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Friday, 25 September 2015

I Like It, Butt...

(Disclaimer: This is all personal opinion. I realise I speak from a subjective perspective - and I invite conversation if I step out of line. I also sadly realise that, being a guy, I can get away with saying stuff like what I'm about to say online and face far less abuse than most women would. Which, when you think about it, is hugely fucked up.)

My favourite anime is Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, and I don't like fan service.

Now, anyone who has seen TTGL knows that this is a paradoxical situation. Gainax (creators of the anime) are well known for their fondness of fan service. I'm a big fan of One Piece, too, which is also profligate with it.

The thing is, I don't think this makes me a hypocrite (though others may disagree). I love what TTGL stands for - the spirit of constant adaptation, pushing, driving, never holding back, the shouting and fighting and sheer guts of all those involved. I think that it would be a matter of wilful ignorance to disregard everything I love - the mechs, the scale of the series, the soundtrack - for the fewer things I dislike.

Dad taught me, by negative example, to always give credit where it is due and criticism where it is warranted. Something I like can deserve criticism - something I dislike can earn praise. It's part of being a fair judge of something. You weigh good versus bad and your opinion and thoughts come as a result of the comparison of the two.

I love video games, but I have to acknowledge that Jesus H Gabenclaus, the entire industry and culture is steeped in sexism.

I'm not going to touch Gamergate. That whole snarling fuckball of a mess can stay over there. What I am going to address is a very specific example of video game sexism, and I am fairly sure that almost all of you reading this are going to be familiar with it.

Quiet, from MGSV Phantom Pain.

The moment I saw her in the trailer, I groaned internally. Here it is - one of the most anticipated games of this year (and this is a BIG YEAR), and front and centre is the reason we can't have nice things.

Realism isn't necessarily a Metal Gear trait, but lets address that big fucking elephant first. Which fuckmook thought that a hardened soldier - a sniper no less - would run around a battlefield wearing combat boots, sheer stockings and a matching bikini and thong? Oh yes, and a bit of webbing and gloves, don't forget that. We can acknowledge that Quiet needs to carry things, but we can't acknowledge that she might get SHOT. Also? Using high-calibre accuracy rifles is murder on the shoulder even if you wear padding. If the only thing protecting your bare skin is the strap of a bikini then you're going to draw blood damn near every time you shoot. Skin pink is NOT camouflage, either; legendary ghost-like sniper that drops Soviet officers like other people eat cookies, and she doesn't get camo?

Which takes us onto where things get a bit surreal. There is an apparent (very flimsy) in-game reason that Quiet can't wear clothes. I won't go into the reason why - spoilers - but suffice to say, it is a trait she shares with another character from another installment of the game. Except this other character - being male - appears fully dressed at all times.

Quiet is unfortunately the most recent in a long list of Metal Gear characters that are basically there for fanboys to drool over. There's at least one in every game, sometimes more, and every time I've had the presence of mind to be distinctly embarrassed about the entire affair. Even Sniper Wolf, from the original Metal Gear Solid, had a habit of unzipping her winter camo coat down to her navel - in case we forgot that she was apparently an F-cup or similar.

All of this is such bullshit, in part, because they know they can do better; and they do better with The Boss, from Snake Eater, who is hands-down the coolest character in the entire franchise. The Boss is a certified grade-A badass. She drops people like an X Factor audition hopeful drops notes, fearlessly throws herself into everything she does, makes the ultimate sacrifice for all the right reasons, and is generally speaking everything that the main character strives to be.

She wears combat kit throughout the game, because she's a soldier. THE soldier in fact. The boss of special forces combat, which the entire series is based upon. She manages to escape the blatant sexualisation of the rest...until one scene late-game in which she shows Snake her scar, and once more the Metal Gear cleavage is on display, because we can't get through an entire game without a dash of objectification.

I digress.

In terms of Quiet, we seem to have a character of duality. On the one hand, she is amazingly talented as a buddy - a superb shot, stealthy and deadly. Her AI is coded to make combat decisions and I've found her making smart shots in the middle of a firefight, wherein any other game might see the NPC plinking uselessly at the "closest" target. She fights like a sniper - she fires until her location is untenable, then she relocates to another post, picking whichever position (from a predetermined selection) offers her the best view of the battlefield. She has saved my ass on numerous occasions, made difficult missions easy and made impossible tasks possible.

On the other hand...the way she has been coded to behave toward the player, to wriggle the way she does, to essentially put herself on show for the visual delectation of the player - it's sad. Very, very sad. We could have had another character like The Boss, a superb female soldier that is the equal or better of any of the men running around the place. Instead we got a pin-up, with a paper-thin excuse as to why she wears no clothes, whose way of demonstrating that you work well together is to present to the player like a bonobo. Well done, player. You have earned softcore pornography.

...I mean fuck, is that what we want? Is that really what the marketing guys think appeals? Hell, maybe it is - but not to me. I'm working hard at the moment in-game to earn the poor girl some clothes. She's not the only victim of this apparent disregard for the wardrobe department, either - but I can't talk about the other one without big story spoilers. Suffice to say, you'd at the very least offer the girl a jacket, or a towel, or something. Anybody decent would.

I am enjoying the game, thus far. The actual military-espionage aspect of the gameplay is entertaining, and the plot holes haven't sunk it for me yet. There's just this constant series of niggles - and one of the biggest (though not THE biggest) is Quiet, your most competent and capable ally, engineered as a desperate wank-fantasy.

It's a fucking embarrassment and we can do better. We deserve better, as people and as players. If this truly is a marketing thing - if the companies responsible believe that this is what sells the game - then we need to ask if the kind of people who demand a certain amount of sexual objectification from a game before they will buy it should be the people the game is marketed to. We should ask if that is the gaming scene we want to be a part of.

Speaking personally...I'm getting tired of it. I'm bored of every single game with multiple styalised characters invariably including at least one girl in a state of damn-near undress with proportions that would make Jessica Rabbit green with envy. If any gamer needs fap material, I'm sure the internet can provide it without forcing the content on the rest of us who are just here to play.

More Boss, please - and less butt.


  1. Oh man, I really enjoyed Kill la Kill but the fan service in that was ridiculous. "Your Dad was a pervert" is not a good enough reason and it really bribes down an otherwise great anime.

    Also Kojima is a massive perv with complete control over the MGS games. As long as he is around, there will be no real change.

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