Recently I didn’t play a video game.
You might be thinking “So what?”. After all, a lot of people don’t play video games. There are even a lot of video games I don’t play. But this was a new game in a series that I’ve played pretty much all the previous installments of.
I’m not easily offended. I played right through Grand Theft Auto V, for example, as well as writing a series of articles defending the series. But I’m not going to play Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, and I’m probably not going to play Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
The creator of the MGS series, Hideo Kojima, has a long history of sexism and problematic depictions of women in his games. In Metal Gear Solid (the original PSOne game), the character of Meryl reveals that she was psychologically manipulated to destroy her interest in men — and then a little later, a psychic bad guy named Psycho Mantis takes over her mind and forces her to attempt to seduce — or perhaps rape — the male protagonist at gunpoint.
Metal Gear Solid 2 shook things up and tried to have more realistic female character interaction — check the codec discussions between Jack and Rose. Fans didn’t like it. I did. Yes, even Raiden.
Metal Gear Solid 3 was also pretty good, though it did introduce the character of Eva, a KGB agent who likes to wander around mountaintops in a bikini top and generally show plenty of lovingly modeled boob physics. It was cheesy, and I couldn’t help thinking of the character as Ivana Humpalot, but it didn’t make me hate the game.
But things started to get really creepy in Metal Gear Solid IV, which introduced the Beauty and the Beast Unit — four young women operating robot bodies. During play you discover that all four have suffered horrific trauma (torture, brainwashing, massacres, and so on). Then once you defeat their robot forms, they emerge in skintight latex fetishwear and you get to enjoy a photoshoot session — before shooting them. Apparently Kojima originally wanted them to be naked. Maybe he was trying to say something about how we’re all vulnerable to the brutality of war, but it came across as seriously creepy and misogynistic. It didn’t help that the game was filled with lengthy cutscenes and had a plot that was self-indulgent to the point of being up its own ass.
Which brings me to Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. When I started reading about it, I couldn’t help thinking back to the sexist parts of the previous games. This time, there’s a huge breasted mute sniper named Quiet to provide the obligatory gratuitous cleavage and embody the perfect MGS woman. Meanwhile, the misogyny is dished out to a woman named Paz, who is rescued from a military camp after being extensively tortured — torture which the game helpfully provides recordings of, so you can listen to Paz being raped if you want. At the end of the game she is given hasty surgery to remove a bomb from her stomach, before it’s revealed that oh dear, she had a second bomb shoved in her vagina, which explodes.
…or maybe it was her anus. The game isn’t totally specific, and I don’t want any passing commenters to feel a desperate need to nit-pick. Whichever orifice it may be, that is where I exit this particular sequel train.
Since I can already imagine the “…but what about the men?” comments: Yes, men also get brutalized and wear skimpy outfits in the universe of Metal Gear, but unless we have some sort of Snake chainsaw castration scene in MGS V, that doesn’t really compare to vagina bombs. There’s also this thing called position of privilege which makes sexism against men less of an imminent problem than sexism against women.
Yes, I also know the Metal Gear Solid series has a history of this stuff. That’s why I wrote about it above. My point isn’t that this is something new; it’s that it’s now gotten bad enough that I — a long term fan of the series — don’t want to experience any more of it. If you do, go ahead and drop $60 on the next in the series — I’m not trying to have anything banned.
Me, I played Splinter Cell: Blacklist instead. It doesn’t have breast jiggle physics, snipers in bikinis, women being tortured and then blown apart with explosives, or a chance to take fetish photos of women before shooting them in the head. And you know what? I think it’s a much better stealth action game because of those omissions.