The Women of Mortal Kombat

The following is a guest post from Mirai.

Mirai is a cis, straight white guy in California who randomly friended some people on Twitter and was exposed to the wide world of rights activism and feminism. Since then he’s put his bile duct into overdrive angrily yelling about homophobia, transphobia, and all other colors of ignorance in the gaming industry and culture. He works retail and is pushing towards a writing career in fiction and journalism, primarily at his and NonConNeko’s gaming review/entertainment site www.Gamepad-Dojo.com and whatever blog wants to host his mindless rambling.

Mortal Kombat is, and has always been, really, really, really campy. The entire game is around overdone violence to such a hilarious degree it’s outright ridiculous, and it seems to embrace it wholeheartedly. Thankfully, the women seem just as capable in Mortal Kombat as the men, and frequently characters like Sonya will be just as brutally aggressive as Jax, or someone like Mileena is just as much of a horrible, from-the-netherrealms creature as Reptile. They might be in tights but it really seemed like it was what they’d fight in, and it was – to me – attractive, but acceptable.

…that is, until Mortal Kombat 2011.

As much as I love this game, and I seriously do, every damn time I saw the ladies in this game I wanted to break something. So let’s just take them all, in no particular order…

Sindel

Sindel from Mortal Kombat 3, wearing a purple/black jumpsuit ending at the thighs and shoulders, and thigh-high purple/black boots. Her forearms have glove/bangles that loop on one finger. She has white hair with a black stroke over the center, and a tiny jacket with a white inside collar.

 

Sindel is good girl Kitana’s late mother, resurrected by the Emperor Shao Khan to be evil and work by his side. Putting aside the implications of that, she’s always been fairly unique. She’s a witch of sorts, with a sonic scream and hair she can control magically. A lot of her designs and behavior is much like a banshee, but she’s extremely quick and deadly, and can even fly. Sindel is a dark queen who will handle adversary personally, and fearlessly.

 

Same character but higher quality, with a much lower cut outfit, an even smaller jacket, larger breasts, and a much younger appearance from the neck down

 

And good lord, she looks pretty good for being undead, doesn’t she? I like how her eyes and mouth seem to have age lines around it, yet the rest of her body is perfectly smooth and healthy, and lest we forget the most important part, supple. It’s like they couldn’t bear the idea of having a woman without a perfect body, so they just designed it separately and hoped nobody would notice. The resulting mishmash is another character turned into a sex object in a bikini by virtue of having the required figure.

Check out that outfit, too. Those boob supports are apparently metallic or some kind of plastic? I guess the cross-piece is to keep it from falling forward? And what’s with the popped collar, is she a fratboy? Is her collar just completely without a shirt? It’s like they looked at her purple old costume and decided to just remove random rectangular squares in an effort to make her hotter rather than giving her more clothing so she maybe looks a little less absurd.

You can rag Mortal Kombat: Annihilation all you want (and it was so, so bad), but at least her costume design looked kind of queenly. She wore tights and a cape and bangles, but at least her head didn’t look like it was grafted onto a 20 year old body to get the idiots chanting, “MILF!”

Jade

Jade from Mortal Kombat 3, a dark-skinned woman in a light green bodysuit that ties at the neck and splits in the middle with netting over the chest, a facemask, black/green gloves, and a ponytail

 

Let me start off by saying that I always liked Jade. I liked that she was dark-skinned (it looks like she’s African to me), and she’s downright gorgeous when you pair that with the metallic emerald green of her outfit. Her story makes her out to be the royal bodyguard to Princess Kitana, meaning that she’s one of the best fighters in Outworld. Her story involves trying to decide between her loyalty to Kahn, her Emperor, or Kitana, her friend. But THEN…

 

A much lighter skinned woman in a similar outfit, but the straps are thinner and cover less skin

 

Okay, it’s not just me that thinks they moved her nipples so they could make her outfit more revealing? It really looks like that to you too, right?

Plus, look back at that earlier character portrait I posted. Is it me or did we just make a serious jump from ‘Indian’ to ‘well-tanned’?

In addition to that, Jade is characterized throughout the story as Princess Kitana’s closest friend and bodyguard, and a dedicated soldier. She’s good-hearted, and really hates the bind that she’s put into. As soon as Kitana is to be executed, she rushes to rescue her, then finds the other Earthrealm warriors to get help. But Jade as a character is eclipsed by Jade’s Ass.

