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“First of all when it comes to female characters I myself am male, so in a way you can say the female characters I create are my ideal. It’s kind of my fantasy, these are the type of female characters that I like, so that’s what I make.”

Hideo Kojima, BAFTA Annual Games Lecture 2012

Back in December of 2013 I raised the issue of the portrayal of some female characters in the Metal Gear Solid (MGS) franchise. My starting point for the article grew from Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain’s trailer at 2013’s E3 event in L.A, and subsequent comments made by Hideo Kojima (creator of MGS) thereafter.

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Kojima later tweeted about how he wished for “more erotic” character design, for both cosplaying and commercial reasons. There appeared to be no artistic or narrative merit to his latest creation.

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In a video interview with IGN in December of 2013, Kojima did try to clarify that perhaps how he introduced Quiet to the world was not the best way to do so. A “mistake” in fact.

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He further tried to justify his actions by stating Quiet’s reveal was only done to appease curious cosplayers. These same cosplayers have not been slow in dressing up in Quiet’s minimal outfit (google search if curious I won’t be showing that here) post reveal. Again this appeasement of fans proved to have no artistic or narrative value. Those who question or criticise Quiet’s portrayal Kojima states “will feel ashamed of your words and deeds”. This conclusion we will arrive at once we get to know Quiet and understand her appearance.

Based on what we have seen thusfar and the omission by Kojima that this is his portrayal of the “ideal” female,  I look forward getting to know Quiet. I look forward to discovering why in the middle of the desert we have a relatively young, attractive, well endowed and curvaceous woman, parading around in her underwear, a pair of ripped tights with only a sniper riffle for protection. I look forward to discovering her raison d’être, for what I can only deduce is an odd fashion sense, the love of a powerful gun and an insatiable appetite for vitamin D.

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While Kojima has made attempts to backtrack on the reveal of Quiet and clarify her appearance, he doesn’t condemn his earlier comments or tweets; “The initial target is to make you want to do cosplay or it’s figurine to sell well”.

While a tweet is restricted to 140 characters and things can not always be fully fleshed out in a tweet, it is the 2012 BAFTA Lecture comments that are hard to escape. As much as I admire the MGS series, and Kojima, it is the disturbing reality of his perception of the “ideal” I struggle with. He has fired this bullet and it is not coming back, there is no opportunity to reload it now. So what other conclusion does one arrive at? Quiet’s portrayal is purely for “fantasy” reasons, commercial reasons and has no artistic merit whatsoever.

In the wake of Quiet’s reveal Kojima drew criticism from fellow industry creatives. 343 Industries designer David Ellis commented on twitter “Don’t care if this gets me in trouble. This character design is disgusting. Our industry should be better than this. Industry full of man babies. Ugh.” 

The consequences of Kojima’s actions have been far reaching. In the ensuing months a myriad of articles have appeared online discussing the portrayal of Quiet from various online outlets.

The portrayal of Kojima’s “ideal” women have resulted in critique from many journalists. Most recently in relation to the ending of Metal Gear Solid 5 Ground Zeroes (MGSVGZ) and Paz’s portrayal by IGN’s Lucy O’Brien:

http://uk.ign.com/articles/2014/03/25/whats-wrong-with-metal-gear-solid-5-ground-zeroes-ending

Budding games journalist Ria Jenkins chimes in too, focusing on the heavy handed and misplaced nature of the sexual violence that exists in the MGSVGZ experience. The unsettling content is presented to the audience in the form of tapes entitled “rewards” for fully completing side quests and exploration in MGSVGZ:

http://introskeptive.wordpress.com/2014/04/08/chicos-tape-4/

I have extended the critique to look at the worrying portrayal of not only Quiet, but of other female characters in the MGS universe over the years. A worrying pattern is at play here:

https://thoughtburp.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/quiet-is-no-lady-godiva-a-metal-gear-solid-5-update/comment-page-1/

In January and February of this year, Kojima shared images of the impending Quiet figurine via Twitter. The images made no attempt to further clarify what Kojima had referred to as a mistake previously. They didn’t alleviate fears or distance Kojima from the allegations of sexism lobbied at him. The images showed a figure based on the portrayal of Quiet from 2013’s E3 and reinforced the “more erotic” tone he was looking to capture. One might argue that erotic term he speaks of is a more palatable term for pornographic.

 

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A recent Kojima Station episode featured a sizeable content on Stefanie Joosten (the actor portraying Quiet) who is on a “mission” to infiltrate Kojima headquarters to gather intel on The Phantom Pain (TPP) project.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bH3WWp-VdGM

In addition to this a discussion thread on Reddit (via user called “winches”) suggests that Quiet might be a playable character in TPP. In an interview with Famitsu, Kojima stated that In the game, Quiet is the main heroine. Whether she is friend or foe has yet to be revealed so I had to be careful when casting her role.”

