At the end of King Lear, Cordelia survives and lives happily ever after with Edgar, despite the fact that she is already married to the king of France. To clarify, this is not Shakespeare’s version but rather a bastardized adaptation, known to cause vomiting in people with high literacy. Yet, while many today consider Shakespeare’s tragedy a masterpiece, we still live in a world where audiences are intolerant of any artistic vision that does not coincide with their own.
Yoshimi Yasuda, CEO of Kadokawa Games, recently stated that he is collaborating with famed game designer Goichi Suda to take fan feedback into consideration for the development of their upcoming game, Killer is Dead. While taking feedback is a common and advisable practice for businesses, Yasuda explicitly mentioning this is possibly indicative of something more disturbing.
Goichi Suda is often considered Japan’s riskiest game designer, a reputation stemming from the fact that his works consistently contain humor that critics and gamers have found offensive. His latest game, Lollipop Chainsaw, stars a scantily clad high school cheerleader that carries a chainsaw. The dismembered head of her boyfriend literally speaks more intelligently than she does and the amount of misogynistic insults in the game is nothing short of gratuitous, all of which has understandably led to the criticism that this is an insulting portrayal of women. However, while Suda has been blamed for everything from sexism to glorification of violence, he has kept the insanity and offensiveness of his works intact, leading many to believe that “51” does not compromise on his vision. However, Yasuda’s explicit admission of taking feedback might mean that the former undertaker has finally yielded to the masses and Killer is Dead may lack the provocative hyperactivity that is characteristic of Suda’s works.
If so, such a compromise would not be unprecedented. Gamers have demanded and designers have complied with requests so traitorous to what made the original product unique that the end result has all the artistic integrity of Dumb and Dumber. Bioware, creators of the influential Mass Effect franchise, expanded the ending of their definitive sci-fi trilogy because audiences felt that the intentionally ambiguous conclusion in the original release was unsatisfying. Essentially, this was the artistic equivalent of shooting fifteen minutes of extra footage after the series finale of Lost or The Sopranos for those that wanted more closure.
Similarly, iconic developer Capcom has also caved into customer demands and the allure of appealing to a larger audience. As the franchise that invented the sub-genre of “survival horror,” Resident Evil was built around the principles of scarce ammunition, dark environments and villains that laughed at the protagonist’s feeble attempts to survive. However, gamers complained that the tense, deliberate pacing of the series was lethargic and subtleties such as creaking floorboards and limited enemy visibility were too frustrating. Therefore, Resident Evil 5 often takes place in broad daylight with a guardian sniper always protecting the protagonist while Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City gives you three armed allies and knives that can take out zombies in one stab. The criminals here, both the fans and the developer, are akin to those that feel Middle English is too difficult and a contemporary translation of Chaucer’s masterpiece is better than the original.
I sincerely hope that Suda wants us to cringe at the content of his games, just as Shakespeare hopefully wanted at the scene of Shylock’s forced conversion. However, whatever the case may be, I would not want Suda or any other artist to change their work because of fans or corporate bigwigs. Katsuhiro Harada, the man behind Tekken, recently told his “whining and complaining” fans they need to practice “being an adult" in response to their incessant requests for using dated sound effects in a modern remake for the sake of nostalgia. Harada refused, demonstrating that he is more than willing to leave fans out of the creative circle, come what may. The result is a beautifully composed score in a game where bears fight Japanese schoolgirls; Harada is clearly a genius that needs no advice.