Saints Row: The Third Has Lots Of Boom, But Why All The Jiggle?

Dear Volition/THQ, I'm really looking forward to Saints Row: The Third. While I didn't much enjoy the original Saints Row, Saints Row 2 was one of the most entertaining open city games I've played, and by the looks of the trailers for the third game, it's heading even further in the direction of anarchic fun that so delighted me. So I really want to ask you to reconsider your current marketing strategies.

This weekend you announced your "quality assurance team" for Saints Row: The Third, in the form of Penthouse Pets Heather Vandeven, Justine Joli, Heidi Baron, Shay Laren, Ryan Keely and Nikki Benz. You accompanied this with puns that suggested sexual interaction with the player, such as their involvement promising "to ensure a satisfying Saints Row experience whether playing alone or with a friend".

I understand that the development team, and the game itself, believes in the philosophy of equal opportunity offending, where all targets are considered fair game. While I take issue with this way of thinking — as I believe it ignores the hundreds/thousands of years of subjugation of very many distinct groups, be they by race, gender, sexuality or wealth, from a position of predominantly white, male, middle-class luxury — I understand this is the perceived justification behind the antics that accompany the series' publicity.

I think such publicity betrays the content of the game itself. When I played Saints Row 2, I played as a strong, confident Hispanic woman, who made up one of extremely few such female characters in all of gaming. And while of course the game contained depictions of women as gormless bikini-clad bimbos, they were among a cast of other strong women, and as such appeared in context as a parody of a particular group. Not a particularly brilliant parody, nor perhaps an entirely helpful one, but certainly one within the above-mentioned philosophy.

However, despite the variety within your games, the notion of women being anything other than a transporting mechanism for breasts seems to be absent without. Attending the surprisingly wet and chilly E3 this year, and finding that the car park's sponsorship by Saints Row: The Third included a group of shivering models in purple bikinis required to perform the service of washing your car for you… well, it rather stuck in my craw. The sight of those poor women in their skimpy swimwear, in the middle of LA's grimy, grey interior on a grimy, grey day, did not endear me toward your game.

Your lead producer, Greg Donovan, states that the Penthouse models have been hired because of "a number of key factors". These are:

  • their passion for Saints Row
  • their sense of style and Saints Row attitude
  • their desire to give every player a unique, over-the-top, unforgettable experience

"In the end," he continues, "their selfless efforts are going to put a lot of smiles on a lot of faces."

I do not know if any of the models listed are fans of Saints Row. I have no way of knowing. It would seem, to me, a large coincidence if all these Penthouse regulars happened to be into the games. Not impossible, certainly. But I'm still going to go out on a limb and guess that their "passion for Saints Row" may not have existed before their first pay cheque. What is less ambiguous, however, is the suggestion that their alleged involvement in the QA process of Saints Row: The Third will result in some sort of sexual gratification for the player. I would contend that their involvement at this level of the game's development could carry over the sexual suggestions implied via their being people who regularly pose naked for pornographic magazines. It seems also worth questioning whether their participation is entirely "selfess". Are they not being paid for their work? This would seem like serious exploitation were it the case.

It seems from your recent press release that you intend to release DLC in the future that features these women. You say this is "a rare homage to the dedicated developers charged with quality assurance," which you say has previously been a "thankless" job. This does seem a touch insulting to your genuine QA team, and also concerns me that this marketing angle will indeed be influencing the game.

I am not convinced that through these marketing techniques, which some may consider somewhat exploitative of and disrespectful toward women, accurately reflect your game, nor promote it in a useful way. While I do not doubt that there is a significant contingent of potential players who will be attracted to damp, servile women in bikinis, or porn stars pretending to work on the game, I can say that as one person I find myself put off a game I'm otherwise extremely excited to play. You do yourselves a significant disservice when your marketing suggests your game is unsophisticated, masturbatory material, when it is in fact wild, anarchic mayhem and gleefully violent nonsense.

Yours sincerely, John Walker

John Walker is a writer for Rock Paper Shotgun, one of the world's best sites for PC gaming news. Follow him on Twitter.

Republished with permission.


    Got half way and gave up reading. If you don't like the games direction, don't play it.

      I think the point was that the games marketing was the issue, and wasn't particularly representative of the games direction.

      I agree. why have a sook over sexual contents in a game like this. possibly just a homosexual gamer who is disgusted by females.

        I think that's going a bit far. No need to attack the writer personally if you don't agree with him.

        Personally I do agree with many of the sentiments here, I think the piece is being a little overly sensitive and a 'sex sells' attitude seems to fit perfectly with this game. I'm not for the exploitation of women, and not really trying to defend it, but I don't really see this as it.

        I am kind of curious though why nobody every worries about the exploitation of men? If you think every girl in this game is a walking pair of boobs, every man is a walking pile of muscles and testosterone.

      lol i like how the Author is if booth babes haven't been a thing for the past FOREVER! Now you decide to call saints row out on it because they have porn stars doing it? Chill the f out. Ya silly goose you.

    This article is incredibly American."Oh noes, they're implying there is sexual content in the game. Or that the audience might buy the game for it's sex appeal. Never mind you can rape a man to death with a broom."

