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The many fine butts of Nier: Automata – a traveler's guide

Are we buying games for the gameplay or for the eye candy?

Warning: slightly NSFW content ahead, along with some minor Nier: Automata story spoilers.

When considering the reasons to buy a particular game over any other game, usually elements like gameplay mechanics, overall genre, art style, and the development team's history come to mind. For Nier: Automata however, the talk of the town has been, ahem, firmly on android 2B's backside.

That's an area of the game we studiously left out in our official Nier: Automata review, but the time has come to give it a glance over now, as it's an issue that's getting bigger and dominating discussion of this gorgeously cross-genre title.

It seemed like the fact that the game has 26 different endings might be of more concern, or maybe that the opening level switches breathlessly between nine different genres, but nope, it's the butts and nothing but the butts getting all the hype. Before this latest Nier entry was even officially released, there were already people compiling videos showing off main character 2B's assets in various cut-scenes and battle sequences.

How Much Butt Is Too Much Butt?

Some controversy actually erupted about the level of detail in this comely android's body parts when a photo started making the rounds on Twitter. Said super NSFW image showcased a butthole clearly visible through a thong when angling the camera to go up-skirt.

The screenshot ended up being fake, but there was good reason to believe it could have been real. After all, just a few months back Watch Dogs 2 was in the news for having modeled a realistically hairy pubic region of a certain female NPC that could be fully viewed if you knocked her over. Going back further, remember when Lolipop Chainsaw even had an achievement for trying to peek up Juliet's cheerleader skirt?

This faux controversy over a faked screenshot caused the game's producer Yoko Taro to cheekily ask for all nude photos of 2B to be sent to him “for analysis.” And yes, before you have to ask, even though the game's been out less than a week, there's already a whole lot of Rule 34 going on with 2B. We won't link to those ones - you know how to work Google.

It's interesting to note in this whole debacle that while the added puckered hole was in fact photoshopped, the base image itself is not: you can go angle the camera to get a peek at what 2B's hiding under there (as an android with no reproductive or gastrointestinal function, obviously it's less than you'd expect).

Sex Sells

While the fans have gone gaga over 2B's basic look - which is essentially a functional, if perhaps overly short, dress - they'll go nuts when switching over to A2 in a later playthrough, who is basically just strolling around in lingerie.

There's a boundary crossing sex appeal there: it's a hot lady wearing sexually suggestive clothing, who also happens to carry a giant sword, kicks all of kinds of ass, and has a more interesting personality than 2B. I'll leave it to everyone else to argue about whether that's feminist, misogynist, or somewhere in between.

Sex appeal in gaming isn't new by any means, plenty of games have used it before, although its worth noting that Nier: Automata very much isn't Samurai Bikini Squad or Dead Or Alive: it's a full, serious game that just happens to be populated with attractive female androids.

Considering the stylistic similarities to Bayonetta, maybe this shouldn't be too surprising. On a story level it even makes a certain kind of sense: if you can literally manufacture your species, why would you make anyone unattractive?

Overall there are pretty familiar archetypes on display across the story of Nier: Automata, with clear nods to movies like A.I. and Oblivion, as well as plenty of anime mecha standards being used. If you're going to design a combat android / mecha pilot it would obviously better be a super sexy lady, right?

Those few male YoRHa soldiers and scouts also tend to fall within genre-specific ideals. Lovable, naive 9S for instance seems to pretty closely follow Shinji from Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Implied To Outright

Skimming by on the usual fan service didn't stop developer Platinum Games from getting some serious genital imagery in there, however. Just take a look at the “aliens” who invaded Earth. Take special note of the one with the foreskin and the one with the big ole vein...

 Gives a whole new meaning to "man" versus machine

It's certainly not the first time the sci-fi medium has used sexual allegory or genital imagery. The upcoming Alien: Covenant for instance is reputed to feature wide usage of vaginal motifs as a balance to the original phallic imagery by (now sadly deceased) artist H.R. Geiger.

It's a little more closeted in the video game arena however, when you have people being banned from the PS Network for sharing in-game screenshots with nudity.

What do you think - should video games be treated like any other entertainment media and feature any level of sexual imagery, or does the fan service and secret penis creatures detract from the gaming experience?

Published Mar. 10th 2017

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