Impressions: Skullgirls

By Ben Barrett on August 27th, 2013 at 11:00 am.

Energetically crowd-funded 2D fighting game Skullgirls absolutely exudes style. From the off there’s a classy jazz beat lain down to play out over the dark menu, entries listed in a unique typeface. Thought and time has obviously been put into the way options are enlarged, the selection cursor, the smoothness of transition from item to item. It’s polished to a tee, every surface smooth and shining its message to the world: I’m classy, I’m friendly and I’m intricately, lovingly designed. But can it carry this throughout? Does the biff and kick charm us with its clarity and cool?

The greatest strength of any game is being able to draw in a player. Even Dark Souls begins simple enough, teaches you its rules before climbing aboard the murder train. Fighting games seem to have missed this class, probably too busy in the playground throwing rocks at one-another and doing kick-flips off walls. Arcade origins meant that even explaining the basic button ‘n’ stick configurations for a fireball or uppercut was a no-no for years to get just a few more quarters. As home consoles (and PCs!) became the dominant force in gaming and the genre slowly made a transition that way, training modes and move lists were invented as a necessity.

But actual tutorials explaining game mechanics still fly way under the radar. Super Street Fighter 4 (the first reiteration) added functions to teach character-specific combos and moves, but never explained the mechanics behind them. Most don’t even bother, so Skullgirls’ elaborate, intricate tutorial system is an absolute godsend. Everything, from the very basics of moving to multi-layered combo strings combining normals, special attacks and super moves is gone over multiple times. There’s an obvious decision been made to make it possible for anyone to pick up Skullgirls and begin to learn.

There is a problem though: it doesn’t go far enough. It starts at the very beginning, but then doesn’t extend to the point it needs to prepare you for the online arena. Each character is given a tutorial, but all this does is explain their special moves and allow you to try them out. There’s no combo examples, no explanations of how these specials can be linked or best times to use them. Now, Skullgirls’ actual fighting mechanics are simple enough that knowing the over-arching links – light, medium, heavy, launch into air and jump, light, medium, heavy – is enough to get you started. This still leaves you totally unprepared for an online foray though, meaning it’s either back to training mode or time to spend many hours fighting the AI.

Tripping itself up at a final hurdle is, sadly, a little common. Story mode is short and sweet, but never manages to link the fights together in such a way that it feels like a narrative rather than background. Online play is sublimely handled with a dearth of options, but lacks the auto-requeue and easy transition of Divekick. Training mode has an approaching-infinite number of options for assisting veterans (seriously, if you know what you’re doing it’s everything you’ll need), but there’s an evolutionary step missing for noobies between the tutorials and that. However, where this is most obvious is the art and that really bears explaining.

Skullgirls characters are a perfect example of the difference between design and implementation. Every last one of them is so uniquely brilliant, such individually great ideas for larger-than-life people. A circus performer with a giant pair of living hands for a hat. A shape-shifter who starts battles by vomiting herself inside-out and can turn into a teacup. A girl with living hair. Each has such wonderful personality, such charm in their dialogue and backstory that you’d need to be cold-hearted not to smile. It is a shame this is wasted on such an exploitative art style.

There was an opportunity here. An opportunity for an entire cast of characters like Peacock, the sanely proportioned and thoroughly ridiculous robot-girl. An opportunity for fighting poses that are good for something other than predominantly showing bouncing breasts. An opportunity for a collection of stories that end with powerful women actually in control of their destiny, rather than a slave to a nameless god or mafia boss. An opportunity not to have fucking measurement statistics on the official character pages.

I didn’t want the art of Skullgirls to overshadow my writing on it, but it overshadows the game. It’s omnipresent, requiring actual effort to get a screenshot not containing someone’s heaving bosom. I would love to see these characters redesigned, super-heroine style, to be sexy but inoffensive. No matter what I may think of the final product, there is very obviously an incredibly talented art team here. From backgrounds to special effects, it’s lovingly rendered, I just wish it had been done with a little more respect.

If you’re willing to see past all that, Skullgirls is probably the best introduction to ‘real’ fighting games you’re going to get. It’ll feed an interest flared by Divekick well and requires many less Youtube tutorials and mechanics articles to understand than its peers. For those who may own it elsewhere, the transition to PC has been slick as you like. Netcode functions beautifully and, while I’m not adept enough to understand their quality, there have been a large number of changes balance and systems wise. I may not wholly approve, but I do recommend.

Skullgirls is available now on Steam.

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384 Comments »

  1. Orazio Zorzotto says:

    Stuff like this is so subjective. I’m the kind of person who would usually fall on the side of “It’s just the style” but the fact that a) 99% of games with female characters commit the same sin and b) those size measurements you linked to are fucking gross leads me to fall on the side of “yeah, you’re just a bunch of perverts”.

    To be honest, I feel that having a strong narrative will usually excuse you from adopting an art style with unnatural proportions but that’s obviously not the case for a fighting game. Ben, I’m glad you touched on that instead of just focusing on the way they’re drawn.

    • Mo6eB says:

      Right, so senseless violence that completely objectifies its subjects – usually just men born in unfair situations – is totally fine and accepted, we’re all completely behind treating every male as a high-pressure bag of adrenaline and blood kept together by taut bulging muscles, but the moment someone draws a woman with proportions outside the realm of possibility it’s a cardinal sin and he must be sent to the soylent green factory. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the problem with America – lots of love for violence, lots of violence towards all things love.

      • Focksbot says:

        Oh, grow a sense of fucking proportion, would ya. The violence *is* questionable. It’s always been questionable. There’ve been a tonne of articles about it. It’s a question that comes up again and again, particularly in games where all the bad guys are given foreign accents. You don’t get to play some inane “No one cares about the poor men” card.

        But at least there are alternatives. At least there are games – plenty of games, hundreds of games – where you can get away from riddling poor foreigners full of bullet holes. You can be a hardcore gamer and entirely avoid bludgeoning men to death. Entirely. That holds even more true for your ridiculous assertion that men are all portrayed as stereotypical musclebrains.

        But when it comes to women in games, this is what we always get, and of course it’s disappointing when another opportunity to redress the balance is passed by. There are manifestly *not* an abundance of games with well rounded, multifarious female characters whose main attribute isn’t sexiness. You cannot be a gamer and avoid this trope.

        Now, personally, I think Skullgirls gives its characters enough, well, character, to justify its art style for the most part. I think it’s fine. But I can understand people not feeling that way.

        • Noise says:

          I’m so sick of this perpetual hypocritical conversation.

          This is exactly the same as the constant flow of male characters in games that are basically childish action movie stereotypes: grizzled, muscular, and violent. Do I like this? No, it’s crap. Am I offended? No, because THAT WOULD BE ASININE.

          Are games art? If yes, then the artist can put whatever the fuck they want in their work. Honestly if people are offended by a piece of art, they can piss off, rather than call for self-censorship at every opportunity.

          • Nevard says:

            The problem is that action movie men are also there to appeal to men, not women

    • DavidCasteel says:

      my buddy’s aunt makes $82 an hour on the computer. She has been out of work for 8 months but last month her pay was $12605 just working on the computer for a few hours. Go to this web site and read more… http://www.Day37.com

  2. Crimsoneer says:

    Blaaah. I partly disagree that it’s exploitative. It’s not…well, it is, but in part it isn’t. That would imply it’s somehow using the exploited sexuality to arouse or titillate, when it’s obviously not. The bosoms aren’t there to entertain thirteen year olds. It’s a cool design choice that actually works out.
    Also, not entirely sure about the super-heroine look – it works really well on superlady, but they don’t really fit the look on everybody else, and just look artificially baggy.

    Bah, I’m undecided. I see where you’re coming from, I really do. And the fact that they’ve put measurements up on the character page kind of destroys the argument I’m trying to make. Meh. There is A WAY of having heaving bosoms without being exploitative, I guess. This isn’t quite there yet, but meh. Needs more discussion that a couple of paragraphs, I guess.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Sorry, but it is to titillate, and it is to appeal to teenage boys. That’s exactly why they designed the characters that way.

      • pepperfez says:

        Nah, the characters are designed to appeal to their designer, who appears to be well out of his teens. Since The Author Is Dead, that shouldn’t really be taken as a comment on the game itself, but I don’t think there’s cynicism at work here.

        • MisterFurious says:

          I’ve read that the characters were designed by a woman. I don’t know if that’s actually true, but the guys that said it seemed to know what they were talking about.

          • Jack Mack says:

            The art director is a man, while the lead animator is a queer woman, I believe. I assume they collaborated in designing the characters.

            http://labzerogames.com/about/

          • pepperfez says:

            The characters are by Alex Ahad, who began designing them long before there was any talk of a game. Mariel Cartwright was hired as lead animator on the game. So the baked-in sexiness of the characters is all Ahad’s, while Cartwright contributed significantly to the jiggle.

      • lurkalisk says:

        By that logic, Mariel Kinuko Cartwright, whose whole body of work is rather similar, would then be dedicating her art work entirely to giving teens a one way ticket to midnight. As far as I know, she makes stuff like that for her own edification.

        I’m usually on board with the attitudes and opinions of the average RPSanite, but I’m confident there is room in the realm of the acceptable for some crude stuff too. Not just the %110 considerate, only ever tasteful, boobs-don’t-exist kinds of things. If there weren’t, we wouldn’t have such bizarre gems as The Toxic Avenger, say. Besides, It’s not like we’re talking about something like BoneTown, here (NSFW, for anyone who didn’t see that one already).

  3. Strabo says:

    All criticism on Skullgirls’ characters is moot, because they have a woman doing design work, you terrible White Knight!

    The linked redesigned Superhero costumes go too far in the other direction though. There is a fine balance between sexy costume, practical costume and exploitative costume, which is different for each character – just covering up all flesh isn’t really what’s needed – just take Wonder Woman’s ugly, oddly style breaking Chino pants (although many of the costumes are pretty great).

    • Acegikmo says:

      Are you being ironic? If not, out of curiosity: why would the gender of the creator/designer somehow affect whether or not the output is okay?

      • Strabo says:

        Of course it was ironic by me, less so by the Skullgirls guy who said that:

        “Our lead animator is a woman,” lead designer at Reverge Peter Bartholow told Eurogamer. “She intentionally lavishes attention on the breasts herself because she thinks it’s cool. All the people who seem bothered by it are guys. It’s a weird chivalry intent thing that’s sort of misplaced and maybe shallow, even, because they see breasts and panty flashes and they go, that’s sexist, but I’ve yet to meet a woman who has complained about it. They’re over-thinking it.

        “I’m like, did you know our lead animator is a woman? Then he’s like, that’s amazing. It’s like I gave him the excuse to think it was okay all of a sudden, or to admit he liked it, which really amused me and seemed emblematic of the entire situation around that.

        • Acegikmo says:

          Neat! Was just making sure :)

        • Bhazor says:

          Summed it up perfectly.

          Sadly its too late to save the article.

          • Lusketrollet says:

            Love that quote.

            Confirmed my theories about white knights perfectly.

          • Lars Westergren says:

            Reading things that you agree with doesn’t really count as proof or confirmation.

        • sonson says:

          Feminism is about equality, not the sacralising of women. If a woman decides she wants to focus attention on a shallow representation of female characters that’s her prerogative but it dosent make it any less vapid. It certainly dosent make her Margaret fucking Atwood.

          • Milky1985 says:

            “Feminism is about equality”

            Ah but is it, I ask because in one of the other many many RPS stories about sexism etc etc I was talking about this, and was told very specifically that this is not the case and they are in fact different.

            I was told that feminism is about better rights for women, and when i was talking about equality i was talking about something different.

          • jrodman says:

            Sounds like confusion.

            Confusion over terms, or context, or multiple definitions. Or the person you were talking to was confused. It’s hard to say without revisiting that other discussion.

            Some people falsely consider ‘equality’ to mean ‘gender blindness’, which it isn’t. Sometimes people seem to think it means “everything must be the same”. Or something about “we should mistreat men the same amount as women”.

            Equality is definitely in there somewhere in the ideas of feminism. There’s more to it than that though.

        • Martel says:

          Between “It’s a weird chivalry intent thing that’s sort of misplaced and maybe shallow, even,” and having the measurements on the page…..

          They just lost a potential customer forever….

          • pepperfez says:

            On the stupidity of that argument, Lab Zero seems to agree with you – see the block quote a couple replies down.

        • Moraven says:

          I bet the majority of players are male, of course most complaining will be the same. I’m sure there a fair share of women who don’t mind it and do.

          They hired a flash skullgirl hentai artist later in development.

          • pepperfez says:

            Hired through their ordinary application process, not on the basis of his/her other work, and hired only as a cleanup artist, not for design or original content.

        • Zekiel says:

          Oh phew – a woman is OK with the art style so it’s fine.

          Equivalent: “Some native Americans thought Johnnie Depp’s portrayal of Tonto was cool, therefore all native Americans are OK with it and if you’re not you’ve being oversensitive.”

        • FionaSarah says:

          “All the people who seem bothered by it are guys”

          He is dead wrong.

        • pepperfez says:

          Alex Ahad, the guy behind the characters and universe, specifically rejected that argument:

          Our quote was taken out of context and shouldn’t have been taken as an actual, serious argument against sexism. It’s rather disrespectful to both Kinuko and her work, as well as the company as a whole. If you read the whole article, you will see that there is an anecdote that demonstrates the absurdity of this female-animator argument. I wish it was made more clear that we don’t support the female-animator argument as a valid point against sexism at all…Ultimately, the things you see in Skullgirls are there because it just happens to be stuff that I wanted to do… (Source: Ahad’s often NSFW DeviantArt account, oh8.)

          Which is good, because that’s a stupid damn argument. It obviously doesn’t affect the art itself, but at least the people behind it aren’t oblivious jerks.

        • TaylanK says:

          Really amuses me when people think of feminism as a sort of collective consciousness shared by all women on the planet innately, so that if one of them does or says something, it should be okay with all feminists automatically. As if every woman on the planet has the authority to speak on behalf of all feminists, and their opinions should automatically trump that of male feminists.

          There are many pro-patriarchy women out there who don’t really believe in gender equality. If it’s a woman telling you that a husband should have a right to demand sex, or that a woman should not have control over her reproductive rights, or that it’s natural that women get paid less, does that make it right? As a man, should you just shut up, assuming it must be okay by all women then?

    • BrandeX says:

      “All criticism on Skullgirls’ characters is moot”
      Yes, I guess it IS up for debate…
      http://www.dailywritingtips.com/are-you-sure-you-mean-moot/

    • darkath says:

      Does he really look like a woman ?

      http://blogs.laweekly.com/arts/2011/07/skullgirls_alex_ahad.php

      I’m confused.

    • KikiJiki says:

      So I’m confused, are the guys in here decrying the art style really enlightened male feminists striving for decent gender representation or are they secret agents of the Patriarchy telling women what they can or cannot draw?

      • Pich says:

        It’s two group of people on the internet with different opinion and neither understand that opinions are subjective.

      • Sheng-ji says:

        I know, just last week, a white man told me to take down the “No N*****s” sign on my restaurant, and I’m black! Is he secretly a member of the KKK, telling black people who they may or may not allow into their premises.

  4. snappycakes says:

    I’d like to say that I didn’t see the comments on the artstyle coming, but I did http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/08/21/impressions-divekick/#comment-1331986

    Glad that the rest of the review can see through the artstyle to the brilliant starting point that Skullgirls is for people new to fighting games.

    • Grey Poupon says:

      You wouldn’t have had read much RPS in the past year if you didn’t see it coming. Which is sort of sad in it’s own way.

    • Echo Black says:

      Grab an emulator and play Waku Waku 7 over Kaillera. Seriously. It is THE “beginner’s fighting game”

    • Bhazor says:

      The rest of the article is basically “This game has a tutorial. I suck at fighting games.”

    • Ansob says:

      It’s a shit art style and as a result deserves to be rubbished. This is not very hard to get.

      It’s all the more regrettable that the designs are so bad because they’re very clearly excellent artists from a purely technical point of view. Shame they went and wasted that technical aptitude on rubbish designs.

      • Bhazor says:

        “It’s a shit style”

        No. It’s an art style and you can either like it or not. I love it, its utterly gorgeous fluid and jammed with character. Having it entirely dismissed because it has some boob jiggle is ridiculous.

        • Ringwraith says:

          Seeing it in motion is absolutely brilliant.
          It’s incredibly well-animated, and it is fairly consistent with the rest of the tone.
          The art style is certainly not something holding it back, the character designs maybe, although at least there’s some bonkers variety in there, and I always like weird curveballs, especially in games that revolved around competitive balance like most fighting games.

        • Synesthesia says:

          Thank you. It IS beautiful, and masterfully animated.

          RPS tends to be spot on with this kind of shit, but here, i truly believe you guys are pissing way outside the jar. Really? Jiggling boobs? That’s the threat?It’s an art style, that is all. Calling an artstyle (and the artists behind it) mysoginistic, or homophobic, immediatly destroys all possible discussion. I would REALLY like to see you adressing the artists of this game in an interview. I bet an actual discussion about tropes such as awful evil jiggling boobs with people that actually work with those would be useful.

          • Ringwraith says:

            It’s just sad to see I find.
            Though the mention of the measurements being something on the website does make the whole thing a lot worse, as it shows where at least some intentions lie.
            At the end of the day, if the game is good enough, I’ll probably end up ignoring it so it doesn’t affect my experience, but often remain aware of its existence, but I’m good at ignoring things like that.

          • darkChozo says:

            For what it’s worth, I think the measurements might be a Japanese thing (via the weird lens that is a culture as seen through its niche entertainment), or at least it’s something that seems to show up way more often in manga-style works than anywhere else. Given that Skullgirls obviously takes a lot from that style, it might be something else they decided to port over.

            Doesn’t excuse anything of course, but there’s a distinct possibility it’s not something they made up out of sheer pervertedness.

          • Bhazor says:

            Why is it offensive to put their measurements? They included height and weight so why is it insulting they spent a few seconds to decide their measurements and blood type?

            I mean pervertedness? Really? I mean really? Have you seen the characters? They’re stylised far beyond any physical attractiveness.

          • Ringwraith says:

            It just feels wrong to me.
            Probably because it’s a bit more personal than someone’s height or weight. You wouldn’t go up and ask about that.
            I also honestly just don’t care, I don’t need this information.
            This is probably why Persona 4 Arena amuses me so much by not showing any of the female’s character’s (and some others, sometimes also omitting height) weights on the statistic-style pages for the fighters though.

        • DrGonzo says:

          No, it’s a completely shit art style.

  5. Pich says:

    The art style is fantastic, consistent with itself, and i don’t mind the character being sexy. Also the tutorial is a godsend, especially for a total newbie like me, it’s not bad that it doesn’t explain every single combo for every character, half the fun of videogames is figuring stuff out by yourself.

    • Ben Barrett says:

      I went back and forth on this. I agree that having a huge list of combos for each character would be too far, but it’s very odd to me that after such an incredible tutorial there’s nothing of actual use per-character that couldn’t be gleaned from a move list.

