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SeraphimBlade (User)

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Beyond, Hackers, and Naked Celebrities

SeraphimBlade | 835d ago
User blog

(If that title sounds like I'm just grabbing for hits, you have not been following the news with Beyond)

Well, this is different and interesting! Is it strange that I’m excited to talk about this? I just find the differences between developer’s ideas and what the players get to see really fascinating. Throw in one of the more interesting moral quandaries of our digital age, and you have a mature, complex discussion that, for once this year, doesn’t tie in that much to the overarching problem of sexism in our industry/culture/whatever. (Not the way I see it anyway. I'll explain.) It’s basically this console generation’s Hot Coffee Mod (more in the sense of what exactly it is than the cultural effect it will have.)

First, let’s get our facts straight. Beyond: Two Souls features two shower scenes of the main character Jodie, who’s played by Ellen Page via motion capture and carries her likeness. Played as it’s intended to, the player will NEVER see any private parts because they cannot control the camera in these scenes. It’s an M-rated game, but I doubt these scenes are what crossed the line. (It was probably all the uses of the f-word. Because if there’s one thing gamers understand, it’s that we must protect the pure, fragile innocence of thirteen-year-olds!) The game was cracked using a PS3 dev kit and the full nude images were leaked online. All of the… um… features were fully detailed, despite not being visible in-game.

Here are the big questions:

--- Why did Quantic Dream even fully render the nudity if the player wouldn’t see it? ---

I can’t speak for them, BUT I think I have some insight. Remember Ethan’s shower scene from the beginning of Heavy Rain? Even though the player would only see his rear, review copies allowed users to control the camera and see every last inch of the rendered models.

And, yes, they rendered Olympus Mons.

You see, Olympus Mons is a mountain on Mars and also the largest mountain in the solar system; and his last name is “Mars,” so I figured that’s what he’d call his… well that’s what I’d do, anyway!

(Also, this is why I’m willing to believe that QD would have done the same thing with a male character, so I’m not willing to call “sexist perv” here. Just regular perv, if anything.)

Anyway, I think this was part of “maintaining the illusion.” Games and movies can put a lot of work into things that the audience never sees, and there is kind of a “wow” factor to thinking you’ve broken a game only to find out how well the developers covered their tracks. If Stanley Kubrick made games, that’s the borderline sociopathic attention to detail he’d give to it. (Note: No, David Cage, if you’re reading this, I’m not saying you are the Stanley Kubrick of video games. You’re more of a combination of Roland Emmerich and a still-tolerable M. Night Shyamalan. On that note, don’t ever adapt anything. Ever.)

But is it okay to do that with people’s junk? Well, my next question is…

--- Was Ellen Page aware her character was being rendered in such detail and did she consent? ---

If so, that seems kind of strange, considering she doesn’t get naked for movies as far as I know. (At least that’s what other people have been saying, I haven’t done that much research) Devs should realize that no matter how well they hide content in a game, it will find a way out. They should also make sure people whose likenesses they use are aware of the “risks” and all the sick, sick things modders will do with their image. While I’m not crazy about QD’s brand of Hollywood worship, I do think that getting big name actors like this is a great way to draw the eyes of non-gamers and yell “HEY, WE CAN DO SERIOUS ART TOO.” Celebrities tend to be very protective of their image, though, so they should know what a couple hackers can do with their likeness in a game.

Because pervs… pervs find a way.

But then there’s the biggest question:

--- Are we seeing Ellen Page? ---

Technically, no. It’s just the character Jodie. Ms. Page couldn’t have left her motion capture suit for this. Jodie is just programmed to have her face and an approximation of her skeleton, following her motions. Essentially, this is taking a body and photoshopping Ellen Page’s head onto it. Or maybe rotoscoping a nude body over her.

Put in her position, though, I could perfectly understand taking it personally. If I wanted to be a serious, respectable actor, I wouldn’t want images floating around of what really, really looked like me nude. (I don’t think ANYBODY would want those images floating around, but I digress.) I can perfectly understand wanting to “maintain an image.”

It’s not unlike copyrighting a creative work, is it? You don’t want people using your work a way you didn’t intend, and you don’t want people showing off fake nude pictures of you. Though I do think this is a far bigger deal than some band whining about their songs being set to an AMV or something. I mean, I’m all for exercising fair use to ridicule celebrities, but this, I think, crosses a line. It’s something incredibly private for Page, and not something she could have anticipated nor something she had real power over. It’s the sleazy stalker paparazzi of game hacks. Maybe there DOES need to be some kind of law for this. And maybe we should get on it now before someone makes an Oculus Rift sex sim starring celebrities of our choosing and the law has no idea what to do about it.

