Thursday, 19 September 2013

MGSV: People are upset about costumes, but not child soldiers?

Let me start this off by saying I'm not at all oblivious to the over-sexualisation of female characters in a lot of video games, films and comics. There is a lot of valid criticism surrounding the outfits of Soul Calibur's Ivy and DC Comics' Power Girl.

I don't really feel in that great a position to comment on when it wanders into ridiculous territory, but I'm fairly certain something like Dead or Alive Beach Vollyball qualifies. I'm not here to enter the debate about the recently released full render of Metal Gear Solid V's character, Quiet, but I'm a bit perplexed by the discourse surrounding it.

For those not aware, recently Kojima Productions released some making-of type material for the new MGS title, centering around the mute female sniper, Quiet. This included this video:

And this image:

Okay, I can see where people are coming from - she isn't really wearing much at all, and this doesn't look too practical for warfare in Afghanistan. I'm with you all there, and given video game culture's unfortunate track-record with some of this stuff, I can see why this would frustrate a lot of female fans.

What I want to talk about more so is how interesting I find it that - while Quiet's outfit may be something valid to criticize - there isn't nearly as much attention being drawn to some of the other elements of the game we have been presented with.

You know, like choking out kids, ripping bombs out of people, torture, and child soldiers.

 Yeah, MGSV is going to be a pretty dark game. Not that the Metal Gear series hasn't dealt with heavy themes - especially surrounding child soldiers - before: Grey Fox and Raiden's backstories both emphasise their time spent as child soldiers, and The Boss having a C-section on the battlefield is a thing that happened.

However, for the most part, this stuff has been dealt with in exposition. The harrowing and traumatic events that shaped most of the series' protagonists and antagonists are detailed in codec conversations and before-death monologues.

An exception to this, however, came early on in the series history, and is often over-looked by many writing about the topic. Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake allowed the player to kill war orphans.

Zanzibar Land - the setting for MG2, and the home to Big Boss' rebooted (and kinda successful) Outer Heaven - was a military state which started recruiting young, drafting in war orphans to be trained up to go into battle. They were scattered around the map and were pretty cool, offering Snake some hints (and actually seemed to like Big Boss...) here and there. However, unlike children in most games now days, they weren't invulenrable and if the player wished to, they could kill them - costing themselves a little bit of health as a penalty.

When you think about it, this is pretty heavy. To top it off, the game closes with Big Boss detailing to Snake his plan for these children: train them up and send them back into war to create a perpetual cycle of warfare.

You're messed up, Jack.
The thing about having a story arc like that in Metal Gear is that eventually the Big Boss games (Snake Eater, Portable Ops and Peace Walker) are going to meet up with the Solid Snake games. While Portable Ops still presented a pretty idealistic Snake, Peace Walker definitely gave us inklings of his grimmer change, if only subtly (he recruited Chico, remember?), and with the game taking a bit of a more tragic turn closer to the end.

Fact of the matter is, though, that MGSV is veering very close to the Outer Heaven uprising, and so Big Boss has to start getting mean. He needs to transition from the loveable box-wearer to the insane warlord, and judging by the trailer? This is where it happens. Let's go over some of the things that happen in the trailers we've seen so far:

No, this isn't the shot of Quiet
everyone is upset about...

-Ripping a bomb out of a stomach:


-Child soldiers:

-There is also some torture:

So, those don't warrant the same degree of rancor and boycotting that Quiet's costume (which as far as we know may be one of her outfits) do? Is it truly worse than the other things featured?

Of course, I'm not saying the elements I've mentioned above shouldn't be included in a video game, and they shouldn't be surprising. In addition to the back-stories and child soldiers mentioned before, many Metal Gear games have featured torture sequences, which usually involve the male character stripped down to...varying degrees.
12-year-old me had trouble with this part...

It is entirely possible Quiet's outfit is simply another thread to this. It does appear she is being tortured in the trailer, could this simply be her outfit following that? It is entirely possible. Sure, I might be wrong, but why jump to any conclusions based on the fraction of the game we have seen so far?

I'm less interested right now about what Quiet's outfit says about Hideo Kojima, and more interested in what the reaction says about those following all of this. Kids are being taught to point guns and your problem is Quiet's outfit? Don't you think just perhaps it is yet another element in the commentary on the atrocities of war?

The discourse of the conversation surrounding this whole thing is what is really troubling me.

Now, without further entering the debate, here are Kojima's tweets on the matter:

Speaking of Twitter, 343 Industries' David Ellis tweeted:

Because if there is one character that is breaking down over sexualisation in video games, it is Halo's Cortana, right?


1 comment:

  1. yo, Cortana is not wearing a bikini and stoking, and on top of it she just a blue holographic AI. Now take a look at the actual female soldiers in Halo...

    But anyway, child soldier is a reality, they exist and it is a serious theme. Meanwhile there's a female sniper dressing like a stripper to go kill people in the middle of the desert is just plain retarded and particularly out of place when you take into account how dark the game is. Unless she just got stripped off her clothes during that torture and then she escaped looking like that I really don't see how Kojima will justify this. And yeah, I know about her rumored chameleon abilities but that's not enough, and it would only feel like a cheap plot device to force this down our throats.