      If you’re willing to go through the little bit of extra effort to find things out/test things yourself, it’s definitely a non-issue for you – but I think the majority of those who really needed that in-depth tutorial won’t be. Perhaps just my perception.

      • Haplo says:

        It sounds like one of the things that Skullgirls needs is a ‘Challenge mode’ seen in (console) airdash fighters like Blazblue or Persona 4 Arena, which is basically a list of 15 challenges that start simple but become more complex as they gradually chain combos and actions together. In essence it’s basically a sort of elongated tutorial in itself.

        • Ringwraith says:

          Yeah, really, you need to combine these two things.
          Skullgirls’ tutorial seems to teach a lot of the general fighting games mechanics, like mixups (swapping attacks from high to low to make them difficult to block) and hit-confirming (making sure you land an unblocked hit before comboing into something nasty), but then fails to teach you the characters themselves all too well.
          Whereas a lot of other fighting games will teach you character movesets with a good array of combos for them and not say anything about anything else, (sometimes not even teaching you the controls, which is nuts, a common problem being games not telling you how to block without a dedicated button except in a small corner of the manual).

          • Haplo says:

            This! I’ve been playing (casually, mind, but still playing) fighters, partic. airdashes, for about two years, but the Skullgirls tute really helped with my mixup defending.

            It also helps that Skullgirls is on PC. I’ve played a few fighters before with friends on PC, and one of the things that frustrates and infuriates them is that I am somehow far better on a keyboard with a fighter than I am with a gamepad.

          • Ringwraith says:

            I didn’t play any fighting games until a few months ago, but I’ve picked up lots of random bits of theory behind them, like mixups and whatnot somehow.
            Of course I can’t actually put any of these in practice, as I’m terrible at pressing the right buttons or even just pressing them at all.

  6. Dana says:

    Peacock is the hottest.

  7. sonson says:

    I’m not sure if I’m going to express this adequately but I think that notion is sort of at the heart of the matter. One of the ills of patriarchy is that it has enjoyed such power to even assert the terms of goodness and virtue, and I guess what I’m trying to say above is that Skullgirls falls into the trap of defining it’s empowerment (if indeed that is what it is doing) along these typically masculine lines. Now the point is not that men are x, and that women are Y, or anything of the sort. True equality is the belief that men and women are people, not types or species.

    That said unless it is very inverted one of the more identifiable ways of challenging patriarchy is to examine what it lacks and present an alternative, and underrepresented counterpoint in order to bring greater roundness to the whole. Patriarch is unquestionably very lacking, and non-presentive of the whole of humanity, and needs correction. The values it espouses whether they be in favour of man or woman are incomplete and dis-empowering, whatever garb they choose. Even if that garb is one of dynamic kick-ass sexually aggressive girls. The values seem the same to me.

    Skullgirls can be whatever it wants to be. It doesn’t need to be a rallying cry for feminists, lesbians, anyone at all, on any basis. That said I don’t see sufficient critical subtlety on show to suggest that it is inverting the typical masculine viewpoint from within the parameters it is using, and it doesn’t appear to be offering much of an alternative to it either.

    • gwathdring says:

      Very nicely put. In particular that last paragraph.

      Ultimately the review recommends Skullgirls alongside a personal statement of discomfort with the art. Beneath what is an “Impressions” piece, it’s utterly silly that some people are throwing around snide comments about this group or that group on the Internet not taking subjectivity into account and being too hard-line. Then there’s all the bollocks about White Knighting. Jesus. One need not be afraid of sexuality and breasts to sometimes find it tasteless, out-of-place, or presented with a poor attitude.

      There is room for weak women, powerless women, and sexually objectified women in our media. That room is, at present, over-saturated and often for reasons that bear little resemblance to artistry and creativity. Likewise there is room for straight, white, male protagonists with square jaws and an addiction to punching things. And that room is likewise over-saturated at present. What disappoints me is that Skullgirls puts itself above the crowd with a vibrant, lovely art style packed with character and an almost entirely female cast–both unusual things–but beyond those two things it doesn’t do anything particularly novel either mechanically or with respect to games and gender. Not every game needs to take on change in the industry, but it’s always more disappointing to see a game in a position to push on all fronts only to have it sit there content to just be played and appreciated for the couple of things it does pretty darn well … than to see a game that never even comes close.

      • harbinger says:

        “There is room for weak women, powerless women, and sexually objectified women in our media. That room is, at present, over-saturated and often for reasons that bear little resemblance to artistry and creativity.”
        Oh boy, there goes Mr. I’m going to make broad statements without any proof again. It is so, because I say it is so isn’t a very good argument.

        Also, “there is room for something, except in every single case where that something is present and I’ll throw a big tantrum in the comments and everywhere!” isn’t a very good argument either, I’d call it disingineous.
        RPS has been having a fit over every single game that has this sort of “art style” on the PC (and there aren’t many out there… please go ahead and bring up 10 titles that haven’t been “criticized” by RPS from the last 3 years or so.

        • gwathdring says:

          I don’t think it’s disingenuous. Sometimes a piece of media steps far enough that it becomes more directly complicit in sexism and reiteration of gendered performances for one or the other gender. In such cases, I call what I see.

          In cases like this where I wouldn’t bring up the discussion myself until I already see it happening, I point out that there’s a very fine line to be walked here and both sides ought to give each other more credit becasue of that. Gender performance is tricky, problematic, and loaded with social baggage. Every game that supports archetypal gender performance is complicit in that as part of the socialization machine. This is not in itself a problem unless there is a problem with the results of gender socialization. I think there are problems with the results of gender socialization and performance and as such I criticize thoughtless uses of archetypal gender performance.

          Elsewhere in the thread I commented that I think Skullgirls actually does a pretty good job presenting variety and avoiding archetype. I don’t see how this is disingenuous, whether or not you agree with me. I don’t know what you’re on about with the thing about 10 titles from the past three years. It’s arbitrary anyway you slice it. I do not represent RPS, I did not explicitly say “RPS IS RIGHT RARRRRR”, and I have no idea what you’re on about with your specific numbers.

          One of my main concerns is that this is a matter as much of taste as anything else. People can hold perfectly reasonable views with respect to the social implications at work, and still find this game more or lest objectionable than you do just based on how much cleavage they’re comfortable having in their games. This goes for both male and female gamers. It’s not necessary to attack people’s taste to attack their arguments but that seems to happen a lot in these discussions on both sides.

          • harbinger says:

            I reacted somewhat irritably because I mistook you for someone else that usually pops up in these arguments: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/08/09/how-wasteland-2-will-acknowledge-gender-discrimination/

            The point is that when you use words like “over-saturated”, overarching or the very popular ubiquitous in regards to certain representations or art styles I want to see proof or rather [citation needed].
            It’s rather easy to make such a claim, it’s a lot harder to back it up. A good mental exercise to go through to realise that this isn’t as prevalent as you might think and in fact all these games with characters with big breasts and grand sexualization are in a minority is just going through the last x released games on Steam and ticking off games that you think this might apply to. You will rather soon find out that they are usually very consistent with about every game RPS is having (or has had) a fit about and in fact rather a minority (maybe 3-5%) than a prevalent overbearing trend.
            People usually love bringing up little personal anecdotes or games from a decade ago like DOA: Extreme Beach Volleyball to assist them in making these arguments.

            And then it suddenly becomes an issue of RPS singling out games that have an art style they don’t agree with out of ideological reasons rather than fighting against the evil patriarchy destroying gaming.

          • gwathdring says:

            I go through that mental exercise a lot. The conclusion I come to is that plenty of games never approach sexuality with a ten-foot-pole and that when they do, it tends to be in the way a lot of western media does which tends to evoke gender roles I find problematic both in how they reflect men and in how they reflect women.

            The number of games that touch on sexuality and endeavor to do so in an aesthetically or narratively interesting way is very, very small. Finding popular games with no protagonist what-so-ever or in which you can select your gender is pretty easy. Finding games in which you can choose your gender and choose to wear fully-covering armor as either character isn’t as easy. Finding games where you cannot choose your character, there is a single protagonist, and that protagonist is female? Significantly less easy than the gender swapped case.

            I don’t see as much compelling reason to force the hierarchical “female characters are worse than male characters” thing. That sexism in the real world tends to put men in positions of relative power is relevant, but it’s not a trump card. Unnecessary attention to gender and arbitrary adhesion to gender roles is usually bad for a piece of media whether it produces Brick Mantooth or Brenda Hotpants.

            I’m going to do a version of your mental exercise. The top sellers on steam:

            Rome II Total War — male-centric, historically so
            Payday 2 — no female characters, possibly going to be updated with some
            You Need a Budget 4 — not a game, protagonist is YOU
            Saints Row IV — choose a gender, can be fat/ugly/green/whatever, satirizes gender tropes at times
            Castlevania Lords of Shadow — male lead with a frige-stuffed wife
            Godmode — couldn’t tell and didn’t bother to find out
            Splinter-Cell — male lead but female president so there’s that
            Brutal Legend — male lead
            Civilization — no protagonist, famous female leaders included as equals to male leaders
            Symphony — no characters
            ARMA 3 — not sure but I believe female representation is present to a degree
            F1 — not sure
            Skyrim — Pick a gender
            Amnesia — Male lead
            Game Dev Tycoon — I think no protagonist?
            The Bureau — Manly men, pseudo-historical
            Counter-strike Go — no protagonist, no women (except maybe CT under that armor? haven’t played)
            Might and Magic X — pick a gender, armor is actually reasonable best I can tell!

            I’m getting bored of this, but hopefully you see what I see. Lots of games where gender doesn’t matter and sexual themes aren’t even a thing! Otherwise, we’re looking at a lot of male protagonists. If you go down to 32 you hit Gone Home. If you go down to 60-something you hit Portal 2. There is a hugely significant dearth of female protagonists in mainstream games with a fixed-gender protagonist.

            That out of the way, I really don’t want to go down the less/more route with you. You seem reasonable, surely we can skip those pleasantries and agree to the following: 1) Sexism isn’t a conspiracy and it’s a lot more complicated “Men Do Bad Things, Now Women Sad”. 2) Sexism can be rooted pretty firmly in (often problem) gender performances ingrained in us through the same routine socialization that teaches us not to eat poison and not to kill each other.

            3)Men are hurt by this too. See, I have no interest in talking about who has it worse in a generic sense but I’m happy to say that 4) women have less power by the most respected metrics of power in western society–money, business leadership positions, political representation, and so forth. 5) Men, again, also have specific disadvantages and who has it worse really boils down to who you are, where you are, and what you think is worse. Can of worms. Not interested. Now that we’ve agreed to those things, I can start explaining where I come from!

            You seemed interested in sexualization in particular. I don’t think sexualization or even objectification is bad. Objectifying people in advertisements? Sure. Porn? Sure. Romantic comedies? No, no that’s not effective use of objectifying techniques. My concerns with both objectification and sexualization in media is a pattern of imbalance that I notice and the way it intersects with real-life gender roles that I find problematic becasue of their real-life consequences. That pattern of imbalance is part of our socialization process and media containing that pattern is part of a positive feedback loop for that self-same socialization process. This isn’t social justice mumbo-jumbo but a perfectly functional system that forms the basis of how we interact with all media–good, bad, inoffensive, offensive, whatever.

            Women are more often presented in a sexual light in the media I consume than men are. I consume a lot of varied media and I try to avoid explicitly stereotypical gender performances so I’m pretty comfortable saying this is not my personal selection bias. I’m not beyond finding men distractingly hot but it’s not my main thing, so that’s certainly a confounding variable–I’m very rarely the target audience of sexualized men. That said I’m pretty comfortable saying I can recognize them when I see them just as straight/mostly-straight women can recognize female sexualization in their media.

            I can keep going all day and give you the whole speech with everything I’ve observed and all my reasons for all of my conclusions but I think I’m just going to stop because this is going to take forever and take up a lot of page space while it’s this narrow. Is that what you really want? Like … are you interested? Because I can do that. I like listening to myself type as anyone who hangs around here a lot has probably noticed. Or were you just using the “Yeah well if you’re so sure why don’t you be more specific” thing as an annoying rhetorical trump card?

          • gwathdring says:

            You can also say “It wasn’t, but I changed my mind because I won’t want to read an essay-long response” or “It was, but I changed my mind so continue” or “It was, and I’m sorry, but also not interested.”

            Those are legit answers. I’m not trying to trap you, I’m just genuinely not sure if you’re expecting me to signpost my opinions with “citation needed” because you’re that kind of tricky bastard, if you’re expecting me to actually “prove” or explain why I think these problems are ubiquitous and these niches over-saturated or if you’re just talking guff because it’s easier to ask someone to prove subjective opinions than substantiate your own. I apologize if that’s offensive … I’m just honestly not sure and I can’t exactly check your tone of voice.

          • harbinger says:

            I’m not trying to “trap” anyone in anything. I just want it quantified whenever someone makes big sweeping statements about some “overarching problem” in the industry that I can’t really see being there (e.g. the sexualization of women RPS seems to be droning on about as if this was the case in every or at least every second game).
            As for largely gender neutral/none or male characters in video games, that might well be true. But you just said it yourself, these are the top sellers while things like Remember Me and a lot of these other titles aren’t: http://www.mobygames.com/game-group/protagonist-female

            Women generally speaking seem to like other types of games: http://psychology.wichita.edu/surl/usabilitynews/141/videogames.asp and seem to be especially big on social/casual, puzzle, music/dance games which are very much often catered towards that demographic (and they outpace the number of men playing by quite a lot) while strategy, fighting, role playing, FPS and generally violent games seem to be more targetted towards men.

            Regarding the “gender roles”, I don’t really find that problematic at all. I’m pretty comfortable in knowing that I’m a man and most people I know or meet are very comfortable in knowing that they are respectively men or women.
            There’s also the thing about “gender roles” having that biological component that leads to the procreation of the human race and led us to the world we live in in the first place.

            This seems to be a relatively new phenomenon, but a 30-something games writer or dear commenter in an RPS thread isn’t going to manage to make me think differently in regards to that regardless of what they believe, so I’d rather like to keep these conversations pertinent: video games.

            And I state again that the amount of games nowadays that feature female “oversexualization”, and especially the ones RPS doesn’t manage to complain about in long articles and tirades of their own are in a minority of something like 3-5% and not really worth complaining about with this intensity if your goal wasn’t to try and remove a style of game that a lot of people enjoy and hurts nobody from the face of the earth altogether, which is a rather cynical thing to try and do.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            “Regarding the “gender roles”, I don’t really find that problematic at all. I’m pretty comfortable in knowing that I’m a man and most people I know or meet are very comfortable in knowing that they are respectively men or women.”

            You have entirely missed the point. It’s not about being aware of what is between your legs, its about people treating you unfairly because of what is between your legs. It’s because plenty of women want careers or to play fighting games and it is made unpleasant for them to do so because people like you say “you’re a woman so you’re role in society is to bring up my children and if you must play video games, play the sims or nintendogs please”

            Feel free to replace with “you’re a man so you don’t get to quit your job and raise your children, you have to take a second job and spend even less time with your family. Also you may not play with dolls, I mean the sims because you are a man and you like COD and fifa.”

            DO you really think that’s OK? Because that’s what you just advocated – people get to do only what society has decided is appropriate for their gender and if they try to buck the trend, other people will make their lives less pleasant and harder than if they had something different in the genital department.

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      Excellent post.

  8. kimded says:

    I for one am enjoying my time with Skullgirls, I love its artdeco/20s style, the design of most of the characters doesnt bother me that much, some of the jiggling is a bit much I will grant you but its no worse than the majority of fighting games (like Dead or Alive, or Soul Callibur etc)…. which of course I know doesnt make it ok.

    (some spoilery stuff ahead):
    Also, although I’ve only played once through the story, I didnt find it as unflattering as the writer, but it may have just been the story I got, where Parasoul (who seems to be in charge of her countries military?) leads the charge against the invading Skullgirl and then sacrifices her freedom for her sister but then trains her to take her place… thats kinda empowering I thought…. but hey I can speak for others and perhaps the other storylines more match his views.

    Personally I like it, love the tutorial as I suck at fighting games so its good to get some of the basics taught to me, and the art style is clean, crisp, and consistent, but it may not be to everyones tastes, in which case dont buy it.

    • RedViv says:

      The endings vary from embracing the Skullgirl power to just plain wrecking it and going on to better the world to ignoring its powers and just going back to the crime-ridden world that is still home. Found that comment on the ending a bit unfair, aye. Especially since, if it really were just about this binary choice between being controlled by one or another thing, the cheesecake would indeed by bothersome to me. But this way, the stories make it about getting their hands on their own fate, which to each character is an entirely different thing.
      Now the one problem I would point at is that it’s mostly literal strength, again, that pushes the characters, as had just last week been criticised in an article also mentioned in the Sunday Papers. Excusable, possibly, because it’s a fighting game.
      €: Ah, what sonson said right above this. That.

      • darkChozo says:

        *spoilers for the masterpiece that is the story to a fighting game below*

        Yeah, I’m not sure what Ben’s talking about when it comes to the endings. The only story that’s about a woman submitting to being controlled is Cerebella’s, and that has, well, a bittersweet ending at best. The only story that’s about serving some god is Double’s, and she’s stretching (ha!) the definition of woman a bit.

        You could maybe, maybe interpret becoming the Skullgirl as some sort of female disempowerment (IMO, it’s a fairly standard corrupt-the-hero/power-at-a-cost routine, but I digress), but even then, like half the stories end with the character destroying the Skull Heart instead.

    • Snargelfargen says:

      Yeah,cheesecake and bust measurements are a staple of the genre for some reason. Their presence highlights a lack of creativity and bravery on the part of the developers. Kind of a bummer when an otherwise good game is hampered by cosmetic design choices included only because that’s how other games do it. The art style still stands out from the crowd, so that’s something at least.

      • TsunamiWombat says:

        They’re a staple of the genre because the FGC is the literal collection of hooting abhumans that sex-negative feminists imagine all men to be.

        • aldo_14 says:

          “Sex-negative feminists”?

          • pepperfez says:

            “Gremlins”

          • choconutjoe says:

            It’s a reference to the feminist sex wars. One side refer to themselves as “sex-positive” feminists – thereby implying that their opponents are “sex-negative”.

          • gwathdring says:

            There’s the familiar “sex is awesome, everyone should embrace their sexual preferences, be safe, and feel sexy” and then there’s the less familiar “sex negative” perspective in which empowerment depends on distance from sexuality becasue “sexy is forever tainted by objectification and therefore inherently dis-empowering.” Slut shaming is a phenomenon that slides nicely into a sex-negative-but-still-socially-liberal perspective; the whole “you are obsessed with the patriarchal view of what is sexy and apply it to yourself which makes you either a slave or a traitor, you slut” thing. Unpleasant, and in my experience not as common as the sex-positive kind of feminism. Most sex-negativity is left to socially conservative and religious movements where it’s less ideologically inconsistent.

    • wererogue says:

      “in which case don’t buy it”

      That’s the heart of the matter to me. This is a review of sorts, on a product review website, with the purpose of informing the readership. A large chunk of the readership are people who have an investment in the character designs of the games they play, and those people are often offended or made uncomfortable by characters that have been contorted by their designs for the purpose of making them more visibly sexual.