After all, let’s not kid ourselves: “Oculus Rift Celebrity Sex Sim” is the end goal of our entire medium. Of our culture, even!

But even then…

--- Should Quantic Dream be held responsible? ---

I honestly don’t know.

Legally, they have no responsibility over what happens when the player breaks the End User License Agreement, which reverse-engineering the game in a dev kit certainly did. Ethically? Hmm…

It’s worth asking if they might have originally intended to have full nudity in the game. Quantic Dream hasn’t shied away from it in the past, at least in European versions of their games. If it was originally intended, and they changed their minds late in development, then it would have been far easier for them to simply rework the camera then go back and remake textures and models. I think that’s understandable.

And that would certainly be a weird press release: “Yeah, we’re about ready to go gold, but we need to delay just a couple weeks so that we can Barbie-fy our characters’ baby factories.”

While they didn’t release the images, having the completely nude model was ultimately unnecessary, and you’re asking for trouble when it’s based on a real person. It’s one thing for it to be possible for modders to ADD nudity, it’s another thing to just have it sitting there, waiting. This is starting to sound disturbingly like I’m “blaming the victim” here, but perhaps devs should be held responsible for what’s hidden in their code. Paradoxically, as games have gotten more complex, it’s become more common to break them open like C++ piñatas and look at all the unused pieces. It may be time to start putting more care into what pieces we leave laying around before somebody gets hurt. In the meantime, I think this particular instance should serve as a warning.

That’s my take on it all, anyway. Thanks for reading! If you’ll excuse me, I need to see if GameStop is taking pre-orders on “Oculus Rift Celebrity Sex Sim!” And the developers can feel free to use “end goal of our culture” as a box quote!

Fun Fact: sometimes a blog idea hits me when I’m writing something else, and I’ll just start writing in whatever word doc I have open. This whole entry ended up being in the file “Hidden Gems.docx.” Make your own joke.

-Gespenst-  +   835d ago
Yeah, having a highly accurate representation of your naked body floating about for all kinds of pervs to ogle isn't really to be desired. Particularly if you never actually gave your consent. Also, lets get real, it's probably near EXACTLY what Page looks like naked.

People hacked Heavy Rain, so why didn't QD anticipate that the same would be done to Beyond? They must have known. That or they thought it wouldn't happen again. That begs the question as to why they left in such unseen details. They're completely unnecessary, and exactly what hackers look for. The shower scene almost seems to serve the purpose of titillating those very hackers: "Here's a scene where page is naked. Go on, you know you want to." Otherwise it's a pretty superfluous scene. It's just all very sinister
SnakeCQC  +   835d ago
Exactly this.
No FanS Land  +   835d ago
WOW! this is quite easily the best blog I've ever read on N4G. Kudos sir.

This is pretty tough to draw a line on though.

It's gray zone. Sometimes it's seen as offensive, sometimes it's accepted.

But you have a valid point, why is the completely nude model on the disc?
Bladesfist  +   834d ago
I am pretty sure that if they have this asset on disk without Ellen Page's permission then it could be taken to court.
Evil_Abed  +   834d ago
Are you a professional writer? No? You sir are wasting your talent. Yes? It shows!
Juste_Belmont  +   834d ago
No one complained about the character models in Heavy Rain, even though they were modeled on real actors too. I understand why Ellen Page would be upset, but she knows that it isn't her real body. The other actors from Heavy Rain probably didn't appreciate their nude avatars popping up either, but they didn't react the same way as Ellen Page.

Her case for a lawsuit ultimately depends on the terms of her contract and legal interpretations of it, but I wasn't too excited to see "real actors" in a video game and this is part of the reason why. Most "A-list" actors care more about their image than their work, while the actors like the ones who worked on Heavy Rain are just thankful to have opportunities to work. Being difficult on a set, or in a game studio for that matter, can prevent you from getting future work if you aren't established yet. I'll be surprised if Ellen Page works in video games again any time soon, but maybe she'd prefer it that way.
-Gespenst-  +   834d ago
Is a photograph of her naked body real? No, it's a piece of paper with a image of her body printed on it, but it's still exactly what she looks like naked.

Is a nearly 100% accurate rendering of her naked body with computer graphics technology and mocap real? No, it's light and code. But it's still nearly exactly what she looks like naked.

If she doesn't want images of her naked body free for all to download and see, then she has every right to complain. What's the alternative? she just shuts up and deals with it? I don't see what there is to love about a naked image of yourself floating around gaming circles for gamers to masturbate over. I don't think it should be allowed to become a thing that game developers sneakily put things in their games against the wishes or without the knowledge of anyone involved, particularly in cases of shit like this.

