Bayonetta, Devil May Cry, and the Joy of Gratuity

How scandalous games keep us coming back

Bayonetta, Devil May Cry, and the Joy of Gratuity
Source: Bleeding Cool.

Killing things is fun. Killing things with a sexy, half-dressed character is even more fun. Killing things with a sexy, half-dressed and sharp-mouthed character is the most fun. Despite years of campaigning against violence, lewdness, and gratuity in gaming, there’s one thing that is enormously apparent:

We like our games naughty.

Every hand-wringing, pearl-clutching politician and family group talking-head under the sun has attempted to malign video games over the last thirty years for everything from the cause of school shootings to “ethically unconscionable” depictions of sexiness, and the timeline of controversies is a long one. Despite the fact that some video games go out of their way to intentionally push buttons, the vast majority of games out there are designed for one core purpose:


A Tale of Blood and Breasts

The years have only been kind to the depraved joy-havers of the internet; when it comes to games like Bayonetta and Devil May Cry, their violence and sexiness is not some aspect to be overlooked in lieu of a better gaming experience. The raunchy, depraved, utterly artistic aspects of these games are the things we revel in, and we refuse to look away, because we enjoy them.

Despite living on a planet where nuclear bombs, religious crusades, and unchecked capitalist industry have killed millions upon millions, video games somehow became saddled with the blame of humanity’s penchant for the perverse, grotesque, and violent in the modern era. In storytelling, violence creates conflict and sex creates euphoria. Gaming has, over the course of several years and countless games, figured out all sorts of new and exciting ways to tantalize us with the inappropriate and the forbidden.

“There are two things that force us to pay attention — one is violence; the other is sex. Whenever either of those are present in our environment, they have survival value for us.”

“These gamers do have an adrenaline rush, and it’s noradrenaline and it’s testosterone, and it’s cortisol — these are the so-called stress hormones. That’s exactly the same cocktail of hormones you drop into your bloodstream if I punched you.” [via NPR]

Video games now do for us what a bloody street brawl or sweaty sex session did — they relieve stress and get the heart pumping, but they deliver us the execution of these impulses in a safe and structured virtual space. Few among us want to go on a spree of mass murders, and many of us gamers are too nervous to act on our most impulsive sexual fantasies. Games like Bayonetta and Devil May Cry not only utilize the cocktail of our impulses but draw on them in a way that marries entertainment with euphoria.

Changing Our Language

I remember with a certain flinching fondness the Tumblr discourse of the early aughts. While there were many positive aspects to the once-popular shared blog (such as discussions of personhood, LGBTQ and Trans rights, capitalist critiques, political exploration, and mental health), there were more than a few deeply failed moments of puritanical discourse. One of the biggest ones happened around the release of Bayonetta and then, again, around the release of Bayonetta 2: how could a character who looks and acts like that be in any way, shape, or form a positive example of feminism?

Bre Venanzio recently published an excellent piece on this very thing, about how Bayonetta not only expertly dismantles the male gaze and weaponizes her own sexuality, but does it while being damn fun:

Everything about Bayonetta screams “I hope you like it rough” as she punches you in the face, completely naked, with her Wicked Weave.

In our era of continued discourse around bodily autonomy and feminism, post-conversation we are experiencing a rise in gamers of all different types; the gaming atmosphere is almost evenly split between male and female gamers, and when it comes to action games and RPGs, women often take the cake. If your view of female gamers is a cadre of soft-eyed folks spending their evenings on nothing but Animal Crossing, I have some news for you: women like the nasty stuff, too. And it’s not just them — any casual perusal of Twitter will showcase a variety of non-binary, genderfluid and trans folks who are all up in the games with full on action, gore, and sexiness.

Far too often we become mired in the discourse over the “worth” of a particular piece of art or entry in the medium. Bayonetta and Devil May Cry attempt to eschew this conversation entirely by being unapologetic in the way they present themselves. First and foremost they are fun action games, but the aesthetics, character design and flavor of these games metaphorically drill into our pineal glands in order to extract a sensory experience that rattles our hands and parches our tongues.


