Fan service. Well, you can see a definition here. Basically it is when an entertainment media do something with no other purpose than please their fans. Usually have no story line or character development purpose. It is done so the fans can have something to smile about.
We have two kinds. The non-sexual one, which includes cameos, references (spoken or visually) or meta-stuff (like talking to the camera/fans); and the sexual ones, like the shower scenes or the handsome, shirtless dude out of the sea.
The first kind is usually well accepted by the fans. It is rarely controversial and rarely overused. In fact, even when over used still can talk positive about the show/movie/comic/game that used it instead of derogatory.
The sexual ones… Well, those are way more complicated. Use it too much and become gratuitous. Even in small doses can raise criticism. Discovering how much and how to use it is complicated.
One of the problems is that, especially in games, fan service is more used to please the male audience. Sometimes they will get a female character, personality/story be damned, and create a situation to show some skin. It usually falls in the gratuitous kind. It is when they make the character being caught bathing/changing clothes just for the sake of it.
Japanese games do it a lot. It is the onsen (hot springs) scene or the beach scene. Many times it has no purpose other than show girls in bikini. A notable exception is Persona 3, where those sequences help to show that the characters are still highschoolers. It makes senses in the story and it is not gratuitous. Still fan service, tough.
American games do it too. Like ‘dat ass’ Miranda from Mass Effect. The tight clothes and generous camera angles in cutscenes is there to please the fans. Or Catwoman’s cleavage in Batman.
In the case of Catwoman, at first I thought as unnecessary, like that trailer for the 3DS Resident Evil. But Catwoman’s sex appeal is one of her weapons, like her athletics and smartness. Meanwhile, there is no reason to the woman in the RE trailer to unzipped her dive suit below her belly button.
In the case of women, it is harder to see this kind of fan service. I remember (unfortunately), of Will Smith’s buttocks in I, robot or Rodrigo Santoro’s scene in Charlie’s Angels second movie. Most girls I know don’t get aroused by imagery as men, so I am not sure of the effectiveness of such scenes in pleasing the female audience.
I have nothing against sexy fan service. After all, it is called fan service because it is used to please the fans. When done in right amount, in a way that make sense in the game and don’t contradict the nature of the character used in the service, it can be fun and pleasing. But when over used and gratuitous, it will make more harm than good. So that is it for my two cents today.
By the way, I crossed with this article the other day and wanted to share. In a way, it is what inspired me to do this comic.
And for the ladies: