Opinion: Dragon’s Crown Artwork Is Ridiculous, But Still Art
George Kamitani’s over-sexualized Dragon’s Crown artwork has caused quite a fuss lately, and sparked heated arguments on public forums. But like it or not, we don’t get to decide what someone else feels is ‘art’.
While there’s always been talk of sexuality in gaming, the over-zealous designs of one George Kamitani for the upcoming Vanillaware game Dragon’s Crown has come with a surprising amount of vehemence. The debate over the designs of female characters in the world of nerdlings, from game to film, has been raging since games first began. What separates Dragon’s Crown from this is the nearly unprecedented amount of vitriol spewed by all involved. I figured it’s about time I voice my own opinion, since I’m the only one on the internet that hasn’t at this point.
For what it’s worth, I don’t mind when women are ‘over-sexualized’, if anything I’m miffed that’s even a thing. Women are lovely to look at. What does bother me however, and this is where I can see the other side of the argument, is that women are the only ones seen as objects of desire. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander as far as I’m concerned, and having a woman in a chain mail thong standing next to an armored titan of a man seems silly. To this end, I’m a fan of designs like those of Diablo 3, where the Barbarian and Witch Doctor for both genders are suitably under-clothed. It fits with the concept and design. It makes sense. Equality, etc.
I love artists like Luis Royo, Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell, who disregard conventional armor in favor of a sensual aesthetic. These artists were gracing magazines and the covers of game boxes long before the characters in them bore any resemblance. While it’s true that in their day, these artists and their designs faced a certain kind of stigma, I have trouble comparing them to the work of artists like Kamitani. Where some art is an exploration of the human body, Dragon’s Crown’s artwork is a clear exploitation of it.
From ‘broken’ bodies that twist and contort to overly exaggerated portions of the anatomy, I can’t help but wonder how these characters made it into the final version of Dragon’s Crown. But here’s the thing; while I think the artwork is terrible, I still don’t begrudge Kamitani’s allowance for it. I don’t even mind that this style and aesthetic was kept throughout Dragon’s Crown. There’s zero understanding and respect for anatomy and the artist has somehow managed to turn sexy into nightmarish, and I’m still okay with it. Why? Because like it or not, we don’t get to decide what someone else feels is ‘art’.
And no, that it comes from a video game doesn’t make it any less ‘art’. If I textured a 3D cube with the Mona Lisa and threw it into a video game, the Mona Lisa doesn’t stop becoming a work of art. It was conceptualized, created and painted by an artist. It is, therefore, art. Period. There is no other qualification for art that I care about, than that someone made it for the purpose of its aesthetic appeal, be it to them or others. I’m not asking for anyone to agree with me, so feel free to be as annoyed by that explanation as you like.
What I don’t like, however, is that the women in Dragon’s Crown, while warriors, are created purely as sexual objects while their peers (male characters) are antithetical. If this is the world that’s been created for this game, it should remain consistent if nothing else. For me, this demeaning double-standard is what annoys me most about the artwork. Of course, if the men in Dragon’s Crown had nipples pushing through their attire and gigantic butt cheeks wobbling with every movement, the majority of people would find that off-putting and awkward, even me. That begs the question, why are we okay with the notion that women, and only women, should exude sex with every fiber of their being? Why is it only men are expected to be more than that, mean more than that? If we recognize this as a problem with our society, with our real lives, why do we continue to perpetuate this in our entertainment?
Everyone has different opinions on what constitutes going too far. But while I suggest artistic freedom takes precedence, I still believe discussion and dialogue should always be welcomed…when offered with respect.
Recently, major controversy was created over hyperbole chucked like food in a grade school cafeteria, fitting considering how those involved acted. Jason Schreier, writer for Kotaku, wrote a short piece a month ago claiming the art for Dragon’s Crown was created by teenage boys. While I might agree in my head, I feel at times people on that high horse forget the cardinal rule; treat people the way you want to be treated. Kamitani was no better, responding with artwork that showed three burly, naked men in embrace with a caption stating that Schreier would like that better.
Kamitani later apologized for this, but it was a highly offensive and juvenile slap that crossed nearly every boundary one in his position should respect, in a public forum no less. It was meant to ostracize and demean Schreier for something that, true or not, is no one’s business. This is that same mysoginistic stereotype that suggests any man that stands up for women is gay, which itself perpetuates another stereotype that gay men are somehow less than straight men. The hollow apology is no band-aid, he should have known better. Any mature adult would know better, thus if anything he proved Schreier’s assessment was accurate.
But it doesn’t stop there. Shaylyn Hamm, environmental designer for Gearbox, for whatever reason decided she needed to soil her hands with this Dragon’s Crown mess as well. There can never be too much immaturity, evidently. Her comment on The Escapist’s forums devolved quickly from a concern that this kind of hyper-sexuality for female characters prohibited an exclusive experience for women seeking to join the field and/or pick up the hobby of gaming, to name calling and profanity. At one point, she compared Kamitani to a 5th grader she’d known that may be in jail at this point.
Not only is this incredibly rude, but she diminishes the weight of her argument and manages to draw on yet more stereotype, that gamers are sexual deviants or delinquents because of the content of some games. As someone involved with the creation of games, and with the state of scrutiny the industry is facing following a string of gun crimes, one would hope she’d be smarter than that. Evidently, expecting people to be intelligent behind the semi-anonymous veil of the internet is asking for too much. Instead, she proves to be no better than those she flings mud at.
In the end, I agree with both sides. These aren’t real people, and Kamitani and Vanillaware have every right to portray their characters however they like. However, this doesn’t mean they aren’t worthy of criticism; they’re creating games they expect others to play and pay for. That means those ‘others’ get to have an opinion about the product being sold to them. Kamitani needs to respect that, just as everyone else does. If they can’t, they need to get out of dodge and let cooler heads run the show. Personally, I hope artists and designers eventually grow beyond their reliance on sexual clichés, but I’ll neither hold my breath nor judge them harshly. My wallet’s always spoken louder than I have, anyway.