      I, for one, am really glad to have the knowledge that the characters are very sexualized and that this is overbearing when playing the game. It’s definitely informed my final decision not to buy Skullgirls. I was pretty firm in the decision just from watching the trailers, but reading about the game feel has cemented my decision. Writing like this ensures my continued reading of RPS, as it encourages my trust in the dedication of the writers to providing myself and others with a rounded review of the game – not just the graphics or mechanics, but a full experience which considers the diversity of the readership.

      N.B.
      In the case of fighting games, I find this kind of deformed sexualization particularly unsettling and tasteless since such extreme deformities (no core, oversized breasts) and impractical costumes (no support whatsoever) would cause any woman with believable anatomical consequences horrific spinal pain, and chafing during normal activities, and when fighting energetically, massive bruising and probably tearing. That kind of anatomy is the realm of physical therapy and breast reduction surgery to help women lead normal lives.

      Ed. For clarity, I’d like to add that, as a feminist, I’m not saying “you’re wrong for liking these things”. I am, however, saying that there are good reasons to include them in the review, for readers to find that information useful, and for the reviewer to be made uncomfortable by them.

  9. Brosepholis says:

    A classic RPS article. “Yeah the game’s great whatever but let me tell you how much it insults all these hypothetical women!”

    • twig_reads says:

      Hm, as far as I’m seeing it bothered Ben, not some hypotethical women. Am I as a male also allowed to have the reaction of “for fuck’s sake” when I saw the measurements in the profile pages or this the great evilyou can be ironic of? I just want to be sure, what is ok by internet manstandarts. Because oh noes, what if someone calls me a white knight or some shit. Can’t allow that!

      • McCool says:

        I think he’s referring to the rather ridiculous idea of this being an “exploitative art-style”, or the complete missing of the point where the writer asked if Skullgirls could just be a “little less offensive”. You can’t exploit fictional women. The writer of the article is using valid feminist categories but with little to no understanding of them, applying them haphazardly and to no effect.

        Skullgirls is meant to be trashy, it is meant to be offensive. Putting the measurements on there is actually more feminist than not. There are no illusions here, no wool is being pulled over your eyes, many of these characters are designed to be sexy for those that way inclined. Stripping the game of it’s aesthetic and making all the characters non-sexual would rob Skullgirl’s of one of it’s central conceits.

        Most feminist critiques are not going to run with Skullgirls because it isn’t trying to do what most other fighting games do: it isn’t pretending to be anything other than a hyper-stylised, niche game. If the bouncing boobs and measurements make you feel uncomfortable, then that is probably a good thing. Every other fighting game is just as sexist, but Skullgirls makes the statement that it is being sexy on purpose. It’s a game very much made by fans of fighting games, for fans of fighting games. If that puts a bad taste in your mouth, and makes you re-evaluate where you stand RE: fighting game ladies then that is only a positive thing.

        Personally I have no problem with men and women alike being sexualised in a game like this. Fighting games are trashy, grindhouse games at heart anyway. Skullgirls absolutely deserves to exist, it plays to an audience perfectly. The problem is the big AAA-producing publishers who refuse to allow any female characters who are not (more subversively) equally sexualised. You can’t point a finger at a niche indie game and call it “the patriarchy”.

        Feminism is the most important movement in games right now, and it has to have wide-reaching effects throughout the artform. But there is nothing in Skullgirls that is incompatible with any of this.

        • gwathdring says:

          Exploitative does take on a slightly different timbre in media criticism, bear in mind. It’s not about exploiting the characters, exactly, but flying full-bore into a niche, stylistic choice that is guaranteed to attract certain kinds of attention or at the very least fit in becasue that’s just how things are done in the genre in question. Consider “exploitation films.”

          My guess is Ben meant a little of both.

    • Dominare says:

      I know it isn’t what you meant, but I couldn’t help reading your use of the phrase “hypothetical women” as “I’ve heard a rumour that women exist but never seen one for myself”. Though given the point you’re trying to make, I suppose its likely that’s actually quite close to the truth.

      Relevant aside: my wife saw me playing skullgirls last night, and commented on the ridiculous bouncing boobs in the characters’ idle animations. She didn’t belabour the point, but it was just enough to make me feel like an adolescent, and I have the art design to thank for it. So yes, add me to the list of white knights or whatever dumb label we’re using now to describe men who are sick of jiggle physics.

    • aldo_14 says:

      If I were to find a non-hypothetical woman who indeed feels insulted at being reduced to the concept of bouncing tits, would you drop your objectoin to that criticism?

  10. phelix says:

    Woah woah woah. You seem like you started in the middle of the story. Could you explain briefly what Skullgirls is ?

    • Strabo says:

      You seem to have started in the middle too ;-):

      Energetically crowd-funded 2D fighting game Skullgirls absolutely exudes style. From the off there’s a classy jazz beat lain down to play out over the dark menu, entries listed in a unique typeface. Thought and time has obviously been put into the way options are enlarged, the selection cursor, the smoothness of transition from item to item. It’s polished to a tee, every surface smooth and shining its message to the world: I’m classy, I’m friendly and I’m intricately, lovingly designed. But can it carry this throughout? Does the biff and kick charm us with its clarity and cool?

      • phelix says:

        So it’s a 2d fighting game, I could have seen that from the screenies. But is there anything that justifies a quite large article filled solely with ‘impressions’? Ben doesn’t seem to mention any of that.

        • shinygerbil says:

          It’s a fighting game. Much like MMOs, these are hard to review; their main focus is multiplayer.

          I’d rather an article like this which accurately portrays the feel of the game, than an absurdly in-depth look at all the mechanics in play, or an equally absurd take on the single-player experience alone; for the latter you’d pretty much need the single sentence “The AI cheats :-(“. For the former you’d need an entire forum.

          • crinkles esq. says:

            Fighting games aren’t hard to review if you speak in the language of fighting games. Ben hardly said anything about the actual mechanics, which are what separate one fighting game from another. Personally speaking I find Skullgirls unbalanced, with too much emphasis on projectiles instead of close-in fighting. See, that’s the kind of thing that would have been good to put in the article, but instead Ben wanted to get outraged about a topic that has been hashed and rehashed all over the web months ago.

          • Sparkasaurusmex says:

            Yeah c’mon, it’s been months! Isn’t social justice here yet?

          • crinkles esq. says:

            @Sparkasaurusmex Ben can certainly mention the controversy, but he has nothing new in his article that adds to the debate, and without a discussion of the actual game mechanics it’s a bit of a blustery article without substance.

  11. unangbangkay says:

    Where you might claim that Skullgirls’ illustrates a gap between design and implementation, others might see something else, like a cool fighter with awesome, unique visuals.

    I think AJ Lange of Tap Repeatedly said it best about this sort of thing (and the reactions to such):

    http://tap-repeatedly.com/2013/08/review-dragons-crown/

    Yes, that’s a review of Dragon’s Crown, another game where, had it been on PC, I’m sure would have at least a few RPS writers writing similar things, but this review in particular matters because it approaches the “It’s a question of style” argument much more thoughtfully than most of the others who wield it in defense of games and cultural artifacts with “problematic” artwork (Skullgirls is apparently one such thing).

    In fact, Lange said similar things about Skullgirls as well, back some time ago.

    Now, that’s not to say that having a coherent vision makes an unappealing vision any more appealing, but reading that way makes it easier to understand why some enjoy it.

    • Ninja Foodstuff says:

      That article seemed to amount to “I’m not a prude and I didn’t mind it, so it’s not a problem”

      • unangbangkay says:

        If you actually read it, you’d see why that’s not the case. Though not being prudish is certainly one of the reasons Lange doesn’t think it’s much of a problem, there are many, many others that she cites.

        • Ninja Foodstuff says:

          Such as? For a review, it was more “a review of other reviews”.

        • sonson says:

          I think she dodges the main issue. Her discussion on breasts, anatomy and stylistic design are very interesting to read but they’re pretty self contained, as if the game exists in a vacuum without consequence. She explains why the use of breasts isn’t thoughtless; but that does not in itself legitimise the use of imagery which typifies the usual thoughtless, crass and mysognositic design you find in videogames. Beyond abstract intent there appears to be nothing that seperates this from the usual titilating fare that panders to the most base male fantasies, which are all about shallow gratification.

          Being aware of what you’re doing does not justify you doing it without further discussion. If you’re aware of the issues and your presentation of those issues is no different anyway, then frankly that awareness is entirely academic. Frankly that sort of thing jyst strikes me as getting off to your own high mindedness.

          • Lusketrollet says:

            the most base male fantasies, which are all about shallow gratification.

            …Oh, wow.

          • unangbangkay says:

            I disagree. She’s exasperated with the fact that discussions of this kind of hypersexualized artwork often disregard artistic intent and go straight for the weirdly prudish “Why can’t the boobs be smaller?!” jugular (or pull out the “realism” straw man, which she worries twists the real discussion of the need for more progressive attitudes and design into slut-shaming and body-policing, which is what happened with Dragon’s Crown and Skullgirls.

            Her point is that critiques of this sort of thing have to go deeper than “the boobs are too big!” to mean anything, because it’s not the boobs that are the problem. Even some of the more experienced critics and social justice warriors are getting tripped up on that fact.

          • sonson says:

            That’s all true.

            But if that is indeed the case a progressive instance would move towards something different rather than the exact same thing, no? Is there any reason the game needs them to have the anatomy they have? I’m guessing not. In which case, why do they?

            The mere fact that they as individuals have an awareness of the stylistic and anatomical concepts is entirely a personal matter until that is projected creatively, at which point it enters and hopefully challenges the wider discourse. The point here however is that it hasn’t at all. There is nothing different. It’s more of the same. At best their knowledge and execution of that is a case of “Do what I say, not what I do” and at worst it’s exactly the same as all other games it would appear to be like.

          • unangbangkay says:

            I’ll disagree that it is absolutely NOT the “exact same thing” that you describe, because what’s different here is the hypersexuality and exaggeration is all very deliberate, and contributes to making the game (Dragon’s Crown) inseparable (in her mind) from the style of George Kamitani. It’s not a case of an exec in a conference room saying “make the witch’s boobs bigger, it’ll look better on the box art”. Or someone going “No thanks, games with female leads don’t sell.” Intent matters a lot.

            Keep in mind that none of the article is to say that all makes it OK, or that people who dislike it are wrong to do so, but that some of the complaints are weaker than they could be, and that many critics in the recent wave of pro-equality gaming may be missing the forest for the trees. That would be fine in the no-consequences world many feminists accuse male gamers of living in, but making weak arguments or going after the wrong targets also risks poisoning the well.

            Lange says in a different editorial (I lost the link, but it’s also on Tap Repeatedly): “There is absolutely a time and place for the “slut plate,” the “battle bikini,” the “combat thong.””. Skullgirls and Dragon’s Crown are just such places.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            @unangbangkay – Well frankly it would be more acceptable if the hypersexualised designs were as a result of a board room decision to maximise sales. You can’t cross any city these days without being bombarded with images of women men want and men that men want to be. There are relatively very few images in the world portraying women that women want to be.

            Yes, a single game choosing hypersexualised women as it’s art style is fine, it really just reflects what the market wants (and reflects the markets inherent bias towards fulfilling men’s desires, not women’s) and the artist has an understanding of what it popular. However, the really interesting thing about the art direction is the 20′s art deco choice, not the jiggling boobs which are at best uninspired.

            What I personally find offensive though is the assertion that because a girl drew the characters, then suddenly my opinion of them should be changed. This is the very definition of sexism. I did not know the gender of the artist when I formed my opinion of the art, that the games creator has revealed with a flourish that it was a woman and insinuated that my opinion of her work must change or is invalid because of this is offensive and has prevented me from buying this game.

          • harbinger says:

            “There are relatively very few images in the world portraying women that women want to be.”
            So I’m guessing all the commercials in regards to cosmetic products and clothes for women are actually meant for men, right? Because they seem to be the ones buying all these products and that is why they are being marketed towards them.

            Also, look at all these disempowered women resembling Lara Croft: http://abload.de/img/137697693093296zne.png

          • Sheng-ji says:

            @harbinger – Dunno which city you’re walking through, but here in London, this is what I can see from my office: A woman touching herself, lying on the floor caressing a bottle of perfume, A serious man with his hands in his pockets, A confused woman who is lost, a man explaining how to reach a destination to the confused woman, A woman clutching a man with her eyes closed, A topless woman in a seductive pose, A physically active man, so nice as it is that you’ve found a picture of women climbing, it’s not as if I claimed that there were no adverts portraying women in an unstereotypical way, I said there were relatively few.

            If you are seriously trying to say that the majority advertising does not stereotype gender then this conversation ends, here and now.

    • Dominare says:

      I don’t think you know what the word “unique” means. There is absolutely nothing unique about having female fighting game characters with gigantic cartoonish knockers.

    • maninahat says:

      I’ve always been quite forgiving when it comes to Skullgirl’s art style, especially considering how much I complain about Dragon’s Crown. Perhaps its because the former feels like pure cheesecake with a needless story thrown in, whilst the latter feels like a proper story with needless cheesecake thrown in. There is a place for cheesecake in games, and it feels less tacky when the game properly devotes wholeheartedly to it.

  12. BrandeX says:

    Clearly the person who wrote the article has never played MK9. Hit that one up for a few hours, then come back to Skullgirls and tell us how it’s overly sexualized.

  13. Ninja Foodstuff says:

    Good, because we’ve been discussing this in the forums. Glad to see it addressed here.

  14. Arithon says:

    People moan about big-breasted girls in games, but they never complain about the absurdly fit bare-chested male characters in every other game!
    I think Max Payne 3 is the only game I can think of where the male protagonist is fat, balding, scruffy and built normally, rather than the other 99% of the time where male game characters are heavily muscled, built like wrestlers – the hulk with a healthy tan, toting a mini-gun. How is that any less sexist?

    • GamesInquirer says:

      Because power fantasy, or something. We all want to be just like that you see.

      • FairlySadPanda says:

        Most people view male power fantasy #1 (attractive women) as worse than male power fantasy 2 (macho men). This is why Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure just gets comments about its extremely fabulous nature, despite theoretically being the same thing.

        Women are the area where problems arise in a patriarchal culture, remember.

        • Echo Black says:

          JJBA makes girly, metrosexual men look cool as hell, and it’s even taking off in the west now, with the new show and all

          Summary: It’s all about the artist, not the subject matter

        • DrGonzo says:

          Macho men are not womens power fantasies, they are again a male fantasy.

          • Deadly Habit says:

            Funny there seems to be a whole industry of romance novels that begs to differ.

          • Sparkasaurusmex says:

            You mean Fabio?
            That’s like the opposite of macho

          • gwathdring says:

            Yeah, the archetypal female sexual fantasy (which, as with the archetypal male sexual fantasy, does not apply for plenty of individuals) is certainly well muscled and all, but has very little in common with your typical video game protagonist. One thing that seems fairly non-gendered is eyes; characters that are supposed to be sexy often have attention drawn to their eyes or have their eyes made to seem larger with makeup and such. This happens to men who are supposed to appear sexy in certain media all the time; not so much to video game protagonists. You don’t see many Males in RPGs with a slider that lets you give them eyeliner and long, made-up eyelashes but you do find that for some females.

            That said … gender performance in games sucks all around. I’ve never been particularly fond of the “well, it’s a powerful fantasy so it’s better” shtick. It’s only better if you approve of that kind of power. There are sexualized female archetypes that have immense power–but only if you’re interested in that kind of power. Many women don’t like the idea that their power has to be tied to sex and I don’t like the idea that my power has to be tied to fighting. Here’s where it just gets depressing though: there are just more male leads with a wider variety of power bases. If you want to find a boring, white male macho man it’s easier than just about anything else. If you want to find a white male character that fits YOUR power fantasy? There are enough of them that less stereotyped men slip through the cracks pretty frequently.

            This is not so true with non-white and non-male characters. There are so many fewer female leads in gaming that trying to find the ones that fit less common stereotypes or aren’t man-ified is quite difficult. Trying to find good, developed characters of either gender is hard, though, and I wish people would stop acting like that changes the discussion terribly much.

          • Deadly Habit says:

            Last I checked sans long blonder hair Fabio is the typical “male power fantasy”, and 50 Shades of Gre(a)y well…

          • gwathdring says:

            I don’t buy the whole power-fantasy dismissal of quibbles with male gender-performance. But that’s becasue I think is misunderstands power. The Hulk is a male physical power fantasy. Fabio is a female sexual fantasy and to an extent a male sexual power fantasy.

            Power comes from many sources, and I don’t like dismissing people who complain about male gender performance in games becasue male characters are usually given their physical power fantasies while female characters are portrayed as male sexual fantasies. That doesn’t change how stereotyped that power fantasy is and how little it applies to many men. I want to be clear that I have no interest in that argument; I’m all for criticizing Butch McSlackjaw right alongside his ever-in-danger girlfriend Foxy McSassypants.

            At the same time, there are discrepancies between sexual and sexual power fantasies. Men want to be what women want and vice-versa but this doesn’t mean the various fantasies align properly. While I’m sure many men would love to get the attention that men in romance novels get, I don’t think as many men fantasize about BEING that as women fantasize about HAVING it. The same goes when roles are reversed.

            Women are under-represented in games as lead characters and critical design personnel. As a result, women don’t get to be presented in games with the variety of power, character, and appearance that men do. The default video game action-hero is white and male. There are characters that stray from that default, but even those are more likely to be male.

    • tigerfort says:

      Dear Horace, are we still having that argument? A quick summary:

      The “hulk with a tan, toting a minigun” is a male power-fantasy, not a female sexual one.
      The gigantic bouncing boobs in a minimalist costure are a male sexual fantasy, not a female power one.

      The two are not in any way equivalent, even before you account for the tiny subtle differences in the way society treats men and women generally.

      • tellrov says:

        The whole ‘power fantasy’ term is MADE UP.

        • tigerfort says:

          Headdesk.
          (a) No, it really isn’t.
          (b) One is a positive portrayal, the other is not. One is about power, the other is about sexualisation.
          (c) This really isn’t very hard to understand.

          • ViktorBerg says:

            Here’s something I do not understand, and want you to answer. What is the female power fantasy? Is it a butch muscly woman who don’t need no man? But that’s what the Amazon is in Dragon’s Crown, and she’s being criticized as being sexualized (despite the fact that very few guys have a muscle woman fetish, and I am not one of them). What else could it be, a female character who basically looks and acts like a man? But that doesn’t sound like a power fantasy, that sounds like an inferiority complex towards males.

            While the sexualized characters in Skullgirls do not necessarily represent what a female wants to be, they certainly represent what an attractive female is. Oh, I am opening a whole can of worms here, people are probably going to assume I am setting up standards for pretty women. No, I am just saying that the characters in this game are pretty and desirable (as far as cartoon characters go, goddamn, we are talking about cartoon people). Whenever there are barrel-chested males with huge muscles in such games, they would be considered masculine and desirable by your average female (at least so long as they don’t open the mouth and curse like sailors).

