Yes that was a serious question. Why is it?
Last week, Jason Schrier from Kotaku published an article where he likened the artist of Vanillaware games, George Kamitani, to a fourteen year old boy. Why? Because of the character pictured above. Kamitani humorously fired back by posting a picture on his personal Facebook of the Dwarf characters from the same game shirtless, winking, and affectionately embracing. The caption under the picture read "It seems that Mr. Jason Schreier of Kotaku is pleased also with neither sorceress nor amazon. The art of the direction which he likes was prepared." Some took it lightly; some took it as an offensive crack at Schrier's sexuality.
Schrier later apologized and explained his reasoning for attacking Kamitani's designs. He said "...its embarrassing. Because I love Japanese games and Japanese RPGs and I don't want them to perpetuate the ugly 'boys' club' mentality that has pervaded gaming for almost three decades now." A lot of apologizing from both sides was made. In an e-mail to Kotaku, Kamitani explained that he found the art in works such as Dungeons and Dragons and in JRR Tolkiens works appealing. However, he decided that the initial character designs wouldn't stand out amongst the flurry of fantasy designs already parading in not just games, but books, movies, and other media as well. So he exaggerated his character designs in a cartoonish fashion. All of the designs are exaggerated, not just the busty sorceress. Kamitani's intent wasn't to be a sexist pig or alienate female gamers. It was just a simple artistic choice. Despite that, today, Gearbox's environmental artist has also put in her (very nasty) two cents about the art and Kamitani.
I am very disappointed by all this. We are nowhere near closer to a more accepting and inclusive gaming industry or community. All that's been done here is the shaming and ridiculing of a very talented artist. I mean, Kamitani has been likened to a teenage boy, a homophobe, a terrible artist, and a sexual deviant. That is completely ridiculous, rude, and uncalled for. People took one character design out of context and then decided to turn it and Dragon's crown into the poster child for what's wrong with the gaming industry.
Never mind the gorgeous trailers that display a wide variety of beautiful and detailed locations. Never mind the interesting beat 'em up style gameplay. Never mind the detailed and gorgeous 2D graphics. Never mind that Atlus finally announced a release date and promised future updates for the game after a long stretch of silence. Once again, never mind the fact that all the character designs, male and female, are exaggerated and cartoonish.
Now, I'm not one of those people that gets offended over people being offended. I know whenever stuff like this happens, multiple tirades against political correctness and people being too sensitive come up. But I believe that everyone has the right to be offended over whatever the heck they want. What's nothing to me might be offensive to someone else. I take no issue with that. Here's what I do take issue with though:
1.) Being offended over something and then trying to get it banned and out of the hands of everyone else who doesn't share your values or sentiments.
2.) Getting offended and then relentlessly and maliciously shaming someone or something when its not even warranted.
The latter is surely what happened here. George Kamitani is a talented man, and his artwork is absolutely gorgeous. Another article on Kotaku celebrated his designs after Schreir decided to mock him. The artist of Skullgirls, Alex Ahad, stated that he was inspired by Kamitani's work. He spoke highly of Kamitani's designs and Vanillaware in general, stating that he has the utmost respect for them. I don't think anyone can deny his talent. His art is celebrated and marveled at on a number of different sites by fans and critics alike. But what happens as soon as he draws one of his character's breasts too big?
"BURN THE WITCH!"
All this, while infuriating, isn't what bothers me the most though. People like Schreir say their justification for screaming "sexism" is to make the industry more inclusive and get it away from this boy's club mentality. That is an admirable goal and I can get behind that. However, I can't get behind spewing vicious insults at a talented artist for one character design, nor do I get behind people who throw around the word sexism at the drop of a hat.
I wrote about this many many moons ago in a blog about sexism. The issue of sexism in the industry is something I take very seriously. But at the same time, I can't help but shake my head at attempts like this to stomp out sexism. Its just not effective and its extremely misguided. Situations like these that get severely blown out of proportion are not helping the problem. Silly things like this usually end up desensitizing people to the real issue.
What about the real world? What about real issues like the pay gap in the gaming industry or online harassment? What about malicious sexism directed at living, breathing, human beings? What is shaming Kamitani going to do for these women in the long run? How is calling Kamitani an immature and creepy sexual deviant making the industry and community more inclusive?
Also, what about the people who are actually making conscious efforts to make the industry and the community more inclusive? A few weeks ago on April 22nd, the #1reasontobe panel was held at the Game Developers Conference. Inspired by the #1reasonwhy hashtag that blew up over twitter late last year, a number of women from the industry spoke about their experiences in the gaming industry. They talked about both the good and the bad of working in the industry, and what could be done to change the industry and make it better and more inclusive for future game developers. I watched it online; though I'm sure it must have been a completely different experience actually being there.
It was a very emotional and moving panel. Afterword, people thanked and praised the women leading the panel, noting that their words and actions today were inspiring to future female game developers.
To me, this is far more productive. Its far more productive when, in response to some guy with his foot in his mouth saying sexual harassment is normal and part of the fighting game culture, a number of players come out and say, thats not true and its not tolerated. I also think Kim Swift's sound and fair advice is far more helpful. I think both Meagan Marie's game industry advice on her website and her encouragement of people to not be afraid to call someone out on their inappropriate behavior and speak up for yourself are far more helpful. I'd like to see more of all of this and less "LOL who hired the teenage boy to do this crappy design."
Now, I don't see anything wrong with a polite, calm, and logical discussion on how women or any other groups are portrayed in games. But while its better and far more polite than what Schreir did, I still think focusing on changing the industry from the inside is more productive. After all, once something is out there its out there. The way I see it, a more inclusive and diverse industry that is willing to take creative risks would definitely make the problem of negative or sparse portrayals of women and minorities in games much better. Mocking George Kamitani will not.
So lets veer our eyes away from the sorceress' chest and focus on the real issues here.