gray tone. The Tyrant is completely naked, but upon examination of its lower region, no trace of genitalia can be found. Sure, we can say that it was removed during experimentation, but where is the visible markings of removal? Resident Evil Remake has brilliant texture work, so any intent to suggest that the Tyrant had genitals prior to experimentation is not apparent. The Tyrant was simply designed to disregard this aspect of basic human anatomy. But why? Did Capcom's designers fear that the inclusion of male genitalia, or even a slight suggestive mark, would make players more uncomfortable than gore and death? Apparently so.
Looking at a Naked Zombie, also in Resident Evil Remake, there is a distinct lack of markings where the family jewels should be. As with the Tyrant, it's as if someone simply airbrushed or covered the area with flat skin, removing any detail or suggestion that parts are missing. Code Veronica's Naked Zombies actually had visible damage to their genital areas, which didn't imply that the designers were afraid to acknowledge the existence of male parts, but merely had a lack of a desire to include them. The PS1 era Resident Evil titles wouldn't have been able to render these parts if they wanted to.
If this matter is strictly due to the potential discomfort of players, then why wouldn't a horror game make use of something so simple within the design of a nude male creature? Frictional Games' 2007 episodic title Penumbra features a monster type called the “Tuurngait Infected”. Tuurngaits are naked, zombie-like creatures with mutilated genitals. This phallic and tubular body part that connects its stomach to its groin is the Tuurngait's most striking feature. Had the monster not been equipped with such a strange-looking willy, its scare factor would have significantly been reduced.
Nudity makes most people feel uncomfortable. It's socially unacceptable to go out completely nude in public. Being nude somewhat creates a feeling of vulnerability. Being confronted by a creature or person that disregards the social taboo to nudity and the feelings of vulnerability it creates, is frightening. When it comes to monster designs that are derivative of the human form, the more anatomically correct the creature is, the more discomfort it creates for players.
Seen above is an image of the two brothers in Red Barrel Games' Outlast. These two men are not creatures, but simply homicidal maniacs that lack clothing. The two brothers have a calm but threatening demeanor. Their disregard for the faux pas of public nudity further exemplifies the harsh conditions of the chaotic environment in which they reside – and their troubling mental states. Their exposed winkies have a far deeper connotation than simply being obscene.
Penises don't have to be scary, as much as some publishers and developers believe they are. They're simply a part of the male body. If game creators want to strive for mature, contextual, and non-nonchalant displays of nudity in their games, they’re going to have to realize that the depiction of male genitalia won't literally burn the eyes of immature and insecure adult gamers – clearly breasts and lady-groins haven't produced those results.
Let's look at a few games that have featured male nudity in a light of a non-sexual nature. One of the most universally recognized examples would be in Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and the Damned. In a meeting with Congressman Thomas Stubbs, protagonist Johnny Klebbitz (and players) get an eyeful of flaccid man-meat after several intentional close-camera shots. Rockstar intentionally danced around the showing of a penis in a video game as if proudly boasting that they were brave enough to do so – expecting players to drop their guard at the possibility of ever seeing a penis so clearly in their game.
I have yet to play Grand Theft Auto V, but I'm told that male and female nudity is in no short abundance. GTA Online players have the choice to run around without pants. It may be crass and humorous to some hoping to be edgy, but Rockstar's inclusion of a natural element of the human body shows progressive and mature thinking – whether or not it's used as a comedic tool by players.
Rust, a recently released Steam Early Access title by the creator of Garry’s Mod is a game about survival in a post-apocalyptic world. Rust features a whole lot of male nudity as all player-controlled characters in Rust start out as naked, bald men. Rust is not trying to say anything or be groundbreaking with its inclusion of nudity; it merely presents the naked male form as a fact of life. In context of a survival game where hypothermia and radiation exposure are constant threats, nudity and all of the vulnerabilities and handicaps associated with it, exist to accentuate the realistic concerns that one would have while living in harsh conditions.
The Metal Gear Solid series is no stranger to acknowledging the frank and beans found between a man's legs. Countless times throughout the series attention to a man's parts have been used to bring comedic value to a scene - or even a means to confirm someone's identity. I'm sure we all remember Raiden's nude adventure at the climax of Metal Gear Solid 2, right? Comedic situations such as this can be found in a few older games as well.
In the past, during the arcade and pixel graphic days, some games humorously showed nude males and their pixel-by-pixel length wangs and/or butts. Rampage, which starred two men and a woman as playable monsters, would revert its mutant characters back into human form if they incurred enough damage to their health. The original Rampage had its characters cover up their special parts and nervously walk off screen. In Rampage: World Tour, graphical improvements gave developer Game Refuge Inc the raw technical power to render tiny pixel penises for their naked characters. River City Ransom featured a spa scene where the main character's butt was exposed. But where there's one semi-nude video game guy, there's 100 times more instances of exposed women.
Women have been subjected to objectified female video game characters for decades. A scantily clad warrior with impractical armor, the damsels in distress, etc. The fact that when we do see some skin in games, it's mostly female characters retreading the same lazy and offensive path. Women are marginalized and ignored when it comes to the dominant demographic that most games cater to. Who's to say that women don't want to see some skin as well? I'm not asking for reverse objectification, mind you, but an effort to make the playing field equal. Games are largely designed to cater to a male hetero-normative demographic, despite reports stating that women make up 45% of gamers [Sales, Demographic and Usage Data, ESA]
In contrast to other countries (especially European ones), American sensibilities are still prudish – we're a culture that's far more supportive of violence in media than acknowledgment of human sexual nature. Murder, gore, and violence in gaming is less appalling - less challenged by consumers, than a female protagonist having a love interest, or optional gay character relationships, or something as simple as seeing a fake penis.
For the medium to grow and to be all-inclusive, we must drop the stigma of male nudity within games. If a game developer sets out to feature nude women for titillating reasons, all the while purposefully ignoring their male characters, they're not only perverting and abusing an artistic medium in hopes to appeal to a perceived male-only demographic, they're promoting a double standard. A standard that considers their male demographic immature, perverse, and moronic – while showcasing their own aversion and fears towards male nudity.
Brothers, sisters, let us embrace the video game penis for all that it stands for: growth, inclusiveness, acceptance, and equality!
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