So recently in the gaming realm, we’ve had a little bit of controversy surrounding the development of Metal Gear Solid V and, in particular, the character Quiet. This is a tale of a game designer that is pretty much designing the way he always has, mixed with the outcry of a small, but vocal, group within both the industry and the gaming fanbase.
What’s interesting about this particular issue is that, really, the character design of Quiet doesn’t fit the taste of some people. No joke here. I mean, yeah, she is a little scantily clad, but Kojima’s had sexual references all throughout the Metal Gear Solid series. Players should, by this point, come to expect a little bit of lewdness from the franchise.
Having sexualised characters is nothing new in video games and, actually, come to think of it, sexy female characters that kick more ass than the average hyper-macho gorilla is pretty much a staple in gaming. And, as Kojima was alluding to in his tweets about the designs of Quiet, Cosplayers (that is women (in this instance) that dress as female characters for fun) tend to love dressing as these characters at conventions. This same crowd is also the same one that buys figures of their favourite characters. And really, why shouldn’t they? Strong, independent, female characters are the current role-models for a generation of women and making them sexy is even more appealing.
So when Hideo Kojima was designing this character, he wasn’t designing her for basement dwelling losers (seriously this is a stereotype that needs to die as well, someone cap me for even perpetuating it here) to vigorously fap their junk to, he was designing her in mind that someone out there will find her a role model that should be followed, or looked up to, to a degree. What’s a better way to do that than to design her in a fashion that has already proven to be popular and in a way that already follows a sexualised undertone already present in the Metal Gear Solid series?
Can we really use sexualised in the context of this character though? We haven’t yet experienced the story of Metal Gear Solid V at all. We’ve some snippets of footage here and there of the game and that’s it. If what Kojima is saying is to be believed, then the character will obviously play a prominent role in the game as more than eye-candy. I mean, who cosplays as a background character? Not many people.
When looking at Metal Gear Solid V, we have to consider the context of the characters (as MGS is a story driven game), as well as the context of the world around them when determining what would be appropriate for a character to wear. Yes, in reality, what Quiet is wearing would not be the best choice in clothing when duking it out in the desert. However, we do not yet know the full context of the game or its story. What if those clothes wear all that she could muster up? What if they were the best choice? We admit that this theory is a crapshoot, but it is still arguable until we receive the game.
One thing we have to remember about video games in general is that designers, publishers and developers want their titles and characters to be as distinctive as possible. Would the Modern Warfare series have been as memorable if the characters weren’t committing war atrocities in the name of ‘Murrica? Would Bayonetta be the same if the title character didn’t have legs that were way out of proportion to her torso giving her a way more distinctive look and feel? What about Marcus Fenix? Would Gear of War have been Gears of War if the COGS looked like pansies?
The point we’re making with those questions is that those games would not be those games if the characters weren’t distinctive enough to carry the brand along. Call of Duty would be just another corridor shooter with nothing else going for it, Bayonetta would just be Devil May Cry with a female lead and Gears of War would have died and killed off any hope of cover based third-person shooters with it. With this, we can assume that if the latest to be released Metal Gear Solid game was drop its own views and aesthetics, it’s own portrayal of war in an unbelievable world, it would no longer be Metal Gear Solid and would face the discount pile faster than the Playstation Portable GO.
And really, there are a lot of examples of Cosplayers dressing up as these kinds of characters, and why shouldn’t they? They’re great characters that are well designed and appealing to those people. We can tell that cosplayers tend to love dressing up as inspirational, interesting, sadistic or really any kind of character that they’ve taken a personal interest in from simply taking a look online.
One of the more well known Australian Cosplayers, Black Cat, has an amazing Facebook page filled with Cosplays of varying degrees of appeal. For instance, she can be the sociopathic Lady Deadpool while in another shot, she can be the controversially designed Lollypop Chainsaw girl.
Moreso, we could take a random Anime character and come up with a similar argument. Let’s punch ‘Yoko Cosplay‘ into Google Images. As you can see by clicking the previous link is that people like to cosplay as strong female characters that are interesting and well designed. If they thought that a character, such as Yoko, was offensive, there wouldn’t be any cosplays of her outside of adult films. But this is not the case and it will not be the case for Quiet either. Unless, of course, she becomes a completely useless or un-thoughtout character that nobody likes.
The key here is what Kojima has stated himself about the process behind the design of the character Quiet. He wanted her to be appealing to Cosplayers, and we can be sure that he has considered just what it is about these characters that make them appealing outside of the visual component. However, it seems that too many people are getting stuck up about the visual component and forgetting about what it is that makes characters memorable.
The initial target is to make u want to do cosplay or its figurine to sell well.
— HIDEO_KOJIMA (@HIDEO_KOJIMA_EN) September 4, 2013
Fortunately for the future of game design and the future of the Metal Gear Solid V video game, we don’t see Kojima or his designers bowing down to the uproar of the gaming community or it’s leaders.
The biggest example of a community leader going out of their way to condemn Kojima for his design choices was that one guy that worked on the Halo franchise. As a designer, they should be able to appreciate the amount of thought and attention to detail put into the character, as well as even coming up with backing arguments as to why the character Quiet looks the way she does. But instead, they’ve charged in with their initial impression, without thinking, and are clearly pushing some kind of agenda.
Don't care if this gets me in trouble. This character design is disgusting. Our industry should be better than this. http://t.co/4CCaF1qNEP
— David Ellis (@DavidEllis) September 6, 2013
This is even more noticeable when you see that his message was followed up with something akin to telling gamers to stop acting like children. As a bit of conjecture, isn’t pushing your own views and agendas onto other people a little childish? Isn’t not looking at something, not thinking about something and simply reacting based on a teaser image, just a little childish? Maybe it’s not the industry that needs to grow up, but you.
Industry full of man babies. Ugh.
— David Ellis (@DavidEllis) September 6, 2013
It’s actually quiet saddening to see someone that can design games themselves completely knock another persons designs on the basis of their initial impression. Imagine a world where every game designer, journalist or blogger just ran in gung-ho without considering the facts. This would create a very negative industry to be working in, enjoying the product of and sharing within communally.
Gaming should be about the fun, Cosplay should be about expressing your joy of a character and designers should not be pushing agendas unless it makes for a good story or gameplay experience. Otherwise, what’s the fun in a product that caters to no-one, is uninteresting but also sanitary? None.
Interesting links used in research:
Post that inspired this post: http://thebiotank.net/2013/09/10/so-kojima-said/