For this discussion topic (more like a random brain-fart born of the sludge in my mind), I’m going to have to rewind a bit to last year (2018) since this was an idea I had back then but – for one reason or another – didn’t get around to writing about. First of all, I have to admit that the title for this post might be a bit too sweeping and broad because I’m only really going to be talking about sexual imagery. I just didn’t how else to head it up.
Anyway, Streets of Rage 4 was announced last year much to the uncontained joy of old-school gamers and Sega fans the world over. Opinion was split on the visual style and whether or not the game looked like a worthy successor but I noticed that there was one specific aspect of the reveal trailer that received comments of a consistent theme…
That’s right. People seemed more satisfied with the fact that Blaze Fielding had retained her infamous, sexy look. Forget the game itself – fuck that triviality. All that matters is that Blaze is still rocking a highly impractical short skirt + boob tube combo. Let’s not forget those glorious “thicc” thighs and bouncy, poorly-harnessed breasts either. Twenty-four years may have passed since Streets of Rage 3 but Ms. Fielding is still a fox. The comments section on the Youtube video for the trailer was particularly interesting with many praising the retention and enhancing of Blaze’s original design rather than toning her sexuality down to appease the SJW brigade and their perceived attack on videogame design.
The above is just a tiny snapshot. There were twenty-seven replies alone in just this one stack for example. Disregarding the presumptuous and angry language used in many of the comments, there was a clear indication that there is a division of gamers that feel their hobby is under attack by SJW types and those with political-correctness on their mind(s). These are just the reactions to one game however. Across the internet, I have been reading exasperated comments from fans of all kinds of games who are subscribing to the idea that social do-gooders are working to remove the sexuality from female characters and leave a political imprint on escapist entertainment.
A few other examples that have fanned the flames of dissent in recent years:
- Nintendo censoring cleavage and blurring out upskirt shots in Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE (Wii-U)
- Nintendo (again…) removing unlockable lingerie outfits from Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water (Wii-U)
- Capcom fiddling camera angles in Street Fighter V to conceal Rainbow Mika’s taunting butt-smack intro
- Nintendo (not picking on them – honest) de-sexualising Zero Suit Samus for Smash Bros. Ultimate (Switch)
- Sony’s recent decision to start applying stricter censorship to Playstation games in the future.
There are doubtless many more but you get the idea. Personally, I have a mixed opinion on these. Some I certainly don’t agree with, some I’m not bothered about (because there is little impact on the game itself) and others I’d be okay with if the developers didn’t apply ‘censors’ in such a crappy, bodge-job fashion. On the whole however, I am one hundred percent against such petty censorship that goes against the original designs and artwork. Thing is, if you complain about toned-down boobs or being unable to get a clear upskirt shot then you will likely be considered a pervert or sad, basement-dwelling nerd. It’s not about demanding gratuitous, seedy imagery however; it’s about being treated like a child and having somebody hold your hand, deciding what you should or shouldn’t be able to see. It’s about being told that sexuality is evil and immoral. It’s about having the artwork of others meddled with – a crime in itself.
But I’m not here to go too in-depth with my own views on the subject. I’m here to try and look at this rationally and ask the question: is there an SJW agenda in videogames?
I think that the answer isn’t entirely clear. It’s a “yes” and “no” kind of thing. I don’t believe that there is a conscious agenda aimed at sanitising everything but I DO think that wider, more encompassing feminist and moral causes have had a knock-on effect for the videogame industry. Nobody is specifically looking at Rainbow Mika and writing to Capcom in a offended frenzy, demanding that she put her mega bottom away for example. In this particular instance, Capcom USA decided to that it was necessary to tone down Mika’s bawdy behaviour in order to achieve the desired age rating for Street Fighter V and tap into as bigger a consumer base as possible. This is a knock-on effect of increasingly sensitive ratings boards who in turn want to ensure that they align themselves with society’s expectations of what is and isn’t “acceptable”.
