Wednesday, January 2, 2013

I Support Nude Raider

The makers of Tomb Raider hold a very clear stance against Nude Raider. This would not be my decision if I were the head of the company, but it is not at all surprising. Although Lara Croft was intentionally designed as a character with unambiguous sex appeal, the game is not at all about sex (it's about exploring ancient tombs). Given the taboo around entertainment of a sexual variety, Tomb Raider's stance on Nude Raider is not surprising. But it is disappointing.

I can say with 100% honesty, that when the original Tomb Raider first came out (I was twelve at the time), it was not primarily Lara Croft's sex appeal, but the excitement of the exploration and adventure element of the game that drew me to it. But, on the other hand, I would be lying if I told you I didn't consider it icing on the cake that the game featured a hot female protagonist, instead of another boring macho action hero.

Now, if it were up to me, I would abolish the taboo on sex. It seems more than a little odd that we get uptight about the thought that young people might play games with sexual themes, let alone actual nudity, but we don't bat an eye when those games instead feature copious amounts of violence. In Tomb Raider's case, there's more adventure than action, and not a total lack of sexual innuendo besides, but it's not the dual pistols Lara wields with aplomb that gets people's knickers in a twist.

Nevertheless, though I don't understand why people consider sex to be more controversial than violence, I understand that people do, and so the official stance on Nude Raider is not surprising. But what irks me even more, is when I come across a significant Tomb Raider fan community that is involved in creating unique mods for the later, more advanced, games (with specific attention to new outfits), and I find that they too make a clear statement criticizing Nude Raider - that they'll have nothing to do with it. Which I find to be an unnecessarily prudish view, that they should be ashamed of holding. Where is an enterprising erotic artist supposed to turn?

Now one thing that's always had me curious about the official stance against Nude Raider, is the immediate assumption that Nude Raider = Lewd Raider. Obviously, I can't deny that many people will view an attractive female in the nude (even a polygonal one) as a sexually arousing stimulus. At the same time, I can assure you that plenty of people already view Lara Croft - even fully dressed - in the same way. So what we're saying here when we condemn Nude Raider is that nudity = sex.

And it's impossible for me not to bring up the nudist perspective at this point. Now think about this. A lot of people who are curious about Nude Raider are probably just interested in seeing the character naked, whether for titillation or just to satisfy their curiosity. But, as Rule 34 dictates, there is plenty of opportunity for that on the internet (no matter how much effort the suits behind Tomb Raider expend on sending out cease and desist letters to "prevent young people from googling 'Tomb Raider' and landing on porn" - on the contrary, young teenage me was drawing my own versions of naked Lara Croft thanks to the easily traceable cardboard cutout that came in the box with the second game, no internet required - how, exactly, would it have harmed me to see similar images on a webpage, pray tell?).

Now, obviously, there may be some benefit to seeing the hypothetical nude Lara in motion, but imagine you get the nude code working (in whatever form it may exist). Now you're playing Tomb Raider and Lara's nude. There's still no sex in the game. If you're looking for some excitement, you might as well put on some porn instead. So is there any actual benefit to playing 'Nude Raider' beyond the sheer novelty of it?

Well, I have one answer to that question. More so than the sexual element, I have always been intrigued by the idea of Nude Raider because - as a nudist, and as the sort of exhibitionist who appreciates the fantasy of being naked in public and other unusual places, not to shock people or behave in a lewd manner, but just simply for the excitement of being nude where one does not usually go nude - I am simply thrilled by the idea of playing a game where I can investigate ancient tombs in the nude. I imagine it's very similar to the feeling one gets who feels compelled to go hiking au naturale, which might seem odd to the typical textile, but is not at all uncommon among nudists.

So, I raise the argument, if nudity is not necessarily sexual in nature, on what grounds do you feel justified in criticizing Nude Raider for its sexual context, when it may have nonsexual value as well? In a modding community that thrives on creating diverse and impressive outfits for Lara - some of them, even, sexual in nature, like bikinis and lingerie - where do you get off saying that of all possible outfits, the naked human body is out of bounds for a creator to design? It seems terribly arbitrary, and terribly discriminating. And yet, unfortunately, it's not at all out of character for this society.

Well, I'm saying this whole cultural fear of the naked human body is ridiculous. And by playing Nude Raider, I'm not trying to give the creative minds behind Tomb Raider the middle finger - after all, I love them for the brilliant (if sometimes flawed) games they've created. But I am making a statement about how playing this game with a naked Lara Croft is NOT a big deal, and that I do NOT respect those same creative minds' wish for fans not to use the game in that way. I bought your game fair, square and legit, and as far as I can tell, you have no problem with the modding community as long as they're not violating your copyrights or what have you, and I am NOT going to sit here and let you tell me (in the privacy of my own home entertainment theater, if nowhere else) that in this case as all others, nudity lies outside the realm of free speech.

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