          • LennyLeonardo says:

            I’ve no idea what a female power fantasy might be, but if I were to guess I’d imagine it involves having power not contingent on massive tits, or an overt discussion of their size. Just like you don’t need to know the size of Ryu’s cock? Maybe?

          • Ambiguouspoint says:

            I guess those romance novels with the guys with a six pack and flowing long hair are a power fantasy too?

            Seriously, the whole “power fantasy” thing to excuse the objectification of men doesn’t hold any weight.

            What if I said “damsels in distress” were a female fantasy?

            You know, like Zelda and Princess Peach, they both have guys who are overcoming impossible odds to rescue them and whisk them away into the sunset. Surely that’s a fantasy a lot of women have. To be a pretty princess and being rescued by a man who would put her life over his own?

          • sophof says:

            Besides what other people already bring up, the main problem with your argument imo is that it implies something very weird. You all but literally state that a sexual fantasy is somehow a bad thing and a power fantasy a good thing, or at the very least that the difference is somehow significant within this argument of sexism.

            In the end this is a just a discussion about people’s ‘right’ to be offended, similar to how religious people often take for granted that others have to keep their sensibilities in mind. I’m well aware some people think this is a good thing, but it surely isn’t universally true.

            In short, I think your argument assumes that everyone agrees that simple lust for women is in essence a bad thing.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            “What if I said “damsels in distress” were a female fantasy?

            You know, like Zelda and Princess Peach, they both have guys who are overcoming impossible odds to rescue them and whisk them away into the sunset. Surely that’s a fantasy a lot of women have. To be a pretty princess and being rescued by a man who would put her life over his own?”

            Just like some men enjoy the idea of having a rich woman look after their every need, I suspect their are women like this but crucially, in is not an ideal to aspire to. We as a society do not respect those who sit on their backsides waiting for some rich powerful spouse to take us into a kept life. We respect people who try, who achieve things which take dedication, sacrifice and skill, intelligence and wit.

          • gwathdring says:

            @Sheng-ji

            I hate where this argument usually goes on both sides. The point is typically “Hey, male stereotypes suck too, so it’s all fair game” but the response is far too often “no wait, that’s a NICE stereotype” instead of “no wait, that’s why it ALL needs to change.”

            You can dance around it by saying wibbly things about what people do and do not aspire to, but that dance inevitably ends with tangled feet. Not a lot of men want to actually end up as dumb-ass mass-murderers no matter how often the get laid and no matter how cool their weapons are. That’s not something to aspire to in a realistic social context either. Fantasy is fantastical. That’s sort of the point. How harmful a fantasy is needs to be judged more intricately not just by copy-pasting it into the real world. Fantasies of sexual power are no less valid than fantasies of physical power in this discussion.

            The big ‘ol caveat I’ll add was already said earlier so I’ll just copy-paste it here. There are just more male leads with a wider variety of power bases. If you want to find a boring, white male macho man it’s easier than just about anything else. If you want to find a white male character that fits YOUR power fantasy? There are enough of them that less stereotyped men slip through the cracks pretty frequently. This is less true with non-white and non-male characters. The crassest of the stereotypes will always win in a battle of sheer statistics, but that doesn’t mean we can ignore any imbalances that exist.

            I think a lot of otherwise socially progressive arguments contain both a huge tactical error and a huge logical flaw when they stretch themselves to discount male stereotyping and such. We don’t have to say Superman is a better, more empowering character than Wonderwoman just because little effort has gone into making him sexually appealing to women. I think the male power fantasy argument needs to die, but so does the argument it opposes; we need to recognize that male characters are allowed more power of more kinds and are more often run on the fuel of dead girlfriends than is at all reasonable even as we accept that Butch Manblast isn’t any better than Foxxy Heartbreaker; attacking gender performance cuts two ways because those two gender roles rely on each other to exist.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            @gwathdring – I think we fully agree with each other, for the most part. Personally I see any role attached to gender as harmful – starship troopers 1 did space marines well, gears of war firmly attaches them to the male gender. That said I don’t care about individual games in particular – in the gears universe, every cog is male, so what. It’s meaningless but when you look at games as a whole, it’s a dreary picture of gender based stereotypes and I believe that as an industry we can no longer shirk social responsibility. That doesn’t mean we have to ‘pc’ up all our games but add some diversity into the mix, which will benefit the entire industry. I don’t mind that skullgirls exists exactly as it does, I do mind that every good quality fighting game portrays the women as hypersexualised. In the same way that a fighting game with mocapped penises flopping all over the screen, taking up half of the character space wouldn’t sell well to men, massive breasts make me feel a little sick, a little painful (the words tearing muscle fibre always springs to mind, there is a reason martial artists wear sports bra’s!) and entirely not interested in playing a game, which is galling when the game is good!

            I didn’t see the “wanting to be rescued” fantasy as a sex fantasy but a kind of anti power, easy life – get the money and power and a desirable husband by sitting on your ass and fluttering your eyelashes fantasy, but yeah, with sex, I guess anything goes these days and no, if you have a sex fantasy which involves some man “fathering you” or some prince “rescuing you” more power to you I suppose – but please remember that in the context of games, you play the prince, not the princess who gets rescued. I doubt that many women share that particular fantasy though and I can’t see a game where you are held in a cage for 3 hours until a moustachioed plumber releases you will sell all that well.

          • gwathdring says:

            @sheng-ji

            Ok, yeah, we mostly agree so far.

            About sexual power, I wasn’t thinking of the “rescue me” damsels. I was thinking more of the capable seductress archetype who is defined in terms of sexual power, but is nonetheless powerful and self-sustaining. It’s an archetype often drawn as derogatory and weak, which I feel misses the point of why it’s a problem in most of the contexts where it IS a problem. I was also thinking of the schemer archetype (politician’s wife, etc), the physically impotent expert manager with guile and bravery even when outmatched physically. The sexy-super-spy is a nice little example because both genders take on that role in really rather similar ways–except for males sex is a weakness and for women it is a source of power.

            My point was that women being portrayed as having non-physical power is often given too little credence just as men being portrayed as having physical power is given too much. There certainly is a tendency among casually feminist media criticisms to focus on the weakness of women and the strengths of men in our media without going any deeper.

            A lot of people who would otherwise agree with, say, you and me get fed up with social justice discussions becasue they get fed crap lines about male power fantasies and so forth. One of many places these discussions break down around the core conceits of feminism, with people on the feminist-ward side of things refusing to acknowledge the female-centric perspective inherent in feminism and people on the other side refusing to discuss anything else. I like to point out this problem to both sides to try and eliminate sided-ness becasue the female-centric nature of feminism is plainly obvious, does nothing to discount the legitimate ideas contained within many feminist media criticisms, and is an important thing to think about for all involved. None of this gives casual users of feminist ideas grounds to dismiss comments that attack a hierarchical female-over-male presentation of exactly how bad male and female archetypes are relative to each other.

            Edit: Aha! I forgot someone explicitly mentioned damsel fantasies in this exact reply thread. I wasn’t responding directly to that, but I see why you thought I was. I was responding more generically to the idea that media presents men as male power fantasies and women as male sexual fantasies. It’s not a wholly invalid claim, but I feel the argument is more often than not used inappropriately.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            You’re pretty much spot on – I get so frustrated when people take “sides” in this debate, people who are all interested in getting rid of gender based inequality. We all want the same thing, but we are all still seeing it as an us vs them issue. The only us vs them there should be is all of us united against those who genuinely and actively believe that women are stupider than men or men can’t care for children as well as women and I honestly don’t see that attitude much around here!

            What we need to do is accept peoples tastes – some people like like big exposed bouncing breasts in skimpy platemail armour. Let’s stop trying to shame the people who enjoy that. At the same time, there are people who hate that, whether because they want more authenticity from their game and skimpy plate breaks the third wall or because they are more prudish or because they feel offended thanks to a history of sexism. We shouldn’t try to break down these opinions either but accept them. At the end of the day, one of lifes most important lessons is to be true to yourself. Don’t change your opinion on something because someone else holds a different opinion, that is doing yourself a disservice. How many of us enjoyed roleplaying games in our early teens only to stop playing thanks to peer pressure?

            When we can accept that other people like things that are different and we stop trying to shame people who like things that offend our sensibilities we can understand that if a section of the market is finding that they are not being catered to, it is natural that they will say they wish a good game that comes out caters to them – and for some people, this will make them not want a game and they will say as such. It’s not a threat and shouldn’t be used as such. As a collective, we have a voice that can make a difference – only rarely but enough that we need to use our voice responsibly.

            Sexism is here to stay, for the reasons I mentioned below about how parents bring their children up. Maybe the next generation will beat it, maybe they won’t. But regardless, we have an opportunity to get our own industry in order. Let’s direct the energy we are throwing into each other into making women more welcome in voip enabled games, let’s not try to tear people down if they don’t like an art style of a game or complain that they hold that opinion and most of all, lets encourage diversity in games!

          • Caedere says:

            Sheng-ji I just registed an account here to thank you for for taking the time to write this. You’ve summed up my feelings on the whole issue perfectly, and thank you again very much.

        • RedViv says:

          OH NO ALERT THE WORD POLICE WE HAVE IN ILLEGALLY MADE-UP WORD HERE NOT ONE THAT HAS BEEN NATURALLY PLUCKED FROM WORD TREES ON WORD FARMS BY PROFESSIONAL WORD-HARVESTERS

          • tellrov says:

            I’m sorry, if you calm down a bit I’ll explain it to you. It’s a term that has no meaning to anyone except those who use it to prove their point. Very much like “fat shaming” and “cisprivilige”. You spout these terms because they’re self-serving.

            There is not a single male in the world that starts hitting the gym because he just played Gears of War. There is not a single female in the world that gets treated badly by a guy because he just got done playing with Kitana in Mortal Kombat. No normal person takes these female depictions in Skullgirls seriously, and if you believe that they do then you can also make a case for violent games making people violent. But wait no that’s a standpoint only shared by conservative old men.

          • Muzman says:

            You’re conflating individual action with cultural acceptance and reflection. This is a mistake. Attitudes and standards are reflected and reinforced by art and culture. We know this. Attempting to change this cultural reflection may not ever boil down to one specific piece of art but it’s still specific art pieces that are going to be addressed along the way.
            Any broad social argument is going to have to get particular eventually. At the very least It’d be the first thing critics would bring up if it did not.

        • twig_reads says:

          But ALL terms are made up.

        • LennyLeonardo says:

          Let’s stop using words that are made up, because

      • Echo Black says:

        That’s still arguing semantics, as I see it. They’re still both “idealized” forms for men or women. And muscular macho types are also a beauty fantasy, no?

        Going off in a tangent here, but it’s a safe bet that the unrealistic portrayal of men in media does at least as much damage to men’s confidence and self-image as the portrayal of women does.

        • tigerfort says:

          Both are pandering to men; one is of little interest to most women (go look at the way Hugh Jackman is photographed for “mens” and “womens” magazines – very very different) and the other is actively negative about (and offputting to most of) them.

          “it’s a safe bet that the unrealistic portrayal of men in media does at least as much damage to men’s confidence and self-image as the portrayal of women does”

          You might think that, but the substantial quantities of actual research into the subject say entirely differently.

          • Echo Black says:

            I’ll have to ask that you post some of this research, as the mere thought of “researching” such a subjective and poorly-defined topic (which builds on poorly-defined, vague definitions to boot!) is setting off my scientist sense (It’s kinda like a spider-sense but Carl Sagan-themed).

          • tigerfort says:

            Viktorberg: Female power fantasies, in my experience, tend to involve entirely normal-looking women who have superpowers, or at least unusual levels of skill/ability in some way. They tend not to involve giant semi-exposed boobs (and yes, boobsocks count as semi-exposed) in the same way that men very rarely fantasize about having giant semi-exposed testicles. (Of course, you may be one of the exceptions.)

            Echo Black: you appear to be new to the internet. Plentiful research can be found here with a minimum of effort. I recommend not bothering with links to places like newspapers or creationist “think tanks”, but that should leave you plenty of articles by decent science writers like Ed Yong, Scicurious, PZ Myers and a million others.

            tellrov: you’ll have to give me a direct link to the page showing that tens of thousands of cis-gendered people are beaten up every week simply for being cis, because google can’t find it. Not being beaten up because of your gender is a privilege that some people aren’t currently offered.

          • Skabooga says:

            Targeted search of a large journal database:

            Sex, lies, and video games: The portrayal of male and female characters on video game covers
            Author(s): Burgess, MCR (Burgess, Melinda C. R.); Stermer, SP (Stermer, Steven Paul); Burgess, SR (Burgess, Stephen R.)
            Source: SEX ROLES Volume: 57 Issue: 5-6 Pages: 419-433 DOI: 10.1007/s11199-007-9250-0 Published: SEP 2007

            SOCIOCULTURAL ASPECTS OF EATING DISORDERS
            Author(s): RAPHAEL, FJ (RAPHAEL, FJ); LACEY, JH (LACEY, JH)
            Source: ANNALS OF MEDICINE Volume: 24 Issue: 4 Pages: 293-296 DOI: 10.3109/07853899209149957 Published: AUG 1992

            Television commercials as a lagging social indicator: Gender role stereotypes in Korean television advertising
            Author(s): Kim, K (Kim, K); Lowry, DT (Lowry, DT)
            Source: SEX ROLES Volume: 53 Issue: 11-12 Pages: 901-910 DOI: 10.1007/s11199-005-8307-1 Published: DEC 2005

            Gender stereotyping in televised media sport coverage
            Author(s): Koivula, N (Koivula, N)
            Source: SEX ROLES Volume: 41 Issue: 7-8 Pages: 589-604 DOI: 10.1023/A:1018899522353 Published: OCT 1999

            The anorexic body: Reading disorders
            Author(s): Bray, A (Bray, A)
            Source: CULTURAL STUDIES Volume: 10 Issue: 3 Pages: 413-429 DOI: 10.1080/09502389600490251 Published: OCT 1996

            Representation of women in news and photos: Comparing content to perceptions
            Author(s): Len-Rios, ME (Len-Rios, ME); Rodgers, S (Rodgers, S); Thorson, E (Thorson, E); Yoon, D (Yoon, D)
            Source: JOURNAL OF COMMUNICATION Volume: 55 Issue: 1 Pages: 152-168 DOI: 10.1093/joc/55.1.152 Published: MAR 1 2005

            While they were certainly in the minority, there are a few that discuss negative effects of cultural expectations on men’s health. Here is one:

            ‘The problem with men’: Working-class men making sense of men’s health on television
            Author(s): Hodgetts, D (Hodgetts, D); Chamberlain, K (Chamberlain, K)
            Source: JOURNAL OF HEALTH PSYCHOLOGY Volume: 7 Issue: 3 Pages: 269-283 DOI: 10.1177/1359105302007003221 Published: MAY 2002

          • Ambiguouspoint says:

            I like how Tigerfort couldn’t respond to any of the counterpoints and just threw in the towel with an “hurr durr check yo privilege, muh feels” response.

        • Lusketrollet says:

          By that logic, then how about Japanese/non-Western games?

          In Western games, male protagonists tend to be bulky and rugged. In Japanese games, male protagonists tend to be slender, mildly effeminate and “pretty-boy”.

          Both just *happens* to be that country’s ideal standards of male beauty. Hmmm…

          Do not try to convince me that attractiveness has got absolutely nothing to do with this.

          • Strabo says:

            Male Characters designed to appeal to women wouldn’t look like what you find in most computer games. They wouldn’t look like Marcus Fenix, John Marston or the Master Chief or even Jim Raynor.

            They would look like the guys in the Twilight movies, the before linked Stephen Amell, David Tennant. The nearest characters in games that appeal strongly to women would probably be Geralt von Riva or Male-Shep from Mass Effect (and of course Garrus, but everybody loves Garrus). Maybe Nathan Drake.

          • Hackworth says:

            Shortpacked! is like the Simpsons. Whatever you were planning to say has already been said somewhere in the series. (Disclaimer: that probably isn’t true, do not attempt to discuss taxes using comic quotes)

            http://www.shortpacked.com/2011/comic/book-13/05-the-death-of-snkrs/falseequivalence/

          • TheTuninator says:

            @Strabo – Actually, many JRPG protagonists and party members fall square into the “bishonen” archetype that is very popular with females in Japan. Several of the male characters in Dragon’s Crown fit this archetype to a T, though of course they don’t bare as much skin as their female counterparts.

            I too agree that Skullgirls’ depiction of females leaves something to be desired, but it really grinds my gears when people dismiss hyper-unrealistic portrayals of men as “male power fantasies”. I have no desire to be a 6’5″ 300-pound slab of muscle, so please stop telling me that becoming such a musclebound hulk is my life’s desire. Nobody suggests that the scantily-clad female supermodel found as the standard in video games is an idealized fantasy for all women; it’d be nice if I could be afforded the same courtesy.

          • jrodman says:

            That Generic War Hero film is considered a male power fantasy does not mean that it is the personal fantasy of every male to be Generic War Hero. Nor does the fact that you personally don’t have this fantasy (conscious or unconscious) invalidate that it is a male power fantasy.

            The term means, overall, that our culture values the idea of males playing roles that trend in this direction, and that through the fiction, men can enjoy and relate to elements of this story. They may feel excited, empowered, or simply entertained by it. Women may be entertained by the work of fiction as well, but typically they will relate to it differently, less likely to project themselves in to Generic War Hero’s shoes.

            If you find this particular fantasy in fiction trite, then that’s an interesting personal characteristic of yours. One I share, and find intriguing. It suggests the kind of thinking of people I like to hear more from. However, finding it trite doesn’t mean it isn’t what it is.

      • Pich says:

        But i want to be a strong big-chested girl.

        • unangbangkay says:

          Sorry, you can’t be taken seriously as a Strong Female with large boobs. This is the inadvertent lesson some of the social justice types are conveying when they go crusading with that particular bludgeon.

          • sonson says:

            You might be right. Given your concern for that “inadvertent” message I can’t begin to think how concerned you must be about the far, far less inadvertent message conveyed by the semi-nudity, unrealistic proportions and hyper sexualisation of female video game characters.

            Also, as an aside-why are you suggesting that being a social justice warrior is a bad thing? Is social justice not a good thing to fight for?

        • RedViv says:

          Work on your back muscles before that. Trust me. You’ll suffer greatly otherwise.

    • Strabo says:

      Power Fantasy (strong men, burly men, throwing manly poses doing manly things, wearing clothes that show off their manly muscles) with a dash of homoerotic undertones (Broing it up) vs. Sexual Fantasies (sexy, overly thin women, with big breasts, big, well-formed butts, wearing revealing, tight costumes, throwing submissive and/or poses that show off their T&A). I think it should be easy to see the difference in intent and meaning between the two.

      The one shows what we guys* would like to be the other what we like to see. Conan the Babarian is not designed to be the male sex-doll equivalent to Starfire. Nobody went at said “well, we need to design a piece of tasty hunk for da Ladies in our audience” when Conan was put on the pages of Comic books and movie screen.

