I feel like I spend a lot of time in this column writing about video game censorship, but it’s an important problem to address before it completely takes over this industry.
Sony received backlash last year after it censored suggestive scenes in some anime games that were left untouched on other consoles, including the kid-friendly Nintendo Switch. Considering it was only niche indie titles being censored, not too many paid attention to this issue or cared. But I’m convinced Sony was using these games as a testing ground for the worsening censorship it's implementing now.
“Devil May Cry 5” is a AAA, Mature-rated entry in a long-running series full of blood, violence, strong language and other content targeted toward adults. It released last week on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One to positive reviews.
I haven’t played the game myself, but it reportedly also contains brief female nudity. In a couple of scenes, you can see the bare backsides of a couple of women. Lacking context, it seems like an unsurprising component to a game that has traditionally been made for mature audiences.
However, an update released shortly after the game’s launch adds a bizarre lens flare that censors the partial nudity. What is even weirder is the lens flare is not included on other platforms or even for Japanese PS4 players--only on Western PS4s. Neither Sony nor the developer, Capcom, has even acknowledged the decision.
It’s one thing if the censorship had been the same on every console in all regions, because developers and artists of all types creatively “censor” their own work all the time. But considering the censorship applies to only one console in one region, it is clear the developer’s original intention was to show the nudity, which makes this case one of true authoritarian censorship and not just creative expression.
I have problems with this for several reasons.
First and foremost, it makes no sense to me that in our society an adult-themed entertainment product can openly contain blood and violence, drugs and other mature content but not partial female nudity.
The upcoming “Mortal Kombat 11” has some of the most sickening violence I have ever seen in a video game, and hardly anyone bats an eye. But a publisher feels the need to cover up a woman’s behind? I can’t be the only gaming journalist who doesn’t understand this logical fallacy.
Furthermore, why are male characters never censored? I can think of several examples of AAA games with full-frontal male nudity that seems to concern no one. Many of Rockstar’s games contain fully exposed men, and in “Metal Gear Solid 2,” I spent half an hour running around in the nude as Raiden, the buff and attractive male player character.
Why, then, do women’s backsides in “Devil May Cry” need to be censored? Why must women’s costumes in “Dead or Alive” be tamed? The hypocritical double standard irks me.
It would be one thing if “Devil May Cry” was a Teen-rated game without blood and with toned-down violence. Censoring nudity in games aimed at teenagers isn’t only logical, but the Entertainment Software Rating Board wouldn’t allow otherwise.
But “Devil May Cry 5” is made by adults for adults, and the developers included the nudity for a reason. Their artistic vision should remain undisturbed, and those who don’t like it can simply choose to not play the game.
“Devil May Cry 5” isn’t a game I care to play, and it makes no difference to me personally as a player whether or not it or any other game contains nudity--male or female. But I believe fully in complete freedom of expression, and censorship of such minor things is a slippery slope that leads to corporations and governments deciding what we are and are not permitted to see. That’s a future I want to avoid at all costs, and it has to stop now.