Sexuality a touchy subject - Suda 51

Killer is Dead developer says he's not looking to be offensive, doesn't plan to change approach to women in his games

Suda 51's new game Killer is Dead features a "Gigolo Mode," where players chat up a woman at a bar, attempting to discretely sneak glimpses of her underwear with the help of x-ray specs. It's distinctly in line with Suda's history as a creator, but it's also the sort of problematic treatment toward women that has become vocally decried in the games industry of late.

Speaking with GamesIndustry International at E3 last week, Suda said he had heard criticisms of how his games portray female characters. For example, Lollipop Chainsaw's protagonist runs around slaughtering zombies with a chainsaw while wearing a cheerleading outfit, and No More Heroes' taskmaster Sylvia spends the game using sex as a reward for the player character doing her bidding.

"I think in a way when you get criticism, that means people are paying attention to your work," Suda said through a translator. "Any kind of artistic value, anything you create, there's always some kind of criticism behind it. Which means we're making an impression and an impact. So I think we'll stay with what we're thinking and just keep going with that way of thinking...And when I say that, sexuality is a touchy subject. We don't want to make people offended, but we're trying to create something that makes people laugh a bit because we're [dealing with] that topic."

Suda also addressed his prolific history as a developer. Killer is Dead will be the eighth game on which he's worked since 2010.

"We would love to slow down," Suda said. "Especially the past four years, we've been in a very high-paced mode with Shadows of the Damned, Lollipop Chainsaw, and then Killer is Dead. They're all on HD machines. It would be nice to slow down a bit. And on top of those titles, there are downloadable and social games as well. But at the same time, I don't want to disappoint fans who are waiting for our titles, so we won't take too much time slowing down."

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Latest comments (21)

Justin Shuard J - E translator 8 years ago
Good for him. We need less people like Warren Spector telling us what should and shouldn't be made, and more creators like Suda51 just making whatever the hell they want to make. Don't like it? Don't buy it.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development8 years ago
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Alex Bunch Proof Reader, ZiCorp Studios8 years ago
Games designers shouldn't be afraid to offend. People don't have the right NOT to be offended.
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Show all comments (21)
Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 8 years ago
I love Suda's work because it's more about going for broke and seeing where the pieces land and less about molding something for a particular audience.

In LC, Juliet was a strong, goofy and FUN character to play as and in general, I like how ALL of his male, female and other characters have offbeat elements that will knock some folks into a tizzy over some bits who don't quite grasp that he's not reflecting reality one bit. I recall his Michigan on the PS2 having an optional voyeur mode of sorts as well, but it was more a mix of intentionally scary and really strange (at least I thought so)...
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Shakil Mohammed8 years ago
We are getting to a point where we need to make it clear that games are free to be made however the creators wish it, if it dosent please a few or many than they can voice their opinion by not purchasing it or having any kind of interaction with the game or producers who make them. Thats how things work in television, films and every other kind of media that exists.
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Tucson K Bagley Junior Artist, Dreamgate Studios8 years ago
Suda's stuff never struck me as sexist. Sexuality does not equal sexism. In fact, thinking like that is part of the problem.
For example, if Lollipop Chainsaw's protag was completely incompetent and everyone else in the game made cracks at how lame her hits were, only keeping her in the game as titillation and the win condition was only achieved with the help of a big, male character saving the day, that would be getting towards sexist.

But, of course, that is not the case. Suda51's worlds are outlandish and silly, and Juliet is kind of a badass. So yeah, I have to say that Suda's got the right idea, here, and I hope he just keeps doing what he's doing, frankly.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Tucson K Bagley on 22nd June 2013 8:09am

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Jade Law Senior concept artist, Reloaded Productions8 years ago
Shadows of the damned sequel please : D
Sexuality is a touchy subject but I'm glad people like Suda choose to ignore criticism like this, because they know it isnt their intent to offend but you cant always help that someone will be.
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Elikem Jubey8 years ago
This kinda reminds me of MovieBob's analysis of Bayonetta:
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 8 years ago
1) The game industry's attitude towards sex is still pretty puerile. Like 15 year old boys. All other IP entertainment: books, pop music, film, television and even opera are vastly more grown up and sophisticated.

2) Diversity in our output is to always be applauded. We need to try new things and to appeal to new customers. PS3/Xbox 360 were very bad for creativity. The digitally distributed platforms are leading an explosion in creativity.

3) Game developers and publishers who do stuff that attracts the mainstream media have their marketing right. Surgeon Simulator is a prime example. This is what the film and pop music industry do all the time. As an industry we have much to learn.
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Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee8 years ago
It all comes down to the difference between artistic expression and just 'something else'. I like what Suda 51 does and many others appreciate the products too, long may it continue...
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Helen Merete Simm Senior UI Artist, Ubisoft Reflections8 years ago
The problem is that these days the "mainstream gamer audience" is perceived to be a white male who is into lewd jokes and cheerleaders, when in reality it is much more diverse and it would be nice if some of these developers would defend the right to make something different with as much intensity as the right to make another "carry on" game.

