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Oblivion, breasts, the ESRB and you

posted on May 4th, 2006 by christian

Another video game character with average proportions.

As I write this article, I am playing a few bouts of King of Fighters ’99. Oh how simple it was back then. Just a collection of sprites, no nude codes or hacking or anything profane, aside from the odd Mai animation.

These days things are a bit different. We have PC’s for modding, and a larger fanbase of gamers and developers who don’t know when to quit. In case you’re wondering, I am referring to the changing of Oblivion’s rating from Teen to Mature due to the discovery of topless female models (and also due to more violence and gore than previously thought, but I call BS on that). If you are to read all of the opinions and news posts about this, then all of the following are true:

– The “mod” uses data that Bethesda already put in the game. All one has to do is change a text file so that the character mesh is missing undergarments. For some, this means that Bethesda screwed up.

– The mod is done by a third party. The only ones at fault are the gamers who uncovered it, and Bethesda is completely innocent.

– Bethesda themselves say the ESRB screwed up by not taking a close enough look at the game.

– This is all a bunch of stupid shit.

You see, regardless of who is at fault here, this is just another example of why the gaming industry is targeted so much by politicians and special interest groups. On a whole, we are an incredibly, and I mean incredibly, immature group of people. The kind that still laughs at stupid Nintendo Wii piss jokes and makes up names like “Hot Mead” for this fiasco (bet the guy who made that one thought it was really clever). We allow Rockstar to not only create Hot Coffee in the first place, but don’t cry afoul when they blatantly lie about its existence. Gamers, developers, writers, all of us are simply hypocritical and childish. Perhaps this article is too, but that won’t stop me from breaking things down.

Bethesda: You know how much trouble Rockstar caused. A smart developer might want to try to steer clear from any sort of unnecessary nudity. Or maybe not. Don’t tell me you didn’t expect anyone to find it. You all should know how good your mod community can be. Furthermore, is there an actual, honest reason for including nude meshes? I can understand that characters models are rendered separately from clothing, but must you go that extra mile with the full frontal? It very well might be that you were insisting on realism, but then again no real person fights goblins in the nude. Perhaps you were going for an artistic and tasteful portrayal of the female body, or maybe, as Jay so excellently put it, this is all the result of a bunch of lonely geeks who wanted to render some boobies. It very well might be that there is a valid reason for including this in your game, but you should have thought this out just a tad more.

The ESRB just informed us that Videolamer is now rated M. They also told us not to look down while showering.

Gamers: So how many of your comments have I read in which you completely ignore the fact that this stuff is in the game? Yes, it requires a third party outside of Bethesda to make the change, but there is no new and original content added to it. So why then are you immediately getting up in arms about this, defending Bethesda to the death while damming the rest to hell? Where is the outrage at the moron who found this mod, and why isn’t anyone upset at Bethesda’s shortsightedness? There is nothing wrong with defending developers and fellow gamers, but please make sure you do some homework about it first. No one, politician or otherwise, is going to take us seriously if we cannot take an objective look at ourselves and our hobby or hold those accountable for what they did. I know we all joke about fanboys, but this is getting absurd…

ESRB: So they say that you didn’t take a good enough look at the game. Then why do you exist? Is it not your job to uncover things like this? I’m sure Bethesda wasn’t hiding anything from you. They submitted the game for review, and based on your initial criteria, it was suitable for teens. Now it isn’t. Instead of patting yourselves on the back, why don’t you realize your system is flawed, and that certain steps need to be taken in the future to ensure that these kinds of mods don’t exist? If you continue to turn a blind eye at things like this, it just creates more trouble for everyone. Furthermore, how can you say the game contains nudity when technically it is inaccessible straight from the box? When I see a rated R film I know I’ll find something in there that justifies it. With Oblivion, one still has to jump through some hoops to get to this content, hoops that most gamers won’t know about or even care to find. I’m not trying to accuse of false advertising, but this fiasco just further complicates the question of “what makes a mod a mod, and who is accountable?” Maybe the ESRB, or someone else should look into that.

And please, don’t get me started on the fact that Oblivion got a T rating with tombs filled with corpses and dialog mentioning necrophilia, but first sight of a nipple and we have an x-rated game. We Americans need to drop this Puritan morality and get in tune with logic and common sense for a change.

I’m not asking for much from the gaming industry. I just want some developers who have some tact and taste when it comes to in game content, and actually give me reason to agree with their decisions instead of pulling the “art” card and leaving it at that. I want gamers who think with their brains and not with their crotch, who will read articles and can actually make a decision on their own instead of believing whatever news clip or misinformed journalist’s blog they come across first. And I want a regulatory group that will actually stand up for us when things go wrong, and tries to make sure nothing goes wrong in the first place.

