The other night, after being thoroughly enlightened by the “WTF: Skullgirls” 16bitkings video, I made my merry way to the Steam store with a reluctant wallet in tow. I booted up Skullgirls immediately and dived into the character selection screen, where I pushed the selector towards the particularly well-endowed Valentine and poised my thumb over the A button. Hang on a second, I asked myself, as I stared philosophically into the cavernous void between the female fighter’s breasts – why do I always pick to fight with the girls with the massive boobs?

Fighter games have always dutifully offered up a traditional offering of the petite yet absurdly large-breasted fighter girl to the collective deity of the fanboy. Dead or Alive, Mortal Kombat, Marvel vs Capcom, Soul Calibur and BlazBlue (among others) have all worshipped at the altar of fanservice. What they might not have anticipated, however, is how readily some of their female demographic would open their arms to accept each plus-size pair of polygons.

Now, identifying as a woman myself, I’m not super-thrilled about the deliberate objectification of women in fighting games. Nevertheless, at least pretty much every fighter gives you the option of actually playing as a female character, which is more than the Ubisoft team can apparently manage. You’re damn right I want to play as the hottest, boobiest, most ass-kicking and athletic version of myself, Mr./Ms. Game Dev, thank you very much for the option. You whacking a nice pair of titties on the character only serve to remind my opponent that with every jiggle, a girl is doing the serious punishing in this situation, rather than a testosterone-tastic dude.

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Skullgirls’ Valentine has a great…personality, but also has a kick-ass bonesaw. (SOURCE: fanpop.com)

The fact is that, ironically enough, female fighting characters aren’t just two-dimensional representations of women. These characters, however virtual, are capable of looking adorable whilst owning the arena in vicious and perfectly-groomed style. These games have the ability to teach teen girls a general yet valuable lesson: that you don’t have to fit into an absolute mould to be a strong woman. You can be soft-spoken and feminine, love the colour pink, and you can simultaneously be assertive and have a penchant for death metal, if you so choose. Many fighter games boast these kinds of well-rounded (ha!) female fighters with a range of quirky personalities, as well as personal depth of character and a deadly overhead. Granted, I’m blurring the lines between fighters and real life a bit here, but it is clear to see where parallels can be drawn. Female characters in fighting games come bearing enormous boobs, and with them, the overall message that you can be overtly womanly and feminine (a cuddly panda in your hair, perhaps) whilst getting shit done.

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Litchi’s just more badass for being able to mess you up while having to manage…those. (SOURCE: blazblue.wikia.com)

For me, bigger problems actually arise when gamers decide to get on their high horses about the constant inclusion of big-breasted female characters in fighters. For example, in the 3DS side-scrolling beat-‘em-up Code of Princess, one character quite brazenly implies that the skimpily-attired, busty Solange is a prostitute. Jeez, Nintendo/Atlus, way to utterly demean chesty women everywhere. And check out this BlazBlue confession from a well-meaning white knight of the internetz, whose fedora seems to have seeped into his brain a little:

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Is outrage towards big-breasted, scantily-clad characters missing the point? Seems it. (SOURCE: blazblogconfessions.tumblr.com)

“Whorish”. Wow. Let me break this down for everyone: being a large-chested female is not equivalent to being a whore, and to imply that it is, even when discussing fictional women, is to debase and humiliate millions of people.

The writers of Code of Princess redeem themselves a little by including self-aware, satirical jokes about the impracticality of Solange’s armour. The fact that they focus on the inadequate armour being the problem, rather than Solange’s body, suggests correctly where the issues around boob-related fanservice in fighters actually lie – with how developers and artists choose to portray the boobs, and how gamers translate the boobs, rather than the not totally unrealistic boobs themselves.

So, to the fighting game devs, I say: Please keep including busty females fighters in your games. As a woman, I love that there is actually the option to play as a sexy and/or cute and strong female, and that your attempting to represent women in a somewhat multifaceted light is admirable. Equally, however, I have to plead to devs and gamers: Rethink your attitude towards women’s bodies. Sure, include and admire the jiggle-physics if you like, but try to remember that women are not defined in terms of their tits. Just give all due respect to the fact that ladies can power up and throw down in spite of their fun-bags flying around, in-game and IRL.

