Heavy Rain Nudity: Finally Embracing "Tasteful"
I knew it would cause a firestorm of comments and controversy when it first hit the Internet and while I try to avoid such situations and confrontations (no real winners ever emerge), one should at least applaud Quantic Dream for sticking to its storyline-driven guns.
I'm relatively certain you've seen the video by now so I won't describe Madison's topless scene. However, having seen just about everything controversial this industry has had to offer over the years, from both the extreme violence and gratuitous nudity/sex camps, one particular aspect of that scene struck me immediately. Then, the instant after it struck, it dawned on me that I probably shouldn't be surprised, given everything we already know about Heavy Rain. This is a game that should redefine the concept of virtual storytelling; a project that I thought might present us with an entirely new "Intellectual Sub-Genre" and one that continues to impress me at every turn. A 2,000-page script is enough to be enticing, but it's the intertwining storylines, plot construction, and general character development that should be most impressive from a game standpoint.
So no, I shouldn't have been surprised when I realized that this nude scene was neither gratuitous nor inappropriate. I'm absolutely certain it fit the needs of the writers and creators, and therefore, it serves a definite purpose. It should be something that would be believable on the part of Madison's character and it shouldn't be what one might call a "throwaway scene." And then, looking back on other games where nudity and/or sex was involved, I realized that it rarely - if ever - has been tasteful and professionally implemented from an artistic standpoint. Maybe this is why the topic has been so controversial before: because it has only been included in games to titillate the teenagers. But now, if critics and gamers alike agree that Heavy Rain's nudity doesn't detract from the overall experience, and we agree that it's about as close to a movie as we can get these days, perhaps there won't be any controversy. Films that include this content, provided the content is done well, can escape such debate.
And maybe games can as well...now. Maybe this is exactly what we needed. This character is not a fantastical top-heavy, impossibly formed, brainless female from the likes of Team Ninja. She's nicely formed, yes, but hardly impossible, and I will assume she's an intelligent and rational individual. In other words, she does not exist simply for the sake of her looks; that scene doesn't exist only for cosmetic or lurid purposes, and the entire concept of nudity in the game - as a direct result - ceases to become an issue at all. Well, at least in my eyes.
9/25/2009 Ben Dutka