 

A screenshot of the same woman, turning towards the camera, while standing in front of a war-torn battlefield with a beached ship, cloudy and dark skies in the background. Most notable is her butt, which is out of proportion, reflecting light, and only clad in very thin black underwear

 

This game is full of exploitative shots but every time Jade walks into a room it seems to focus a lot on her strut. Her strut with heels, I might add, just in case she wasn’t fetishized enough. Not to mention how perfectly fitting that underwear is. Is it just painted on or something?

Oh, and that story mode where she’s a good friend to Kitana and hero in her own right? The one where she walks into a room fearlessly into a fight without even blinking, repeatedly? And how in versus she confidently executes a fatality and proudly stands victorious without any sort of sexualization in story or in gameplay? Yeah, well, it’s pretty much rendered moot whenever she gets a vanilla win.

 

Jade, upon victorious in a fight, slams her quarterstaff into the ground, then hops up and spins around on it, finishing by posing with her thighs and legs in center of panel and sexily posing at the camera

 

Yeah. I could maybe see it just being her excited that she won and celebrating (poledancing isn’t inherently sexual, after all), if she wasn’t also wearing heels to a fight and her backside/legs weren’t a fixation of the rest of the game’s camera up to this point, and if her entire character was made out to be a confident showoff in touch with her sexuality rather than the dedicated soldier she is.

Sheeva

A four-armed woman with three fingers per hand, looking with a fury to the right. She is partly bald with only a topknot and spikes, spots on her shoulders, and an extremely muscular frame. She is clad in only a thin red wrestler cloth that covers her breasts and groin, with a ying-yang belt

 

Why surely a proud Shokan warrior who’s main ability is to beat people to death with her four arms would know to put on a Goddamn shirt!

Virtually identical, but with a thinner strip of red cloth instead.

Virtually identical, but with a thinner strip of red cloth instead.

 

Nope!

As a warning, you will get really, really tired of enormous, jiggly boobs very quickly when playing this game. It seems like being a champion of Mortal Kombat requires you to be busty enough to play into the giggling perverted brains of 13 year olds, or their equivalents in college.

Anyway I know she had this whole pro-wrestler thing going on but it’s pretty unreal how they made her outfit have even less clothing than before. Even her alternate costume is just thin straps with shoulderpads added on. The excuse of it being a ‘classic look’ kind of falls short when you consider that she does this:


Sheeva, same as above, flexing twice after defeating an opponent, before running her upper arms over her head and her lower arms down her sides and swaying her body. Unheard is a grunt that accompanies both moments of flexing, then a pleased 'mmm' when she rubs her body.

 

Oh boy.

In all seriousness the men in this game like Liu Kang or Jax or Johnny Cage go into battle shirtless too and end up nice and sweaty by the end of the fights. But if you’re going to bold-facedly tell me that Sheeva using all four arms to strike a sexy pose and ‘mmm’ in a pleased way is the same thing as Johnny baring his chest after a fight then I must kindly ask you to step outside, sir or madam!

(Also, a sidenote – if Netherrealms Studios wanted to release the next Mortal Kombat with an oiled Johnny Cage in a mankini doing hip thrusts at the camera? Please, you have an untapped fanbase here, get on that.)

Mileena

An identical bodysuit and outfit to Jade's from Mortal Kombat 3, but pinkish/purple instead, and she's holding sais

 

Now here’s an interesting one – Mileena’s the half-sister of Kitana, created through magic and genetic tampering. She’s also a demon.

Her entire thing is to be basically a succubus. Several of her grapples involve jumping and devouring your neck. When she wins a round, she saunters back and taunts, “Was it good for you?” She’s hot, and has exotic, alien eyes, but behind that mask is a gaping maw of fangs for devouring flesh. Her fatalities in MK3 and up involve eating you.


Same woman standing in a hip-turned pose. She's holding a sai above her head, one hand held downwards, and her thigh-height, high-heel boots have fishnets adorning the top, and the tiniest of underwear covering her butt and groin

 

She is made to be a monstrous temptress, so her dressing with pseudo-fishnets, thigh high boots, and a bikini makes sense. Mileena loves showing off and strutting. Her sexuality is entirely intentional and it’s something she loves. So it’d be basically impossible to exploit this character, right?