We could dig even further back and investigate the social and political shifts over the past few decades that have encouraged our definitions of acceptability to evolve. We could ask the (perfectly legitimate) question of whether or not social media and biased news outlets have warped the minds of millions during that time and directed people towards certain viewpoints. We could even wonder why harmless titillation must be heavily scrutinised in the USA but the right to own destructive military-grade firepower is deemed to be okay.
The point is, it’s a more complex issue than simply pointing the finger at “them” and raging about not being allowed to see boobies anymore. Yes, the SJW agendas have affected the videogame industry but in an indirect way. The fact is, most of what we feel we have “lost” would probably still be included if it weren’t for the trepidation of the publishers and the amount of money they have invested in a project…money that they may not see a return on should the likes of the ESRB, BBFC and PEGI decide to award a higher certificate and therefore restrict sales. Large companies are very keen to prevent problems from ever becoming problems. Commercially, this makes sense. Unfortunately, it’s not such a great time to be of an artistic mind as a result.
I wouldn’t say that we are being “oppressed” but we are certainly experiencing the fallout of high-profile sexual assault scandals here in the West and these massive stories have dramatically altered the landscape of our society and given more voices to feminists, SJW’s and those who are hunting out misogynistic behaviour. It’s no surprise that the entertainment industry suffers as a result, especially when the likes of Facebook and Twitter offer a platform for people to begin shouting and attracting negative attention for movies and videogames “guilty” of sexualising the female form for the benefit of men. Publishers don’t want their products demonised and their reputations tarnished and so less liberty tends to be allowed on game design.
I am certainly not an apologist but the videogame industry has gotten away with using the “sex sells” theory from the start so there is perhaps an argument to say that we had this coming. Nowhere was it more blatant than the mid-2000’s or PS2/Xbox/Gamecube era as it might be better known. This was a time when so many games and advertising campaigns were sexed-up to the max for the sake of it. These days, the PS4 and Xbox One are owned by a wide range of people but the PS2 was more synomonous with the stereotypical teenage boy and so it seemed that the way to increase sales was to include as many tits as possible, even when there was no logical reason to do so.
I am a man therefore I like boobs and bums. No point in sugar-coating it for the snowflakes out there. I do still retain my brain lobes however and I can recall so many instances of advertisements or actual game content that depicted idealistic, incredibly well-endowed women that didn’t really add anything to the games themselves. Some games were childish to the extreme (Big Mutha Truckers and BMX XXX for example) while others such as Tecmo’s Dead Or Alive Xtreme ditched subtlety altogether and turned their cast of female warriors into little more than sex dolls.
It’s amazing to consider that all of this was a mere decade ago and now here we are with small details being edited out or painted over. On one hand, it’s impossible to defend objectifying women, even if they are digital and fictional.
On the other, it’s important to remember that videogames are entertainment, fantasy and escapism from an increasingly professional, sterilised (and monstrously hypocritical) world and we should be careful how far we take this quest for “justice”. The road to hell is paved with good intentions as they say and I happen to believe that a world without the freedom of expression and artistic liberty is Hell. I am after all a massive believer in letting people get on with what they enjoy and simply opting out if it isn’t to their tastes. I rarely play games that lean towards the glorification of cold-blooded violence for example but I’d be the last one demanding that the industry “wake up” and start censoring everything I disagree with. Slap an appropriate age rating on the box and let us decide for ourselves what we wish to consume. We must take responsibility for our own actions and what we choose to view after all and on that note, responsible parenting also falls to us – not the companies putting out content that WE allow our offspring access to.
In conclusion, I cannot agree that the SJW hardcore are working to keep us down and pick apart our media with laser-precision targeting. What we are experiencing is the simple knock-on effect of what is going on in our society right now. However, I also urge restraint and implore people to have common-sense rather than pushing, pushing, pushing all the time. The snowball effect is a very real risk and genuine, worthy causes may very well end up neutering expression, art and harmless titillation. The next decade is going to be very interesting.