Exploring Sexism in Video Games via Capcom’s Street Fighter Margaret Cheng Gender and Technology Bryn Mawr College Women’s Bodies First. Fighting Second.
“ By definition, the spectacle of women [fighting] violates conventional sense of what is feminine and, thus, flirts with conventional sexual boundaries. A match between women is explicitly heterosexual, a direct invitation to male fantasies and sexual aggression rather than an expression of subjective female desire.” –Peter Rauch, author of Rumble Roses as Erotic Spectacle Videogame designers and cultural critics have historically assumed that the audience consists entirely of heterosexual males. One-on-one fighting games have had prominent female characters since Capcom’s 1989 release of Street Fighter II.
Chun Li Origin: China Known for her lightning leg kick Agile and fast Cammy White (Killer Bee) Origin: England Member of a British special forces team, Delta Red Quick, close-range fighter Original Female Character
Naughty Army Cadet Girl Pinup Sexy Adult Halloween Costume Sexy Chun Li Costume Look familiar?
Female lead characters are often portrayed as objects of classical and sexual desire. Gamers also experience them in other ways: “ monstrous offspring of science: an idealized, eternally young female automaton, a malleable, well-trained techno-puppet created by and for the male gaze.” “ Digital dominatrix doling out torture to the enemies in the game.” “ may represent to male gamers a desire to role-play as an attractive female in a virtual environment free of social consequences.”
Ibuki Origin: Japan Raised and trained In ninjutsu Very feminine, jumps back into civilian clothing after winning a bout Elena Warrior Princess Origin: Africa Fighting consists entirely of kicks Has ability to use Healing
Akira Yasuda ( 安田 朗 ) is a Japanese illustrator, animator, character designer, and game designer, who works under the pen name, “Akiman.” Street Fighter’s Creators (both male): Yoshiki Okamoto , sometimes credited as Kihaji Okamoto , is a video game designer credited with producing many of Capcom’s popular titles.
Are Street Fighter’s characters reminiscent of Japanese Bishoujo games? Bishoujo games are a uniquely Japanese gaming genre played exclusively by males. These games center around the player’s interactions with pretty, anime-style girls and are often pornographic. They come in many varieties for every taste, including: sports, Lolita, bondage, elf fantasy, high school, science fiction, etc. Some games simply take traditional games like mahjong and poker and reveal progressively more sexual images of the anime-style girls as play progresses.
Sexism, when present in various video games, is generally more implicit.
A closer look at the evolution of the first female character: Chun Li
Physique is characterized by massive legs which her outfit highlights. Given her role as a martial artist, muscular legs should be expected. However, in many representations of Chun Li this feature is highly exaggerated, most likely for sex appeal. Chun Li’s role as a professional fighter is surpassed by her role as a daughter (she is fighting to avenge her father)
Retro Gamer: A look back at Street Fighter character designs “ When EGM first revealed details of Street Fighter IV, the internet was up in arms. After the pictures were revealed, I thought the internet was going to explode! Chun-Li looks like a man!” –Carl Nelson (blogger) “ Chun-Li’s thighs are too big. Her arms are too muscular. She looks like a man now!!!” Chun-Li in Street Fighter IV
“ Similar complaints were also being heard regarding Lara Croft’s new look in Tomb Raider. Apparently her new look is more ‘sleek’ and ‘sporty.’ In the February issue of EGM, they literally said she “looks like a dude to us.” “ I really hope game developers aren’t so discouraged by these types of juvenile complaints that they feel the need to continue making all their female characters look completely ridiculous.”
If female characters are increasingly designed with more masculine features, does that mean that the overt sexism in video games is slowly diminishing? How would you design the female characters? With the ideal feminine form? Or based on more realistic female bodies? Why? Are the dissatisfactions and complaints coming from male consumers only? What about the female consumers? Or the lack thereof… Why are masculine features characteristic of strength, power, and victory? Is it possible for the hyper-sexualization of female characters to be empowering?
“ W.I. Thomas’s theory in regard to the subjective nature of social reality argues that if one defines a situation as real, then the situation is real in its consequences. As technology improves, video games have become, and will become, drastically more realistic and immersive to their players. Thus, there may be cause to believe that added realism in games may result in stronger residual impressions left by in-game experiences. If this is the case, then sexist imagery or experiences in more realistic games may have a greater effect on audiences.” -Collin Jensen, author of Deconstructing the Roles of Women in Video Games