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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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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

“Who’s footprints are these?”

In my previous post I speculated that Hayter would return for the Konami Pre-E3 Event and be revealed as Snake. This evidently did not come to pass. Tjis evening I was having a little search online and I came across this…

Snake

Don’t believe me?…here’s the link:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2801934/fullcredits?ref_=tt_cl_sm#cast

“Metal Gear….it can’t be!”

Even though IMDB is the wikipedia of the movie world this latest revelation makes things much more interesting. In considering my own personal opinion on this “announcement”…I don’t disregard the claim completely but I do question in what capacity Hayter as David (Snake’s real civilian name) would appear.

There are a number of rumours circulating at the moment regarding the potential lead character for the next instalment in the Metal Gear saga. The Youtuber known as pythonselkanHD recently speculated that Gray Fox would become the new protagonist for MGS5 The Phantom Pain:

The video proposes that bandaged man known as Ishmael, voiced by Kiefer Sutherland plays the character called “Snake”. In the Konami Pre-E3 event, Sutherland is credited as voicing the character Snake, but never as Big Boss (who David Hayter previously voiced in MGS 3 Snake Eater)

Kiefer Sutherland as Snake

In the trailers thus far we are led to believe that Big Boss goes into a coma for a period of nine years, this correlating with the MGS timeline.) This coma episode and the awakening was the focus of gameplay footage shown by Kojima and was highlighted in the work of Dan Dawkins of CVG magazine. Dawkins goes on to discuss the reality of the bandaged man in his Master Theory article:

http://www.computerandvideogames.com/403140/features/the-mgsv-master-theory-part-two-the-phantom-pain/

It is clear that Sutherland is voicing “Snake” but who this incarnation of Snake is still up for debate. The Youtuber known as YongYea continues this debate with a reaction piece to the Gray Fox suggestion: pythonselkanHD video, all but disproving the possibility of “Snake” being Gray Fox:

In typical Metal Gear fashion there is another twist in the tail! Youtuber Cow Jedi proposes that the new “Snake” is none other than the legendary master of disguise and mimicry Decoy Octopus! The background story and reasoning for Decoy’s appearance is given credence by an informative if poorly delivered video:

“David…my name is David”

The debate will rage on regarding the true identity of Sutherland’s “Snake” and whether or not there is room for Hayter to appear at some point in MGS5.

I do believe both Hayter and Snake (the Solid version) will return in some capacity in the game. As the game is set during 1984 and Eli (Liquid) is roughly 12 years old, this would also mean that a young David (Snake) would also be present too. The return of Hayter as Solid Snake may take the form of a post credit scene in typical Kojima fashion that would lay the ground work for Metal Gear Solid 6. This game (MGS6) most likely would be a reimagining of the original MSX2 classic Metal Gear, which saw a young Solid Snake on the hunt for Metal Gear and take on Big Boss at Outer Heaven. The scene could pick up after the conclusion to the MGS 5 game with the introduction of Solid Snake via a briefing from Colonel Campbell regarding the new Foxhound unit. It is a long shot, but a shot worth taking.

It is hard to know what Kojima’s plans are the MGS 5 The Phantom Pain and the future for the MGS series. With the release of each new MGS game, post Sons of Liberty, comes the “last game” threat from Kojima. If indeed Kojima was to retire from leading the series after MGS 5, which from early footage could very well be his opus, it would be understandable to bow out on a high. The game would be a gift to gamers and Fox Engine architecture would be Kojima’s gift to those at Kojima Productions and Konami, ensuring the future of the series. One thing is certain if Kojima is to leave the series on a high, he would most certainly want to leave the fans with a little treat. No better a treat then that of the return of Hayter’s Snake.

words by david rushe