Earlier this week, Hideo Kojima tweeted that he wanted one of his female characters in the upcoming Metal Gear Solid 5, the sniper called “Quiet,” to be more “erotic.” His reasoning was so the character would be used more by cosplayers and to make it easier to sell more figurines. Not surprisingly, it reignited the discussion of misogyny in the video game industry.
People in defense of the “artistic choices” of games like Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball often cite the somewhat misleading numbers claiming 71-percent of core gamers are men. Apparently by that logic, most men don’t think of women as real people anyway. That argument is somewhat akin to claiming it’s ok to discriminate against people of color, because the majority of people in the U.S. are white. That example is a bit overblown, but only a bit.
To his credit, Kojima then tried to clarify his position and explained that “erotic” was the wrong word. English is Kojima’s second language, and he frequently relies on a translator to interpret for him. Kojima went on to say that “sexy” would have been a better word. Sure, that still objectifies women, but as the saying goes, sex sells – and erotic and sexy have very different connotations. But then Kojima kept going.
“I know there’s people concerning about ‘Quiet’ but don’t worry. I created her character as an antithesis to the women characters [that] appeared in the past fighting game who are excessively exposed [sic],” Kojima tweeted. “Quiet who doesn’t have a word will be teased in the story as well. But once you recognize the secret reason for her exposure, you will feel ashamed of your words & deeds.”
So apparently if you had a problem with Kojima’s words, you’re a jerk, because this is the good type of misogyny. You should be ashamed of yourselves. Before getting deeper in to Kojima’s tweets though, let’s take a look at exactly what Kojima means by a woman not being “excessively exposed.”
That ass shot above was tweeted by Kojima when he first described Quiet as erotic. Apparently if you think that outfit isn’t practical for a battlefield sniper like Quiet, you are a horrible person and how dare you think that.
When a politician is caught saying something awful that they actually believe, they frequently rely on the non-apology apology. You’ve seen it repeatedly. It’s usually something like, “I am sorry if my punching all those babies offended anyone.” It isn’t apologizing for rampant baby punching, it is basically saying, “I’m sorry you suck.” If you Google “I’m sorry if” it brings up over 1.35 billion results. It’s kind of like saying “no offense, but…” right before you offend the crap out of someone. Like the “no offense” line is magic and protects the sayer. Maybe that should be a power in the next Final Fantasy. You can cast a “no offense” defensive barrier, then decimate foes with words until they cry and explode. The non-apology apology is a common tool when you need to apologize for doing something stupid and horrible, but really don’t want to. Kojima didn’t even bother with that.
Based on the past Metal Gear games, the character of Quiet is likely traumatized in some way, and her outfit represents that. To Kojima, since there is a reason she is going into battle half nekkid, that’s all there is to it. Sure, it’s a bit demeaning to women, but hey, there’s a reason for it, so it’s cool.
Whether or not Quiet has a reason for wearing only tactical panties isn’t the point, and it isn’t the first time in the series that women have been portrayed as breasts with guns. Going as far back as the first Metal Gear Solid, the characters of Meryl and Sniper Wolf both ran around in outfits that would kill them instantly in the Alaskan winter where the game was set. This is nothing new for the series, but after 25 years of Metal Gear, it’s time to change.
Metal Gear Solid 5 is going to sell well. Millions of gamers will kill Quiet after she relays her tearful story of how she was mistreated and became a killer that wears only underwear, then they’ll go on with the game. She will be quickly forgotten, but it is a problem for the industry. Metal Gear is one of the most respected series around. It touches on deep philosophical issues and mature themes, like the nature of war. It just doesn’t think much of women beyond their sex appeal.
Misogyny isn’t just a problem for female gamers, and it isn’t just a matter of making the industry look bad. It’s a problem because if some of the best and most successful developers around don’t see it as an issue, gaming will never be respected as the art form it is.
I feel like I should clarify something, because it’s an important point. There is a difference between a sexy representation and a misogynistic one. A woman doesn’t have to wear a thing to be sexy. Quiet is an exploitive and misogynistic representation because of the context. She’s dressed like that primarily so Kojima can encourage cosplay and sell figurines, period. That isn’t exactly a noble sentiment, and it’s also not the first time Kojima has created female characters that serve no purpose but to, well… titillate.
Misogyny is a big problem in the gaming industry, and that is well established. My problem isn’t just the exploitive nature of misogyny that drives female gamers away, my problem is that it can make the industry as a whole look immature and hurt its growth, especially when it is a part of an otherwise great and important series. I want gaming to continue to be recognized as the art form that it is, and not just the whipping boy for politicians that are so concerned with their own re-elections that they will attack an industry because it’s easy (for example). I want gaming to be as respected as any field of entertainment. It’s getting there, but stuff like this hurts it. Throwing a half naked woman into a game to sell more merchandise isn’t an artistic pursuit, it’s the exact opposite, and that’s what I have a problem with.
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