 

Same woman but with no clothing – instead, mere strips of white cloth cover her groin, her nipples, and dangle of her knee and wrist. With her facemask gone, a mouthful of monstrous teeth is exposed

 

…oh.

Not to mention that there’s a battle damage system that – for the most part – works quite well with Mortal Kombat’s visceral nature. It damages clothing and the skin underneath too, and after a fight you look like you got your ass kicked. And hey, I totally am in favor of this…if it didn’t turn into more spanking opportunities.

 

Image of Mileena, zoomed onto her backside, with her underwear cut at the hip and falling down over her buttcheek, but it holds in place about an inch down, defying all logic and physics. To avoid triggers of violence I smudged out the bloodier/gorier battle damage.

 

 

I’m sorry but clothing doesn’t work that way. Well okay I’m sure it would work the real way but I doubt Warner Bros is interested in publishing a game rated Adults Only. What a shame – they got her even closer to being naked!

Kitana

A dark-haired, light-skinned woman wearing an identical garb to Jade and Mileena, but in blue and black and instead she's holding a fan

 

Princess Kitana Edenia of Outworld, Shao Khan’s stepdaughter, and reformed good girl. She’s always been really rad, combining her elegant fans and her blinding speed to take you apart. Like most of the other Outworld-resident women of MK, she’s a ninja, and wears a bodysuit and a mask.

 

A light skinned woman with dark hair and a pair of blue fans, but wearing a bikini and thigh-high boots in blue and forearm guards. In front of her groin is a large strip of cloth. Her bikini top is wired together by straps, and she has a facemask like all the women Mortal Kombat ninjas

 

That is up until MK9 decided she needed a bikini and a loincloth. Seriously, this is just ridiculous. Kitana is already sexy in her old costume because it left things up to the imagination. Thigh-high boots and a groin-flap just look laughable. If we’re going for elegance, why not more flowy clothing? If we’re talking a ninja, why the flowy flap? It just abandons all pretenses of ‘ninja’ in favor of sticking more bikini-clad buxom bodies into the game.

Plus, how much sense does it even make? Apparently official Edenian garb is a crotch-flap, but not an equal flap on your back? Why is the skirt-flap thing even there,anyway? Jade has something similar, and it didn’t make sense there, either.

It also makes her and Jade’s argument in her story mode hilarious. Forever more nothing will possibly be more ridiculous than two women talking about royal responsibility and loyalty in bikinis with loincloth flaps and surgeon facemasks.

Sonya

Sonya, a blonde woman with a headband and gloves, wearing a green/black/white tanktop and tight pants, looking to the right in a fighting stance.

 

Okay…it was the 90s, alright? They did all kinds of weird shit back then, I don’t know what’s up with the green shirt anyway. But hey, at least she’s got clothes, and they’re tight but than again, they’re fighting, and as Sonya Blade is the quick, gymnastic fighter of Mortal Kombat, it makes sense that she’d do diverolls and handstands in a jumpsuit. And then…

 

MK9 Sonya, the same woman, even with the same fighting gloves, but instead wearing tight long pants that with straps and kneepads, and an utterly ridiculous vest-like, low-cut, high-riding jacket that exposes her belly and ridiculously large breasts

 

Good lord, girl, will you please put on a shirt?

I mean, Jesus Christ. Just look at it. This is supposed to be a reboot of the whole series, right? I don’t think Sonya in that green tanktop thing has breasts half that enormous. But that’s not even what pisses me off – what the hell is she wearing? A half-jacket? I hope to shit it’s bulletproof because you basically have everything exposed that anyone would want to stab. No bra? No shirt? Just some dog tags and something to hang your badge on? Has Netherrealms forgotten that breasts moving around a lot hurts? Did they even know to begin with?

Plus I find it a little hard to believe that this person – Sonya Blade who is a lieutenant in the elite US Special Forces, a woman described as “impulsive” and “stubborn,” the one who, in the Mortal Kombat movie, fist-fought Kano and broke his neck – decided that it’d just be totally alright if she had the Grand Canyon of her cleavage wobbling about while in the middle of doing cartwheels and flying kicks?

But maybe her alternate costume is better!

 

Same woman, with larger gloves, and wearing Daisy Duke-like green shorts, and a tight, cleavage exposing white tanktop, which emphasizes not only how ridiculous her breasts are but how tiny her waist is.