      If you want to know how a guy, who is made as a sex object for women and a power fantasy for men at the same time, looks like – Stephen Amell in Arrow is pretty much it. You’ll also notice that while he loves to run around shirtless his costume is not cheesecake at all, unlike the Starfire costume linked above.

      *The majority of us

      • gwathdring says:

        I agree with where your heart is at, and I think your use of Starfire and Arrow is a perfect comparison as to how the genders are treated unequally.

        But the “power fantasy” thing doesn’t cut it for me at all. I’m just going to shamelessly copy myself from further down:

        “Put all of this together, and I become distressed at the casual dismissal of many (sometimes in turn misguided) posters who argue that bulked up men being a male power fantasy is a kind of shitty argument for why we should care more about overly-sexualized female characters. More often than not I align with the sorts of people who tend to make that shitty argument, but the argument itself rubs me the wrong way. I feel like it misunderstands how power works, how objectification works, and what exactly is wrong with media that presents hero Butch Manblast and the ever-in-danger Foxy Heartbreaker to us over and over.

        Gender performance cuts two ways so long as we have a gender binary. We don’t need to struggle to justify the inherently female-centric history that comes with the term feminism in order to justify the newer approach which incorporates a broader understanding of gender equality and how to achieve it. We don’t need to establish a hierarchy of prejudice that ensures Foxy Hearbreaker gets considered a worse stereotype than Butch Manblast. These being fantasies, they do not map perfectly onto real-world equivalents. Only sociopaths want to be Butch Manblast. Butch Manblast is not a real-world aspiration or even a good thing; he’s a horrible, murdering savage, asshole idiot who is only likeable in a completely arbitrary fictional realm where every awful thing he does is magically justified beforehand. I hate the idea that Butch Manblast is somehow a *better* stereotype than Foxy Heartbreaker. He just isn’t.”

        That said, I agree with the core of what you’re getting at. I really do. I just don’t like you using that particular line of argument to get at it. And while a lot of the poor reaction to that argument is reactionary sexism, a lot of it is also legitimate criticism.

        • Jack Mack says:

          Poor butch manblast. He’s just doing what a man’s gotta do.

          I agree with you and I think your posts are great.

          • gwathdring says:

            Why thankee. – tips hat -

            I think Butch Manblast is now and forever more a character I shall drag out during gender discussions and/or tabletop roleplaying games.

    • DanDeath says:

      I fucking knew that “power fantasy” argument was going to pop up on this comment. I tried to rush to it as fast as I could (was reading this on my phone) I’m really sick of hearing that. It’s so easy to put down a comment, such as this, with just saying “ooh it’s a male power fantasy” and generalize, as if every damn male wants to be/look like that. Hell, one can say that sexy women in games is a “woman beauty fantasy”. See how stupid that sounds?

      I really don’t care either way though. Don’t care if there are girls with big, small or no boobs. Don’t care if dudes look and sound like 80′s action heroes, have big or small penises, it doesn’t bother me. Because games are games and it’s up to the developers on what they want to do. But when people are completely against the “what about the way males portrayed?” argument while they support the idea of women in games are portrayed in a “negative” or “unrealistic” way but not males, it pisses me off and seems a bit one-sided in my eyes. Anyway, this sort of goes along with what Echo Black was saying.

      On a personal note, the only male character from a game I would ever want to be is Geralt from The Witcher. Sure he has superhuman strength, but that’s not what I like most about him. It’s how he thinks, his philosophy and his personality.

      EDIT:
      Anyway, if you’re hoping to get a conversation started with me, don’t bother because I normally don’t like discussion of topics such as these for obvious reasons. But I just had to get out of my bed and write what I did.

    • harbinger says:

      Oh look… it’s the “power fantasy” thing again: http://abload.de/img/1376978851876vnlcd.jpg

      • wererogue says:

        Look at the composition of those romance covers. The camera is very specifically targeted: crotch, crotch, navel, crotch. A lot of those images have the head cut off, focusing only on the body.

        These really are sexualized and objectified images of men. The crotch is at the fore, the body is submissive or at least yielding, the abs are prominent. Compare that to fighting game men: the arms, chest and shoulders are generally massive, the postures aggressive. In the women, the poses are contorted, often coy. The breasts, legs, butt and crotch are the focus.

        For a good-ish breakdown of objectification, try:
        http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/08/subjectify-me-5-ways-to-tell-if-an-image-is-objectifying/

        Shoutouts to Vega and various SNK fighting men for breaking the male power fantasy mould and filling a sexual fantasy role instead.

        • gwathdring says:

          That link on objectification is fantastic! Thank you!

          I think we should be clear, though, that objectification is not antonymous with quality and artistry but rather antonymous with subjectification. Objectification is often appropriate in media. Media used for sexual gratification, media used for competition such as a fighting game, media used for advertisement of a product. There are many context in which objectifying techniques are perfectly valid.

          However, in many of these context subjectifying techniques are no less appropriate despite being less common. In many contexts there is a broad pattern of unequal, gender-informed objectification that exists for no real reason other than problematic gender socialization that in turn informs our media which in turn assists in that self-same socialization.

          I think it is also worth noting that power has many sources. Sexualizing a subject can result in a piece of media that conveys sexual power rather than military power. Subjects can also be portrayed as submissive or dismepowered without being objectified and vice-versa. Even objects can have very specific spheres of power such as a sword or gun possessing and conveying military power or food nourishing power and pleasuring power.

          Put all of this together, and I become distressed at the casual dismissal of many (sometimes in turn misguided) posters who argue that bulked up men being a male power fantasy is a kind of shitty argument for why we should care more about overly-sexualized female characters. More often than not I align with the sorts of people who tend to make that shitty argument, but the argument itself rubs me the wrong way. I feel like it misunderstands how power works, how objectification works, and what exactly is wrong with media that presents hero Butch Manblast and the ever-in-danger Foxy Heartbreaker to us over and over.

          Gender performance cuts two ways so long as we have a gender binary. We don’t need to struggle to justify the inherently female-centric history that comes with the term feminism in order to justify the newer approach which incorporates a broader understanding of gender equality and how to achieve it. We don’t need to establish a hierarchy of prejudice that ensures Foxy Hearbreaker gets considered a worse stereotype than Butch Manblast. These being fantasies, they do not map perfectly onto real-world equivalents. Butch Manblast is not a real-world aspiration or even a good thing; he’s a horrible, murdering savage, asshole idiot who is only likeable in a completely arbitrary fictional realm where every awful thing he does is magically justified beforehand. I hate the idea that Butch Manblast is somehow a *better* stereotype than Foxy Heartbreaker. He just isn’t.

          I understand there is a danger to this line of thinking because there exists a very real divide of privilege between men and women that extends into their fictional images. But I think that danger is outweighed by the importance of acknowledging not only the variety of power bases available to characters of both genders, but exactly how and when that variety is usurped in favor of the MOST archetypal solution.

          • wererogue says:

            I don’t really have anything to add to that, except to say that I think that’s a reasonable position.

  15. golem09 says:

    I think the measurments thing is a nod to the japanese, where every character is analyzed down to it’s bloodtype. For… reasons.
    I do love the over the top design of the characters. And the game is much too fast to notice any bosoms.

  16. GamesInquirer says:

    Where can I read impressions with the actual fighting mechanics, their inventiveness, similarities to other games, if there’s any of either, their quality, balance among the different characters, and so on?

    • RedViv says:

      Somewhere not an impressions post on a game that has just been released as a PC port containing no changes in that part from its console versions?

      • Bhazor says:

        I agree, reading a preview piece about a fighting game and expecting it to include any information about how the game actually plays? What was he thinking?

        • sonson says:

          I know! It’s like me expecting to read a comment from you which doesn’t repeatedly just reiterate how you don’t seem to like anything here, in spite of being here all the time anyway!

          • Bhazor says:

            Oh I love many things. I love The Flare Path, I love Live Free Play Hard, I love the first snow of winter and I love fast paced beat em ups with gorgeous animation so I love Skullgirls. To have Ben waste fully half his article insulting the lead artist and calling her a misogynist because she happens to like drawing breasts? That I do not like.

          • CloakRaider says:

            *Sarcastic comment that doesn’t focus on his actual criticism, but instead ad hominem concerning his reading of RPS*

            Poor argument 1/10

    • Ninja Foodstuff says:

      Maybe the same place you can find a review about Bioshock Infinite which doesn’t go on about racism or existentialism.

      • Grey Poupon says:

        Yet Bioshock wasn’t a bad game because of it’s controversial subjects. Some people probably even liked it more because of those. Guess racism is somehow more acceptable than sexism. (I myself think both have their place in entertainment)

        • Ninja Foodstuff says:

          The point I was trying to make was, it’s a bit like wanting to play Bioshock Infinite without wanting to be bothered by the very aspects that make it interesting, and hence the things reviewers want to write about.

        • limbeckd says:

          There’s a difference between making a game that deals with racism or sexism and making a game that is racist or sexist.

    • GamesInquirer says:

      Genuine question guys, not snark.

      What’s a decent place where someone knowledgeable about the genre did it?

    • Dominare says:

      It plays quite a bit like guilty gear, but it has assists like the MvC series. One new thing I noticed is how you can actually set up custom assist attacks instead of selecting from a few presets. Most of the mechanics are nothing new – high/low mixups, crossups, OTG, wallbounces, overheads, staggers etc are all there. Character balance seems very good, but on the downside there are only eight characters total (well nine now with the free DLC one). HTH

    • shinygerbil says:

      It’s pretty much Marvel vs Capcom 2. But with only eight nine characters.

      It’s also fantastic, and *very* well-designed. Basically Marvel 2 without the brokenness.

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        I thought I noticed a character say “berzerker barrage” in a trailer, or did I imagine that?

        • shinygerbil says:

          You probably did hear that. The game is chock full of knowing nods and winks to other games and names – in my opinion, almost *too* much, but most of it is genuinely witty and clever.

          • Echo Black says:

            I was surprised to see Peacock do Dio’s road roller attack.

        • Mokinokaro says:

          It’s “furserker purrage” Ms. Fortune (the catgirl with detachable limbs and head) has dialogue absolutely dripping with puns.

          • LennyLeonardo says:

            Heh, that’s brilliant.

          • Hackworth says:

            Yeah, Ms. Fortune is basically RPS comment threads as a character. I hope you like terrible puns.

      • Ringwraith says:

        However, you can pick how large you want your team, so you can just play it like a single-character 2D fighter if you prefer, and your health is scaled up to match, as you can have any mix of 1/2/3 person teams in a match.

    • Ben Barrett says:

      Yeah, Marvel vs. Capcom is the first series it brings to mind for me. I didn’t mention a lot of specifics for a couple of reasons. First, I haven’t played it all that long, hence “impressions”, so I wouldn’t want to comment on character balance and the like. Equally I’m hardly a fighting game master, so the intricacies of its systems are not something I can judge it on.

      Second, this and my Divekick piece (and likely any fighting game coverage I do in the near future) is aimed at an audience that hasn’t had a lot of experience with the genre (i.e. the PC one). My recommendations always assume little to no knowledge outside of a passive interest or having played a little Street Fighter at a friend’s.

      • GamesInquirer says:

        On the second half maybe it’s better to educate that audience by writing more instead of less that ends up only scratching the surface of the gameplay. Of course avoid using terms they wouldn’t be familiar with or also explaining what they mean the first time then referring to such articles for more. But the alternative kind of sounds like, eh, you’re just a noob so you’ll just have fun button mashing anyway, there’s no need for you to know anything more! Not that I think it’s some kind of rule PC gamers aren’t into games that didn’t tend to be on PC. Many of us have had consoles, enjoyed going to the arcades when they existed and play and emulate all sorts of games.

        MvC2 with balance sounds pretty neat though. I don’t mind a low amount of characters if the game is rad, like Garou: Mark of the Wolves, Last Blade 2 etc.

      • Echo Black says:

        Ben, you spent too much time on “feminism” in this write-up. I know this is RPS and it’s what every writer here is obsessed with, but nearly 50% of the text is about that. That’s way too much, in my opinion.

        • Skabooga says:

          Ben, I’m quite pleased you dedicated as many words as you did to the portrayal of women in this game, as it is an aspect I am most interested in and find incredibly relevant to my understanding of the game and the industry and environment surrounding it.

  17. Carighan Maconar says:

    Ben, on the subject of fighting games introductions, I’d love to hear you opinion on Persona 4 Arena.

    I didn’t really have a clue about Fighting Games, and got P4A (came out late in the EU) and Skullgirls backers beta at the same time, and between the two I haven’t launched Skullgirls since entirely because P4A feels the much better game to learn the ropes with. The challenges extend the tutorial well because they’re per-character. And without feeling like they force information onto me, they make sense in the context of the character.

    That being said, Skullgirls isn’t bad as a fighting game tutorial, I just felt P4A did it a tad better.

    • Pich says:

      There’s a PC version of P4A?

      • Ringwraith says:

        Sadly no.
        Acr System Works have been cutting back on their PC releases ever since the first Blazblue unfortunately.

    • Ben Barrett says:

      Sadly I don’t have access to it, though I am deeply in love with Teddie and his “you’re going to space!” super animation. Glad to hear it’s got a good tutorial though.

      • Ringwraith says:

        It does through every element and basic control input of the game, as well as having the challenge mode.
        Though another thing that makes P4A so good for newbies is that the button inputs are brilliantly simple. Normal moves don’t require directional inputs (so there’s no forward/backward + attack or anything) and the most complicated super move input is just two quarter cricles, which have a good grace period on the inputs too, so you don’t have to have exact timing. Which extends to the combos, as you can “queue up” your attacks and don’t have to time them perfectly to keep it going unless you are doing fancy stuff which requires you to actually stop momentarily if juggling someone in the air.

  18. d715 says:

    All that hard work on making those 2D characters and you threw it all away because of some panty shots and boobs?

    What do you want all women in games to be generic semi-attractive flat chest women like how all men are just shaved solder dudes?

    Because that’s seem to what feminism has become “this makes me feel fat therefore sexist” and White Knights

    You’re ruining what feminism is, its about women being equals to men in both the good and the bad

    Susan b Anthony when she was arrested for voting they were going to let her go because she’s a woman and can’t handle jail, she demanded she be given the full sentence a man who broke the law

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Wow.

    • shinygerbil says:

      I wrote a huge post elsewhere, but RPS ate it I think.

      Basically, it’s OK for you if you like panty shots and boobies and thermometers bursting in between a pair of breasts, but most people don’t which means a small playerbase.

      Fighting games, like MMOs, need a large playerbase to survive.

      • gunny1993 says:

        I think you’ll find the majority position is apathy.

      • Mitthrawn says:

        Have you ever played a fighting game? Dead or Alive, Soul Calibur, etc, yeah these games are known for their sensible proportions and cutting edge feminist sensibilities. I don’t understand the constant hate toward these few new fighting games. Fighting games have been objectifying women since they had enough pixels and tech to do so. Seems more like this is a recent wave in journalism. Between RPS and Eurogamer I have to roll my eyes at all the male guilt and overcompensating.

  19. FairlySadPanda says:

    “This depiction of women is bad and you should feel bad” – every male writer ever.

  20. DiamondDog says:

    Welcome to hell, Ben.

  21. Echo Black says:

    Are commenters to blame? Half of the bloody article that just got posted is about “offensive portrayals”!

    We’re all pretty on-topic here, wouldn’t you say?

    • Lars Westergren says:

      Only if everyone who gets really angry whenever RPS mentions these issues stop being so easily offended first.

      • Bhazor says:

        Ben just wrote what amounts to a lengthy insult aimed at the creators of Skullgirls. The comments here are rebukes of that.

        • Focksbot says:

          “Ben just wrote what amounts to a lengthy insult aimed at the creators of Skullgirls. The comments here are rebukes of that.”

          Oh, like hell they are. What a load of absolute monkey-drivel. Every review with something negative to point out ‘insults’ the people behind that part of the game. Graphics shockingly bad? You just ‘insulted’ the art team! Voice acting dull and unengaging? You just ‘insulted’ the voice actors *and* the casting director *and* the probably the sound guys too!

          No, what’s happened here is that he has some perfectly valid critical observations to make, and the comments section is full of people who think you can criticise every single aspect of any game except when it’s the representation of women. For some reason, that’s the one area no one is allowed to bring up unless they want to be branded a white knight social justice nazi or whatever.

          Stinking crappy hypocrisy and twattery is what it is.

      • DiamondDog says:

        Bhazor, you have a wonderful knack of talking complete horseshit when it suits you. The article is very far from being a lengthy attack on the developers. Stop being that guy.

      • Bhazor says:

        Then what exactly does he mean by “exploitative” and “offensive”? That’s a pretty big insult to hurl at any artist.

        • The_Great_Skratsby says:

          What I’m thinking. Titillating, juvenile, gratuitously sexualised? Okay, but exploitative?
          I’m going to have to be filled in here.

          • gunny1993 says:

            @The_Great_Skratsby:

            grrrr….noooo, i mustn’t …..

            THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID

            …. I’m sorry

            (Also i think it’s because the large boobs that take up most of the character model, i.e. their opinion is that these features are their to pander to a male crowd using their “assets” to sell the game … probably … who knows)

        • wererogue says:

          Telling the creator of a piece of work that it offended you is not an insult to the creator – it’s feedback.
          If he’d said “It’s a bit shit really”, that’d be in insult.

      • DiamondDog says:

        Fine, they might take that as insulting, but he also has a lot of good to say about the game, including the art design. It’s a balanced article. Not a lengthy insult.

        “No matter what I may think of the final product, there is very obviously an incredibly talented art team here.”

        Like I said, stop talking shit. Obviously people can debate whether or not the character designs are offensive or exploitative as much as they like. But you don’t have to undermine Ben by just plain lying.

        • Bhazor says:

          The end of the article is implying that anyone who likes the art style is going against everything Ben believes in.

          Calling something offensive is damning the whole product, its an insult to the makers and the fans.

          • DiamondDog says:

            “The end of the article is implying that anyone who likes the art style is going against everything Ben believes in.”

            It does nothing of the sort. You’ve entered hyperbole territory now.

            “Calling something offensive is damning the whole product, its an insult to the makers and the fans.”

            No it isn’t, it’s a very specific issue with one aspect of the game. Are you just taking the piss now, or playing a character? How far are you going to go with this silliness?

          • gunny1993 says:

            I don’t think that many people have such a large inferiority complex that they can’t take a bit of criticism without melting into a puddle of self loathing.

            Comments are broken, SABOTAGE

      • derbefrier says:

        Or how about some RPS writers and those like you who refuse to even consider the possibility you could be wrong quit acting like you have he final say in the discussion. I know to you people the only thing that matters is what you see and intent, context etc.. Is irrelevent because it puts holes in your fundelmentlist approach to the femminist ideology. I mean really its not so black in white and those who attempt to paint it in such a way in my expirience are more interested in pushing an ideology than a healthy debate as is seen by yours and others like you, who comments on those who dare to pose the question. “Is this really hurting anyone?” When it comes down to it your just bullies using Public pressure to inact an ideology regardless of its merit. I swear liberals are some of the most closed minded people you can talk too.

