Nowadays I watch other people play video games on YouTube a lot more than I play myself (by the way, check out YouTube’s new gaming site). But Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain looks amazing enough to make me think about buying a Playstation 4. Hideo Kojima is like the James Cameron of video gaming: he’s a writer-director control freak with a passion for pushing the limits of technology. But unlike James Cameron, he’s got a big problem creating strong female characters.
Video games have a well-documented problem with sexualizing and marginalizing female characters, and being downright hostile to anyone who points it out. Overthinking It has been banging this drum for years. In 2013, Perich took on the ultra-busty sorceress character from Dragon’s Crown. In 2011, Fenzel fumed about Starcraft 2.
(Spoilers for Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes follow.)
What I don’t say in the video is that Kojima also came under fire for what happened to the one female character in Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, which was sort of an elaborate demo slash cash grab. In that game, the character of Paz is captured, and at one point you have to listen to an audiotape of her being raped. (Actually, it’s worse than that: you are rewarded with an audio tape of her being raped if you complete an optional objective.) At the end of the game, she’s killed by a bomb that’s been shoved up her vagina or anus. It’s not exactly clear which.
People have defended this brutality by saying the game has a right to be dark and gritty, and nasty things certainly happen in war. Okay, fine. Except that the bad guy who is doing these nasty things is named Skull Face. So here’s the deal: either the series should be judged as gritty and realistic, in which case Quiet and Skull Face are ridiculous. Or it should be judged as a cartoonish fantasy, in which case what happens to Paz is grossly gratuitous.
It’s a little disappointing that for a game that’s been racking up 10/10 reviews and being hailed as a masterpiece, it can’t do a little better for the sake of all the lady gamers out there. I’d like to think in two years we’ll be writing an article about the amazing female character we just played. Fingers crossed.