So Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima put out a tweet recently that kicked up a firestorm in the gaming world. In case you missed it, here it is:
Dear Cosplayer friends, something like this for example. pic.twitter.com/SWkN3BSDFy
— HIDEO_KOJIMA (@HIDEO_KOJIMA_EN) September 4, 2013
At face value, their reactions make a certain degree of sense. We were all raised (I hope) with the sense to treat everyone with respect and to treat everyone like human beings. That statement really sounds like “oh look at this sexy thing. Why don’t you women dress up like this for me.” That sort of statement is pretty creepy… like the dude lives in his parent’s basement, and is covered in Cheetos dust. You know, that type of dude. The type of why who never talked with a woman to begin with and has no idea how to interact with one. It’s an attempt to turn a woman into nothing more than a set of breasts.
On the other hand….
Ever hear of the old expression about the elephant in the room? It refers to topics that aren’t discussed, but everyone knows is there. In this case, we have a couple. There are people who like to cosplay as sexy characters. Hell, I’ll go a step further. There are people who like to dress up as erotic characters when they cosplay. They are also quite attractive. These women, for lack of a better term, are also sex symbols as well as cosplayers. I don’t mean they are filmed having sex, but are viewed as very sexy. I’m willing to bet companies love it when they dress up as their characters. The companies get word of mouth for their product, not to mention great advertisements for it as well.
This is just a small sampling of cosplayers. And of course, not every cosplayer dresses up like that. These cosplayers, though, are very popular and are probably the “face” of cosplaying. So when Hideo Kojima talks about cosplayers, I’m wagering he’s referring to these cosplayers.
There is another elephant in the room that should be talked about. Video game developers tend to make female characters look as sexy as possible. The guy was only saying what other video game developers say behind closed doors. I mean… how could they not intentionally be doing this? The women look, and are dressed, as provocatively as possible!
Video games tend to objectify women. Women are dressed up in incredibly sexy outfits and treated like sex things rather than as people. Seriously! Why would anyone want to show a ton of skin when they are in battlefield conditions? At the very least, they should be covered in scar tissue, you know? So on one hand, I applaud Hideo Kojima for recognizing the elephant in the room and being blunt about it.
What do I think of this? I’m in the middle of the road here. Yeah, I really get why people would be sickened by the comment Hideo made. I do. I get it. But I also see it as a symptom of a larger issue of the portrayal of women in mass media, not just video games. Is it a problem? I honestly don’t know. I’ve heard it leads to eating disorders and other physical/psychological problems. But I know when I play games, I seem to favor/prefer the women who are physically appealing (sexy).
I think it would be a good thing for the video game community to have an open and frank discussion on it. And no, that doesn’t mean Anita Sarkeesian talking down at us all with the assumption that it is bad a priori. There are a lot of people with a lot of interesting opinions on this, from businesspeople through the gamers… everyone has their own unique take on it.