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The image highlights how in previous games a playable character is often tortured. Could Quiet be a playable character in TPP? The advent of the power of Kojima’s “Fox Engine”, an openworld setting, refined gameplay and a Hayter free Snake, are undoubtedly large changes for the MGS series. The possible presence of a female playable character would be a seismic change in the franchise.

Since the release of MGSVGZ in March little has been shown of TPP. In recent days Kojima has been tweeting that he is currently working on a new trailer for TPP. Could new trailer shed new information on the role that Quiet will play? WIll a new reveal of her be one that changes the publics opinion on her and Kojima’s portrayal of the “ideal” female? Only time will tell, for now Kojima remains quiet on Quiet. Never has silence been so deafening.

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When Michel Hazanavicius’ mutli award winning black-and-white silent film The Artist (2011) arrived in cinemas, audiences were captivated by this wordless wonder. Our protagonist, George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) the leading light in the silent film era, finds his career and life unravelling with the arrival of the “talkie” era of Hollywood. The films emphasis on score and gesture were more than sufficient to tell this compelling story of loss, pride and transition without a single spoken word.

In Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (2013) a similar impact is achieved. Opening with one of our two protagonists Naiee grieving at his mother’s grave, tormented with memories of her drowning and his inability to save her, his elder brother Nyaa informs him that their father has taken ill. The brothers must journey to the Tree of Life to collect water in order to save him. Our heroes travel through towns, hills, and mountains, reuniting friendly trolls, saving a man from suicide, evading terrifying wolves and rescuing a girl from sacrificial offering. These events bring the brothers closer together. The gameplay requires you to use your controller to full effect; both analogue sticks and shoulder buttons are used in perfect symmetry to guide the brothers on their quest. In this dialogue free universe, events are emotionally charged through score and gesture alone. One particular setpiece unsettled me so much, that completing the ensuing gameplay event was a palpable experience. Through simple gesture alone, I was taken on an emotional journey far surpassing the geographical journey I embarked on with our protagonists.  In no other game have I experienced a truer breaking of the fourth wall between player and protagonist. Through the duality of gesture and emotional mindset I was transported to a tangible reality. Brothers is a masterpiece, it left me ruminating on the preciousness of life and the inevitability of dealing with mortality.

In an industry of maturing storytelling and graphical fidelity, the sound of silence never seemed to offer so much.

words by david rushe

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In many corners The Last of Us (TLOU) drew plaudits proclaiming it to be the game of the year, if not this generation. The Naughty Dog game is the perfect marriage of character, story, score, tone and gameplay. As noted in many print and online sources, the game achieves a rewarding multiplayer much like its single player narrative.

With upcoming single player DLC ( https://thoughtburp.wordpress.com/2013/11/16/the-last-of-us-left-behind/ ) scheduled for early 2014, the idea for a follow up to Naughty Dog’s new ip has always been touted. Critics have argued, that much like the protagonist (Cole) in LA Noire, the story of Joel and Ellie culminated in a staggering ending. The story arrived at its natural conclusion, and while it asked more questions than it answered, it felt complete.

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From an artistic standing walking away from TLOU now would be (for a creative like myself) a courageous thing to do. But can artistic endeavour take precedent when business is involved?

Much like the ending of TLOU, what happens next asks as many questions as it answers. Do you think a sequel should be made? Would it be a Part II continuiing Joel and Ellie’s story, or should a new protagonist tell the story? Perhaps you play as a firefly on the hunt for Ellie? Or do you think that Naughty Dog should leave it alone?

20131222-065153.jpgwords by david rushe

“Lady Godiva entered the royal enclosure at Ascot claiming she had literally nothing to wear.”
Edmund Blackadder (Blackadder Goes Fourth)

According to legend Lady Godiva the infamous Anglo-Saxon noblewoman, rode naked through the streets of Coventry (England) in order to gain a remission of the oppressive taxation imposed by her husband on his tenants.

Quiet, the new female sniper in Metal Gear Solid is not an Anglo-Saxon noblewoman, but her revealing ‘reveal’ has caused concern. Coupled with this is Hideo Kojima’s initial reasoning behind her appearance, it is possible to conceive that eyebrows, were, ahem, not the only thing raised in the wake of her announcement.

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In the months following the reveal of Quiet, Hideo Kojima and his translation team on Twitter have not helped the situation. Accusations of sexualised female characters appearing in a male dominated media have always been an issue. Mr Kojima and his team have worked hard to build the Fox Engine and anticipation for MGS5 tackle “taboo” subjects in an open world environment. The appearance of Quiet and her scantily clad demeanour looks set to send the series back to a darker age of female sexualisation.