    It's Saints Row. Any sense of "strong" women you might have read into the 2 was all in your head.

      Funnily enough, the article was written (prior to being republished here) by an Englishman, for a primarily English website (although it does have a large contingent of American readers).

        I really should have checked that - I feel like an idiot. However, I still stand by my comment that this is the kind of inconsistent attitude to sex and violence common to America.

          Agreed about the American attitude towards sex when compared to violence.

          However I didn't interpret the article in the same was as you it seems. To me it was very against this particular marketing stunt, and not the content of the game at all (in fact the Author stated that he's really looking forward to the game and thus, it's content).

          The fact that marketing is meant to reflect the product (and in turn, the developers), and yet this is how they're choosing to present it, when the author feels that the game is so much more than just tits'n'ass.

          IF you wanna talk about common, how bout the fact you just acted like a common english dick!

    I thought the article was pretty even handed in doling out the admiration and condemnation for the game. The franchise does veery wildly between empowering and exploiting it's female characters. It was also pretty bang on that the over emphasis on juvenile marketing white washes whats probably going to be a great game in it's own right.

    Due to it's parade of T&A and porn star spokes persons I kind of avoided Saints Row 2 at first, mainly out of embarrassment, and only discovered recently how brilliant a game it is.

    Has the world gotten that freakin' boring that silly, childish fun has to always be frowned upon?

    What happened to the days of people not taking everything so damn seriously?

    Any game that lets you wack someone with a giant dildo should be seen as what it is; FUN!

    It's juvanile, nonsensicle fun, stop reading into things that aren't there for such things. If you want to complain about the use of women in this virtual environment, or the real life women (who applied for the job and obviously love what they do), then I think you should probably look to the factories that created the components in the computer you wrote this on, or even the clothes on your back.

    While normally a big fan of RPS, I'd agree that this article was a little too righteous.
    However, I do find this particular marketing stunt to be pretty damn insulting to me as a gamer (and a male).

    I'm excited about Saints Row 3 by it's own gameplay strengths, I don't need (or want) some irrelevant pornstar marketing stunt and some equally bullshit statement about their "passion for Saints Row" that just insults my intelligence.

    But then I've never been a fan of Zoo magazines marketing either...

    While I can understand your general sentiment John, I think it's a tad misplaced. Saints Row is only ever going to be College Humour level, that's the market, that's their style.

    In Sydney there was recently an event with barely clothed male models advertising something, t'was fucking freezing out there. But they chose to do it, it appeals to some kind of demographic, everyone gets paid and no one gets hurt. Those with more than 5 brain cells to rattle around know it's appealing to the lowest common denominator.

    Also the whole "insulting to the QA team" angle, I think any QA guy/gal who gets offended or feels unappreciated after that comment needs a swift kick in the arse. It's obviously a gag, anyone who takes it seriously should learn to unclench.

    Also anything portrayed in any Saints Row game has NOTHING on any number of Japanese games where girls are, almost literally, just a huge pair of wobbling tits to be fucked/fought or (most disturbingly...) bought dinner.

    Saints Row at least has the decency to waggle it's eyebrows knowingly at us while unveiling it's smutty humour and mockery.

      To make a bad analogy regarding the QA testers being insulted by this stunt:

      Pretend your marketing dept decided to advertise your companies product using a monkey doing your particular job (of course pornstar =/= monkey, but I said this would be a bad analogy!). One could easily see how that may be insulting.

    Well how about a a marketing stunt where a massive bouncer guy in a purple suit forcefully shoves a saint row flyer into your chest as you walk past, would that be more acceptable?
    I think any themed marketing strategy based on a fantasy universe will have a culture clash with reality.

    All i hear is WWAAAHHH
    the only insulting part of that particular promotion is that they were car washing, when it clearly should have been quality testing of various mud wrestling rings.

    its a game that is not meant to be taken seriously, maybe the author was upset he didn't get his car "hot waxed".
    At least the depictions are of legal age not like some other games (I'm looking at you eastern games). i bet he cried about duke nukem too.

    either way the author needs to chill out, chug a beer and just plain stop whining

    How could the use of boobs possibly detract at all from a game or marketing campaign... they're boobs! Everyone loves boobs! Even other girls love boobs! Even gay guys love boobs! Man, this dude is way too serious, and if there's one thing that Saints Row isn't, it's serious. Ultimately, if he's so offended by the boobs, then he can make a stand and not buy the game.. I personally can't wait for this game and have my pre-order in!

      +1 for this guy

    I can see where John's coming from. I do kind of wish there was a card marketers could play other than the big-boobed one.

    It just feels a little stale.

    Boobs aren't one (or two) of the big things I'm looking forward too in Saints Row The Third.

    Show me more explosions and shooting people in the face! Crazy vehicles, Crazy Weapons.

    But yeah, It would be nice if there was a different marketing approach than the cliched 'Sex Sells' Why not something real serious?

    Because Saints Row is seriously stupid. In a good way.

    It would be WAY fairer with half naked guys and guy porn stars there too.
    (Saying this as a straight guy in the spirit of fairness. We get boobs to look at, they get pecs.)

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