The WitcherIt's no secret that American culture is a little touchy when it comes to nudity of the female variety. Funcom was taken aback during "Nipple Gate," and it hasn't been that long since gamers were taking Fox News to task about "Mass Effect."

Games usually avoid sex. It's largely an American taboo, however, so it doesn't necessarily follow that developers don't want to explore it. We asked Michal Kicinski, CEO of CD Projekt, the European studio behind PC's "The Witcher," to discuss his experiences designing a game with sexual elements and bringing it to the US.

"The Witcher" isn't a very sexual game -- it's about chopping up monsters -- but it does allow player to have sex far more often than the singular encounter in BioWare's tale.

"In Europe we are quite used to see many forms of sexual expression in fine art, books, films and even on television," said Kicinski in an e-mail interview with Multiplayer. "The games are not seen much differently then. In order to see sexual references or various forms of sexual acts (although softer ones) we never had to cross over into pay-per-view TV or head off to the seedy part of town."

"If we stay within the limits of good taste, without being explicit, we had always known that whatever we showed in The Witcher would be acceptable for our target, mature audience without banning us to some kind of 'porn' games ghetto."

Game developers preparing a game that includes sexual content for release in America face difficult options. On one hand, they could produce the sexually explicit content and hope it sails through the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, but that's risky and potentially expensive. On the other hand, they could practice self-censorship and accept the nature of American culture. CD Projekt tried a little of both with "The Witcher" and produced a unique version for the US that removed full-frontal nudity.

The US isn't the only place that requires censoring, however. The version of "The Witcher" released in Germany, for example, featured toned down violence. The demands in each territory are different, as well. "The European version was less censored and in Russia, for example," said Kicinski. "Journalists were demanding even more nudity!"

Gamers probably wouldn't argue with that kind of logic, but read on to find out why Kicinski believes more censorship may be in store for "The Witcher."

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Age of Conan: Hyborian AdventuresFuncom's upcoming M-rated MMO "Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures" caused quite a stir last week when the game's community manager said the US version wouldn't feature nipples, due to legal reasons.

The studio later flip-flopped, however, and declared the announcement a miscommunication; the US version would, indeed, have nipples. More specifically, players could choose to remove everything above the waist on their female avatars, thereby exposing their breasts (complete with nipples, obviously) to the other human players in "Age of Conan."

Gamers may have rejoiced at the prospect of virtual titillation, but Multiplayer wanted some basic answers: why even bother putting nipples in "Age of Conan"? After "Mass Effect," is Funcom risking a mainstream backlash? Did everyone read "nipple" in the headlines and overreact?

For more, we contacted Funcom Product Manager Jorgen Tharaldsen, who also works as a freelance journalist. He just returned from a vacation to Iran covering extreme sports. "Since the very first meetings we had about where to take Age of Conan we were extremely clear on the fact that we were NOT about speculating on sex and violence. We wanted to be about bringing the true Conan experience to the gamers out there, and we have always been clear on that," said Tharaldsen in an e-mail exchange with Multiplayer.

He has a point. Robert E. Howard's mythical universe is filled with scantily clad women -- case in point, the vast majority of "Conan the Barbarian" comic covers feature barely clothed damsels in distress. Conan's not wearing very much, either.

"This is the most hardcore Conan story of all," reads an Amazon.com review of "Conan the Barbarian" novel The Conquering Sword of Conan. "Dr. Freud would have field day with this. Graphic violence, deviant sex, sadomasochism; all are here in full display."

Tharaldsen takes several opportunities to point out that if such displays of nudity are par for the course in the Conan world, their appearance in a game based on that material makes sense, too. Nonetheless, he readily admits Funcom practiced restraint when implementing nudity into "Age of Conan," and expresses some frustration over the United States' response to what Funcom internally refers to as "nipplegate."

What does he mean by that? Read on to find out.

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chunli.jpgIt is amazing how a few recent gaming announcements have had a unique effect on me.

No, it wasn't the fact that the Xbox 360 HD DVD Drive was price-dropped (again). And, no, surprisingly it was none of the recent leaked info on "Mario Kart" for the Wii. It was actually news about a genre that seems to fade a little more each and every year, as well as the characters within it...