 

Well, it’s not like Sonya’s costume has always been great. Deadly Alliance had the Boob-Cup T-Shirt…

 

The same woman with a green army jacket, and a white tanktop, but the tanktop is molded almost entirely to her breasts

 

…and in MK vs DC, her outfit was almost entirely like the white tanktop above…

 

Sonya wearing an outfit similar to the white tanktop from MK2011, but with long pants and a slightly more covering tanktop, and – strangely – underwear tan lines exposed

 

…yet throughout the ages she at least wore something more than a vest. I’m sorry, does the graphic designer think this is hot? This is just embarrassing. It’s outright objectification of the cast, each of them prettied up, made bustier, and given bikinis to wear, with alternate costumes being even more ridiculous bikinis.

I’m all in favor of sexy characters, but this goes way, way beyond that. Even though the design is appealing for some kind of swimsuit fashion show, the concept that I’m supposed to take these characters seriously fails utterly. It’s not even hot! There’s no sense of intrigue in the outfits, it’s just underwear and boots. And when it comes down to it, I feel downright insulted that I’m apparently supposed to be the target audience of this!

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39 Responses to The Women of Mortal Kombat

  1. Is it just me or does Sonya’s navel in the very last picture look wrong? As though it’s in the wrong place or something.

    Actually, her whole pelvis is worrying me. It almost looks as though she’s two people-halves bolted together.

    • Sannom says:

      It would be in the right place is she was actually facing us, I think. With her current position, it does look awkwardly placed.

      Also she reminded me of SIE when I first saw the pic. Probably because of the beret and white top I suppose. She lacks the red bra and suspenders though. Also, where is her M60?

  2. It’s interesting that MK aesthetics are still so rooted in the 90s. I mean, it’s obvious that they would be in some ways, but even the “ideal BAAAAABE BODY” is the same shape. Very large, globular breasts, angular shoulders, rather small pelvis, but still-smaller waist.

    I’m not a fan of the franchise but I was always kind of fond of Sindel. She’s old! Or, she was.

  3. Ronny Nunez says:

    The issue with all the women here is that the only place you get a sense of individuality and character is from the neck up. Their bodies are just the equivalent of a 3d pallet swap in terms of body archetype because “They need to look like they can fight but are still hot”. For as silly as the lore is, the characters weren’t always this bad.

  4. nanasuyl says:

    I’m always amazed this is the 21st century and we still have female characters in video games fighting in high heels and tiny outfits. Can’t the producers of these games think it would be fairly difficult to fight on heels? And if the girls have such enormous breasts, wouldn’t they need a lot of support? Of course, let’s not try logic with these guys, they don’t seem to understand it.

    What I think is the saddest part is the consumer is already used to that and doesn’t even notice it anymore. Not saying no one cares, some do, but, then, what can they do? We’re so powerless as consumers. We can only choose to buy or not buy something and maybe write an email to the company which made the game.

    • Ronny Nunez says:

      Then don’t buy. That is your power as a consumer.

      • Zaewen says:

        Voting with our dollars sound great on paper, but in reality it usually only does one of two things:

        A) It does absolutely no good because the game developers and marketers have got this idea in their head that the only money worth getting is the money that comes from their ‘target’ demographics, which is almost unvariably, some variation of cis, straight, able bodied, white man/boy. They’ve shown this time and again when they decide that women and other minorities aren’t worth representing in their games, or if they are, they’re only there as shoddy caricatures or sexual objects. They find our money, and our selves, to be inherently less than, so they don’t really care if we don’t buy their stuff.

        or B) It does nothing but proves their marketing statistics ‘right’, that minorities don’t play video games. It’s part of human nature to look for the explanation that comforts our biases and reaffirms our world-view. So when the new Mortal Kombat doesn’t do well with non-target demographics, the ‘reason’ won’t be because they took the sexual objectification of the women in the game up to 11, or because they white-washed one of the few characters of color. It’ll be because, women just don’t like fighting games, it’s goes against their delicate nature (or some such malarky).

        One of the best ways to push back against the gaming industry is to talk about these things, just like what the Border House does, and to voice our discontent with the games, the publishers, and the whole system.

        • Korva says:

          Very good points both. Sadly.

