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Editorial: When erotic designs, cosplay and figures meet

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Kojima points out the obvious, so what's next?

You might have noticed some people talking about the description of how Hideo Kojima and his team create the next Metal Gear Solid project. Specifically, Kojima tweeted how one of his characters are designed. The reaction seems confusing--not surprising, as the meaning of what Kojima has tweeted is not exactly clear, context notwithstanding.

In a nutshell, Kojima specifically said that he asked the character designer to first create characters that are more erotic in a way that'll encourage people to cosplay or buy figures of the character. What does this say about those of us who do exactly that? Or enjoy games with these kind of design paradigms? Or everyone else?

It's easy to hand-wave the whole thing as a statement of the obvious: sex sells. It's equally easy to write a pull-quote and say the next MGS game will be more sexy. I think the wording from Kojima's tweets can be better, certainly, but the idea feels as if it could be kind of offensive. Why does it feel this way, when in reality a large number of us enjoy and surround ourselves with media that are create in a similar way?

The truth is a little more complicated than that character designers will make sexy or erotic characters in order to get people to desire or otherwise express themselves through interacting with the intellectual property in question. It might be a video game character here, but it applies to film, anime, and even prose and trading card games. It might affect how we cosplay; what kind of outfits we see at cons, or even what kind of public service announcements regarding dealing with creepers at cons. It might be a part of gamer culture or the way a community views its members or their representation in the games they play. But that's the thing--it might. There's no clear relationship between sexy characters and every implication as a result of their popularity, other than popularity itself. Sexy doesn't even always sell. The icky feeling feels skirts a little puritanical and ungenuine. 

As I woke up this morning and went through my morning routine, I spotted the latest post from Good Smile Company's Kahotan, featuring the Good Smile Racing girls in their latest costume, inspired by a combination of stereotypical race queen attire and Hatsune Miku. It might be a nice thing to wake up to, but it reminded me of what Kojima was talking about.

I thought this image spoke exactly what Kojima is talking about, in even fewer words. Here we have a very big brand in Hatsune Miku, who really isn't related to all this besides that Good Smile Company typically creates a more sexually-charged version of her figurine each year, under the "Racing Miku" label. And Miku isn't some sex bomb, although her sexuality tend to reflect that of her largest audiences, made up of teens and young adults of both genders. That crowd is not very different than what you'll see at a large anime convention; Miku herself isn't so different than your average pop idol. At the same time, by spinning off a sexy version of Miku and turning that into race queen costumes and pre-orderable plastic, it's a good business that will appeal to a segment of Miku fans that GSC serves. This is one of the implicit understanding behind the whole proposition; by creating one sexy Miku it doesn't change the big picture besides that it will appeal to some people, and GSC can profit from it.

So what's wrong with this picture again? It's a similar deal with Metal Gear Solid. The sprawling video game franchise has fans all over the world, and it appeals to people of all walks of life, for all kinds of different reasons. It seems counterintuitive that the fact there is at least one sexy female character in one MGS game can really fundamentally change anything that many of us enjoy MGS for: the presentation, story and gameplay, for starters.

Maybe the "confession" that in recent years Kojima has been dishing up the erotic styles more so than before could mean something, if people thought Metal Gear Solid was a game that shied away from everything that is sexual. And for that, would we not rather judge by the game itself rather than what Kojima has said?

What's probably more puzzling is why Kojima wants to see people cosplaying Quiet. I suppose as a creator it's great to see fans cosplaying your work, but that seems more like a challenge and a tease issued from Kojima rather than a statement about the state of video game characters and how they are designed.

For more discussion, also check out the Tomopop reaction piece!

[Image credit]


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Jeff Chuang
Jeff ChuangAssociate Editor   gamer profile

Yet to be the oldest kid on the block, this East Coast implant writes cryptic things about JP folklore, the industry or dirty moe. Attend cons and lives the "I can buy Aniplex releases" life. ... more + disclosures


 



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