The recent exploits of the rebooted Lara Croft, Commander Shepard (Mass Effect) and all female leads (Tess, Marlene and Ellie) in The Last of Us, have done much to show the strength and maturity that female protagonists can bring to an ever evolving industry that transcends age and gender.

Kojima’s exploits on Twitter recently have enraged some fans (myself included) and industry members. Kojima having stated:

“I’ve been ordering to Yoji (Shinkawa) to make the character more erotic, and he did it well”

“Recently I’ve been making characters this way. I create the setting thoroughly, how he/she spent early life, name, style, favorite phrase, fashion, action, to stand the character out.”

“The initial target is to make (you) want to do cosplay or its figurine to sell well.”

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David Ellis, one of the designers of the Halo series (343 Studios) tweeted his thoughts in the wake of the not-so Quiet controversy. Ellis said “Don’t care if this gets me in trouble. This character design is disgusting. Our industry should be better than this.”

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In an interview with IGN released today Kojima has tried to clarify Quiet’s appearance. Check out Mr Kojima’s reasoning below:

In the interview with IGN Kojima said that “showing the female sniper in Metal Gear Solid V was probably a mistake”. Kojima also said “I try to make sure I’m doing something new, not repeating something that is already in the series”. While he makes a reasonable response to his critics, if one looks at previous female characters in the series, it is hard not to view Kojima’s response with a note of irony and scepticism.

Take a look at Sniper Wolf (MGS1), Fortune (MGS2), The Boss (MGS3), the Octopus Unit (MGS4) and Paz (MGS Peace Walker). Despite Kojima creating some very strong female characters, It is difficult not to notice that some are part of an aesthetic pattern….

Sniper Wolf:

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Fortune:

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The Boss: (Arguably the strongest female character Kojima has created. Beautifully written and realised within the game.)

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The Boss: (The Hot Toys version)

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A great character is undone…by her zipper no less!

The Beauty And The Beast Unit:

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Paz: (in more modest attire)

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Paz: (Date with Paz)

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKIRIeKADUI Read More

“Kept you waiting huh?”

On Monday 4th 2013 Konami confirmed that Hideo Kojima’s next instalment in the long running Metal Gear Solid saga, MGS 5: Ground Zeroes will release as a standalone game in the spring of 2014.

The game has long been touted as a prelude to full sequel MGS 5: The Phantom Pain. Ground Zeroes has been described as an introduction to the new open world gameplay mechanics Kojima is introducing to the series.

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“Metal Gear….it can’t be!”

The Ground Zeroes ‘game’ will focus on the mission to infiltrate a Cuban prison camp. This camp and mission gameplay seen to date was depicted during the recent TGS video as shown below.

The game has been designed as a large open world playground with day and night times featuring. With the inclusion of the new elements, Kojim hopes players can approach missions in a non linear manner breaking tradition with previous MGS titles.

In serving as a prelude to the Phantom Pain, Ground Zeroes will bridge the gap between not only in terms of gameplay but also from a narrative perspective.

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“What the…”

The boxed PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of Ground Zeroes will go on sale for £29.99/€29.99. Digital versions of the game will be available for £19.99/€19.99, Konami has confirmed. In addition to the (fast ending) current gen, Next gen versions for The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One digital versions will sell for £29.99/€29.99.

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“Even if a pawn becomes a queen, it is still just a playing piece”

My initial thoughts are mixed. Finally having a release date is an obvious positive, but the price and dubious length of the title causes concern. When one thinks of a prelude one thinks of MGS 2 and the ‘Tanker Section and MGS 3 ‘Virtuous Mission’. While fun and immersive, parts of each respective title and their subsequent playtimes were dwarfed by their lengthy cut scenes. One can only assume that despite the open world nature, this prelude might suffer the same short gameplay length. At the Kojima/Konami suggested retail price one wonders if greed is the real driver behind a split release?

Little Richard once said

“men are so full of greed today, they’ll sell anything for a little piece of money.”

At £29.99 this is in no way a little piece of money for a little taste at Kojima’s latest creation. If anything Kojima should offer the game/demo/tutorial, however you wish to define Ground Zeroes free as a digital download. Kojima (or Konami) could have adopted a similar approach taken with Zone of the Enders and the Metal Gear Solid 2 demo (Tanker Section) and bundled Ground Zeroes with an upcoming Konami release…Castlevania Lords of Shadow 2 perhaps? As a huge fan of the Metal Gear series, the constant re-releases in hd format and legacy collections etc etc leaves me jaded and lamenting the almost bi-annual money syphoning approach Konami/Kojima adopted on fans of the series. This is one title I will not be adding to my wish list any time soon. I think Marshall from How I Met Your Mother sums my feelings towards Konami/Kojima best…

words by david rushe