Editor’s Note: I’m happy about all the comments and discussions my interview with Gavin Moore has brought up around the internet, but I feel like I have to set something straight. I changed the title of this article. The original title: “Japan will never care about sexism, it’s a non-issue" was misleading. I didn’t specify the word "sexism" enough. I didn’t mean Japan’s general reaction to sexism, the interview wasn’t about that and Moore didn’t say anything about that matter. It was about the fact that now that we have this discussion about male and female protagonists in video games, people start asking themselves: "Wait, is it sexist that nearly every hero in a video game is male? Should I feel weird about this?". The title didn’t reflect that enough, that’s entirely my fault and I’m sorry for it. Please don’t call Moore sexist because I chose unwise words for my title. I’m the one to blame for this.
I had the chance to interview Gavin Moore, Creative Director of Puppeteer, a new game by Sony’s Japan Studio, at a preview event in Hamburg Germany. My preview will be published in the next issue of the German print magazines ConsolAT and ConsolPLUS at a later date. We talked about all sorts of stuff regarding the incredibly charming Platformer Puppeteer. One question though clearly stood out and gave me an opportunity to take a look at the Japanese video game culture (developers and players alike), which seems impenetrable for us westerners sometimes. I slightly edited the interview (mostly “you know”s and “I mean”s and “right?”s) and my questions and statements are bold for a more comfortable reading experience. To understand things better, you should watch the game’s reveal trailer first.
I: Why is (Kutaro) a boy? I mean, there is no option to change (him) to a girl, right?
I: There has been a lot of talk lately about options, about gender, about the video games, so…
M: Well, you know, I did have a massive argument actually. We do mock reviews where we send it out to a service, right? Where they review the game for us. It’s not a real review.
I: Yeah, I know mock reviews.
M: And they tell us all the things, all the positives and negatives what they think, right? And they were telling me “Oh yeah, well it’s just a boy. Well it should be a girl” and it’s like, well no actually, look. I made the story. You don’t get to change Master Chief into a girl, do you? Doesn’t happen, right? And in Killzone I’m sure you’re not playing a woman, right? And, you know, in a fighting game, yes there are women characters and there are men characters but I think you’ll find that a lot of girls play the men characters and a lot of the guys play the female characters. So I don’t think it really matters. And in… and they were saying, “well Puppeteer, it’s so sexist”. And I was like “Puppeteer is not sexist”. The women in Puppeteer are really strong. You know, the witch and you know Pikarina the…
M: Fairy character. And that’s not her true stage. She’s been transformed into that by the Moonbearking. They’re really strong, all the women you meet in the game are. And so I had a big argument with them and said, well they didn’t know what they were talking about basically. Why do we want girls to play girls and why do we want boys to play boys? It’s just a story and it’s just something that we should do. So I should as a game creator start pandering to public opinion? Over what is correct? As soon as we start doing that we end up like America, we won’t be able to say anything ever again and it all be very PC and like… You know, to me, I grew up under a very strong mom.
I: Me too.
M: Right? So I know what women are all about. So women are strong and they’re not… So I should have made a little pink Kutaro, for girls to play?
I: No, we don’t have to exaggerate. I mean just, just a female. It doesn’t have to be pink. Kutaro doesn’t have to be red or blue or something. We don’t have to go that far. Just like, an option, just to have it there to maybe… It would cheapen your vision, I think, just-
M: I do too.
I: Because of all the chatter we have lately. Even Miyamoto gets the question. I mean he’s Miyamoto. Nobody would have questioned him (about) anything and now people are asking “Why isn’t Peach playable in every single Mario game?” So now I think we are at the stage right now with all this outcry we had on Twitter and all that FemFrequency and all that stuff that, as developer you have to answer the question. And, even if you don’t-
M: Like it? One way or the other? I don’t think we should do it.
I: I’m not saying you have to do it.
M: No no no, I’m not saying… In my opinion I don’t think we should. I think we should be making what we want to make and if somebody is upset by that than please don’t buy the product. (I don’t mean that) personally. As I said here, I grew up under strong women, I know how the women are strong and I love women, I think they are wonderful, but, I’m not going to change my creative vision over something because somebody tells me that that’s what’s important now. Because I don’t think that’s important. I tested this game with kids. Girls and boys. Not one of them has mentioned it. Not one of them cares. Now all of them had fun.
I: I feel like you don’t care. You don’t care (that Kutaro is) a boy, because it’s just the player.
M: Exactly. It’s exactly, that’s what it is. I mean, he doesn’t even speak. He has no personality. It’s just you. You just impose your personality on him and play as you. I mean you’re controlling him on the theatre on the stage, that’s what you’re doing.
I: Well, you know, we have this discussion right now-
M: Yes, interesting. Interesting. You see, I’m out in Japan and so I never hear any of this.
I: No? Is there no discussion whatsoever?
M: No discussion whatsoever. Nobody would even ask.
I: That sounds incredibly sexist from a western perspective.
M: It does, but from their perspective it’s like “What would the point be? Why would you even care if the character is male or female?” I mean they play around with very strong female characters, you know, looking at Bayonetta and all those sort of things.
I: Like Gravity Rush.
M: Right, Gravity Rush by Toyama-san, right? So, it’s just the character.
I: It’s a non-issue there.
I: Dou you feel like this could become an issue sometime, or are the cultural-
M: Never will they care. You think they have more to worry about with the nuclear meltdown and the chance of another earth quake and I don’t think….
Moore may sound arrogant in some ways and to be honest, I felt the same way during our interview. Arrogant in the good way though. In the “I’m the artist, so I’m calling the shots” sort of way. A mindset which only artists who full-heartedly believe in their creative vision can build and follow through. I edited the text here and there for a more comfortable reading experience as I mentioned before, but you can listen to this particular part of the interview in it’s unedited entirety right here.
Edit: I’m happy so many people enjoy the interview. You can support me over on Flattr.