Is Peace Walker Sexist?

Whenever I play Japanese games, I inevitably run into situations where I am confronted with content I am troubled by. It is often content that seemingly borders on bland sexism, racism or even pedophilia. I’m often having a difficulty to comprehend the intention of the questionable content. Is it really meant this way? Or is it me who is the racist? Am I simply applying my western values to the product of a culture so very different from my own.

In the case of Peace Walker, the situation gets really difficult. Hideo Kojima is clearly a smart man. He manages to put some deep concepts and ideas into a mainstream product. Somehow, he manages to successfully combine sophistication with popular entertainment. So I’m usually willing to give him the benefit of a doubt. But then I meet a character like Paz and I’m lost at words again.

Early in the game, you are given a mission from a man escorting a young girl. The girl is introduced as a Puerto Rican Costa Rican fugitive. Her name also means “Peace” and for some reason she is being idolized into an “Angel of Peace” or something along those lines. I didn’t really understand that part. However, the fist time she is introduced, the player is given control over a magic camera that can zoom in trough the layers of her clothes to see her in underwear. Um, what?

Paz X-Ray

Talking about Airport Security

That’s weird, especially considering she is only 16 years old. But the moment passed quickly and I kinda forgot about it. All that remained was the nagging ridiculousness of her just not looking like anything like a person from Costa Rica. But then I started picking up other details. For example, the game has lots of opportunities to look up 3D models of the things you can interact with. You can see 3D models of your base, your weapons, your vehicles, your gear, etc. As a game designer, I enjoy that feature a lot. The models are masterfully done and I love examining some of their details. For certain characters you can also see the 3D models. But guess what. You can see only the female ones! Even though there are clearly good looking hi-rez models of the male main characters, you can’t access them. Isn’t that strange?

But then it gets even better. The game finally treats you with a bonus mission where Snake goes out on a date with 16 year old Paz. That’s right. Take a look.

So you goal is to use a communication system made for co-op combat missions to say things that may be appropriate on a date. Every time you say a fitting line, you score a heart. The mission ends when you get in a cardboard box. They are normally used for hiding and called “Love Boxes” in this game. If you do that in this mission, Paz will get in the box with you. Some innuendo-filled dialogue and rumbling follows and the mission is over. If you got enough hearts during the mission, you will be awarded with an S rank. Your reward is that the next time you play this mission, Paz will be in her underwear. But that’s not all. Remember the 3D models of the female characters you could watch? From then on, all of them will be in their underwear / bathing suits as well.

It seems like a clear case of sexist exploitation even bordering on statutory rape. But the more I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion that interpretation doesn’t fit so well either. For starters, going on the date you can chose your “outfit”. If you chose a uniform that shows a lot of skin, Paz will actually run away from you. This really confuses me about what are they actually supposed to be doing when they eventually get into the love box.

Also, on a second thought, the idea of the date is actually not that silly. The themes of the game are the 70ies, the cold war and the ideal of peace. The mission is actually the embodiment of the “Make love, not war” mantra. Peace Walker is a combat game after all. The mission asks you to creatively re-purpose your set of verbs to engage not in combat but in a romantic relationship. If you set aside the creepiness of trying to date a 16 year old, that’s actually good way to address the inherent conflict of a war game being supposedly about peace. The game exposes it’s very own limitations to the player, including it’s inability to portray scenes outside of combat.

And then there are other instances where the game actually disrupts the “Male Gaze” you would expect from a game with shallow, exploitative intentions. So next to the Paz date, there is also a similar dating scenario with Kaz, you male sidekick.

The mission unfolds similar to the date with Paz. The only difference is that no 3D models are unlocked upon success. At least as far as I can tell.

And finally, just the regular story features plenty of actually quite credible and respectable female characters. Most noteworthy are perhaps a lesbian scientist Dr. Strangelove and especially The Boss. I wonder why The Boss is so rarely mentioned when talking about strong female characters in games. It would be very had to come up with a stronger character than The Boss. She is old Snake’s mentor figure. As war hero and an experienced combat expert, she is cool, wise and dangerous while completely avoiding sexist clichés. She doesn’t actually appear in Peace Walker but the game deals with a lot of her back-story. In countess audio logs, she is practically idealized into the unsung Jesus of the U.S. spaceflight program.

So you see, I’m having a very difficult time judging some of the content Peace Walker. On the one hand, the game contains quite outrageous scenes that should clearly be considered sexist. On the other hand, the general style style of the game is actually very progressive and dares to turn the expectations of a traditional straight male gamer on their head in some cases. Perhaps what we see here is what happens when an ambitious mind has to work with the restrictions and vocabulary of a culture saturated with busty babes and upskirt pantie shots. I would love to give Kojima the benefit of a doubt. But he does make it very hard. What do you think?

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

10 responses to “Is Peace Walker Sexist?”

  1. VectorM

    Being sexist and being a pervert are two different things. I think.

    1. Krystian Majewski

      I was talking about how the game objectifies women.

  2. Crane

    Sixteen you say?
    Oh, you mean the legal age of consent here in Britain and many other countries?

    Not that the age gap, or indeed the general attitude of the game isn’t somewhat sleazy, but do be careful about taking the legal standards of your nation as a moral compass.

  3. Krystian Majewski

    Don’t be so smug. I’m from Germany. The age of consent here is 14. That’s below Britain and partly Japan (generally 13 but in certain prefectures 18).

    I don’t need a lawyer to be uncomfortable with a 39 year old dating a barely legal child . Do you think it’s ok?

    Even if she was the same age, I find the unlockable underwear thing and the 3D models still quite sexist.

  4. trolliolli

    Paz isn’t really sixteen. Complete chapter six to get the true ending.

  5. Krystian Majewski

    I did. And it’s an old Anime cliche. Just SAYING she isn’t supposed to be that young is a feeble excuse for the fact that she was intentionally made to look WAY underage. Plus, Snake doesn’t know that anyway = creepy.

  6. A Fan

    Don’t overreact. It’s just fan service and purely fictional.

    1. Krystian Majewski

      Neither of those is an excuse.

  7. crealkiller

    I can see your point, and yet i dont really have a problem with the things your pointing out. Does this fictional game have some sleazy moments? Yea, it does.

    These small parts of a huge game really are just for the fun of it. At least thats my thoughts. It puts sexual themes, just like stupid inside jokes to liven or make fun of certain topics.

    Lets also admit that with any video game, some characters will be seen as sexy, and this game gives you a chance to “date” the character.

    Lastly, you do know the older metal gear games had some questionable sexy content right? Like Metal gear 4. YOu can take pictures of the enemies! Its there to give the male gamer what they want. Its like flirting, you dont get to see it all, but its assumed they are doing something under that love box.

    1. Krystian Majewski

      It can’t be sexist because it’s just “giving the male gamer what they want”?


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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