        Hmm reply fail. Oh well let it ride

      • Locust says:

        The problem here is RPS blatantly attacks basically anyone who don’t agree with their extremely feminist values that frankly have been eating this site up for a long time. I get it, it’s your site and you’re free to use it to air whatever you believe in, but if you’re advertising yourself as a gaming review site you should at least put some focus on gameplay. This article has basically left out absolutely any notion of what Skullgirls actually is other than that it has a tutorial and some of the characters have jiggly boobs – hardly a fair review for something that a lot of work has gone into and still does.

        I’ve followed the game since it was originally created and I’ve been part of the community since, and they put in a hell of a lot of work to get where they are now. They were dropped by their publishers after release and essentially stonewalled by Microsoft preventing them from patching their game, they were pretty much dead. Despite that, the developers and even the voice actors pulled together to host weekly twitch streams, run a kickstarter and talk directly to fans for over a year. That’s the kind of thing I usually see RPS praising and glorifying since they’re normally quite supportive towards indie developers – this one even went through the effort of making a polished, effective PC port.

        It’s just a shame that RPS has chosen to toss the game aside because the writers take issue with the art style. Sure, the fact the lead animator is a woman doesn’t disqualify their point of view – but I’m not entirely sure what their point of view is anymore. How can Skullgirls be a male objectification of women if the one responsible for creating those characters is female? Are you implying she’s been corrupted by representations of women in the media and she still has no right to sexualize females?

        If that’s the case then why is it alright for feminists and gay women to post lesbian porn and nude photos all over their tumblrs? Hell, an RPS writer does it, take a look at Porpentine’s website for a couple of minutes. Are women allowed to sexualize themselves? If so, why exactly can’t they sexualize what they want to draw?

        • elderman says:

          @ tigerfort [Edit: whoops, I meant Locust]
          RPS blatantly attacks basically anyone who don’t agree with their extremely feminist values
          [citation needed]

          Hyperbole aside, RPS writers making personal attacks on the site? I’ll be astonished.

          [Edit: yeah, comments are broken. :-( ]

          [Edit of edit: too many brackets in this response, don't you think?]

          • Locust says:

            I’m not sure why you think I’m tigerfort, but in any case I was referring to the developers themselves, not commenters. If you don’t consider words such as “wasted”, “ridiculous” and “exploitative” as attacks, then I’m not sure what you would.

          • elderman says:

            @ Locust
            Sorry, misread the handle.

            You don’t have to get offended on behalf of the developers. What you’re talking about is an uncomplimentary review (or ‘impressions’, not to get into fine distinctions). Even a well-received game like Skull Girls is going to get plenty of those, for a host of different reasons. Those certainly aren’t examples of personal attacks. Ben didn’t accuse the line producer, art director, or lead programmer of being wasteful, ridiculous, or exploitative any more than if I’m criticizing Stephen Spielberg if I call Indiana Jones 4 bland.

            It’s stinks when someone doesn’t like something you’ve poured your blood sweat and tears into, and yes sometimes it feels like a personal attack, which is a good reason not to read reviews. But it’s just the way most people write bad reviews.

            And just to actually mention the game in my comment: I’m sorry I can’t play Skull Girls on my machine, looks fun.

          • Bhazor says:

            @elderman
            Criticising a movie for being dull, bland or patronising is very different to calling it misogynistic, homophobic or offensive.

            When a critic calls a movie dull its a criticism. When a critic calls a movie misogynistic that is an insult. That is calling everyone involved a misogynist.

            Like all insults sometimes it’s deserved, This is not one of them.

          • elderman says:

            @ Bhazor
            Calling something I participated in the making of ‘misogynist’ isn’t calling me ‘misogynist’ even if I’m responsible for the content.

            I’ve directed things some people have found offensive. I’m sorry they’re offended. I try to understand why. But I’m not offended by their taking offense. Mostly, I’m glad they had a response. You have to try not to be that sensitive as a creator. I hope the makers of Skullgirls can separate their creation from themselves. It’s easier that way.

            Me, I think it’s fine in this game and I think the review’s off base. I’d be comfortable playing this game with my most feminist acquaintances and defending it if necessary. The jiggle, flounce, and skin seem fun to me. A fighting game with an all-female cast is great idea.

          • Jack Mack says:

            @Elderman

            “Calling something I participated in the making of ‘misogynist’ isn’t calling me ‘misogynist’ even if I’m responsible for the content.”

            Surely a sexist work can only be made by a sexist creator? Sexism doesn’t just appear out of the aether and sprinkle itself over works at random.

            That said, I don’t believe that Ben is calling the game sexist, just offensive and disrespectful.

          • Muzman says:

            @Jack Mack
            In a lot of ways it can. People frequently do sexist things and think sexist thoughts without being aware of it and just following along with the common sense they are in. ie sexism from the either. Most sexism isn’t done by people on outright willful mission to insult and degrade women.
            That’s generally where the argument gets complicated. You end up in discussions with people who assert their good person status and good will in their actions as a reason they cannot be sexist. Social concepts frequently elude people it seems. Too much fuss is based around whether or not someone attracts a certain tag as an absolute yes or no judgement. But it’s more complicated than that (and yes, many feminists you can run into don’t exactly make this clear, or necessarily agree either)

          • JamesTheNumberless says:

            That’s right, feminism is a frustratingly fragmented thing. It’s almost as if there’s something that all those women have in common that prevents them from getting along with eachother… Hah, now was that a (bad) joke or was it sexism?

            That’s very much how I feel about this art style. It may well be a private joke, or something that amuses the designers and that they’re all comfortable with. But it IS sexist and you can’t escape that, it’s doing exactly all the things that sexism in games does whether it’s ironic, or self-aware about it, it makes no difference.

            It’s very much like when friends call each other by racial epithets. They might be totally comfortable with it and not find it offensive but it is still racist language and if the two of them wrote down their dialogue and put it into a book, or game, or movie it would offend some people and it would polarize opinion and they would have to be dead from the neck up to not be aware of this – which is why you wouldn’t hear them talking that way in front of their mothers.

            And OF COURSE they’re welcoming the publicity. You would have to have been living under a rock (without broadband) for the past couple of years not to have noticed that sexism in games is a big deal and that it polarizes opinion. Whether they planned it all along or not they have to be making the comments they’ve made because they know that playing one side of the debate against the other is only going to get more people talking about them and their game and therefore more publicity.

          • elderman says:

            @ Jack Mack
            Well, here’s how I see it. Looking from outside the artistic process, some works of art seem sexist, some not, but context matters and point of view matters. No, sexism doesn’t pop out of the ether, it exists in the eye of the beholder and in the norms of society.

            From the inside, from the artists’ point of view, they doesn’t necessarily have full control over their work for any number of reasons including outside pressure and the difficulty of realising their vision.

            To reiterate, people are going to disagree about what sexism is in a work and in a person, they wont have the same standards for both, and even when they do have the same standards for both, the artist isn’t always fully responsible for the content of their work.

            For example, someone may set out to make a game that approaches gender well but miss the mark. Or cultural differences may mean that people in one part of the world find it sexist while others don’t. Or the game makers may make choices for reasons unrelated to gender politics that only on reflection create a sexist game.

            So yes, a game can be sexist even if the game designer, or art director, or other responsible party isn’t by my standards or according to the norms of a society.

          • Locust says:

            @elderman

            But it’s not quite the same thing. The artstyle is very subjective while, though gameplay mechanics can also be a subjective matter, they’re generally more black and white since some mechanics are just simply not fun and some are. For the most part RPS hasn’t really touched upon most of Skullgirls’ gameplay mechanics, the article is essentially just about the artstyle which I’m arguing is a subjective matter. I’m not going to bother defending the breast measurements on the website, because I also find that pretty juvenile – but the majority of the characters are not as overtly sexualized as it’s being made out to be.

            Double is a monstrous slime creature. Painwheel is a hideous mutant. Ms. Fortune’s head and limbs come off in a shower of blood and gore. Valentine is missing an eye. Peacock doesn’t need much explaining. Squigly is a zombie with a worm coming out of her head. Filia has a face in her hair. Cerebella has arms on her head. Marie is a skeleton.

            Out of everyone, Parasoul is literally the only character who does not have some kind of abnormality. And sure, some of the characters look normal anyway despite it, Filia and Valentine especially. Filia however I’d argue breaks common female representations due to her body type – she’s pretty chubby to the point her fat is bulging out of her thigh-highs. Valentine is very sexual but I’d argue it’s more ironic or a parody, seeing as she’s a nurse.

            If you’re into guro, necrophilia or monster girls then sure, this game is boner heaven – but the vast majority of people are not. I really just get the impression the writer of this article saw some bouncing boobs and immediately decided to focus his entire article upon that. By calling what he doesn’t like ‘ridiculous’ or ‘exploitive’, he’s turning a subjective issue into something very black and white and basically making readers feel guilty for enjoying the art style.

          • elderman says:

            @ Locust (the comments are really screwed up on this article)

            That’s a pretty good defense of the art style, though it’s a bit of a non-sequitur. And in general I think I pretty much agree. As far as I’ve seen, I don’t have a problem with the character designs. They’re playful and entertaining and when they’re in bad taste, I find it campy and fun.

            All the stuff about game reviews (or ‘Impressions’) being attacks or a guilt trip, or the idea that three paragraphs out of a nine paragraph post constitutes “his entire article” (or even if it were twice that) I think that’s all about what’s fair game and not in a game review (or ‘Impressions’). Sometimes every reader is going to disagree with an RPS review, but I think the fact that RPS writers often do more than just fill out a checklist of good and bad in a game but try to talk about what playing the game meant to them, in my eyes that’s a big part of what makes this site special. So even when we disagree, let’s be cool with them taking on games from lots of directions.

            And if you want to stop them writing from a feminist perspective, well first you’ve lost that fight, and secondly confront that head on, and don’t make up silly reasons like the idea that judging ‘fun’ is somehow more objective that talking about the art style.

        • Don Reba says:

          The problem here is RPS blatantly attacks basically anyone who don’t agree with their extremely feminist values that frankly have been eating this site up for a long time. I get it, it’s your site and you’re free to use it to air whatever you believe in, but if you’re advertising yourself as a gaming review site you should at least put some focus on gameplay. This article has basically left out absolutely any notion of what Skullgirls actually is other than that it has a tutorial and some of the characters have jiggly boobs – hardly a fair review for something that a lot of work has gone into and still does.

          Frankly, I don’t care what memes anyone is into. If there are scientologists or survivalists at RPS — that’s fine. Just as long as they handle it without behaving like assholes. Unfortunately, they sometimes do, but so far, it is still a pretty damn good site. I hope it does not get worse.

        • Focksbot says:

          “The problem here is RPS blatantly attacks basically anyone who don’t agree with their extremely feminist values that frankly have been eating this site up for a long time. ”

          No, the problem here is people like you think even the faintest whiff of feminism amounts to ‘extremely feminist values’ and set out to try to expunge it whenever you see it, throwing your weight around and crying and exaggerating because it’s the only way you know how to make something go away.

    • DerNebel says:

      Let’s get back on topic!

      As I’ve said in the wall of text I also posted, the game is bloody brilliant. PLAY IT. See if fighting games are something for you, since now is the best time! It is the kind of game that will have you lose and lose and lose again, and then you get it. Then you climb the wall and the game pays you back way more than you put in.

  22. TreuloseTomate says:

    I like the artstyle and don’t feel bad about it.
    Cookie?

  23. TsunamiWombat says:

    Lead artist is a bi-sexual woman, proportions are pursposefully exaggerated as a nod to classic japanese fighting games, Peacock is not realistically proportioned she’s a doodle, your argument is invalid, etc etc, thanks for playing

    • Lars Westergren says:

      > Lead artist is a bi-sexual woman

      People have internalized sexism, racism, homophobia before. That she is bisexual or a woman does not magically make her immune to criticism.

      > proportions are pursposefully exaggerated as a nod to classic japanese fighting games

      As pointed out above, two wrongs doesn’t make a right. Japanese fighting games much like anime and manga, are terrible at depicting women.

      > your argument is invalid, etc etc, thanks for playing

      Oh, argument by assertion works now? In that case, you just lost this argument and all future ones.

      • Bhazor says:

        Or maybe instead of being brainwashed by the evil patriarchy she is just a grown up woman who happens to enjoy drawing cute girls with breasts. Implying a woman is a powerless mindless drone of men is far more insulting to women than a bit of boob jiggle.

      • snappycakes says:

        “People have internalized sexism, racism, homophobia before.”

        I think this is the most horrendous phrase I’ve ever had the misfortune of reading on the Internet. It reeks of the type of “You can’t disagree with me and here’s why” stuff you see all over the place these days. Crap about “privilege”, “cis” and not being able to comment on something unless your race/gender/sexuality has been persecuted against in the past. It’s a crock of shit.

        • Lars Westergren says:

          You must be new to the internet then. Welcome! I don’t know how you could read all those opinions from that one sentence. You are welcome to comment, no matter what your sex, orientation or race, I have never said otherwise.

          What I argued against was the some people seem to think that the fact that she is a woman or bisexual means she (and all who agree with her) autowins the discussion. She should be judged exactly like everyone else. So actually, the opposite of what the three of you accused me of.

          • Bhazor says:

            If a woman wants to draw cute girls with breasts then she can go right ahead and draw cute girls with breasts. Why does she have to rigidly stick to what *you* consider feminism? Why does she owe you an explanation?

            She could draw cute girls with breasts. Or cartoon zombies. Or ponies. Or anything she wants.
            In contrast so can you. That’s freedom of expression. Thats equality.

            Don’t like her work? Fine. Find and support someone you do like.

          • Jim Rossignol says:

            The same argument is true of people being able to criticise the work of others. No one is stopping anyone, but we can call them out on trash.

            That’s freedom of expression.

          • bit_crusherrr says:

            Well said Bhazor, sometimes I think 99% of the people who whinge about anything in games forget some people aren’t offended by everything and that they don’t have to buy it if they don’t like it.

            Edit: I’d hardly call Skullgirls character designs trash, they are pretty unique and that lends to their cool game mechanics too. I.e. Ms Fortune being able to detach her head and control it independently. Sure they are somewhat sexualised but the article makes out they are all subjugated by something which isn’t the case.

          • Bhazor says:

            But there’s criticism and then there are insults.
            Saying something is offensive is insulting the creator. It’s calling them a racist, or a misogynist or a homophobe. There’s no come back or response.

            Claiming that the lead artist is a brainwashed misogynist is an insult.

          • Muzman says:

            There’s probably phd for someone in how people became so pissweak about these terms.
            Accuse someone of racism or misogyny these days (usually in some slightly vague academic definition of the term) and they roll over and whine about how mean everyone is and it’s not fair.
            It’s something to consider when arguing using these terms, sure. But boy is it pathetic.

          • timethor says:

            @muzman: it would help if there were different labels (with different associations) for different levels of racism/misogyny, etc.

            At the moment, people react very badly to being called a racist, because “racist” is often a life-changing label. We get our cues from the tv: once a celebrity or politician is labelled a racist by the news (or “news”, depending on your country..), their career is over, most of the time. The news, and the public, doesn’t make much distinction between someone who sometimes slips out the n-word because he listens to too much rap music, and a practicing KKK member.

          • Focksbot says:

            “Saying something is offensive is insulting the creator.”

            What??? No, it isn’t. Don’t be ridiculous. And of course there are comebacks to being called racist or homophobe.

            You’re just being one of these people who goes round stating the bizarre proposition that people shouldn’t be able to state their opinions when those opinions are that other people shouldn’t do things they don’t like. It’s a completely bananas position, but then, that’s what happens when people get all up on the idea of ‘freEdoms!’ without actually thinking seriously about what the concept means.

  24. Dariune says:

    Funny thing is, had this been sexualised men I doubt RPS would have had a problem.

    I agree that many games unnecessarily sexualise women. I agree that it is an issue which really should be tackled because it has got out of hand.

    I even used to consider it as an after thought when buying games.

    But RPS is not only making me reconsider reading their articles but is making me not give a crap about this issue because I am SO fedup of it being talked about when it isn’t an actual issue.

    Yes the artstyle is provocative but that is what this game is about. Liu Kang often fights topless and is made out to be attractive. Same as Jax.

    RPS is an excellent blog with fantastic writers who give the impression that they actually care about where the games industry is heading. They have, however, killed this issue for me and are slowly throttling my desire to visit their blog.

    *Queue people telling me to Sex and travel in 3 …2 …1 …*

    • ViktorBerg says:

      RPS is doing this for the same reasons all the other game news/journalism sites do it – for profit. Ever since this issue was blown out of proportion on the internet a few years back, people have been vocally either for it or against it – which generates revenue for the sites that discuss this.

      That’s what disgusts me about this behavior of RPS writers – blowing sensitive matters like this out of proportion for VIEWS. I know a few people who have stopped visiting RPS because of all the articles that are blatantly fishing for views using controversial topics. I am not one of them. But I am still annoyed.

      Can’t we just talk about videogames, without all that political and social justice mixed in?

      • Jim Rossignol says:

        > RPS is doing this for the same reasons all the other game news/journalism sites do it – for profit.

        Wrong.

        > Can’t we just talk about videogames, without all that political and social justice mixed in?

        Nope.

        • Echo Black says:

          Jim, don’t you think this is too much, though? Half of the writeup is social justice.

          • LukeNukem says:

            It’s an impressions piece. The first impression you get before you get in deep is the visuals. Which are distinctive.

          • sonson says:

            I think the problem you’re having here is that you’re at a videogames site which has been set up and is owned by people who are patently as pro-scoial justice as they are videogames. If you want just games, go elsewhere. RPS is not a videogames site. It is, but it’s a lot more than that too, which is why I love it, and plenty other people I know do too.

          • Jim Rossignol says:

            It could have been entirely “social justice”, if that’s what Ben wanted to talk about. Or it could have ignored those issues entirely.

            Editorial freedom. It’s fucking sweet.

          • Bhazor says:

            No RPS is a site that does some great video game writing and some awful misguided social justice writing.

            The above article is a good example of the latter damaging the former. As a write up it tells you nothing about the game beyond the fact that there is a tutorial. The rest is a shallow example of second hand offense that links to an article that celebrates the unspeakably brave artist who bravely chose to draw Wonder Woman in a pair of trousers.

            They are great game writers, they are at best mediocre social commentators.

          • Jim Rossignol says:

            >they are at best mediocre social commentators

            All the more reason for us to practice, eh Bhazor?

          • gunny1993 says:

            My first response is “Why?”

        • ViktorBerg says:

          >Wrong.

          I don’t believe you. There’s way too many precedents in the gaming media that show otherwise. Way too many people who use the topic for fish views. You may deny it, but the fact that until like a year ago, feminism was almost never talked about on RPS proves otherwise.

          >Nope.

          Why not?

          • Kaira- says:

            >feminism was almost never talked

            Well, that’s just wrong.

