Oh, Hideo Kojima, what are you up to with Metal Gear Solid 5?
Fans have been waiting for the latest installment of the Metal Gear series to catch up on what Solid Snake has been up to since we last saw him. So when Kojima got on his twitter earlier this week and started releasing information about the new character to be included in the series, I was excited. Her name was Quiet, she’s a sniper, and that alone made me happy. Until Kojima started talking about the art design.
I’m sorry, what was that now? More erotic? I thought maybe you meant exotic? But nope, it was erotic. But of course, as a thoughtful designer, there had to be a good reason why a video game designer would want to make the costume of a female character more erotic. Especially in the age of discussions about sexualization of women in video game design. A follow-up tweet gave us the real details:
…Oh. Because that just makes it a whole lot better. I can’t wait to see the tasteful little one piece Snake will be wearing for the game too. For all those cosplay guys out there who want to go to conventions in a speedo.
Kojima announced that the design for Quiet’s costume was going to be released this past Friday. And he sent ahead a little photo to give people a head’s up what it was going to look like. Or rather, a butt’s up. Because this is the pic, folks, of a part of Quiet’s outfit. The news about this announcement and the picture went viral just about everywhere, and folks started tweeting up a storm about the costume design. Or rather the lack of costume. And why wouldn’t it? In a time when the industry is positively a-buzz with discussions about sexism, misogyny, equal representation and sexualization, this was just additional fuel to the fire.
I particularly found it amusing in the face of a fantastic panel at PaxPrime, which spoke about the representation of female military officers in video games. The panel pointed out important issues about how women are usually presented as only romantic attachments for male characters or either cheesecake characters wearing utterly impractical outfits. This pointed towards an issue brought up by one of the panelists, namely that the misrepresentation of military women in such degrading light can port over into the real world and translate to a disrespect towards women in uniform (check out a great recap here on PlaywithPixels). Whether or not you believe that the view of oversexualized and two-dimensional female characters in games can lead to consideration of disrespectful treatment in reality (and I believe there is a correlation, though more evidence is needed), these women held a panel on the eve of this wackiness right here.
Friday came. And Kojima put out his photos. Ready folks, cuz they’re a kicker.
….where do I start?
You know what. I don’t have to. Because that photo does all the talking in the world. But I’ll just add this one to help out.
I’ve said a lot recently in a previous post about over-sexualization in game ads, and the same argument is about video game art in general. But this one REALLY takes the cake. They don’t even leave her stockings alone, those have to have holes too. I don’t know if I have to reiterate this, but I don’t have a problem with sexy. Sexy is different then blatant over-sexualization and impractical. And this, folks, is the height of both.
Where do I start with this? Where do I begin? With a long, heaving sigh, a roll of the eyes, and a slow clap at Kojima’s perfect plan.
Because folks, he got us. He trolled us so hard it’s not even funny. And we’re going right after it.
Check out some of Kojima’s tweets after the explosion happened online about QuietGate 2013:
You see, internet? You’re just wrong about MGS 5 – it’s all about proving how wrong we all are about differences in culture, custom and preference! If I’m reading this correctly, then the reason for a lot of the choices Kojima is making is to point out that there are differences in our perspectives based on all of the above (language, race, custom, culture and preference). And once he makes that point in a game about military folks shooting the heck out of each other, then we will understand the wisdom of why a woman is dressed like her dryer shredded all her clothing. Really, there’s a secret reason and we’ll all discover it when we play MGS 5.
Seriously. Just go buy the game and you’ll get the hidden meaning. You’ve got the sixty bucks to drop on the game to get let in that secret. That’s all you need to do.
Well done marketing strategy there. Well done. First, you point to the cosplay community and use them as a marketing tool (“I’m releasing this for you, you sexy girls, who are going to dress up for me in these outfits! You like doing that anyway, right? So I’ll just pander to you in the hopes you’ll help me sell this game!”) Then next, you stir up a little internet controversy with a sexy costume to get folks fighting about it. Next, you reveal on Twitter that there’s a hidden meaning about why these things exist, and state that you just have to play the game to understand. I see what you did there, and I’m slow-clapping at the sheer guts it takes to do something like this. Because if seen one way, Kojima is just hopelessly out of touch with or doesn’t care about the discourse going on about women’s representation in games. Or else he’s purposefully baiting the supporters of that cause, and cosplayers, and his own fans, to raise sales on Metal Gear Solid.
Now, Kojima has never been known for being subtle. I mean, this is from the designer who brought us THIS:
So in a lot of ways, this whole thing isn’t surprising. What is surprising to me is how much this whole thing is doing to bring Metal Gear Solid 5 into the discussion about video games. It’s doing exactly what it was supposed to do. More people are talking about the game than before. Will this stunt boost sales? Probably. Will some of those sales be because Quiet is wearing what is effectively dental floss? Probably. Will there be a secret meaning in Metal Gear Solid 5 about tolerance and cultural understanding? Sure, maybe, who knows. But does it even matter? Kojima is blatantly using the conversation about women in video games and the cosplay community to garner attention for this game game, and that makes me all kinds of sick to my stomach.
Other industry folks have started responding to this, like Alex Kertz from the Battlefield 4 series (his tweets are kind of spectacular). But as a last parting thought, I’ll just walk away, shaking my head. While I appreciate this situation giving me something to write about this week, we could have saved all these words if the MGS 5 team had just trusted their product to attract fans without the reliance on sexism and marketing tricks. This just comes across the way it should – as a blatant cash grab that’s using the very market that they calls fans.
In a recent Q&A in which Kojima attempted to explain this situation further, Stephanie Joosten (who is the voice and motion-capture figure for Quiet) was quoted as saying this about her character:
“Of course, I was surprised to see Quiet’s outfit at first,” said Joosten. “But, you know, it fits in the Metal Gear universe, I think. I don’t think I’m allowed to say a lot about this, but, well, Mr. Kojima has his reasons for deciding why Quiet [is] wearing what she’s wearing. Players will just have to look forward to that.”
Of course there’s a reason for what she is wearing. It’s called dollar signs. And it’s pretty blatantly obvious.
I’m done with this discussion on principle alone. But I’ll just leave this last one here, for the road.
And my personal favorite: