-[The Aberrant Gamer is a weekly, somewhat NSFW column by Leigh Alexander, dedicated to the kinks and quirks we gamers tend to keep under our hats-- those predilections and peccadilloes less commonly discussed in conventional media.]

It was the eighties, and our eight-bit protagonists didn't give us too much to chew on. Who they were, why they were, wasn't deeply explained, and didn't really need to be. The elaborate discussions of character and story we're fond of (or sick of) today would've been ludicrous, infeasible. And yet, somehow, there was room for one of the most arresting character revelations of all time, one that goes down in generally accepted history as one of gaming's most singular moments.

Samus Aran undressed, and a generation fell to its knees.

This 1UP article documents our twenty-year relationship with the silent hunter in far more detail than this column has space to address, but it doesn't answer the question of why. Metroid is a space action game with aliens and pirates, not a psychological essay in character development; the drama revolves around the alien threat, the treacherous terrain, the ubiquitous destruction countdowns - less on the story of the girl at its center. You get more personal information from a generic townsperson NPC in any RPG than silent Samus has offered us in two decades. And yet, perhaps to spite the relative lack of information, fans prize her more dearly than all of the other more gratuitously rendered, more vocal, more revealing (in every sense) game females we've been offered since - Samus is more beloved than most male heroes, too.

Miracle of miracles - could a woman in full-body armor and a helmet be sexier than all the rest? Could it be we don't need breast physics to fall in love?

Perhaps the idea of "falling in love" is a little too rich for the blood of some when we're talking about video game characters. But surely it's a very real idea to others; countless fansites still exist, after all, for characters from games that have been out for so long that those who were in middle school when they played them are working adults now. Zelda, Aeris, Lara. Ghaleon.

-With love, of course, comes sexual fascination; you'll get an entirely different set of image results from Google if you turn off the default "safe search" when entering these names. Video game porn is as common as video games, from the sophisticated doujinshi drawn by Japanese professionals to the obscenely deformed, pencil-on-lined-paper atrocities drawn by artists who (hopefully) can't be older than young teens. That it's possible to find porn of anything and everything is one of the "rules of the internet," after all, and so erotic designs of Samus Aran certainly exist in plentitude. But there's a certain reverence reserved for the Chozo daughter, an uncommon hesitance to portray her with all manner of unimaginable objects in her orifices - more hesitance, at least, than that with which the girls of Soul Calibur are treated.

Could it be because the almost ever-present Varia suit leaves so much to the imagination that a single portrayal of Samus in flagrante is difficult to pin down? Maybe it's that, without some element of the suit (and it must be tough to draw) she's somewhat more difficult to recognize - after all, despite her imposing height, she looks pretty much like an unremarkably-featured woman -- thereby defeating the purpose of portraying her that way? Any explanation is possible, but the one I'd prefer is that it's respect, after all these years, for the solidly reliable, fearless hunter who couldn't resist rescuing a baby Metroid in one of the most significant glimpses we've gotten into her nature - maternal.

-There are any number of reasons why porn of video game characters is such a boom on the internet. Simple brain chemistry dictates that if we see a human being - or even something we feel is one, like a game character - in front of our eyes often enough, our brains will start to recognize it as a friend, which means we personalize it and develop affection for it. Sexualization is a rational next step. Games also let us step outside ourselves; one of the many reasons they're appealing is that we can live in a do-anything universe (it's safe to disagree with most politicians and say those of us who enjoy GTA are not at all likely to commit auto theft and robbery anytime in our lives); therefore, undressing the characters is a logical extension that, not given the opportunity to do so within the game, we take into our own hands.

Once in a while I check the recent keywords that have led people to my blog, Sexy Videogameland, in my stat counter. Samus is a popular search- but her name is rarely paired with baser words; instead, her fans appear to be looking for those classic Samus glimpses, as if they were altars to her significance. People are crazy about Samus' relatively revealing Smash Bros. pictures - even the usually-jaded games media isn't immune, as Kotaku's Michael McWhertor admits to being so preoccupied with Miss Aran's hind end he missed the E3 revelation of Solid Snake in that game last year. Lately, though, the clear favorite search has been for Persona 3 hentai. The older, sexier upperclassman Mitsuru Kirijo isn't nearly as popular as the vaguely obnoxious, stubborn Yukari Takeba; in other words, it's safe to make the assertion that people are more interested in pornography of less likeable characters, rather than those they love.

-And love Samus, we do in spades. In Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, the latest installment of Samus' adventures, we still don't hear her speak - decisively, that's for the best, since after so many years of creating her identity individually in our minds, nearly every Metroid fan would be let down somehow. In fact, the 1UP article quotes fans who suggest we've already seen too much as it is, like Victorian prudes protecting a noblewoman.

She's not gonna get naked - you can quit holding your breath. But Prime 3 is played from her first-person perspective; looking at her eyes reflected on the inside of the helmet's visor almost feels intimate. It's about as close as you can be to getting inside Samus Aran's Varia suit - after twenty years, that's good enough.

[Leigh Alexander is the editor of Worlds in Motion and writes for Destructoid, Paste, Gamasutra and her blog, Sexy Videogameland. She can be reached at leigh_alexander1 AT yahoo DOT com.]