George Kamitani is based in Hiroshima City, Japan. He began a career in video games in 1993, with Capcom’s Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom. He has since gained a reputation for his beautiful hand-drawn characters and landscapes.
In 2002, he founded Vanillaware (originally named Puraguru), serving as President and Lead Artist. The company’s first game, Odin Sphere, was released in 2007, published by Atlus. Kamitani and team since released a string of cult titles including Princess Crown, Muramasa The Demon Blade and GrimGrimoire.
In 2013, Vanillaware released possibly their best-known title, Dragon’s Crown. A 2D fantasy beat-’em-up and role-playing game. Highly praised for its fluid hand-drawn animation and enjoyable gameplay, earning an 8.5/10 from IGN.
If the name sounds familiar to you, but you don’t know why. That is because, upon the title’s release controversy ensued around the character’s exaggerated proportions. In particular, The Sorceresses. Kamitani intentionally used hyperbolic proportions as a means to set his characters apart from the abundance of fantasy designs already in today’s media market.
However, not everyone felt it was just a simple case of artistic licence, prompting a back-and-forth between George Kamitani and Kotaku’s Jason Schreier. Schreier stated his objection, feeling that The Sorceresses was simply a sexual object to be ogled, and symbolic of a much large issue of sexism in the video game industry. This analysis obviously raised a heated debate from both sides of the fence. Culminating with Kamitani releasing an apology via Kotaku. Clearing up his intentions, and apologising to anyone who was offended by the design or caught in the crossfire.
How did the controversy affect the game? Well, it was the best-selling digital game on the Japanese PlayStation Network in 2013 and, as of July 2014, worldwide sales of the game reached 940,000 copies. Which is an incredible feat for such a small game developer. It does reinforce a time-old, sad truth, that controversy sells.
Personally, I have a high threshold to what is “controversial,” so the design of The Sorceresses did not make a blip on the radar. With that said, I am glad a discussion was brought up. It forced people to think about the impact of design, the choices an artist makes and how they are received. It was a very good eye-opener that artists should be conscious of the potential negativity their work could have. How artists choose to act upon this is up to the individual, but as long as there is a dialogue about subjects like sexism, then ignorance can no longer be used as an excuse.