        • Jargo says:

          Also i like to mention that there are a LOT of sexist, misogynist or simple ignorant consumers out there who actually like this kind of characterization of women in video games. Don’t buying such kind of games can only be a first step, ranting about it and discussing it with other players is more important.

        • franzferdinand2 says:

          One of the mantras that I repeat over and over again with regards to video game marketing is:

          “Just because you aren’t marketing your game towards women doesn’t mean you have to actively exclude them”.

        • Ronny Nunez says:

          Well put but a tad fatalistic. They want your money, even if they aren’t targeting you and when the realize they could be making more money when they aren’t then what you are spending your money on instead matters.

  5. Marls says:

    This article points out some interesting changes, but some things jump out as a little strange. This sentence in particular raises questions:

    “Mileena loves showing off and strutting. Her sexuality is entirely intentional and it’s something she loves. So it’d be basically impossible to exploit this character, right?”

    When game devs design a female character in a sexualized way, and then write her personality to enjoy highly sexualized behavior, it isn’t quite the same as when a real, living person autonomously embraces her sexuality. Designing a fictional character solely to pander to a given demographic’s perceived sexual preferences is by its nature an exploitation, not a healthy respect for the choices of a real individual. Claiming that a woman who performs such sexualized behavior is inherently incapable of exploitation is even more problematic, for reasons I would hope to be obvious. That the article then takes the time to individually address how sexually attractive each generation of each character is also seems kind of strange. It really doesn’t matter whether the author found the character more attractive before they gave her larger breasts. Her value as a character and as a non-othering portrayal of women do not change based on whether or not the author found them “attractive, but acceptable”.

    Also, unless I’m mistaken, these quotes seem to be addressing the same character portraits?

    “I liked that she was dark-skinned (it looks like she’s African to me), and she’s downright gorgeous when you pair that with the metallic emerald green of her outfit.”

    “Plus, look back at that earlier character portrait I posted. Is it me or did we just make a serious jump from ‘Indian’ to ‘well-tanned’?”

    Is it really acceptable to be assigning skin color names in the form of nationalities? Whether the author thought she looked African (or Indian?) seems an odd factoid to slip in when discussing the racefail of lightening a character’s skintone in a sequel.

    This post seemed to have a lot more marginalization in it than I’d come to expect from The Border House.

  6. Matt says:

    Can someone at The Border House please figure out some way to put cuts on this blog’s Dreamwidth posts? (though I suppose it serves me right to be browsing my reading list at work…)

  7. Jargo says:

    Mortal Kombat always puzzled me, even the old ones. Actually this was the first game where is started thinking that something is wrong with female characters in video games, especially in fighting games.

    I mean in the end its not so different from Soul Calibur, dead or alive or Tekken, but
    What i never understood was the mixture of sexism and the mortal combat gore. I just don’t understand why it is so important that when i have a game where i can rip the heart of my opponent AND she is wearing high heels and a bikini.

    I understand the appeal of both game styles but not the combination.

    • Holly says:

      That’s a very good point. One or two characters who combine rampant sexuality with violence as a deliberate disturbing character feature (like the series does succesfully with Mileena, the temptress with the demon mouth) is a different thing entirely to ‘EVERY SINGLE female character is in bikinis and stilettos with grotesquely oversized boobs, and you get to cut them open and rip out their bits’. Most mainstream media does combine sex and violence, even in ways as relatively subtle as the badass action hero looking handsomer for having been smeared with blood – our fascination with both is equally visceral. But once you start combining an EXTREME distortion of sexy women (Jade’s missing nipples and Sheeva’s invisible genitals show that anatomy doesn’t even matter here) with an EXTREME distortion of violence (it’s a fighting game known for having tons of ludicrous gore) and this is the same for EVERY FEMALE CHARACTER, you definitely edge into the squicky misogyny territory.

    • Overmind says:

      So extreme violence towards conservatively dressed women (or men) is more acceptable to you than extreme violence towards scantily-clad, sexualized women? Interesting.

      • Rakaziel says:

        The more the victim, the attacker or both are sexualized, the more the violence itself is fetishized. So yes, from that angle, it is worse, especially with the extreme amount of violence in MK.

