'Stellar Blade' developer defends his character designs

South Korean game developer Hyung-Tae Kim once again defended his use of attractive female characters and stated that Western companies base their character models on a concept of overlapping issues.

Kim, the CEO of Shift Up, has faced backlash from Western outlets for his studio’s game Stellar Blade, which used Korean model Shin Jae-eun as the basis for its main character Eve.

South Korean website Ruliweb asked Kim about Western media expressing discomfort over the portrayal of women in his game.

“In the West, I know that in many ways the game character should reflect a realistic look and that there are numerous issues intertwined, such as gender or racial diversity,” Kim’s translated answer read. “But Stellar Blade is an entertainment and cultural product to any extent.”

Kim added that he hoped audiences would keep an eye on his “fun action game” that had just been released.

Prior to the release of Stellar Blade, outlets and journalists were indeed accusing Kim of sexism over his character design.

Video game journalist Karim Jovian took to the streets of New York to ask residents about the potential sexism of the character.

“She looks 14,” a woman with green hair told the reporter. Another woman said that developers had “messed up” for focusing on the physics of “how the character moves.”

Two other respondents claimed the game had “over-sexualized” the character.

It appeared many journalists did not consider the possibility that the main character was based on a real woman. This was certainly the case for IGN France, which dubbed the character a “doll sexualized by someone you would think has never seen a woman.”

As That Park Place noted, the outlet later apologized for the “offensive passage that should never have been kept.”

“To anyone at Shift Up Corporation who felt personally targeted and insulted by this passage, we are truly sorry and sincerely apologize,” IGN added.

“Kim clearly finds women attractive and does not believe they should or can be turned into men to promote transgender ideology,” said John F. Trent, editor in chief for That Park Place.

These comments echo what Kim himself told Games Radar in February 2024.

The developer stated that he believed his character designs have actually “become somewhat of a brave thing to be going for or attempting.”

“I personally think that compared to movies, animations, manga, and so on, people are especially strict towards games. In games, there’s all the views that people have [which are] not always positive about unrealistically beautiful characters,” Kim told the outlet.

“Honestly, when I play a game I would like to see someone who is better-looking than myself. That’s what I want. I don’t want to see something normal; I want to see something more ideal. I think that is very important in a form of entertainment. This is, after all, entertainment targeted for adults,” he added.

In a 2021 interview, the developer was asked by host Kim Seong-Hoe about his philosophy on gaming and business.

“I think the games created by our company should be games that are not seen anywhere else,” he explained, noting that there are too many games that are “clones” of each other.

The developer emphasized that there should be a noticeable difference between games from South Korea and the rest of the world, a sentiment he reiterated in 2024.

“What we need more than anything in our industry is not diversity.”

Kim’s arguments for more simplicity included a return to games with an actual ending, as opposed to never-ending content. He went on to claim that there is a “strong will” for games where the players “watch the ending” and then “return to reality in a good mood.”

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