Gender representation is a very touchy subject that taints a lot of the perspective that some governments and media outlets have of Japan. From the Rapelay international scandal that Alex presented last week to the shocking production of erotic dōjinshi based on mainstream series that Galbraith presents, there is a plethora of case studies that suggest that Japan media production has a very different conception of where the line is drawn between what is permissible erotica and what is disrespectful representation of women. While we can understand the public outrage that comes with over-sexualization of women's body, we should also understand how, for video games and gamers, representation is only a small part of what makes a character compelling.
|Ore no imoto ga konna ni kawaii wake ga nai - Kirino Playing a Little Sister-Themed Erotic Game|
Indeed, as Newman points out in Chapter 8 of his book Videogames, we must understand characters as a set of gameplay mechanics, a set of possibilities of interactions with the world. Should we fear the power of games to force identification of gamers and game avatars, therefore creating a generation of passive self-conscious female teenagers? Probably not, characters in video games are as much tools as they are a set of affect. This duality is well represented in the anime Orei no imoto ga konna ni kawaii wake ga nai where Kirino, a 14 year old popular girl working as a model for a publishing agency, hides a dark secret: she is an eroge maniac, especially for those featuring pornographic representation of incest between little sisters and big brothers. For her own brother, this is very concerning; as a non-gamer, he interprets this activity as the manifestation of a potential repressed sexual desire for him, an attitude that contrasts heavily with her normal cold and detached behavior towards him. However, Kirino does not identify with any of those characters as, for her, they are a set of tool that allows her to enjoy those stories. She is able to enjoy the game for what it is and not by identifying with it herself, just like male gamers can enjoy playing Chun-Li in Street Fighter 2 without feeling uneasy about playing as a female. While Chun-Li is very attractive in her own right, it is probably for her beginner-friendly fighting style that makes her very popular among cost-players. Video game characters cannot simply be reduced to their visual representation.
|Street Fighter II's Chun-Li|