In a recent interview with Gamasutra, Dead or Alive director Yohei Shimbori had this to say on the subject of sexualization:
“We were getting feedback from the overseas offices to tone down the sexuality, to tone down the sexiness of the game, and of the characters,” he remembers. But once feedback from fans playing the demo that was included with Ninja Gaiden 3 came in, those plans changed.
“We actually got a lot of feedback from people who were playing it, saying, ‘We want bigger breasts. Make the characters more like that.’ That was kind of surprising.”
It’s really hard to tell sometimes where the Team Ninja staff really falls on this issue. On one hand, these are the cats who once put together boob-shaped art installations on walls to function as “viral” marketing for Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, on top of their usual, more direct approach. Around the same time, their “breast physics model” was the focus of an actual ad campaign.
But if that anecdote about the fan response is accurate, maybe they just really know their audience? Japanese fans do tend to be less reserved about their appetites than a lot of the folks over here.
On the other hand, they’ve also gone on record from time to time stating their desire for more realistic character designs, a goal they’ve made strides toward with Dead or Alive 5 – that is, except for all the breasts and the wacky gravity affecting their movement, which kind of makes all that boobage stand out even more.
“There’s definitely still room for having sexualized aspects,” Shimbori concludes. “If you have a solid fighting game system there, there’s nothing wrong with having beautiful characters as a layer on top of that — that’s another layer of entertainment that there’s a need for. If there wasn’t a need for it, people wouldn’t have responded to the alpha demo like they did, and send us feedback.”
You had me right up until you dropped the word need.
Hey, listen up, I’ve got a shocking revelation for you: I like boobs. I know, right? I’m a guy, it’s part-and-parcel of our psychology. We even have scientific excuses, apparently. So I wouldn’t dream of disputing the point that there’s plenty of room for beauty in video games, specifically the ones that have earned it by getting their shit together elsewhere.
You can throw in all that cake and get away with it if you’ve attended to the meat and potatoes first, and big thumbs up to Team Ninja for doing that: reviews for Dead or Alive 5 have been excellent so far, completely regardless of the sex factor. It’s been a long time since I’ve been legitimately interested in playing a DOA game.
But there’s a line that needs to be drawn somewhere, you know what I mean? I don’t just mean the very fine line between titillation and creepiness, that part is obvious. I’m talking more about the line between the needs and the desires of your fanbase. It’s your own project, guys: if you want to shoot for realism, then you totally have the right and the artistic licence to do that. There’s no sense in going just halfway on this when there is still so much progress left to be made.
The opposite is also true, of course. If y’all like tits and ass enough to build a whole series of games around the concept, then hey, go for it. No need to hide behind platitudes. We all have porn on our computers somewhere.