Having said that I did chortle at Shadows of The Damned and I loved Bayonetta, but goddamn I do want more diversity in gaming.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 8 years ago
@Helen: While it's not an actual "game", I guess this kind of counts as diverse:
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Suda51 is like Nigel Tufnell wondering out loud "What's wrong with being sexy?"

It's just so depressing that this is the debate about sexuality in games. Is the zombie-killing cheerleader sexist or not? That's the level we're working at? Really? Imagine if discussions on sexuality on TV began and ended with Benny Hill, or if sex on film was limited to Carry On Camping. What if Jackie Collins was considered the benchmark for sexuality in fiction?

The silly thing is that there's no sexuality in Suda51's games. There's no sex. It's just empty titillation, a teenager's fantasy of what sex is about. Let's not embarrass ourselves by saying this is a good starting point for "sexuality in games". You'd do just as well debating the artistic merits of a schoolboy drawing a spurting biro cock in the back of a textbook.

There's no point having this conversation until there are actually enough high profile games that feature sexuality - as in real, complicated, thoughtful adult sexuality - to make it worth discussing. It's not about banning the shallow smut of Suda51, it's about making sure there's more to the medium so that these trifling puerile confections aren't the only thing we have to debate around.
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany8 years ago
1) Guess you skipped The Witcher 2, Indigo prophecy and Catherine on purpose right? But I guess it's common on you to just see one side of the coin out of convenience to support your arguments.

2) Again, out of convenience. Most of Suda's work was released on current gen consoles. Along with things like Catherine, Limbo, Explosion Man, Bastion or Last of Us (you need to live under a rock not to have heard about this one). Blaming creativity on a platform is like blaming creativity on a painting out of the paint brad it was used on it. Now how about digital distribution? Each game that is released on Smartphones (for example) gets an average of two clones in a matter of days (check for "Stupid Zombies" or "X-plosion". Hell... just check Gameloft's entire catalogue always cloning (you guessed!) console games.
The company you work in is an example, Bruce... if you can't see that then you have a problem.

3) You have much to learn too... How much time have you been working on the industry to know that adaptability is essential? your biased, one-sided and limited view on how the industry works kinda ensures that once the trend of mobile games is gone (Like it or not, you have a lot of costumers because is a trend, like the Wii was) I wonder what will you do. Just by reading it I can tell you that some companies like Ubisoft, for example, would not hire a guy with such a limited perspective. Personally by reading you I feel reticent to buy anything from Kwalee (no offense, you are the one causing this effect)

Seriously now, are you trolling, doing some kind of viral marketing or just frustrated? just asking... you were the guy saying that everyone should apply for Zinga one year ago and... well... You hate consoles, you want them to disappear, you don't care how many jobs companies and IP's go to waste because of it. I don't know the reasons and I don't care, but your attitude is not the one from a professional of this sector, but from a fanboy that belong into gamespot's comment section more that in gamesindustry's

But certainly, there is one thing that you are right. The industry is pretty immature if a person (yourself) can work within it for years and still keep your fanboyish mentality. One advise: Check Suda's Catalogue, starting with Killer 7, because you are obviously speaking about "puerile" in the worst of places...
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I can think of a few reasons publishers and devs don't touch these themes. Dunno if they're correct but anyway:
(1) Games folk don't self-identify as being in an artistic medium. Individuals in the industry do of course, gamers do too, but we're a publishing industry where money-types and salespeople are in charge who broadly still think we're peddling techno-toys to kids or their adult-child parents. They're not wrong to think that, just being too narrow and certainly aren't seeing the possibilities.
(2) As stated, iIts bloody hard to make digital tech deal with analogue emotional/biological human stuff without huge effort. Plus I just think there's something weird and disconnected when trying to interact with very complex human emotions and/or sexuality through a joypad or keys. It's hard to 'play' any game like that except for laughs. Bang-for-buck, blowing shit up is just a lot easier when it comes to effort in versus results. As ever though, it just remains for some developer to show us how its done, then its suddenly real. Journey tapped some very primitive stuff in that sense.
(3) Oh plus there's the ol' america-is-ok-with-violence-but-not-with-sex thing. Is that still a thing? I think it's still a thing.
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Alex Comer Games Developer 8 years ago
How can anyone seriously defend this presentation of women in a game? Games are a part of culture, and the message they send is important. This 'gigolo mode' is not exploring the theme of sexuality at all. It presents women as mere sex objects and the player is encouraged to violate even the basic dignity which would be afforded by their clothing. It is utterly, indefensibly sexist, and is absolutely the kind of thing we as game creators should rail against. Any argument that this is only free expression or that games like this one shouldn't be taken seriously is missing the point completely.

This is sexism and we should criticise it.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development8 years ago
@Alex. One better, they should STOP defending it. FFS in another thread someone is seriously pissed that someone else said all women have vaginas.

Personally, I don't give a fuck if anyone takes offence at anything I say or do. You are all free to be offended if you wish and I wish you well in it.
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Abraham Tatester Producer 8 years ago
To have this conversation without a single mention of the rampant sexism and common misogyny in Japan is laughable. Context is everything. Suda is sexist because Japan is largely sexist. This level of overt sexism is generally not tolerated in the West these days—and that's something many of us are glad about, myself included.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development8 years ago
That's a good point Abraham. I do wonder what the guys at fullbright would make of "Rape Man" ( though I've never heard them rail against it.

