With Corporal Wonderbra being shoved in your face, it’s difficult to notice pretty much anything else accompanying the awfulness. One thing seems to have been overlooked, though: Kojima said he designs characters with the primary intent “to make u [sic] want to do cosplay or its figurine to sell well”.
At first I wasn’t sure if he was serious as, up until now, I understood that the man was valued as a fantastic – if overcomplicated – storyteller who could create rich and interesting characters. But then I saw the accompanying woman who could fit all of her clothing into the holster of her gun and wondered how rich and interesting fishnet-wrapped thighs could be.
See, characters created with the main prerogative of selling merchandise and being represented at conventions aren’t exactly going to turn out as deep, complex people. Fans should want to invest in a character in the real world because they like them, not because that character’s been tailor-made for it and the developer tells them they should.
Prioritising qualities which you think makes a character cosplayable and figure-worthy is going to result in a lot of ‘badass’ and ‘cool’ characters who are tremendously shallow. I can already make a guess that Quiet’s backstory will involve some kind of trauma forcing her into muteness, and her silence won’t be broken until she exacts revenge on some people who weren’t directly involved.
This is the sort of attitude you expect from massive conglomerates, who build new entities and products with the sole aim to merchandise it for all its worth. Sure, it often works and makes a ton of money, but in twenty years nobody’s going to be hailing it as creative genius because it’s an approach designed for short term monetary success. Kojima doesn’t strike me as a short term monetary success kinda guy; he strikes me as an artist. He wants his games to be recognised as art and hopes they’re remembered as greats for years to come.
This isn’t the way to do it.
If Metal Gear Solid V is to be remembered on its own merits, creating characters around the idea that people should want to put them on display isn’t the way to go. I never got into the Metal Gear series, but I know that the best way to create a character is to create a character. Not to create something you can sell. They’re games I’ve looked at getting into for a while, and where better to start than on a new console? But this kind of paint-by-numbers character design is off-putting.
I find myself doubting whether I want to play a game that’s just looking to sell me on other things. They’ve shown me the products, but they haven’t shown me the important things: the characters who aren’t designed solely around merchandising, the ones who probably aren’t going to take centre stage or be featured in any advertising campaign or promotional material. The ones I could legitimately look forward to meeting; characters designed for narrative investment, not financial.
If you were still unconvinced that games aren’t majorly about money, a leading developer abandoning creativity for a quick buck should be a sure sign. Playing customers like this is borderline exploitative. It’s like Activision tweeting “The initial target with yearly releases is to screw you for all you’ve got.” I don’t need that kind of insight.