          • Jim Rossignol says:

            >until like a year ago, feminism was almost never talked about on RPS proves otherwise.

            Also wrong.

            Hell, we provided a pastebin link of John’s equality article: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/04/06/misogyny-sexism-and-why-rps-isnt-shutting-up/ So people could link to it without giving us hits.

            The idea that THIS is what generates traffic is laughable, it really, truly is.

            >Why not?

            Because those issues are part of games. To imagine you can discuss games in a vacuum is wrong.

          • ViktorBerg says:

            >Also wrong.

            I did some google searches on RPS. All mentions of “sexism”, “feminism”, “equality”, “sexualization” etc. are dated 2012 or 2013, with a very rare pre-2012 link, usually to a forum post. All this happened only after the Sarkeesian scandal.

            >Because those issues are part of games. To imagine you can discuss games in a vacuum is wrong.

            Except by employing the strategy of assaulting a game with social justice, you do both the game, and the reader a disservice, by misrepresenting the game. Where are the discussions of actual gameplay mechanics, or the story? They’re all cast aside to promote a somewhat relevant, but completely tangential in the context of an informative article, point. You might say this is an “impressions” article, but when the first piece of information about a game on a website (other than “it’s coming to PC, guys” news) is an article about misogyny and sexism, that’s not a very good way to inform your readers what to expect of the game.

          • DiamondDog says:

            It’s not an article about misogyny, stop talking shit.

          • gunny1993 says:

            Look peeps, they did some google searches.

            DISCUSSION OVER

          • ViktorBerg says:

            >Look peeps, they did some google searches.

            Did you miss the whole goddamn point or what? Google is a very reliable way to scan a website for exact words and expressions. Unless they used some kind of different wording for feminism talk before 2012, my point still stands.

            >It’s not an article about misogyny, stop talking shit.

            I probably shouldn’t have brought that in this explicitly, but the underlying philosophy is the same.

          • LukeNukem says:

            Badly apparently:
            http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2010/06/03/the-proposition-so-hey-baby-then/

            RPS can’t win. When there was the Eurogamer/Rab Florence debacle, everyone was up in arms because it was the topic du jour and they weren’t talking about it. Now, there is a topic du jour that they have discussed in the past and everyone is up in arms because they are talking about it.

          • Sparkasaurusmex says:

            For what it’s worth I appreciate RPS’ writing about these issues in most articles. Hit them over the head with it even more. Why isn’t the discussion in EVERY article?

          • ViktorBerg says:

            You do realize that forcing this just makes people object to it even more fiercely, right?

          • gunny1993 says:

            I got the point, I just think it’s a stupid point.

            To say that they are totally views driven you would have to admit that you have NEVER had something brought to your attention that you weren’t previously aware of.

            Only the intellectually challenged carry all their views with them through life, shit changes, people change.

          • Jim Rossignol says:

            >You do realize that forcing this just makes people object to it even more fiercely, right?

            Oh, we realise. Look at how fiercely we’ve had to defend our own standpoint. Don’t imagine that others aren’t trying to force us to back down, and rather more threateningly than in a write up of a game, too.

          • ViktorBerg says:

            >Oh, we realise. Look at how fiercely we’ve had to defend our own standpoint.

            See, now we agree on something. Even if we just agree to disagree.

            >Don’t imagine that others aren’t trying to force us to back down, and rather more threateningly than in a write up of a game, too.

            I do not think anyone in the comments is issuing you death threats. We are just dissatisfied that instead of talking about a game, the article goes off onto a tangential subject, ruining the impression of both the game and the article itself.

          • Bhazor says:

            This self righteous “social rights warrior” stuff is exactly what annoys me about the recent fad of social media feminism. Claiming that they are bravely fighting the tyranny and how their voice will never ever be silenced because their too damn brave as they bravely stand up to the slings and arrows. Which is ignoring the fact the most common response to them is “we don’t care, we really really don’t care, write about what we came here for”.

            Going on the same after that isn’t bravery, that’s just being ignorant of what your readers want.

            This was an awful article that told the readers almost nothing about the game beyond the fact that there is a tutorial. That is writing about gender to the detritement of game writing, and its something that just keeps on happening.

          • elderman says:

            Guys, when someone says they’re receiving threats and one of your first responses isn’t “wow that’s terrible”, you need to take a breath and take a look at yourself.

            Jim: I assumed you guys were receiving threats, especially after reading the Polygon article in the Sunday Papers. That sucks hard. Keep it up. You help me and other people who agree with you to speak our minds.

          • gunny1993 says:

            My first response is “Why?”

          • DiamondDog says:

            “Most don’t even bother, so Skullgirls’ elaborate, intricate tutorial system is an absolute godsend.”

            “There’s an obvious decision been made to make it possible for anyone to pick up Skullgirls and begin to learn.”

            “Story mode is short and sweet, but never manages to link the fights together in such a way that it feels like a narrative rather than background.”

            “Training mode has an approaching-infinite number of options for assisting veterans (seriously, if you know what you’re doing it’s everything you’ll need), but there’s an evolutionary step missing for noobies between the tutorials and that. ”

            A few examples that show it goes beyond just mentioning the tutorial, as implied by Bhazor. And the article talks about all of this upfront before Ben gets to the gender issues, so they aren’t to the “detriment” of the rest of the article. It’s far from awful, and has a fine overview for what is quite clearly stated as “Impressions.”

            Basically, Bhazor, you’re so desperate to argue your corner now that you can’t seem to stop this stream of bullshit. The article is right there, we can all read it. What do you think you gain by misrepresenting it so blatantly.

          • Bhazor says:

            @ Elderman

            I’ve received anonymous online death threats before. I did the sensible thing. I Laughed. They’re angry memos from little kids who live hundreds of miles away that you will never see. It’s pissing into the wind.

            @ Diamond dogs

            It has a tutorial. The story mode exists. Hardly a thorough discussion on the intricacies of the game. An equivalent would be Half Life 1. It has a tutorial. Sometimes there are guns.
            Meanwhile the fact that the characters have breasts requires a lengthy retort damning the game and it’s designers for its “offensive” character design. Would Ben have actually talked about the meat of the game if he hadn’t spent fully half the article damning the creators for letting their designers draw breasts? I’d say so. I’d hope so.

          • DiamondDog says:

            You’re either having me on and winding me up, or you’re delusional. “Fully half of the article.” Bloody hell. I don’t think there’s much else I can add to this.

          • Muzman says:

            If you ever wonder that the anti feminism brigade are on hair triggers to over react to the barest mention and blow it right out of proportion into the end of the goddam world (while accusing RPS of being the ones doing that instead) they will at least make it clear for you.

          • Hahaha says:

            White Knighting is never the way, it actually makes you seem like a massive tool

          • harbinger says:

            Let’s make use of Googles amazing Search tools.

            site:rockpapershotgun.com sexism
            2013: 185 results (so far)
            2012: 112 results
            2011: 77 results
            2010: 38 results
            2009: 15 results
            2008: 14 results
            2007: 8 results

            site:rockpapershotgun.com feminism
            2013: 79 results (so far)
            2012: 44 results
            2011: 28 results
            2010: 21 results
            2009: 9 results
            2008: 18 results
            2007: 7 results

            site:rockpapershotgun.com misogyny
            2013: 95 results (so far)
            2012: 50 results
            2011: 49 results
            2010: 23 results
            2009: 24 results
            2008: 16 results
            2007: 7 results

            It’s kind of obvious that this kind of misguided “advocacy” to largely puritan values has mainly started around 2011/2012 and seems to be taking an intensity on the site that is starting to annoy an increasing amount of readers.
            Apparently before then it either didn’t exist, was “muted” by the powers that be (the patriarchy!) or perhaps all the evil-doings since then increased by 300-400%.
            Or, and the most likely explanation, it just wasn’t the “in” thing to talk about.

            Personally I’m hoping this fad ends soon, although going by the amount of clicks it generates for a varied amount of sites, it might take another few years.

          • Muzman says:

            What a load. ‘Puritan values’ Jesus christ. You guys got out of your little world for a while you might get some perspective. I dare say if anything has been happening this has all blown up recently one because online abuse has become utterly staggering and two because apparent Men’s Rights Activists and other assorted trolls have been going on the offensive in a big way.
            (it’s actually weirdly coincidental with climate change dropping as a subject in a big way. It’s like all the people who used to shoehorn that into every conversation now moved along to attack feminism instead.)

          • harbinger says:

            “You guys got out of your little world for a while you might get some perspective.”
            Ditto, you’d find out that there are a great many people who simply don’t give a shit and a few conversations with people outside of the usual “social studies” circles would give some people some much-needed perspective.
            A perspective on different cultures (Eastern Europe, Asia (Japan, South Korea, China), Russia, Africa, Middle East) would also do you some good.

      • gunny1993 says:

        Or maybe they actually believe in it?

        Just saying something is for profit when you don’t agree with it is childish.

        • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

          You’re just saying that for profit.

          • gunny1993 says:

            Vile slander sir, i shall take you to court for defamation and psychological damages.

            Or you can pay me 45,000 GBP upfront and this whole issue goes away

        • sonson says:

          The very idea that somebody could have passions for more than one past time or cause, let alone concurrently or co-cooperatively.

          You probably thought w’ed all be driving around in hover-cars on the moon less than a decade ago, you insane hippy commie.

        • Moraven says:

          Seeing how most sites largely ignore the issues until a new Sarkessian video comes up and ignore taking it seriously in any review, I doubt RPS makes any additional profit out of this.

      • Haplo says:

        One: assuming and/or claiming that the runners of this site are doing this is, apart from being extremely rude and insulting, does nothing to actually disprove what they say. You’re saying what you’re saying to discredit them, not their arguments or views, which is, if you are trying to actually establish a point of your own, is what you should be doing instead.

        Two: Why should we be required to leave out ‘all that political and social justice’ stuff? Here’s the major problem I have with this attitude: it’s easy to ignore political and social problems when they’re not bothering you. It’s doubly easy when the natural reaction is to rally ’round the flag when it comes to accusations and criticisms regarding something we enjoy. However, you ought to at the least come up with a reason as to why ‘that political and social justice’ stuff isn’t important. And that’s part of the problem I have with what you have just said: it demonstrates that you aren’t trying to think about how this might genuinely bother other people or make them uncomfortable, and you should have the charity to at least try to be a little self-reflective.

        RPS talks about ‘that political and social justice’ stuff because videogames are a medium that is consumed by a large number of people worldwide, and like books or movies, the cultural content of videogames is viewed by those people. That cultural content is just as much a part of a videogame as its visuals or its mechanics, because it’s a fundamentally human product- it is created by a human and delivered to a human, and that makes it important, because it’s a transmission of data, just like pixels, albeit data of a less mathematical kind.

        RPS talks about ‘that political and social justice’ stuff because they see a wider trend in video games where the cultural flow shares similarities that are worrying, because they present a distorted or unbalanced view of ‘us’ (the creators/consumers/all), and because it genuinely makes other people uncomfortable or upset. To ignore the cultural value of a videogame, or to ignore the criticisms of that value, is to ignore those same people.

        The Iron Dream was a 70s novel that created a very standard fantasy novel, with one twist- the in-universe writer of the novel was an alternate-universe Hitler. The purpose of the book was to display how the tropes and cultural flow of the fantasy genre of the time had parallels, sometimes disturbing and frightful, comparisons to the espoused ideals of Nazi Germany. A heavy-handed method, perhaps, of making his point, but his point was made, and some reviews noted that it made them look more critically and closely at the genre.

        And then some folks said it was a perfectly good fantasy novel ruined by ‘all that Hitler nonsense’. Which really misses the point.

        Personal opinions on Skullgirls: a slick well-crafted fighter with both an inviting mechanical base for newbies and a rich playset for veterans, with strong character design, but unfortunately the volume of fanservice (panty shots, etc) makes me uncomfortable.

        • Skabooga says:

          This is the best. I’m saving this comment in the ‘good quotes’ bookmark folder for later use.

        • harbinger says:

          You aren’t fighting for any actual “justice”.

          Video game characters aren’t being oppressed, human rights aren’t being broken, human lives aren’t being ruined: http://www.complex.com/video-games/2013/08/dragons-crown-is-out-and-no-women-were-harmed and “equality” in the way of judicial and political rights or creating equal opportunities isn’t being attacked.

          Don’t try to paint this as some sort of human rights movement or suffrage protest movement.
          You are mainly having a big argument over personal taste, whereas you are claiming that people who enjoy things you don’t are bad, evil people who generally hate women.

          The freedom of the people that might find something “uncomfortable” is the freedom to look upon the packaging and choose not to buy/rent/play/watch any content they may find unsuitable.
          The freedom of the rest of society is the freedom to make and consume content that any one specific individual or group of people might not like or approve of.
          Having to abide by presumed moral guidelines or censor oneself because certain people might feel uncomfortable with the content one has created or the things someone says (as long as it wasn’t illegal) isn’t freedom, but tyranny of that particular subgroup over the whole of society.

          This has worked very well in the past, there have been many people that had a problem and were more than “uncomfortable” in regards to the depiction of violence in video games in the past including politicians, people with judicial power and even religious groups throwing a fit every now and then.
          Should games be molded to not “hurt their feelings” either? Or should they rather have the choice like everybody else to buy or not buy a game/movie/book if they don’t approve?

          The entire concept of PEGI and the ESRB is based around warning people that a certain work might contain content which isn’t suitable for them and it has worked very well so far with a large number of pretty clear/to the point content descriptors: http://www.esrb.org/ratings/ratings_guide.jsp

          Even the lawmakers and a large amount of concerned parents seem to be okay with those by now.
          Why are you suddenly advocating for introducing self-censorship (or being pressured into censorship) now?

      • Zekiel says:

        Bloody hell I’m so annoyed that RPS have the nerve to talk about social justice issues on their website. They should do what I want and just talk about games! And by “just talk about games” I mean some vaguely defined concept by which they just talk about games in the way I would like them to. And they definitely owe me this since I contribute literally pennies’ worth of advertising revenue for them *every single week*.

        [That was sarcasm, in case it's not obvious]

        How about we stop talking about sexism and misogyny when it stops being an issue in games?

    • Baines says:

      Depends, if the blind white knight brigade is already out in force, then there is nothing that you can do that will not draw complaints.

      • Focksbot says:

        Except, you know, apply some common sense to what you say before you post it. The white knight brigade have a busy work schedule, and only have time for people who are especially crap at employing their brains to make half-way reasonable points.

    • Focksbot says:

      “Funny thing is, had this been sexualised men I doubt RPS would have had a problem.”

      Had this been sexualised men, most of the fucking playerbase would have had a problem. It would have been ruthlessly and continuously snickered at, people would ask “Who is this game supposed to appeal to exactly?”, and people would post YouTube videos of them playing it ‘ironically’.

      So don’t talk to me about double standards, chap.

      • Hahaha says:

        Mount Your Friends, one of the best games to play with a bunch of people when drunk. shit they should put this game in bars.

  25. GameCat says:

    C-can we talk about gameplay? No? Ok, nevermind. *hides under the rock*

    • Purple says:

      Help! He used the G-word! I’m being offended!

    • Bhazor says:

      Talking about how a game plays in an article about a game? That’s ridiculous. Away with you.

    • DeFrank says:

      I think the gameplay is between some boobies. Too offended to look.

      • Mitthrawn says:

        Awesome. Also right on GameCat. I love RPS, been reading for six years, but the social justice/politics are getting really really tiring.

    • GameCat says:

      Decided to play it. I think it’s a little too slow for 2D fighting game, but animations and moves are great.
      Also optimalization is just kickass, everything runs smooth and this is probably the only game since last 2 years that I can close without my laptop beign slowed down.
      Kudos for jazz soundtrack with vocals.
      Can’t wait to play it with friends.

      • gwathdring says:

        Ooh, I like slower fighters. This has been on my wish-list awaiting reviews, and so far it’s looking like the kind of fighter I can totally dig.

  26. Ein0r says:

    This articles leaves some sour taste in my mouth. It feels as if it was written based on Screenshots alone.

    Tutorial:
    “There is a problem though: it doesn’t go far enough. It starts at the very beginning, but then.. ”
    “This still leaves you totally unprepared for an online foray though”
    You can still go to sites like shoryuken, or the skullheart forums where you can find an ever expanding combo list in google docs for all the characters, (once the forum is back online again) Or on the Steam game hub.
    Erm.. yea.. online play.. that has always been the case in every fighting game, that the difference from playing solo or local with friends to online is extremely steep. And no full list of combos can help you there

    Character design:
    “Each has such wonderful personality, such charm in their dialogue and backstory that you’d need to be cold-hearted not to smile. It is a shame this is wasted on such an exploitative art style.”

    I may not have understand that column (maybe because of my lack of not being a native english speaker). All the opportunities you count there: Do you think the game didnt make use of any of them or is that a misunderstanding on my part?

    Do you want a game where all the chars are as comical as Peacock? Go play Clayfighter then?
    The game has plenty of strong female characters that take destiny in their own hands. Not many worship a god or follow some mafia boss.
    Fighting poses with bouncing breasts? Well not everybody could be a flat chested robot like Peacock. And if the majority of the cast would be exactly this, there would still be comments like “No strong female characters with a more voluptuous body.. ” “Are strong female characters not allowed to have a bigger chest or bigger buttocks anymore?”
    The measurements? Go complain to the japanese. But the western people would ask themselves the same questions and fantasize about that. Make a conversion of the game, call it Skullboys and the girls would do the same.

    “I didn’t want the art of Skullgirls to overshadow my writing on it, but it overshadows the game. It’s omnipresent, requiring actual effort to get a screenshot not containing someone’s heaving bosom.”

    It seems it did overshadow your writing. Did you really just work with screenshots? I cant find the time looking for ass n tits while fighting someone else. I am way too concentrated on slaughtering my opponent. The only sexy poses you see are.. yes from screenshots and some victory poses, and even there, not all of them. Take the characters Filia, Squigly, Double or Painwheel for example. That is nearly half the cast.

    I am, of course, biased in some way too. I havnt played fighting games for a long time. And in Skullgirls i finally found a game with gorgeous graphics, fast paced, nearly lag free, fighting action which is very precise with its hits and combos and timings. It has a rather small character roster, not that many special moves per character which also makes it easy to pick it up. All the combo stuff comes later on, once you get some experience, and improve your ability to read your opponent.

    I can understand those complaints and problems, especially since they only come from an impression. But i cant share many of them. To solve this problem you cant have a stylised game called Skullgirls or Skullboys but it should be Skullandrogynes. The best solution would be to never create fighting games again.

    • DeFrank says:

      “It seems it did overshadow your writing.” This.

    • Baines says:

      I do think the tutorial doesn’t go far enough. The tutorial in Skullgirls was supposed to be something good, something that people have praised as just the kind of introduction that fighting games need. With that in mind, it is fair to point out where the tutorial doesn’t go far enough.

      Yes, you can go online for information. But you could always go online for information, including the information that is already in the tutorial and which people have praised for being put in the tutorial. So telling someone to just go online for the rest of the information is a bit of a weak response for where the tutorial falls short.

