The Saboteur: What’s With All the Tits?

I love a good boob as much as most (I even love a bad boob if it’s got character), but there are other things in the world that I can love as well. For example, avocados are nice. Let us also not forget the pleasure one gets from a game of badminton. All these are things that can get a rise out of me. However, if I were to ready myself for a tasty avocado treat and it was just an avocado — I’m talking just an avocado — I wouldn’t be upset (I don’t think) by its lack of cleavage. Indeed, it might make me suspicious if it did. “Where’d this avocado get these boobs?” I’d ask.

What I’m trying to say is I was just playing the game The Saboteur on my PS3.

I haven’t played many games since getting this box of magic, and of the games I have tried I have never been totally satisfied. No matter, though, I thought to myself as I geared up for a very much necessary spot of Nazi murder. I got into the shoes of one Sean Devlin, an Irish race car mechanic who never quite figured out the minutiae of the Irish accent, and was intrigued by the game’s premise and atmosphere. I thought the music and black-and-white artwork were great at sucking you right into the era. More than that, the story was fairly well done. There was a tasty revenge plot happening, and it was exciting knowing that my character was guilty of thought crimes in an environment where thought crimes were considered out of fashion. I wanted to see how this little tale was going to turn out. It was like I was beginning a match of avocado badminton or something. This is to say I wasn’t aware that anything was missing from the game.

But then as I stepped out into the streets of Paris on a cold, rainy night I was passed in the streets by a female Nazi officer, and what the game was missing hit me square in the face: tits! There they were, bursting forth from her uniform in a manner I assume was not up to code in those days. This certainly wasn’t the first perfectly sculpted and largely bosomed woman of the game, but before Lieutenant Bübenstein here every other woman of her physicality had been inside a strip club (a contrived but passable setting). As I stared into the endless canyon between her animated magumbas I saw a very clear message: you’re sitting in your underwear on a couch in the 21st century.

The very same swelling chest which was, I guess, supposed to bring me further into the game managed to spit me back out into my living room. Gone was my immersion into another, unfamiliar world. Gone was my suspension of disbelief. If I was attempting to retain any cynicism about mainstream video game culture I was all of a sudden given the go-ahead to pick up where I had left off. The developers might as well have thrown in some billboards for Madden 2011 for you to check out while driving along Paris’ steaming streets. There on the screen was an admission — an admission stating that this game’s quality in narrative and tone were important, but not that important.

Now, the creators happened to mistakenly set the game during a time when women didn’t really walk around with their nipples out, but it’s not like they’re going to be accurate about every stinking detail. There are target markets, after all, and those targets have a strong affinity for a good set of chest globes. And, like I say, I’m no different when they are well contextualized. What I was disappointed by in this instance was the lack of confidence that the creators of The Saboteur had in their story and gameplay. I was already sold on the game in its early stages. It was doing a good job. But, alas, it’s like telling a person with a spider bite on their face that it’s barely noticeable: they don’t really believe you. There is a lack of confidence and a deep desire for others’ approval (although, in this case the approval is your approving dollars).

It’s as if the developers thought that there was no way a nice looking and well-written game could succeed on those merits alone. There’s got to be sex because some dick once said that “sex sells” and that dick was right because people are idiots. Let’s consider though, if we can, that maybe videogame sales achieved through the egregious misuse of women’s sexuality could be lower on the list of priorities for game designers. It comes down, ultimately, to the creators’ concern for artistic expression versus their concern for the popularity of a game. Sometimes one has to be sacrificed for the other. I look forward to the day where games have the confidence to be as esoteric as, say, The Sound and the Fury without feeling the need to burden Benjy with a voluptuous pair of bazoombas. Currently, I picture the creation of The Saboteur involving a team of writers excitedly presenting the concept of the game followed by a cigar-smoking, dick-swinging VP of sales demanding it have more EXPLODING TITTY!+

At this point I should stop blaming The Saboteur for everything as I have no idea how the game ultimately came to fruition. I, in no way, consider it the only — or even the worst — example of game designers sacrificing a narrative’s plausibility for the sake of squeezing a couple more milk makers into shot. Every time a game stares me in the face and tells me, “I think you’re dumb enough to fall for this” it’s a frustrating experience. It’s insulting and depressing. I really want to like videogames. I give them the benefit of the doubt. That is, until they smack me in the face with exploding titty. I may not be that smart, but I’m not so dumb that a set of wahwahs is going to distract me from a poorly built game or improve a game that has already convinced me of its quality.

The whole existence of blunt sexual stereotyping in games convinces me that the medium just isn’t ready to call itself an art form yet. Of course, that last sentence is an incredibly unfair generalization that ignores the hardworking game developers who do put artistic expression, philosophical exploration and genre-defying gameplay ahead of sales, but what’s an editorial piece without a few good, unfounded generalizations? EH?!

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+ Got that from an interview with Andy Richter on WTF with Marc Maron. It’s another, cruder way of saying sex appeal, but a sex appeal which obnoxiously demands to be noticed.

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John Law is a musician, writer and crier from Toronto. He spends his days removing lint from his belly button and trying to understand why things happen the way they do. When he fails to do so he writes about it here, at his blog, or — when he really doesn’t understand something — on Twitter under the name @JohnBobLaw.

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