I recently picked up a copy of Street Fighter IV in the Steam sale. I’ve not played the Street Fighter series since SF2, when I used to go to my friends’ houses and play it on the SNES. It was early days as a gamer for me, but I still remember thinking something was not quite right about the gender in Street Figher. SF2 had a grand total of one female character out of the eight (Chun-Li) who’s now seen as something of a design classic. Over the years Capcom have put in a few more women, but it’s still a minority.
There’s a lot of fan art out there, so I’ve taken the official promo pictures from the Street Fighter 4 website. Here’s the current women in the game.
C. Viper is a new character. She’s a CIA operative – hence the suit. Almost all the Street Fighter women themes are here – she uses mostly kicks, has huge breasts and isn’t really doing anything in her picture. She’s also very small and while obviously very fit, isn’t what you’d describe as a credible bare knuckle fighter. She’s an undercover agent.
Cammy is an American soldier. She used to be the love interest of the main baddy (M. Bison). She’s probably the most extreme when it comes to just not wearing anything. Her physique is highly unlikely – she’s got pretty muscular legs but not really any biceps. She’s very typically feminine, with very long, blonde hair.
This is the original Street Fighter woman. Again, she’s known pretty well for not wearing anything. Most of her moves are using kicks and to show off her legs. She’s very lithe and like Cammy has huge legs, bum on display and non-existent biceps. Presuambly the dragon in the background is if you can’t guess her ethnic background. According to Wikipedia: ”Her name in Mandarin is (chūn 春 “Spring”, lì 麗 “beautiful”), meaning that she is a single young girl filled with the beauty of spring.”
Juri is the token woman who fights for the baddies. Strangely enough she has fully clothed legs and a top that’s basically a rectangle with straps on it. She also is the only women with sensible sized (for a fighter) breasts, and this is the only photo where one of the characters is attacking. Maybe baddies have their breasts out and goodies have their legs out? Case in point Crimson Viper – she’s an undercover agent so has her breasts not legs out. Coincidence?
This character seems to me the very typical Japanese sexualized schoolgirl. I can’t say for sure but I’m pretty sure nobody dresses like that to school in Japan! I presume the reason she’s so relatively modestly clothed is due to her age.
This is the only character that’s not immediately identifiable as female – presumably she’s pre-pubescant and hence properly dressed too!
Rose again has the physique we’re used to now – huge breasts and non existent muscles. Shes holding cards – I’ve not played her, but I’m presuming she relies on tricks and finesse to score hits.
I don’t really have a conclusion here. I find it interesting that out of the 8 characters, they’re all so similar. Only one is evil, and one is passing as evil. Generally none of them are in it to fight, they’re there for some other plot reason, unlike the men who generally just want to prove they’re the best. They’re all kind of unlikely as fighters – there’s no overweight women (like Rufus) or ludicrously beefy women (like Zangief), no Black or Eastern European women – they’re all Western or Asian. There’s no women boxers or wrestlers – they all rely on kicks, punches and tricks. They all shave their legs and arms (!) and bear no scars or wounds.
Obviously I could go on here about all-male design teams designing for male target markets and so on, but I just though it was interesting to see these pictures and roles side by side as examples of how women’s bodies are policed and regulated in computer games. Almost all the bodies in Street Fighter are somewhat unrealistic, but the women’s bodies all seem unrealistic in the same way (save Makoto).