Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Conan! Pre-Review

There's a new Conan MMORPG out, and I bought it. Tried it. Why I bought it and tried it requires some explanation before I even tell you the review...

I hate MMORPGs. The only ones I ever liked even a little are SecondLife (a long time ago) and Grenado Espada (what's it called here? Sword of the West or something...)

Despite my distaste for MMORPGs, I occasionally buy one and try it out, just so I can reassure myself that there has been no progress and I can still feel superior. Conan was this year's choice...

But... Conan's story has some uniqueness to it that maybe you'd like to know about.

First off, I'm just a big Conan fan. I like "low fantasy" settings, and there are very few, certainly almost none as good as Conan. It's interesting, a very unique feel.

Second, the weird reason: yes, I bought it because it has breasts in it.

I didn't buy it because I really wanted to see nipples. There are, after all, a few more efficient ways to do that. I bought it because of what nipples stand for.

In this industry, we have a million games featuring sexy, underdressed women. However, they are not usually there for any real, in-game reason... they are usually not terribly interested in the social dynamics of being terribly sexy, and if they were real people, they would assumedly be wearing something more comfortable and likely to keep them alive.

So, it can safely be said even by a non-woman like me that this practice is a poor one. It objectifies women for the sake of appealing to teenage male geeks.

SO, why do I buy games with nipples?

Not pornographic games, exactly. Just games that have nudity. Like Conan.

I feel that there are two reasons to support nudity in games. Two and a half reasons.

The first reason is that, so far, in every game with nipples that I've bought, it's actually added to immersion. There are nipples when it makes sense that there would be nipples. Nowhere is this clearer than in the Conan mythos, where lack of clothing is pretty much the standard for both sexes. It would be untrue to the IP to have everyone fully dressed all the time.

The second reason is that putting nipples in games is more than just a way to draw in teenagers. To tell you the truth, I bet it hurts sales a bit in the teenage audience, since mothers who read the label will clearly see "WARNING: NUDITY" in addition to all the other, less horrifying evils such as "BLOOD AND GORE" and "INTENSE VIOLENCE".

No, the point is that we're unable to put many things into games. Right now, we're stuck with pretty much four attributes to mix in: violence, cute, puzzle, and "adult themes". That last one means "sexy people that you can never date or kiss or otherwise be interested in".

I like the idea of moving in a direction where we can get past that. I don't like how we venerate violence and fear nudity, not simply because nudity is less likely to screw us up, but because nudity opens a gateway for games that are more about deep, personal interactions.

Right now, you cannot really get close to a character in a game. Classically, this is because computation couldn't support it, but now it's just inertia. These days, it's possible to do it well: see Mass Effect for examples. But so long as nipples and so forth are a big deal, you're very limited in the kinds of statements and situations you can use. A flash of nipple in cut scene is one step towards a game that includes real simulated romance instead of crippled, scripted romance. And by romance, I mean romance, not porn: the point is to get to a point where NOT having nudity is weird.

Anyway, I guess that reason really just boils down to "I hate censors and I want more nudity (more everything) in games!"

So I buy nippled games.

... Or maybe that's just justification...


Craig Perko said...

Not sure I was clear. Let me put it this way:

Watchmen is one of the best superhero comics, period. If you haven't read it, you don't really understand that superhero comics aren't all required to be cheap escapism.

But Watchmen could never have been published under the Comics Code. It has blood, nudity, adult content (real adult content, not the stupid stuff we play at with games), and scary ideas.

It's not pornographic even though one of the characters spends most of his time naked (sometimes twice!) It's not a celebration of violence, even though there is quite a lot of violence.

It's just a superhero comic... but I haven't played any games on that level of artistry.

In order to publish it, we had to do away with the comics code. We had to allow nudity and violence and drugs back into our comics.

Sure, most of the stuff produced wasn't particularly high quality. There were a lot of comics reveling in violence. But you have to wade through that to get the good stuff. You can't get the good stuff without it.

TickledBlue said...

Yup, Watchmen was seminal and to my mind responsible for a lot of the better comics available to me today.

I also agree with your sentiment for supporting 'mature' games as much as possible in the hopes that someone somewhere will actually do it right! AoC is definately not it. I wonder if the problem is that the developers/designers themselves are not 'mature' nor had a mature relationship or whether that is just how they see their players? There may be a third option but I'm guessing a little of column A and a little of column B.

I noticed you mentioned Granaso Espada (called Sword of the New World here in the West I think) as being one of the few MMO's you enjoyed. I played it, and while applauding some of what was done (3 player characters at once, a wonderful aesthetic set in an intriguing world) I drifted away from it very quickly. Its not that I didn't like it, it was just more of a neutral, it doesn't do antyhing to entice me back kind of thing. What was it about the game that you found good? You generally do a great analysis and suggestions of gameplay changes and innovation so I was wondering if there was something I missed in the gameplay.

Craig Perko said...

To be honest, I found that I was neutral to Grenado Espada. But that's a whole lot better than any other MMORPG I've ever played: I simply hate the others.

To a large extent, Grenado Espada's strength lie in its three-character setup. There is a lot more one-player tactical depth there, even though each character is simpler than the average avatar in, say, WoW.

No, I don't think it was some incredible game. I just didn't hate it, which is a lot better than I can say for its competitors.

TickledBlue said...

Fair enough! I must admit to not being able to work up the energy to hate any of the MMORPGs, I reserve my spite for their players ;)