Some Games Are Just Asking For “Rule 34”

In Features by Ashley WoodLeave a Comment

(Warning: If you’re under the age of 18, this article isn’t for you as the content it discusses is for adults.)

If you’ve been on the internet you’ve probably seen some Overwatch fanart.  If you’ve been on Reddit, or especially if you’ve been on Tumblr, then you’ve seen some Overwatch Rule 34.  But why is there so much of it?  For starters, those of you who don’t know what Rule 34 is and would like for your innocent minds not to be spoiled, turn away now. Viewer discretion is advised.

Those of you who are well aware of the depths of the internet know that Rule 34 is this: “If it exists, there is porn of it.” You can find sexy fanart of just about anything or anyone, if you are brave enough, with a quick Google search.  Rule 34 is so limitless that each week Funhaus ends their YouTube series, Demo Disk, by searching for Rule 34 of everything they talked about during the show. This has resulted in the discovery of Rule 34 versions of Alan Moore, airplanes, Space Jam, Wolverine, Dragon Ball Z, and Legos.

Rule 34 has saturated the internet, but anyone familiar with it would recognize that far more Rule 34 exists of some characters than others.  Overwatch is an excellent example of this phenomenon.  Despite the fact that Overwatch and Call of Duty are both multiplayer first-person shooters, there is a far more limited selection of Call of Duty fanart than that of Overwatch.  There was even Overwatch Rule 34 before the Overwatch Beta was released and Blizzard had just teased the character art.

This trend can be attributed partially to the fact that Overwatch features a cast of distinctive characters, each with their own style and detailed backstory.  Every person can find at least one Overwatch character that they relate to on a more than superficial level.  In contrast, games like Call of Duty feature generic soldiers with little or no personality.  None of the playable characters in Call of Duty are visually distinctive from another.  While you can still find Rule 34 of characters from Call of Duty, it is often NPCs from the main campaign or just images of a typical soldier, and the selection is far more limited.

Overwatch features robots, a hyper-intelligent gorilla, characters of various sexual orientations and national origins, and unlimited possibilities for future additions to the roster.  Blizzard also releases a steady stream of new skins and events that inspire a consistent flow of new fanart.  Each of these playable characters have relationships tied to the Overwatch story and universe, with specific voice lines that reference either their love, animosity, or indifference to their teammates.  This level of detail allows players to grow an affinity for the characters that can serve as an inspiration for their art.

Some artists, like the incredibly talented @dandonfuga, maintain large communities of fans that can contribute to a Patreon to help support the artists’ work.  @Dandonfuga offers safe-for-work versions of the fanart on social media and saves the NSFW for patrons through Patreon.

On the other end of the spectrum of Rule 34 are games that inspire fanart for more practical reasons.  One form of animated pornographic material involves tentacles, and if you don’t know what I’m referring to then you probably shouldn’t go look it up.  So, when Nintendo announced Splatoon, the internet immediately imploded at the perceived fanservice from the kid-friendly game studio.

Splatoon fanart and Rule 34 requires very little manipulation of the original content to create some highly questionable material. Sometimes even screenshots of the game just need an added caption to qualify as NSFW.  Recently, Splatoon 2 hosted one of their themed Splatfests, which this time happened to be “Ketchup versus Mayo.” The ink used in this battle was switched to the colors of the indicated condiments and produced some hilarious reactions from around the internet… for obvious reasons.

The good thing about all Rule 34 and NSFW fanart is that it is only there if you look for it.  Sometimes you don’t have to look very hard, but it serves a specific audience and if it’s not for you, it can add a little shock value to your internet experience.  I am not going to touch on the more unsavory aspects of Rule 34 because I’ve already built up a lengthy and disturbing search history on my computer just for this article.  But the takeaway is that some games are just better at capturing a certain type of attention from their audience than others.  The internet is full of talented artists that will continue to take up the Rule 34 gauntlet and show us things we could never imagine.

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Ashley Wood
I play games on all of the consoles, as well as on the PC. I give Blizzard most of my money. Direct message me on Twitter if you want to play with someone of varying skill in WoW, HOTS, or Overwatch.

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