And who's to say the actress who played Madison wasn't upset with the similar thing that happened in Heavy Rain? I just get the impression that QD just doesn't tell the actresses they're doing this, which is kind of not on. Either the actress who played Madison was upset but just didn't have the legal power to do anything about it (maybe the law was even a little bit sexist back then, idk), or maybe she didn't care. But if she didn't care, I hope the reason wasn't because she just wanted to arouse male players. I hope it was just a personal, self-determined bodily pride, not a sexual pandering to men and to the male gaze.

Page clearly isn't impressed by QD's putting her naked image in the game without consulting her first. Her body is hers to command and it belongs to her. QD essentially took it, abstracted it and undressed it behind her back. Not in reality, but in representation. Which is obviously not AS bad, but it's still bad nevertheless.
Juste_Belmont  +   834d ago
Since the image is from the game, is the body depicted Ellen Page's or is it Jodie's? As far as we know, it was only Ellen Page's face that was motion captured for use in the game, not her body, so the body isn't hers.

Is it creepy that QD makes nude models that are anatomically correct? Yes, in my opinion, but they chose to make their characters that way and Ellen Page is responsible to know that information and ask if she has any concerns. I doubt that she was unaware of the inclusion of a shower scene, and she should have asked about her character's model if she had any concerns at that time. She chose to work with QD, and if she did so without researching their previous work and the fact that their models for Heavy Rain were anatomically correct, then she bears some fault for her decision to work with them, knowing their history.

If she signed a contract that clears QD from any wrongdoing, then she's also out of luck legally, but if she has a case, then she'll be able to collect damages. Either way, the images are out there and they do not depict her actual body unless she gave them the images that they are using. If I were in her position, I would simply state the fact that it isn't my actual body in the game and that I'll have to do more research and make sure I know where my face is going in the future. She bears some responsibility for this too, as she agreed to work for QD and didn't ask any questions about what exactly they were planning to do with her image. It was creepy of QD, but she decides who she works with.
-Gespenst-  +   834d ago
I'd agree, only she did mocap her full body for the game with the exception of the fights and major action scenes. Youtube videos and interviews abound. It still wouldn't be unproblematic if it was a different actress and she too was unaware. However, it's Page filing the lawsuit, not a body double. I still think she'd have grounds for such a thing anyhow, even if it was just her head on a different body. It's not the same but in a lot of ways, it may as well be. They would have, after all, hired a person with a highly similar body type. All that is moot though since, like I say, she did extensive mocapping for the game.

I agree that she should have done her research on Heavy Rain, but we can't blame the victim here. QD in the first place should've had the decency not to include such an extraneous thing which as far as I can see, only exists as an easter egg for pervy hackers. That said, if she had known, she could have requested that they not include a full rendering of her nude body. Then again, even though she neglected to research QD's history, should she really have to? In any normal case, no one should have no reason to expect their image to be used in such a way. It's kind of a breach of an unspoken, assumed trust, I mean it's common decency really. You say Page should have inquired more, but should QD should have asked for Page's permission? I think it's pretty outrageous that they didn't.

Also, how does this reflect on the industry? How many actors and actresses are going to have to stipulate against this to developers from now on? I think QD have done a huge disservice to developers everywhere, but I suppose the ramifications remain to be seen, and it depends on how much of a scandal this really becomes.
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Juste_Belmont  +   834d ago
Hopefully, this will create a precedent for exactly what is expected in terms of someone's image being used in a video game so that it doesn't come up again. QD may have thought they had carte blanche to do whatever they wanted because she had agreed to their using her image, but we don't know for sure. I guess we'll find out if this goes to trial.
SeraphimBlade  +   834d ago

(sorry, I just finished Ace Attorney 5...)

The nudity in Heavy Rain was intentional. Madison's strip scene went full-frontal in the European version (or so I'm told, but I clearly remember reading that was the case in preview builds,) and, as stated, the review copies allowed users to fully view the models on purpose. The game WAS hacked but only to bring the nude models into regular gameplay. The audience was not seeing anything new as they did with Beyond's hack.

The difference lies in the actors being told "your character is going to be nude in this scene" and "your character is going to be nude, but the audience won't see anything private." Again, I don't know what they told her, but given the reaction, I assume it was the latter.

If a game were cracked to see me naked, I'd want to do something about it and hold someone responsible. And I would REALLY want to know why the devs rendered Olympus Mons. If a game were cracked to see me naked MORE, assuming I knew and agreed I'd be rendered naked to see normally, I'd just be flattered. :)

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