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Last Guardian is Sexist!


(Disclaimer: I apologize in advance for posting this on Destructiod due to it coming from an editor on another site. Also this article is a mixture of information and personal opinion as I express my disagreement towards the original editor's statements.)

IGN editor, Ryan Clements, interviewed Fumito Ueda, the director of Last Guardian, after a gameplay demonstration. During the Q&A, a reasonable question was asked: Why do all the games created by Ueda feature a male protagonist over a female?

Apparently, the answers were disturbing; causing Clements to leave an interview feeling very uncomfortable and lose respect for the developer.

The first reasoning was regarding the character design itself. Ueda stated that girls wear skirts and most of their audience is male, which he explains is a bad combination. He feels that players would abuse the camera control in the game to create inappropriate moments in the game as the character climbs and jumps around. In no way, shape, or form does he want one of his games to become sexualized. Clements mentions that this is an honorable thought but by stating that all women wear skirts is stereotyping women. He feels that this is no excuse as to why a female main character could not exist in a Team Ico game since they could have her in pants.

As anyone who has played a Team Ico game, you know that the main characters' outfits often resemble attire worn by ancient or old civilizations. While males wore some form of pants, it was taboo for women to wear pants. It was not until the 19th century that the concept of a woman wearing something other than a skirt or dress became acceptable. Even then, it was only for very specific reasons such as riding on a horse's back or working in a mine or in a factory. It is believed that some cultures and religions based this limitation on clothing by gender on Deuteronomy 22:5: "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man".

(A Chinese Qi Pao)

While I understand that while by today's standards, this is sexist but that is how society was during those ages in history. To change the design would be like having Spartans wearing jeans in the next God of War. It is unfitting for the time frame and the feeling they are trying to create.

Though the clothing design was not the only design issue. Last Guardian focuses a lot on exploration and examining the environment that you are in as well as the scale of Trico. Therefore, Team Ico chose to use a camera view that spanned farther away from the character than most games. Uede felt that it would be difficult to portray feminine traits on a screen with a focus so far out.

Clement was not buying "technical limitations" as the only reasons. Eventually the topic regarding physical strength came into play. "If you particularly focus on this title -- there is a scene where the boy is on the back of the Trico, for example, or climbing the wall. If we replaced the boy with a girl of the same age, she probably wouldn't be physically strong enough to do such movements," Ueda stated in the interview.

Clement countered Ueda by saying that if a girl was raised in a harsh environment, then she too should have equal physical strength. Perhaps there is some truth to his argument, especially for two children who have yet to hit puberty, but there's still a significant difference between men and women physically. Studies have shown that women have "45, 41, 30 and 25% smaller muscle" when it came to upper body muscles. So even though a woman could be physically fit and strong, a man is more likely to be stronger. Something I have witnessed first hand back during my high school weight lifting classes. Even the weakest male in my class could lift as much (if not more) than the strongest woman. This does not necessarily mean that females are weak and incapable of handling themselves, nor Ueda implying this. He is simply just basing his decision on what we've scientifically been told for generations.

"Tradition is important to the Japanese," Clement writes in his article, "But this tradition can also hold the culture back creatively."

It is true that there is a large cultural gap between Japan and America. He discovered that Japan views gender roles very differently than America does, thus why Ueda saw no insult in his train of thinking. While women in Japan are not oppressed, they still follow certain roles or do certain tasks due to it being an importance to their culture. However, Clement found all of this to be very unsettling to the point of being disappointment in the developer. While I understand how Clement could interrupt some of these points as being offensive, I can't help but feel as there is some hypocrisy at work here. In a way, is demanding that a female character is created for the sake of having a female character not being sexist in itself? By implying that it is wrong to use a male design more frequently in one's work?

I get that this media form is overly saturated with male leads, but I feel as if there is no reason to over enforce female leads just for them to be there. Perhaps this is just a personal opinion, but sometimes a certain gender is more fitted for the part. A developer should not have to defend oneself when it comes to choosing one gender over another unless the work is overly, bluntly offensive. At least, that is how I feel.

I do no find Last Guardian to be offensive in any way just from having a male lead and am rather confused as to why and how anyone could.
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About Faye Dantesone of us since 10:00 PM on 02.07.2010

When I move my mouse around it's like my hand and the mouse don't even exist and that I am moving the pointer around solely with the power of my mind. I have achieved nearly 100% synchronization this machine and soon I will become The Internet.

It has been nearly 5 years since I've last written anything on Destructoid or any other sites. After a little rebanding and a lot of time to reflect on life, I have returned to try to breathe life back to two passions that I have neglected more than I wanted. I won't bore you with what I've been doing since then (moved a few times, got engaged, got married, and bought a house), but I'm happy to be back!

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