        • Mirai says:

          This is something I never got to address in this piece; the way that the women – and ONLY the women – are sexualized amid all of this brutal, gory violence is problematic by association because it indeed makes the violence sexual. If Mileena was the lone sexied-up woman among the rest of them dressing more like Makoto or even Chun-Li this wouldn’t be a problem. I have no problems with MK being gory (it’s actually one of my favorite things about it) but the women’s costumes make it even more awkward and sickening, not in a good way.

          Just try doing Noob Saibot’s X-ray attack on Sonya Blade and you’ll see what I mean. Seeing her wearing a vest and tight leather while vomiting on Noob’s leg is one of the most uncomfortably awful things that’s been in gaming lately.

          • FarisScherwiz says:

            That description sounds dangerously close to ryona (the existence of which makes me want to hide under my bed and NEVER come out). Yick :(

        • XIV says:

          I didn’t actually think of it from that perspective, of possibly glorifying or at least indulging in this kind of enjoyment of sexual violence. Mm, well violence and sexualized violence are two very different things and are treated very differently in real life too.

    • Jargo says:

      I know it is strange but i would say yes. Because i don’t connect it with sexual violence.

      Violence, even extreme violence are excepted by many gamers. I just finished Dragon Age 2 and i was never a bit irritated by the ridiculous blood splatter effects when i killed a enemy with a very devastating attack. But at the same time when playing bayonetta, whitch had the same gore and splatter effects, i was highly uncomfortable because the enemies where nearly nude moaning female angel creatures.

      but i never understood the appeal of “teen babe” slasher horror movies either.

      • Rakaziel says:

        I think I undestand the appeal of “teen babe” slasher movies. Think of the stabbings as a metaphor for rape and consider that quite a few of the targeted audience have no girlfriend and know they have little chances with girls as attractive and in-universe popular as the teen babe character. It is disturbing but it is an explanation.

        I think what makes sexualized violence in video games so disturbing is also the amount of violence done. Adding a light SM element may even add to the game but combining it with extreme violence is just sick.

      • Jargo says:

        I think in most popular horror movies the “hot teen babe” is killed gruesomely because the audience sympathize with her so that the killer, the monster or whatever feels even more gruesome. But when the focus of a movie shifts more to the killing “hot teen babes” aspect then you are probably right with your rape metaphor explanation.

        Also i think there are much more people who ,more or less secretly, enjoy the rape metaphor and not just the non attractive girl-friendless crowd.

        • Sas says:

          Something I’ve noticed when watching slasher films with certain guys is that there seems to be a lot of compartmentalization going on. I’m sure there are plenty of them that actually do get off on the violence towards sexualized women, but I’ve known a lot that go into it with an attitude like, “this movie should have lots of blood and guts, and lots of naked boobs” rather than specifically “this movie needs to show girls getting messily killed”. If the girls all lived it wouldn’t spoil it for them as long as there was nudity. Also I’ve noticed there’s very little suspension of disbelief so the deaths aren’t taken as seriously as in a full horror film.

          Not that any of that is rosy but still…

        • Jargo says:

          I think the same happened in the evolution of the Mortal Kombat series. I think a lot of Fans demanded more gore and also a lot of Fans demanded “hotter” female characters. Its more or less the only unique selling point of the game.
          I don’t know how much of the sexualized violence is intended in the end. For instance it would be very interesting if players how are attracted to a certain opponent use the extremely gory finishing moves more often or less often.

          • Overmind says:

            I think that guys who watch slashers and violent games like MK with attractive women want to watch just that: attractive women. Whether those women in such films and games fight, kick somebody’s ass or have their assess kicked by somebody (in an extremely violent way or not), or simply run and jump around is a secondary matter. Although I’d like to add that, judging from many opinions on the Internet, most guys prefer to watch women defeat their non-female opponents than the opposite. When some video shows some male character defeating a woman, even in a fair fight, comments that he is most likely “gay” are not uncommon.

            In my opinion sexualization of characters and extreme violence performed on/by such characters are two different things. If someone finds both extreme violence and sexualization disgusting, then a scene containing both will be naturally even more disgusting to them than one with only one of these elements. That’s how I see it, anyway.

  8. Db0 says:

    I was waiting to see the border house analyze the absurdity that is the new MK females. I wrote a post about it as well but you said it far better.

  9. ProdiGal says:

    It’s interesting to look at this and then think back to all of the apologist arguments against including women characters in other games. You know… the old “women are not as physically strong as men so it wouldn’t make sense that they would be able to do x, y, and z in this game”.