"Righting wrongs through penetration." Seems a bit more hardcore than "women have vaginas".

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Johnson on 25th June 2013 10:03pm

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Alex Comer Games Developer 8 years ago
What is the point? A fair question.

Freedom of expression isn't the point, because Suda 51 is free to release this game and we are free to criticise it, so we can all express ourselves freely. But I do think we should criticise it, rather than leaping to its defense.

And, no, it doesn't reflect on the whole industry. When we criticise this game, we are not criticising every game, only this one. Nevertheless the game should be criticised as a part of a broader culture.

The point – I think – is discussing and criticising the messages sent by individual games, within the context of the games industry and culture in general. We can't deny there's a lot of sexism in games – for various interesting reasons – and the fact that we often feel the need to defend sexism in order to defend the industry makes it clear just how prevalent it is and how important it is we take it seriously.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Alex Comer on 26th June 2013 3:40pm

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Yvonne Neuland Software Engineeer 8 years ago
The topic of gender in gaming is not offensive, unless a person chooses to be offended by it. Choosing to be offended by it is, in my opinion, almost always a deliberate decision motivated not by actually being offended, but by a desire to promote an agenda unrelated to the actual topic.

There are two main agendas that I have come across repeatedly in the articles published on the topic, and in the comments posted about said articles.

The first of those agendas is generally an extreme “feminist” agenda, that aims to drive the discourse away from any actually relevant aspect of the topic, and onto the topic of the “immorality of gender bias” in society as a whole. Such individuals frequently posit that gender is a cultural phenomenon, and argue that even acknowledging that there are any kind of differences between males and females is immoral.

The second agenda is an extreme chauvanistic male pig agenda that seems to be motivated by the fear that even discussing the topic of gender in gaming will somehow cause developers to immediately cease making all games that appeal to men entirely, and immediately begin pumping out games that extreme “feminist’s” would approve of.

Neither agenda contributes anything valuable to the conversation whatsoever, but almost always steers the conversation into an outraged TROLLfest that prevents any meaningful disscussion of the issue from occurring.

In order to have a meaningful discussion on the issue, I believe that the issue needs to be broken up into several different subtopics because while the issues of gender equality, sexism, sexual exploitation, sexual discrimination, sexuality, gender differences, gender preferences, sexual preferences, and gender all fall under the category “Gender in Gaming,” they are all completely different topics.

I do believe that the issue is important, but not for any of the reasons most commonly cited. In my opinion, most of the arguments that people make when discussing this issue stem more from their own opinions about how other people ought to behave, and a desire to force their own belief system onto everyone else. Personal opinions on what level of sexual appetite or amount of clothing a character ought to be wearing may be a moral issue, but morality is a personal belief system. Everyone is entitled to their beliefs. Even the people who disagree with you. Changing the game industry to conform with those beliefs, however, will not change society at large. The music, movie, and television industries are far more influential on the general population than games. Far more people are knowlegable about the Kardashians than about the Sorceress character in Dragon’s Crown.

I find the issue important because from a business standpoint the gaming industry has evolved into a niche industry that primarily caters to a very narrow segment of the general population, namely young, white males. There is nothing offensive about making games that appeal to young, white males. The young, white male audience, however, is over-saturated with choices at this point, and all other audiences are still available to be profited from. At the end of the day, this issue is really about expanding the potential customer base in order to drive profits.

If a developer has their heart set on making games filled with female eye-candy, puerile humor, or half-naked, porn-star shaped, helpless, damsels in distress with voracious sexual appetites, then I have no problem with them doing so.

I doubt, however, that such games will turn much of a profit.

Men and women have different temperments, interests, and motivations. The game industry has done a very good job of analysing what kinds of game content will appeal to it’s current audience, and how to design games that will be able to provide the right kinds of acheivement, entertainment, and experience to profit from that audience.

Assuming that the content that appeals to the current hardcore gamer audience is the only kind of content that can be profitable, however, is a mistake. In order to continue expanding the customer base for games, you cannot simply make superficial changes to the current standard design models. New design models of reward/acheivement/motivation systems need to be developed in order to appeal to audiences who value different kinds of rewards, have a different opinion on what qualifies as an acheivement, and are motivated by different values.

Market analysis of kindergartners clothing preferences does not help identify what kinds of clothing middle aged men would prefer to buy. Market analysis of what kinds of games young, white males want to buy dos not help identify what kinds of games middle aged women would prefer, or what kinds of games African-american audiences would prefer, or what kinds of games elderly Jewish audiences might enjoy.

In my opinion, the topic of gender in gaming is really about expanding the audience. Discussions of how to go about figuring out what would interest new audiences would be far more useful than bickering over whether a games character leers a bit to much at the non-existent “woman” rendered graphically on a screen. Sex sells, whether people like it or not. But other things sell to.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Yvonne Neuland on 25th July 2013 12:40am

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