We're certainly witnessing an interesting time in the entertainment industry. It's a time where a scantily clad sorceress with giant breasts is criticized as being simply eye candy, despite her great talents with sorcery. Then we have a movie glorifying a BDSM fetish eagerly anticipated by women everywhere. It's a time where designers now have to be extra careful when designing their characters, as to not offend the general gaming public.
That's why it's both interesting and refreshing to hear that Team Ninja is sticking to their guns, and not sacrificing their original visions for Dead or Alive with the latest iteration Dead or Alive 5: Last Round. I was able to briefly talk to Team Ninja's Creative Director, Tom Lee, and discuss the series' creative vision, and why they chose to keep the game's females as busty as ever.
When I asked about the game's voluptuous visuals given the current state of gaming, Lee stated, "I tell ya, this is a question that pops up a lot, and I've personally answered it in many different ways. This is our position, it's not like we're ignorant and we don't know what's going on. We're very conscious with what happened, and the Gamergate issues of last year, and objectification of women in entertainment, misogyny, all of it, we're very aware."
It's certainly comforting to know that Team Ninja isn't outright ignoring these issues. However, Lee also mentions that the game and its characters aren't meant to be directly relatable. "However, when you look at a game like DOA, from the minute you turn on the game, it's in a very other-world, fantasy type of environment. I don't think it takes much to figure out that this has very little to do with a real world. Our women, our males, our environments, are not relatable to real people. So in that sense, in our theme of fantasy, we feel like we have absolutely every right to show off beautiful characters and how we see fit."
More importantly, the game isn't in any way degrading to women. Sure, the game revolves around kicking a whole lot of ass, but it's not like female characters are ever at some sort of statistical physical disadvantage. "We're not having these beautiful women be abused and treated unfairly in our game. They're just as powerful as a male character. They're balanced in the sense that they're equal."
But having busty characters goes beyond eye-candy at this point. The Dead or Alive franchise has had this design philosophy right from the very first game; gorgeous, stacked females duking it out with one another on elaborate and ever changing battlefields. Had Team Ninja responded with a toned down version of their game with Last Round, it would certainly go against their artistic vision. "And since we have a tradition of having voluptuous characters, just because people have personal issues in their daily lives with the treatment of women, I don't think that necessarily correlates to them. […] It purely comes down to a design issue, and we don't feel like we should apologize for that."
My interview concluded with some food for thought, something that I hope more developers take to heart. While some developers are caught up in trying to please their fans to a great extent — something that certainly is important if you want your game to be well received — it's important for the developer to stick with his original vision and not let it be shaped by angry fans. To this point, Lee added, "I don't want to work and live in a world where creators have to back down from a vision because the fans are saying 'I don't agree with your design or your vision.' I don't think that's conducive to artistry. I don't think that's conducive to creativity."
In the end, the Dead or Alive franchise has up until now been all about the fantasy, the spectacle and the beauty, and it seems like Team Ninja is certainly not sacrificing any of that with Last Round, or any future iterations of the franchise that they may or may not be working on.
"It's an interesting time we live in," Lee concluded. "We obviously pay a great deal of attention to blogs and user feedback, but at the same time, we have to hold our own and say 'Hey guys, at the end of the day, this was our thing.' We have to have some integrity behind what we set out to do."