Katsuhiro Harada on Tekken 7’s swimsuits and conforming to western societal changes

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Harada adresses Tekken 7 swimsuit debacle 3

Not too long ago revered Tekken chief producer and director, Katsuhiro Harada, made a few enemies across social media. Responding to a fan request regarding weather Tekken 7’s swimsuit costumes would be made available in the West, Harada infamously replied with with a short “Ask your country’s SJWs. HAHAHAHAHA.”

It was immediately clear that Harada didn’t realise how inappropriate his comment might have been (Japanese to English translation can get messy often) quickly deleting it and apologising for the sentiment it spread about developing games for the changing societal structures in Western cultures. It’s been some time since then, but at Gamescom in Cologne Harada caught up with Eurogamer to set a few things straight.

It’s a lengthy interview with a lot of insight into some of the challenges Japanese developers are now facing when making games for a Western market, with Harada defending the content present in Tekken 7. Harada believes that a lot of the fuss is often kicked up as a consequence of onlookers being ill-informed, and not truly indicative of the sentiments shared by actual players.

“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. And it’s not just the women. Robots have them, Kuma, Panda, the male characters have swimwear. It’s not like we’re trying to sexualise the female characters at all. But they don’t go and look for that info before they criticise. So, that is pretty frustrating.”

Harada’s frustration with this point deepens throughout the interview, expressing some discomfort in commenters possibly finding issue with character costumes that hold significance with Japanese culture (in this case he was referencing a Sumo outfit, and not scantily dressed woman).

Harada adresses Tekken 7 swimsuit debacle 2

Although that’s almost certainly not an actual issue being argued, Harada says that in general these opinions don’t worry him – since certification boards are the panels that really matter.

“So people who actually look into the game content have seen it and it is fine. And so, as such, as long as it passes those kind of censorship [evaluations] or whatever for that country, as judged by their government or an official organisation and not some random guy on the internet, then obviously we want to release the content so as many people can enjoy it as possible.”

Which is a pretty normal view to take on the matter, because there’s likely just as many players wanting these alternative costumes as there are those lobbing against their inclusion. There’s no debate that Harada and the rest of their team have the right to include whatever they want to in Tekken 7. But that doesn’t mean it’s free from criticism, and with the massive cultural shifts we’re seeing globally today it’s even more pertinent for developers to try and engage with these discussion rather than brush them off.

Harada adresses Tekken 7 swimsuit debacle

Harada, in a way, even knows this. In closing, he made it clear that he understood how the market of videogame players had grown exponentially, leading to a much greater demand for inclusion and representation. Those have imposed stricter “lines” on developers, as Harada describes.

“Recently there are lines, I guess more than in the past. Before, it was a niche crowd, people who liked video games as a whole, but at the time when they were still largely created in Japan it was pretty much anything goes, made by the Japanese and their sensibilities.

“But now it’s enjoyed by a much wider audience, it’s easier for outsiders to say that game’s content is not good for a particular group or ethnicity or country or religion or anything. So, in that regard there are a lot more lines that we can’t cross any more, I guess you could say.”

Maybe one day soon designers like Harada might cease thinking of these as hindrances though, and rather as opportunities to help include and attract new players that might have never been considered under the Tekken umbrella.

Last Updated: August 18, 2016

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