Metal Gear Solid V: The Quiet Question

The year is 2015 and it is required by law for every human to do a think piece about Quiet in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. But I'm glad of this draconian law because the the inclusion of the scantily clad sniper in the latest game of the highly-acclaimed stealth series has been a troubling one for. On the whole I adore the game, I've been playing everyday since its release and I have no plans on stopping anytime soon. But Quiet's character (if you can call it that) is one that has negatively affected my opinion and also my enjoyment of the game.

Let's go back to when Quiet was first revealed, there was a surprising unity in the gaming community that her character was a misstep for the franchise. Responding to the inevitable backlash after the initial reveal (no pun intended (the joke is that she wears revealing clothes)) the creator Hideo Kojima defended the character and said that there was a "secret reason" why she dresses as she does. I find it difficult to treat any character seriously when their existence is defined by the directors desire to backwards engineer a semi-nude lady into his game. The Metal Gear franchise has always had the fingerprints of its creator all over it, and this works in its favour the majority of the time. But when the one man in question has a singular immature vision of a character this becomes a problem as nobody at Konami is likely to tell him "no".

And anyway let's get on to this "secret reason". The reason is that Quiet breaths through her skin, in a similar way to photosynthesis. This allows her to be extra silent when moving around on the battlefield. The Metal Gear series is not one for realism and I can suspend my disbelief long enough to believe this. I mean this is a series which has men who can shoot wasps out of their hands and immortal vampires running on water which are never explained. However it has to have internal logic. If she breaths through her skin, why is she wearing any clothes at all? Surely she would breath easier if she was naked? And why doesn't every sniper appear in this way? Why don't Sniper Wolf or The End wear bikinis? 

There is an obvious moral objection that I have with Quiet. She is the only sigificant female character in the game, all of the others featured are helpless prisoners that you have to rescue. To have the single female character constantly parading around in a bikini is not a great message to be sending out. But not only is she partially naked, she is also essentially mute which stops her from contributing to the storyline in any meaningful other than random acts of violence. She is used throughout the game as tool to aid the player, featuring as a 'buddy' that the protagonist can call in to help them on the battlefield. Here she keeps company with a dog, a horse and robot. It doesn't take much to draw the conclusion that the developers clearly view women as significantly inferior to men who need to issue them instruction constantly, like you would an animal.

But this moral aspect aside, this use of over-the-top sexuality actively makes the game a worse experience for me as a player. This is first through the pure eye-rolling immaturity of both Quiet and Skulls snipers that show later in the game. These are are dressed in a similar manner to Quiet, with the in-game camera having a field day exploring their bodies with its perv-o-vsion. Secondly, and possibly more importantly from a narrative and world building point of view, having a character that is just a mute sack of meat does make the character interesting or empathetic.

What made the original Metal Gear Solid so great was the characters that Kojima created. Vulcan Raven, Psycho Mantis, Sniper Wolf, they all had distinct characters and personality, meaning it was even more satisfying when you eventually take them out. You cannot get emotionally invested in such a 2D character, and by going out of his way to create 'sexy' character Kojima has inadvertently made her void of any nuance or intrigue. She is a blank slate for male eyes to gawp over. And this isn't to say you can't do anything interesting with sexualised characters because you can. Take for example the eponymous character from Plantinum Games' Bayonetta series. She is hyper-sexualised to the point of complete parody. But the difference here is that she uses her sexuality it interesting ways, almost like a weapon. She is in control of it and uses it to her advantage with her persona corresponding with this, with witty one-liners and, most importantly, generally being badass.

Kojima's team clearly put a lot of effort into making Quiet. Everything in AAA game devlopment takes a long-time, with much man-power needed. Thus a lot of money is needed. Imagine how much money has been spent making Quiet's flesh look realistic, making her hair physics work. Imagine how much time and men it took to animate her ridiculous 'boob-jiggle'. That was probably one guys job for a week, working as gamings foremost breast animator. You cannot convince me, how ever much you like high resolution mammories, that that money and man power could have spent better elsewhere. They could have made a new shotgun or a pig-riding mechanic. I don't know, I'm not a game designer.

Games are often looked down upon as medium in many ways, they are not considered art or of high-cultural importance. The Metal Gear has been one of the bastions of experimental game design, blurring the lines between films and games, creating complex narratives with real-world themes and manipulating the player directly through gameplay in ways which no other medium could do. To see that hallowed franchise stoop as low as a crass "look at the big-titty lady" angle is not just a shame for the series, but gaming as a whole.