    And yet here we have scantily clad women with ginormous, unsupported breasts doing jump kicks while wearing stilettos. And yet i don’t see any of those same people complaining about something like this being unrealistic…

    • Trodamus says:

      It’s fair to say that you’re talking about several different groups of people.

      • Prodigal says:

        I’m not sure what you mean. I’m just saying that it seems many gamers will defend the lack of female characters in games for any number of reasons, particularly with the “physical limitations” or “biological differences” argument, EXCEPT when the female character design appeals to the male gaze.

        • Trodamus says:

          The gamers that defend the lack of female characters are not (always / all) the same people that defend the lack of well-thought and designed female characters.

          Some say women in games are unrealistic (women in warzones et al), some say a little boobage never hurt anyone, and some say both (“games are for men”).

          I understand it’s easier to accuse a group of hypocrisy when you define both the group and their attitudes, but just try to understand that these groups reflect different attitudes and thus challenges in approaching them.

          • Prodigal says:

            Oh. Well I’m not really trying to make a point about female character design, or those who argue that a little cleavage can be a good thing. Or whatever else in that vein. I’m saying that the same people who argue about the “physical limitations” of what women can do in video games don’t really seem to care about the ACTUAL physical limitations of wearing high heels and having unrealistically large breasts.

            I’m not comparing inclusion of women to female character design: I’m just taking one argument – the perceived “physical limitations” of women – and discussing how it’s not uniformly applied.

            • Hirvox says:

              While the Mortal Kombat series has been known for it’s over-the-top violence, the video-capturing of actors into sprites in earlier games actually enforced realism in the characters’ body proportions. That limitation was removed with full 3D models.

              However, some boxing games already use high-res 3D motion capture for the fighters, so hopefully it’s just a matter of time before someone reinvents MK’s initial gimmick.

  10. Trodamus says:

    My threshold for wonky character design is much higher for fighting games, as each character is supposed to instantly convey much of their attitude, backstory and playstyle through their design alone; through this, they rely on archetypes and generalized expectations regarding character tropes. Some better developers use this to surprise us, others not so much.

    However, the vapid bimboification of the MK women is, at best, distracting from a game that’s at least trying to take itself seriously, and to be honest is a pretty demeaning to everyone involved because they either think that gamers wouldn’t buy their game with less tarted up women, that women gamers aren’t enough of a consideration to not put strippers in their game, and that these once interesting characters, as wonderfully illustrated in the article, are now made ridiculous with their new designs.

    I mean, these outfits and designs aren’t even that sexy anyway. It’s like they had one idea for how women should look and ran their entire game on it. So much failure.

  11. False Prophet says:

    It seems almost every fighting franchise has to go through this progression of tarting up the female characters more with each sequel. I’m a huge fan of the Soul Calibur series, which used to be pretty good with its female avatars (Ivy notwithstanding) up until about SC II. Then at some point they decided they needed to outdo the DOA franchise, and started dressing teenaged girls in skimpy clothing. Which is a real shame, because I otherwise like Talim and Tira as characters, but it’s hard to play them without feeling like a dirty old man.

    With Mortal Kombat, the gimmick of digitizing live actors for the early installments probably helped matters. Yeah, since they only had 2 or 3 mo-cap actors, most of the characters had the exact same build, but they were real people with real proportions. Now, like most AAA games these days, resources are so demanding they only make 2 or 3 character models total, so the female characters pretty much share the same build, and you have to make it as voluptuous as possible, right? I almost prefer the more cartoon/anime style of Street Fighter, where they can have a far greater variety of body types.

    • Mirai says:

      I can wholeheartedly agree that Soul Calibur was superior when Sophitia wore something relatively greek-like rather than just a partly see-through nightie.

  12. Ayumi says:

    I don’t know. I’m not entirely bothered by this especially when it came from MK. I think it is all unrealistic and it’s fine. Hell, even the guys are so buffed up and so perfect, it’s hard not for guys (I’m sure) to feel insecure like women do especially on ideals on being a certain way.

    Though I don’t take MK seriously and still I enjoyed the newest one ;) And I’m a woman myself.

  13. Sharkman says:

    Thank you, I’ve been complaining about this ever since I first saw the character designs.

  14. DrShure says:

    Found this to be a great read. Excellent guest post.

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