I had the pleasure of finally getting into the Metal Gear series this year. On a whim one day, I popped a friend’s copy of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection into my Xbox. Metal Gear games always seemed to appear in lists of unique game trivia and easter eggs, and I was excited to see firsthand the care and detail that Hideo Kojima and his team put into their games. And boy, was I in for a treat. Even though the plot in the Metal Gear games tend to be … odd, to say the least, it’s undeniable that a lot of thought was put into the gameplay, the story, and how the two intersect. For instance, every boss in Metal Gear Solid 3 has some sort of method to defeat them that does not follow usual video game conventions, and one boss’ only method requires this kind of thinking. You can also scare enemy soldiers by wearing a crocodile head and swimming in the water. It’s swell.
It just so happened that I started considering myself a Metal Gear fan just in time for the release of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and the internet shitstorm that accompanied it. One of the hot topics for fans of these games and the poor bystanders who followed their social media was the design of the character Quiet, which began a debate in 2013 that started up again around MGSV’s September 2015 release date.
A few months after the original design was released, Kojima made a series of tweets that explained the player is intended to make snap judgements about Quiet that later revelations will prove wrong. Two years later, when the game was released on September 6th, 2015, we found out the zinger that Kojima referenced was the reason behind her barely-clothed appearance: due to a parasitic infection, Quiet needs to take in nutrients and oxygen through her skin. This explanation, which many found lackluster, incited backlash on social media from fans who found it unnecessary, and counterarguments from fans who weren’t really bothered by it.
Honestly, I’m not too impressed by Koijima’s plot twist. For all of the awareness that Kojima raises about the realities of war and nuclear deterrence, he isn’t exactly the greatest at writing women. In contrast to his protagonists who are men—super soldiers who have to navigate their personal identities in a world where they’ve been raised to be human weapons—his women characters are catalysts, symbols; they serve to further the development of their male peers.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the Metal Gear series explores symbols a lot. In fact, The Phantom Pain explores in-depth what it means to be a symbol of heroism—how we treat them, what goes into making them, and how much they match up with reality. [Spoilers!] If you’ve gotten to the end of Chapter 1 where the player learns that Venom Snake is actually David Bowie, you know what I’m talking about. [/Spoilers]
In regards to symbols related to Quiet, Michael Thomsen from Forbes wrote a well-thought-out article about how Quiet contributes to the symbolism related to sexuality that Metal Gear games explore, proposing that she represents an openness—both sexual and otherwise—that the series’ other women have gatekeeped and denied. [Warning: That article describes sexual violence and MGSV spoilers.]
Symbols are a great tool to use in writing video games, but things get iffy when the men get to represent a wide variety of concepts while the women almost always represent sexuality as one of theirs. For instance, while both Hal “Otacon” Emmerich and his stepsister, Emma Emmerich, represent the scientists’ dilemma in regards to the development of nuclear weapons, Emma is also an object of sexual desire for Raiden. Mei Ling invented the Codec system … and Johnny ogles her butt during a very important briefing. Naomi Hunter made numerous breakthroughs in nanomachine technology … and she gets at least two cleavage shots in addition to a panty shot.
Sexuality is an interesting topic to explore in media, but why must the characters who are women always be the conduit? Even though Quiet presents her sexuality in a way that is different from Metal Gear’s other women, she is still a mechanism for the (assumedly) cis straight man to navigate his sexual desires. According to Kojima, the player is meant to feel ashamed for judging her sexualized appearance—but in doing so, he has still made her defining traits related to how men view her sexually.
The following artists—regardless of their opinion on the matter—have created their own concepts of Quiet’s character design. If you want to see more of an artist’s work, click on the picture in question and it’ll take you to the original link for each piece. Many thanks to these talented individuals for allowing me to share them with you folks! A special shoutout goes to EuphyVR, the creator of the cosplay below, for sharing the Forbes article with me.
If you want to discuss Quiet further in-depth and whether love can bloom on the battlefield, I’ll be down in the comments section blasting “Nuclear” by Mike Oldfield on my sick ’80s beatbox.