Did THQ Over-Sexualise The Saints Row Franchise?
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Saints Row series?
Some might mention comedy, whilst others might talk about over-the-top action and ridiculous set-pieces. A few might bring up the ability to fly a personal jet in the game. But I imagine that for every person who mentions one of those, another might talk about boobs or pornstars or just hyper-sexualisation. Indeed, the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Saints Row is: “Purple Dildos.”
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Kate Nelson is the associate producer on Saints Row IV, which has moved over from THQ to a new publisher over the course of the past year. She’s recently gave an interview in which she expressed her disappointment at the sexualised marketing strategy employed by the old publisher, in order to promote the series. Specifically, she felt that the use of pornstars as marketing gimmicks “didn’t really fit in with what Saints Row is at heart.” You might remember the appearances of Tera Patrick (pictured) and Sasha Grey in previous titles.
“I did not always love how much THQ put an emphasis on porn stars,” said Nelson. “In Saints Row 2 and Saints Row: The Third there was an emphasis on the penthouse girls, and Tera Patrick. I think it’s important in marketing games to make sure that the essence of the game is what’s being marketed, and I think the porn star angle didn’t really fit in with what Saints Row is at heart, which is a parody. We like to poke fun. Saying that someone who had no industry experience was in a role that is sexualised as a producer of our project, or saying the penthouse girls are our QA staff, I just… I can see the humour in that angle of promotion.”
Nelson went on to express her belief that the Saints Row series is actually quite progressive, owing to the ability of players to create female avatars designed to look exactly how they want. “You don’t have to have a D cup either,” she said. “I think our game actually does represent women in a positive way, but the press will focus on, oh hey, there are strippers, or there’s a dildo bat – it’s unfortunate from my perspective that that doesn’t come through.”
Yes well, if you’re going to take Grand Theft Auto’s market share, then you ought to expect Grand Theft Auto’s criticisms. And one of those most definitely is the portrayal of sexual content.
Personally, I don’t think it’s that much of an issue because if Saints Row’s entire ideal if taking things over the top and having a right old laugh, then why not sexualise things a bit? I’m not saying make it gratuitous but it seems pretty clear that you’re marketing to a certain audience by using pornstars. Sure they could opt for a better-represented marketing approach, and indeed the new publisher might well opt to do just that, but it doesn’t mean the old approach wasn’t working. Or surely THQ would have suffered for– wait…