Industry legend Hideo Kojima and his newest game, Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain have been sharply criticised for what he first described as a “more erotic” redesign of female sniper Quiet.
The Metal Gear series has often been applauded for its nuanced and idiosyncratic character design. From the elegant design of ‘Cyborg Ninja’ and ‘Psycho Mantis’ to the Metal Gears themselves, the series has always differentiated itself from its peers with quirky character design that does not strictly adhere to the gritty realism usually present in the genre.
Speaking on this English Twitter account Kojima discussed the sexier approach to the design of certain characters. “I’ve been ordering Yoji [Shinkawa] to make the character more erotic[…] The initial target it to make [you] want to do cosplay or its figurine to sell well.”
These comments did raise something of an Internet storm in form of fans deriding Kojima for his willful objectification of women, whilst other fans defended him and applauded him for his openness.
One high profile critic of Quiet’s “more erotic” redesign was Halo designer David Ellis. Also speaking on his Twitter account, Ellis said,
“Don’t care if this gets me in trouble. This character design is disgusting. Our industry should be better than this.”
Kojima later clarified his comments during an interview with Polygon. “Maybe the phrase ‘erotic’ wasn’t really [the correct word for] what I was trying to say,” Kojima said through a translator. “What I’m really trying to do is create unique characters. One of those is, of course, Quiet. She’s a really unique character, I wanted to add that sexiness to her. It wasn’t really supposed to be erotic, but sexy.””
Yoji Shinkawa also added some clarity to the subject, “”From my perspective, it’s not just the characters, but often I look at a weapon or a vehicle and think ‘That’s really sexy,'” Shinkawa said. “It’s not just the characters, but the mechs and weapons [as well.]”
The Internet backlash on this subject is understandable and in this instance, much of the derision stems not from the fact that there are sexualised character designs present in the industry but rather, that a developer has been so frank and open as to why a sexualised design has been chosen.
Whilst it may certainly be true that sex sells in this and many other entertainment forms it is something of an elephant in the games room. Kojima will not have been the first games designer to ask for sexier or “more erotic” redesigns nor will he be the last. Hyper-sexualised males and females are commonplace in the industry and whilst there are arguments to be made for and against the use of such character designs, the discussion should be ongoing.
As such, Kojima’s openness regarding all aspects of his working life on Twitter reignites a very necessary argument.
Any derision Kojima is met with from other game developers can be seen to be hypocritical in that there are few developers that can claim to have pushed forward with nuanced approaches to female character design that do not rely on sexualisation or exaggerated stereotypes.
Taking David Ellis as an example, the principal female character in the Halo series that he works on also uses the sexualised female form as the core of its design. Cortana has, in spite of her being an A.I, been designed to appeal to a male viewer – by all intents and purposes, Cortana is naked throughout the Halo series and her breasts and posterior have notably increased in size in Halo 4.
There is no doubt that the industry has a problem with overly sexualised depictions of women. However, the response by developers should not be one of finger pointing but rather, the development of characters that do not adhere to the rather adolescent fantasies with which the industry is saturated.