I want gaming to grow up. Think we can do it folks?

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  1. jay said on May 4, 2006:

    First, there are old games with nudity and more. Custer’s Revenge, Beat Em and Eat Em, the Naughty Dog code that removes the woman’s top on Rings of Power, etc. So designer’s aren’t necessarily getting less mature at least.

    When it’s a case like this one where the developer made the content and a hack revealed it, I can feel for the developer but understand they played a role. I fear hacks that take advantage of things in the original game but amplifying them. For example, a T rated game could have a little blood, but if a hack uses the blood graphics but adds tons of it, how can that be policed? It’s not the designer’s fault at all and it’d be unjust to force the game to carry an M rating.

    And finally, the Oblivion mod is actually more tasteful and less offensive to me than Mai from King of Fighters.

  2. Horatio said on May 4, 2006:

    Nice article, I agree that gamers need to take a better look at the long term affects of their blind allegiances and developers need to be a bit more responsible. One thing to note though is that the jump from T to M is like pg-13 to R. AO is the game version of x-rated, and of course is more important because walmart won’t carry AO games (indeed, recently there has been a lot of news about how game companies have to screen their game for walmart execs in order to show they meet walmart’s illustrious moral standards… just like their wonderful employee health insurance policy). Given that you really can’t show more than a passing clip of nudity in a pg-13 movie, i don’t think the esrb was unjustified in the change to M, nor do i think there are really significant consequences of the change, other than a lot of bad press. More worrisome may be the question of how many people will buy this game (or bought gta) for the ‘mod’? does this encourage the behavior we see from developers?

  3. jay said on May 4, 2006:

    In this case the rating change may be warranted, but it shouldn’t be a one for one kind of thing with movies because game characters aren’t digit actresses yet. A polygon boob is like a plastic boob of a blow up doll in a movie or something, neither are images of the real thing.

    I’ll give some thought to the argument that even if it’s not visually exact it’s “worse” because the players actually control the characters, but only in situations like the Hot Coffee mod where there is something to control. In Oblivion, nothing at all seems to change besides the shirt coming off. There is no sex mini game, no lap dance mini game, etc.

  4. Christian said on May 4, 2006:

    Thanks for the replies fellas

    Horatio is spot on in clarifying that x-rated is AO in the games world. My attempt to equivalate this with a RAter R film got a little jumbled due to lack of sleep.

    All in all, this is a tough issue, and one that I think can be debated for quite some time. The biggest question for me is “what exactly constitutes a mod, and where do we draw the line between responsibilities for developers and modders?”

    And I’ve always seen Mai as nothing more than a very comical character, but I understand Jay’s point completely.

  5. Golden Jew said on May 5, 2006:

    Actually, let’s be honest, the real person at fault here is women. They’re the ones with breasts. Let’s lay off the lonely geeks who are just products of a corrupt anatomical system.

    It’s frustrating to me how media driven we are. The biggest issue here is the hype. Thanks to the internet, boobies are a lot easier to see than they used to be. This just becomes (as Christian points out) more fodder that the ESRB is a joke than anything else. Now a story like this lets mom’s against video games (or whoever they are) feel good about how corrupt gamers are, but does little to address the real problem, which, if there even is one, is the fact that we’re so shackled by our puritanical roots that we are incapable of making any rational decisions in the field of sex and what is or isn’t appropriate and for who.

  6. pat said on May 6, 2006:

    i think the problem (or one of the problems) people have with this as well as with the hot coffee nonsense is that they miss their opportunity to be outraged. as noted, games have had nudity, excessive violence, etc before, and people around the country can ineffectually condemn the game and we can move on. these mods and hidden things dont allow those who love to hear themselves talk the ability to talk. so they end up being outraged after the fact. and puritanical values are stupid and will eventually strangle all creativity if they are allowed to.

  7. Ralin said on May 16, 2006:

    It would be difficult to place blame on any group at all considering it probably only takes one guy to make a nude mod. If a game could be modded at all and involves humanoids, there is going to be a nude mod, regardless of how obscure it may be. But it would be hard to say it’s the fault of the gaming population that such a desire for a nude mod exists. Blizzard made sure that the base character models had undergarments as part of the model texture itself, and yet, there’s a reskin mod available to replace the textures sans undergarments. Hardly Blizzard’s or ESRB’s fault. You touched on it in the article. It’s the ass backwards values of America as a whole.

    Blow a guy’s brains out? Cool. Daily prime-time TV. Nip slip? Censored. We make fun of Europe a lot but at least they have that part right.

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