Pull My Devil Trigger

What makes games like Bayonetta and Devil May Cry just so damn appealing? Nobody needs to read through an adjective-riddled gaming essay to parse out why these games are fun — you kick, punch, slash, and shoot your way through hoards of angels and demons, all the while doing so as stylishly as possible. These games are designed to be pure fun, a gateway to carnal enjoyment that immediately transports the player away from their hum-drum existence. The creators of Devil May Cry 5 aimed to deliver a game of pure, nonstop action, and two years later with 2 million copies sold, it’s obvious they’ve succeeded. This is what the people want: nonstop, sexy, gory action set to killer soundtracks in beautiful worlds.

Devil May Cry and Bayonetta share similarities that are more than skin deep; both of the series came from the depraved mind of Resident Evil alum Hideki Kamiya (and Devil May Cry specifically began its life as a Resident Evil spin-off concept and has used the Resident Evil engines for years). Kamiya has even joked in the past about ways he would change Devil May Cry if he still worked on the series, and how if given the chance would potentially pit Dante and Bayonetta against one another in the ultimate sexy action-fest.

When designing Bayonetta’s character, lead designer Mari Shimazaki was given permission by Hideki Kamiya to go all out. When it came to finalize the concept for the nearly eight-foot tall gothic goddess, Mari-san ruminated on the process years ago:

I’m very happy with her, I had a lot of fun in the process of designing such a sexy character.

You don’t have to kick through hordes of angels and devils to uncover waves of “thirsty” fans salivating over the characters of both Devil May Cry and Bayonetta, whether it’s due to Dante’s rugged sexiness or Bayonetta’s carnal giant woman vibes. Beyond the demons exploding in fountains of gore and angels being torn apart skin layer by muscle layer, the character in these games ooze sex appeal. Bayonetta gyrates seductively both for the player-camera and the foes, completely in control of the motions of her body as she shoots and slashes her way through Paradiso’s most foul entities. Bayonetta succeed Devil May Cry’s stylishness by linking the character’s most powerful abilities with the complete removal of her clothes.

There’s nothing quite like the first time you watch Bayonetta strip down, flamboyant lighting effects tantalizingly hiding her most valuable assets as she summons demonic dragons and spiders from hell in order to rip angels apart in fountains of stylized gore.

“The designer who created Bayonetta is a female herself, so the costumes and accessories show the touch and detail that could only come from a woman’s sensibility.” [via Destructoid]

I would find it hard to believe that any gamer has ever made it through one of these gameplay segments without a big, silly smile plastered to their face. Face it — video games are just more fun when they let loose and tantalize our basest desires.

The Feel-Good Philosophy of Action

Devil May Cry has consistently upped its action over the years. Despite being twenty years removed from the first time the Son of Sparda ripped a sword out of his own chest or riddled demons with endless bullet holes, Dante and his demonic crime family are still matching the over-the-top insanity beat for beat. Devil May Cry has been evolving steadily ever since the incredible Devil May Cry 3, and the most recent Devil May Cry 5 is filled with so many ridiculous moments of gory goodness that the game is an absolute treat from its bonkers opening intro to its absurd ending. The characters aren’t trapped by gated Hollywood-action cutscenes; every single cool thing that happens on screen in Devil May Cry happens in the gameplay as well.

These sorts of no-holds-barred games have been popular for decades now, and they show no signs of slowing. The recent entries in the DOOM franchise have been met with overwhelming positivity (and they’re damn fine games to boot), and if we’ve learned anything, it’s that sex and violence sell.

There’s a sort of euphoria that happens when you get into the zone in these high difficulty games, as beautiful characters are mouthing off profanity-riddled one-liners while exterminating horrific monsters in fountains of gore.

When it came to backing the design philosophies of Devil May Cry 5, Hideaki Itsuno wanted to make an action game that anyone could sink their teeth into:

“I wanted to make a good-feeling action game. Something that was really, really challenging!”

This simple but profound design philosophy is what has kept Devil May Cry and Bayonetta firmly in the hearts of gamers for years. These games know what they are and want they want to do, and damn you if you try and make them apologize for that. Despite all the lewdness and gore (or, perhaps, because of it) there is an emotional heart beating at the core of these titles that resonates with every person who experiences them. The action sequences and sexy characters do more than surge our tired souls with adrenaline — they make is happy.

Maybe we’re all a little depraved. Maybe it’s beyond time to admit that — maybe it’s time to be proud of it. There’s no shame in enjoying a sexy character or enjoying in a little virtual violence. This debauchery is an important aspect of the medium, and it’s never going anywhere.

Naughty games are fun.


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