Sexualization in Fighting Games
Date Published: 20 October, 2018
Sexualization in games is a topic that has been discussed among video game developers, journalists and consumers throughout the short, yet rich history of modern gaming. However, considering that the fighting game genre is nowhere near mainstream, the topics’ impact isn’t looked at as closely.
Similar to how fighting games and the FGC treat aspects of gaming such as community, mentality, and competition slightly different than other genres in gaming, they also view popular talking points differently, especially with regards to how to it affects the FGC as a whole.
Sexualization in fighting games isn’t anything new, as many fighting games incorporate sex-appeal in order to attract an audience, especially when that audience is predominantly a male audience, and as the old adage goes, ‘Sex sells’.
However, be it art direction, character design, animation or anything else that portrays sexualization, the FGC has shown with its history that while it is welcomed, there are certain caveats that come with. Games that feature highly sexualized characters or ones with over the top physical proportions, are rarely questioned for their appearance, especially the legacy characters with said traits.
Though, the caveat that comes with the over the top sexualization of fighting game characters is that yes, while ‘Sex sells’, it cannot be the game’s only bargaining chip. Evident by fighting game series such as BlazBlue and The King of Fighters, more risqué character portrayals are more so accepted due the fact that along with sex-appeal, technical depth and overall fighting game nuance is also packaged in the deal.
However, fighting game series that traditionally lacked either inspiring fighting game mechanics, or games that were lesser known, but were rich with fan service, and over the top sexualized animations, weren’t ones that kept the FGC’s attention for any sort of prolonged time.
As the FGC integrates esports more into a part of its identity, sacrifices have had to be made, and along with certain habits and traditions the FGC has had prior to its recent partnership with high profile sponsors, the toning down of character sexualization also became apparent from the game development side of things.
Exemplified best, with Street Fighter V’s recent history, as it has run into numerous situations where sexualization was deemed to be too much for the esports world, as both Fuudo during EVO 2016, and Kazunoko during EVO 2017, were forced to change their character’s default costume due to their somewhat revealing nature, and the fact that both events were broadcasted on ESPN.
To take it further, certain animations such as Cammy White’s and Rainbow Mika’s critical arts were altered by Capcom from their original perspectives to a “less suggestable angle”. Additionally, other character designs and costumes were also slightly changed in an effort to become more of an esport product.
Outside of Street Fighter, two examples that come to mind for different reasons have to do with SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy and the upcoming Dead or Alive 6, as they both seem to have covered the opposite spectrum of sexualization in fighting games.
The more notorious and over-sexualized franchise—Dead or Alive, is seemingly going in a more conservative approach with Dead or Alive 6, hoping to focus a bit more on depth, and less so on its traditional staple of sex appeal, in an attempt to win over the FGC once again.
SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy on the other hand has embraced its more risqué visual and less technically demanding mechanics to perhaps attract a crowd that doesn’t necessarily takes itself as seriously compared to the general fighting game audience.
Lastly, it’s important to note that sexualization in fighting games isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s there for those enjoy it, and the only evident time the FGC has had a problem with it, is when it either distracts or detracts from the game’s overall depth.
Fighting games traditionally have maintained a good balance of sex-appeal in the characters that encompass their games be it appearance or behavior, and the FGC has also responded in such a way that as long the scale isn’t fully tilted to one side or another, there is no reason why it can’t be a part.