Yes, it is true that less discerning male gamers might never be able to see past the rising and falling wall of tittyflesh before them to the hidden heart of a message about the power of femininity. What matters, in the end, is that girl gamers can, and that it can empower them.

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6 Responses to MOAR TITS PLZ: Why full-frontal fighters are feminist

  • As a fellow feminist I agree with your points and that has a lot to do with the fact that fighting games are so fundamentally different from other genres in the sense that they tend to be pretty ridiculous/extravagant/excessive in their representation of every damn character, regardless of gender or lack thereof. Arguments could be made for how a lot of female chars are also associated with revealing outfits and suggestive voices/various titillating (ahem) noises, which definitely serves to objectify them. Still, they’re objects that can kick some serious ass. In this context I most definitely agree that these ladies ARE empowering (especially for young girls, I never really considered the blinding presence of all them massive chests, I just thought the characters looked awesome and I was super excited to be able to play them) although a bit of variety of the chest circumference wouldn’t hurt. As for other genres.. weeeell…

  • Yeah, fighting games are just generally OTT, which I think has a lot to do with Japanese influence. I agree with you, one thing that has always disturbed me quite a bit is the fact that a lot of the female characters’ cries when they get beat up are pretty sexual..! : /

    But I think the fact that young girls are just excited to play as awesome-looking kick-ass females speaks volumes about how portrayals of feminine power are translated for better or for worse.

    In this respect I had to give props to the English writers on CoP because they did choose to satirise the sexism of some game developers way more often than they chose to take the piss out of the character, which is something. Although I read something once arguing that satirising sexism in games doesn’t excuse it (I don’t recall the author’s name sadly), I reckon that pointing out the absurdity of it more frequently will genuinely help.

  • It’s a bit of a double edged sword because like you wrote in the article, despite being associated with female or feminine traits (which are in themselves ridiculous really) these women are shown to kick ass and get shit done, they are cute and powerful, going against the trope of woman as weak and innocent. However the requirement for them to be allowed to do so is that they have to be overtly sexualised, reeking of insinuation.We can’t just have a girl who kicks ass despite not being a sex object, no way. So, in many ways the presentation of women in fighting games are directly related to them functioning in the context of sex and direct objectification.
    So on the one hand they can be seen to be empowering for girls but at the same time it comes with the added label of sex appeal. Pretty problematic.

    As for CoP, it depends on what perspective you come from. It is self aware and satirise game devs but at the same time it’s not saying anything against it, it’s just making fun of it.

  • Good read. This is an issue that plagues a lot of genres tbf not just fighters. Have you seen what they call female armour in most modern RPG’s? In most cases IMO it’s sadly just a case of appealing to target audience of horny teenagers.

  • It’s a tricky one because although these portrayals of women are problematic in so many ways, I genuinely believe that these types of characters in fighters/games in general helped me when I was younger and trying to figure out my identity. It was cool to sort of be shown that I could be both cute and deadly..!

    It’s a massive shame that more games don’t turn the hypersexuality down and focus more on the power of femininity – but I definitely still reckon that girl gamers can take valuable messages away from games like this if they just tune out the annoying white noise of drooling fanboys.

  • Great read. Something I find interesting is that the king of fighting games – Street Fighter – didn’t kick off this trend. I’m sure games like Soul Calibur and DOA utilised the enhanced graphics so they could make female fighters more appealing. These two are the most renowned for it by far, especially SC with Taki and Ivy. Those costumes. But yeah, it intrigues me that Street Fighter didn’t follow in it’s tracks. Many females characters such as Cammy, Chun Li, Decapre, Sakura, Makoto and Elena all are the opposite. Sure you have Crimson Viper as the exception to the rule, but even she isn’t to the levels of the Soul Calibur ladies.

    But yeah, great read Jen!

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