I didn’t really see it for what it was for a long time, but when you open your gaze to the tendencies in character designs in games the over sexualization of women can’t be seen as anything less than ridiculous. We’re in an industry where men get massively thick armor covering manly exteriors and women are made to be fairly soft skinned and supple while wearing the least covering things possible.
Boys argue on message boards about not wanting to look anything like Kratos, Marcos Fenix, or other musclebound heroes claiming that this isn’t “my fantasy” while missing the point that a “male power fantasy” doesn’t mean you want to look exactly like the powerful male avatars, but instead that the males are imbued with a natural default state of empowerment while even strong women are more often dressed to be sexy first, and portrayed as empowered as an after thought.
I am a person who could be considered a feminist (my wife has called me one, but I prefer to avoid labels). With that said, I tried to look at Kamitani’s female artwork from a lot of different angles.
On one hand I find a certain comfort level with it as a straight male who grew up reading comics full of buxom heroines drawn with impossible measurements.
His treatment of women is alluring to a point of obscene excess and I feel strange at times looking at it, especially when it’s a full screen image of a mermaid lying, breasts out, helplessly on a stone floor, or a dying woman with her legs spread open for what seems like no reason at all. These full screen renditions detract from the overall enjoyment of the game for me as I have to think about the indulgences taken. The content makes me uncomfortable, especially in contrast to the much more sensible pictures of standard fair such as a skeleton wizard, some orcs, or a recurring a giant warrior guy. The blatant oversexualization & fetishization of the female body in full screen imagery is something I wouldn’t want my daughter to walk in the room and see me staring at on a screen.
This is in contrast to the actual playable women. Made up made up of a sensibly dressed Elf, a powerful, muscle bound amazon and the highly seductive sorceress, the latter of which has been the point of much of the contention around the style. However, outside of the production art for the game, the player characters become almost happenstance while in the heat of battle and regardless of the level of exaggeration, they aren’t there to be ogled, and they find their own manner of empowerment through the player’s control of them in the game.
With this dichotomy in place it leaves things to still be problematic in the end, but I’d still have to defer to the fact that Kamitani doesn’t seem like the type of artist who does things accidentally, and clearly has a style that he has espoused he is going for, and I respect that. I can’t help but imagine that in an art show these pieces would be discussed with a greater attention on intent and artistry as opposed to chiding an artist in the immature, male libido run games industry. Context, I suppose.