Having debuted way back in 1994, Tekken stands as one of the most well-known video game series of all-time. The arcade fighter franchise has spun out multiple live-action and animated films, and its most recent game was released just last year with Tekken 7. With 32 fighters, the new game reminded fans why they fell in love with the series in the first place. However, it did come under intense fire after one of its DLC went live with a very controversial clothing line. And, now, Tekken 7's director is addressing those gamers’ complaints.
Speaking with Eurogamer at Gamescom 2016, Katsuhiro Harada talked about the game’s controversial use of some scantily clad women. Saying critics were “ill-informed,", Harada told the site many gamers hadn’t considered how the cultural differences between Japan and American clouded their judgement.
“One of the things that's most frustrating is just that a lot of these criticisms are very ill-informed,” he said. “A lot of times - the swimsuits was a good example - people who don't even play the game, they maybe just hear that there are swimsuits in it and then they say, 'Woah, you have these girls in sexy swimwear, what's wrong with you? You're such male chauvinists etc.' But, what they don't know is that it started off in the arcade and it's a season line, like you do for Christmas, Halloween or whatever.”
Harada went on to stress that it wasn’t just female characters who sported swimwear in Tekken 7 as characters like Kuma, Panda, and other male characters also had swimwear. “They don't go and look for that info before they criticize,” Harada said, referring to some critics. “So, that’s pretty frustrating.”
Clearly, it can be hard for fans and creators to address controversies such as this one without understanding each others' cultural contexts. For instance, what might be considered normal in one place could be misconstrued as hyper-sexualized in another. Harada has repeatedly said it’s not easy to create games, “for a mass market,” and it’s these kind of considerations which make amp up the difficulty.
Some fans, however, still place part of the controversy’s blame on Harada as the director did tweet out some poorly timed messages about the ordeal. When a fan asked him earlier this year if Tekken 7’s controversy would prevent future DLC packs from reaching the US, Harada replied in a now-deleted tweet by saying, “Ask your country’s SJWs (Social Justice Warriors). HAHAHAHAHA.” The message enraged Tekken fans, leaving Harada at a loss for how he should address the game’s unexpected issue.
Michael Murray, a senior game designer, said such backlash, “does affect how we announce new content because we have to think, when we release this, we’re not there to explain this, so people can take it as it is, or how they interpret it.”
Given Tekken’s resurgence, it’d be nearly impossible for Bandai Namco to tailor the franchise to whichever market it sells to. So, while Harada welcomes constructive criticism, he hopes Tekken fans will start to research 'problematic' video games before they accuse game developers of cultural insensitivity. But, since the Internet is the Internet, only time will tell us how well those thoughtful conversations might go.