By now most gamers are aware that "Street Fighter IV" has been announced. If you happened to miss yesterday's leaked Famitsu news, a few more original characters have been added to the roster: E. Honda, Dhalsim, and Chun-Li, the last of which was extremely important for me to hear. Why?

Because Chun-Li matters.

You see, my dear Multiplayer friends, I have had an ongoing infatuation with Chun-Li since I first laid my hands on a SNES controller (I was too young to be hanging around at the arcades back in those days). Chun-Li was my first gaming crush, and she has shaped the way I look at and play fighting games ever since the early '90s.

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Cooper Lawrence(Below is the beginning of a report filed at MTVNews.com.)

Nearly a week after slamming the Xbox 360 role-playing game "Mass Effect" on Fox News for its sexual content, author and psychology expert Cooper Lawrence backed down on some of her comments and took gamers to task for their chosen method of revenge.

Lawrence's response followed several days of Internet frenzy that made her the most disliked person in the video game blogosphere and resulted in several hundred scathing reviews of her newest book on Amazon. While Lawrence hasn't completely retracted her comments, she has offered some clarification.

"In hindsight, I would have liked to have had the opportunity to play this game before appearing on the program," Lawrence said in a statement released to MTV News by her publicist. "As a developmental-psychology expert, I was asked to appear on this particular show to discuss the broader issue of video games and their impact on developing adolescents, not as an expert on 'Mass Effect.' "

Read the rest of this story at MTVNews.com

Throughout the week the team at Kotaku and just about everywhere else that writes about games on the Internet have been covering the report on Fox News' "Live Desk With Martha MacCallum" about the sexual content in "Mass Effect."

I know that sex scene -- at least a version of it. A few weekends ago, under my Xbox 360 control, one Samus Shepard had sex with a bisexual alien woman near the end of my 29 hours and 24 minutes with the game.

Fox News reported that "Mass Effect" shows "full digital nudity and sex." And to any Fox News viewer who hasn't played the game, it may well have seemed like it has quite a lot of it. A panelist who participated in a round-table discussion following Fox News' report described the game as "Luke Skywalker meets 'Debbie Does Dallas.'" That didn't quite square with how I remembered the game, nor with Spike TV gaming reporter Geoff Keighley who said, in the segment, that it was wrong. Fox's MacCallum even read a statement from Microsoft saying that the description of the content was "inaccurate."

Still, the report was headlined "'SE'XBOX" and focused on why allegedly inappropriate sexual content was being marketed to kids.

Gamers got angry about this. So did Electronic Arts, new-found owners of "Mass Effect" developer BioWare.

(Note: Responses from both Fox News and EA follow below)

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brendabrathwaite.jpgContinuing Multiplayer's special week-long series of "Women Working in Games" is an interview with game designer, author and professor Brenda Brathwaite.

After speaking with two journalists, "X-Play"'s Morgan Webb and Game Girl Advance's Jane Pinckard, and another game developer, Ubisoft's Elspeth Tory, I also really wanted to talk to Brathwaite because of her experience in the industry. She is the "longest-serving woman in computer games," with 26 years under her belt, and she's also the chair and founder of the International Game Developers Association's Sex Special Interest Group. Brathwaite has extensively studied and worked on sexually-themed video games, such as "Playboy: The Mansion," and written a book on the subject titled "Sex in Video Games." With her experience and expertise in the industry, I figured that she would have a lot of interesting things to say to about her personal experiences as a woman in gaming over the years.

I caught up with the 41 year-old trailblazer on the phone last week. We covered a lot. Here's just one highlight from the long interview that follows:

Brathwaite: Sheri [Graner Ray] in this lecture, she gives has an amazingly great slide of these hyper-sexualized men. And they're not even fully hyper-sexualized. If they were really hyper-sexualized , they'd probably be showing something you wouldn't show in a large auditorium to people. With this hyper-sexualized male characters, I love to look at the audience and watch how they react. The men are like, "Agh, would you get this off?" And the women are pleasantly surprised like," Finally, something for us to look at." And it's always amusing to me to see people's responses to this. And as a gamer who has been a gamer forever, if I see a woman in a thong in a game, honestly I don't even think twice, because I'm so used to it at this point.

Read on for more of Brathwaite's anecdotes, including how she's hopeful for women getting into the industry, the weirdness of working on a "Playboy" game, being the first pregnant woman at her company, and what it's like to be mistaken for a booth babe.

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