      I actually have a different issue with the training mode, though. Skullgirls, for all its praise, commits the same sin that many fighting game tutorials/challenge modes commits. It doesn’t tell you why you are failing a challenge. It doesn’t show you the timing necessary to complete a challenge. It lists the moves that you need to perform, and it marks moves as you complete them, but the only timing feedback it gives is whether the move works or not. And missing a move doesn’t always mean you need to hit the buttons faster, as sometimes problems occur when you hit the buttons too fast as well.

      With Super Street Fighter 4, there was a challenge that I just could not complete. I had to search online where I eventually managed to find a random forum post that mentioned that if you pressed the buttons too fast, you’d get a link instead of the normal move that you needed. All the game needed to do was show me the timing window for the proper button press, but it didn’t.

      With Skullgirls, I had an issue with a Cerebella throw combo in the tutorial. For some reason the throw would miss. I didn’t know if I was trying to throw too fast, too slow, or if the way I had landed the preceding combo had positioned me just out of range. (Or if it was some kind of PC timing issue causing a problem.) The only feedback the game would give me was the throw’s whiff animation.

      (Though this may potentially not be entirely the fault of the devs. Namco does have software patents involving some training mode concepts, and people have blamed those patents in the past for limiting and even regressing some aspects in training modes of the fighting games that came afterwards.)

      • gwathdring says:

        That is precisely my trouble learning Street Fighter IV combos. I get that I could practice for hours and finally magically figure out the timing. That’s how I’ve gotten as far as I have. But that’s incredibly inefficient, not especially rewarding mechanically and in a medium built around technology … we can do better.

  27. Screamer says:

    I’m offended that Ben’s offended!!

    Actually not really, I like boobs and booties, sorry Ben. Different opinions and all!

  28. Bladderfish says:

    Women, sexuality and power are irrevocably linked. I’m not saying that’s good or bad, but is the way it is. Thus you get the situation where women who are powerful are automatically portrayed as sexual.

    And this has nothing to do with male fantasies. It is nature. Women who are physically attractive have power over men, thus they are powerful women.

    Yes, in reality, a powerful woman – say someone like Margaret Thatcher – is often about as attractive as a sloth, but would you really want to play Margaret Thatcher in a game?

    This is a bit of a meandering appraisal, but I’m just trying to get across the point that women in fighting games are often very attractive because it’s the most obvious way to make them powerful. And more importantly, how else are you going to make them powerful using the limited narrative of a fighting game? The exact same argument could be applied to the male characters with stupidly big muscles and no shirt.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Its a very interesting point but quite shocking really. Yes people who are attractive are more powerful, by which I mean have an easier time getting what they want in life but surely any artist worth their salt can make an attractive character who is not hypersexualised.

      I get that some women like to dress in a way revealing a lot, and they do this because it makes them feel good to dress like this. I did this for a few years longer than I really should have. It’s not a problem to have characters like this in a game, even if every character in the game is like this. But if you do this, you have to accept that your game is stylised and while naturally will appeal to people who like that style, there are others who don’t and you exclude them.

      Not a problem in the case of the odd game here or there, as the audience who will have the problem are the excluded who really want to play that game – but when every fighting game has has every femals as a sexualised women with large breasts on display, then a large section of society is excluded from fighting games. Extend this to other genres and so many games are excluding so many people it is only natural for them to say “We want a game which reflects our tastes too”.

      Is it sad that so few fighting games offer the likes of Mila or Hitomi from dead or alive and the ones that do inevitably offer a variety of skimpy costumes rather than costumes which match the style of the base one?

      • Baines says:

        For better or worse, game characters are designed to appeal to the larger fan base. That’s why certain female designs tend to not appear in games, or to disappear.

        Virtua Fighter’s Vanessa originally looked a bit like tennis player Venus Williams. But Vanessa apparently wasn’t considered a popular character, and the VF devs decided people weren’t playing her because she was dark-skinned muscular woman. So for VF5, her skin was whitened and her muscle mass was reduced.

        Vanessa, VF4 appearance versus her VF5 appearance:
        http://gamebabble.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/vf_vanessa.jpg

        Dead or Alive’s Lisa had a similar change, going from a light coffee skin tone to caucasian pink, for the same reason.

        And while fighting game fans like to talk about how they don’t care about the graphics, and would play a game that was nothing but hitboxes, you can watch and see that character appearance often does influence them, and sometimes greatly. They’ll dismiss entire games due to the art style or the gender ratio without even finding out about the game. They’ll pick a character that they like the look of and flat out ignore characters like Rufus (SF4), Mary (Tobal 2), Earthquake (Samurai Shodown), and Mitsuko (Bloody Roar 1). They’ll express revulsion or otherwise be upset when they find that characters like Bridget (Guilty Gear) , Ash (King of Fighters), or Fox (Bloody Roar 1) is male. If graphics didn’t matter, then they wouldn’t show those reactions or biases.

        • Sheng-ji says:

          Yeah, I’ve always said that you can’t really blame the devs for trying to maximise their profits – to be honest, I wish more parents would stop buying their sons computer games but denying this to their daughters. Sexism is ingrained in our society, it’s my belief that until new mothers stop choosing pink or blue, it will always be there.

          My sons favourite colour is pink, bright baby doll pink. I’ve painted his room pink, I’ve given him a pink lunchbox because these things make him happy. For reference, he’s 3. So when other parents ask me if I think it will influence his sexuality or if I can’t afford a more appropriate lunch box, a little part of me dies because I know that these parents teach their children that different genders should only be allowed to like what society says they should like and those children will be my sons peers. I honestly feel like his innocence is already being eroded and to make his life easier I should take away something he loves and give him something he doesn’t like as much, which is so sad.

  29. DeFrank says:

    Game is fucking awesome.

  30. HisDivineOrder says:

    I don’t find the artstyle offensive. I don’t see the “sexploitive” nature you’re implying exists. Are there people who are going to find the style not to their liking? Sure. I don’t particularly love the style of most Facebook games, but that doesn’t mean I get to say it’s exploitive or insulting or whatever. Even if I think they are frustratingly cute or stupid or limited or living off the idiocy of people.

    Your subjective opinion is that you feel insulted or bothered by a style that is not your cup of tea. I feel you’re expecting too much PC (politically correctness) here. Imagine people keep taking your train of thought every time they felt like “a line was being crossed.”

    There were people who felt that Mortal Kombat on SNES was too violent even when the blood was removed, to say nothing of the Genesis version with the red blood and full-on fatalities and everything. If those people had their way, we’d have games that were all Facebook-like in their cuteness and happy-joy-joy feelings with nary a boob or blob of blood in sight.

    You may say, “Well, it doesn’t have to go overboard to be reasonable,” but I argue that going even a little toward saying, “This game can’t be seen in any way except how exploitive it is!” when it’s a game called, “Skullgirls” about girls fighting is you basically saying, “Let’s get the ball rolling on changing values!”

    Except why are you fine with “super heroine sexy” and not a different style of sometimes sexy, sometimes bizarre instead? What’s the line you’re drawing and why are you drawing it? If you’re a feminist trying to protect women, then why are you suggesting that comic books and their version of women are any more or less exploitive than this version? At least this version has some ugly represented. Comic book heroines by and large don’t have that at all. All women are hot. If you want to make the argument about what that does for women and their self-image (an argument I also disagree with btw), then you should be asking yourself why the hourglass-shape of classic comic book heroines is good enough for you and alright.

    The way I see it is you either feel like all artistic depictions of women with any feminine attributes is wrong or you just have to leave artist interpretation alone and say, “I don’t like it.” Rather than get up on your horse and look down on the plebes and say, “This is insulting and unforgivable and I cannot tolerate it because it has boobies that bounce.”

    Btw, super heroine sexy also has boobies that bounce. Just sayin’.

    My thing is I think every artist should feel free to express what they want to express in their art. People should never say, “This shouldn’t be expressed.” As if they are the all-powerful judge of things that should and should not be done.

    They should say, “I do not like this. I will not buy this.” That’s fine. Acting like the art has no merit to anyone anywhere is you being pompous and honestly ignorant.

    • Eight Rooks says:

      Christ almighty you people hurt my brain.

      “I don’t particularly love the style of most Facebook games, but that doesn’t mean I get to say it’s exploitive or insulting or whatever.”

      Uh, yes you do, if you think it is. Same as anyone else. Are you honest to God saying you seriously believe that you are for some reason not allowed to object to anything you don’t enjoy, so therefore no-one else should be either?

      “My thing is I think every artist should feel free to express what they want to express in their art. People should never say, “This shouldn’t be expressed.” ”

      Completely agree! At the same time, people should also be entirely free, nay, god damn well consider themselves obliged, to say “Jesus, who the hell thought this should be expressed, and why?” if they feel so inclined.

      God knows I’m not the biggest fan of the social justice crowd, but at least I think I understand what they’re doing, or trying to do. This whole “But, but, but I don’t want to hear about any of this! Why can’t you understand that? Why do you persist in personally attacking me???” – nope, I literally cannot process how anyone over the age of thirteen could actually entertain this as a functioning worldview.

  31. FriendlyPsicopath says:

    I love fighting games and wanted to know how well this game is, since i like to play on my pc… the sad thing is that it is not even mention the fact that you can choose to play with one, two or three characters… i want to know how the flow of the game is, but no, this review ended up so poorly regarding the game itself and it’s mechanics…. I do appreciated the sexism discussion, but when it shadows the game so much that not even major gameplay decisions are talked about…., it is bad at least for a gaming review site…..

  32. FairlySadPanda says:

    I’ll leave this here: http://erinfitzvoiceartist.tumblr.com/post/22702400731/my-response-to-calling-skullgirls-sexist

    TL;DR: Parasoul VA comments that skimpy outfits or large proportions is not sexist, especially when compared to the generic role of women in video games.

    • Skabooga says:

      I definitely agree with her that it is good to have a game filled with female protagonists, considering how rare such games are and the dearth of their representation in the medium. So that is a positive, and I won’t diminish that – it should be celebrated. However, it is still worrying that the majority of characters are visually represented in a traditionally overtly sexual design, considering how prevalent such representation is in the medium and in the media at large.

      • pepperfez says:

        Not to nitpick, but I’d say it’s just short of a majority (Filia, Valentine, Cerebella, maybe Ms. Fortune?). Which is, depressingly, maybe progress in fighting game terms.

  33. Ein0r says:

    To me it seems that everything positive of this game can be fitted into one sentence, not even inlcuding some of the nice features.
    And the 3 negative points in 2 sentences (modification to online play; the same issues as every other fightig game has, like story mode etc) and 3 full columns of partially sexual offensive (?) content, reaching from panty shots you can only fully percieve from screenshots, sexualised fighting poses and victory poses from one third/ one half of the character roster and pseudo strong female characters that are unable to seize their own destiny.
    (not sure about the weak female characters, but as mentioned in my post earlier i may have misunderstood the article in that point)

  34. Quatlo says:

    Someone really, really smart made us (us as gamers, not as *you* and *me*) believe that the biggest problem with games is that boobs jiggle and that characters are exaggerated. Not repetetive gameplay, stupid stock copypaste plots, lack of imagination, relasing the same product over and over again, dlc with no content, lack of mod support etc etc
    No. Our enemy are the boobies in games.
    I really fail to see what is so bad in them, sans retarded games like Dead or Alive Beach Volleyball who are ONLY about jelly boobs.
    I’m getting really tired of this crap, its like “games are brutal and turn our kids into homicidal maniacs” all over again.

  35. lucky jim says:

    “blah blah blah tutorial mode, blah blah blah opinion piece on the art”

    This is pretty much the template in which everyone follows when talking about Skullgirls.

  36. Danderdang says:

    Parasoul’s voice actor voiced some opinions about this issue for Skullgirls and games in general.
    Worth reading.

    http://erinfitzvo.com/are-bosoms-in-video-games-offending-you/

  37. Totally heterosexual says:

    CHEESECAKE

    It’s kind of a shame that the crux of article ended up being huge bouncy titties, thick thunder thighs and round juicy asses. I guess RPS folks are not terribly into with fighters so there was not all that much more to talk about from their perspective.

    Don’t much care for the game anyway. Kof XIII steam edition hype.

  38. LimeWarrior says:

    What a mess this all turned out to be, eh? I think the people mad at Ben are concerned over his apparent picking on a game that hardly deserves it. This game bothers me a bit, but way less than the recent mortal kombat (sexualized and brutal violence). Because skull girls is cartoony, the biffs and bops are less threatening. It comes off like a fan servicy anime.

    Fighting games and real world mma/boxing have always relied on TnA to attract adrenaline fueled alpha males. The difference here is that the women are active fighters instead of the sideshow. Isn’t that more positive than usual? Yes it sucks that we “need” TnA to sell a fighting game. But from playing the story I got the impression that these interesting characters could encourage men to pursue other games with prominent female characters like dreamfall.

    I think Ben was getting at this, but he ended up focusing on the superficial.

  39. GigaCosmoShark says:

    Funny how Feminism is about fighting sexism by being even more sexist.
    You all focus on the bad side.

    A female with massive tits is OUTRAGEOUS!
    But a Big muscled man with a fat dick and a tiny brain is ALL RIGHT!

    You want equality when it pleases you.
    What if I beat the fuck out of a woman by pure worry of equality? It wouldn’t be a problem if it was a man.

    Blaming others for your professional failures is quite cheap aswell.
    I’m in the Navy and there are women here who couldn’t care any less about all this Feminism bullshit.

  40. hjd_uk says:

    Its not like its Dead Or Alive beach vollyball ….

    … do the character’s clothes come off when you hit them hard enough? [ king of fighters / soul caliber ]

    … Mai Shiranui…

    … but measurements on the stats page, thats a bit greasy, but its probably a ‘homage’ to stuff like Japanese fighting game character bios having their blood type and stuff in there. :/

    Knickers in a twist by sounds of it.

    SIAT [ Storm In A Teacup ]

  41. satan says:

    Was really enjoying the game, then when I was playing through Peacock(?)’s story and she said “GARBAGE DAY!” while performing an attack with a gun, I fell in love with the game (look up ‘garbage day’ on youtube if you aren’t familiar with the reference) . Plus her level 3 super (called goodfellas I think) is probably the best super I’ve seen in a fighting game (on a scale of badassery) since Akuma’s instant hellish deathstrike.

    As far as combos go, compared to say KoF, combos here come together really easily I’ve found (some characters you can just hit the same button a few times, e.g. Valentine I think? her strong punch attack goes into a 3 attack combo if you keep hitting the button, do a few light/medium attacks before this for a dead simple 7-8ish hit combo), and the supers not requiring the usual double quarter circle/half circle/whatever is a godsend for this lazy fighting game veteran.

    I’m entertaining the idea of ordering one of those… port… converter things so I can dig up my Sega Saturn control pads just because Skullgirls utilises the good old 3 punch 3 kick controls. I was reluctant to buy it at first, being keyboard-bound at the moment, but I had no problems clearing all the stories on normal difficulty using the keyboard, and supers go off reasonably reliably just using the arrows.

    I thought the art/style fit the ridiculous nature of the game, while character designs paid homage to great fighting games that had come before it, while still retaining some really unique designs.
    The discussion about the art in Skullgirls reminds me about the discussion of the merits of Jeff Koons’ art. Some people love his stuff, some people hate it, and both sides make great arguments, and correct me if I’m wrong any art aficionados in here, but you could find a common theme in Koons’ art and the art in Skullgirls (sexualisation of females in some instances). I put it down to personal preference at the end of the day, sometimes I’ll look at a piece by Koons and it’ll make me laugh, sometimes I’ll roll my eyes, it’s the same with Skullgirls.
    I’m really enjoying the game though, and I hope there is at least one sequel in the works, if not two.

  42. Radiant says:

    It’s not a shit art style it’s a divisive art style.
    It’s bloody anime. You either hate it [like I do] or love it.

  43. Phendron says:

    I thought that Mr. John Walker was the only staff allowed to get mad in defense of women.

  44. Phendron says:

    Dear RPS,

    Please run an opinion piece on Dragon’s Crown. If Skullgirls gets a blip on the radar, you guys should have a field day there.

    Thanks.

  45. Serenegoose says:

    2 paragraphs (and one line) in this 9 paragraph impressions (note: not a what I think) talk about the writer thinking the art style is exploitative and offensive.

    Cue the anti-feminist brigade of the internet coming in and not seeing the other seven paragraphs, because it gets in the way of their absurd notion that this REVIEW (as we all know the impressions series is) only talks about sexism. Why no mention of the game? They cry, oblivious to the majority of the article. Why u only talk about women? They ask, in a game that sells itself on its female cast roster and heavily stylised setting and art.

    Amazing.

  46. Bluerps says:

    Just wanted to tell you that I liked your article, and your writing in general, Mr Barrett.

  47. crinkles esq. says:

    Woman walks in on woman playing Skullgirls, “Oh, those characters are cute. What is this?”
    Woman walks in on man playing Skullgirls, “Ugh, you’re such a sexist pig!”

  48. ender1200 says:

    Everyone here complain about the fact Ben criticizes the art style, but the real problem with the article is that this “first impression” is basically a review of the game tutorial!

  49. Peeveepee says:

    Could we please grow up and stop making a great-horrible-social-problem out of female characters with feminine features in games?
    It really takes the joy out of reading RPS articles, which are generally great.

    • jrodman says:

      “Objecting to sexualization is for children!”

      • gwathdring says:

        Kinda? If we’re going to be simplistic about it. Objecting to disproportionate sexualization in the broader context of social inequality is cool. I’m all for that. Objecting to sexualization and objectification as inherently bad is, in my estimation, missing the point.

        Focusing on the size of breasts and the exaggeration of them seems odd to me. Because of course it’s exaggerated. My problem is the lack of variety. The heavy-handed gender performance. Each individual character should be exaggerated to the fullest–that’s part of the art style in many, many games. The issue is more than in otherwise varied and interesting art styles, gender is performed with such staggering regularity, with entire casts worth of female video game characters having a very particular kind of fantastical bosom.

        Looking at trailers for Skullgirls, I see much more variety in the appearances of the cast than I’m used to–everything from breast size to height to leg shape to reveal-ing-ness of the outfits, to posture, to fighting style. In the face of that variety, I find it hard to be upset with Skullgirls.

        Of course, the trouble is, as always, one of aggregate. It’s hard to decide how to handle individual games when the problem is an imbalance across ALL games. There is room for tawdry crap like Dead or Alive: Beach Volleyball–that room is at present over-saturated. I don’t think, however, Skullgirls is especially complicit in that over-saturation but I haven’t played the game. The reviewer clearly thinks it is, and I wish more people who disagreed did so without getting all huffy and reactionary and angry about it.

  50. wererogue says:

    Reviewing the gender politics of a game negatively is not slamming the game. Ben makes it very clear that the game is otherwise fun.
    Saying that a product is misogynistic in tone is not saying that the creators are misogynist.
    If I say to you “That thing that you said is racist”, I’m not try to offend you by telling you that you’re a racist. I’m trying to draw your attention to a problem you might not know about – like telling you that you have spinach between your teeth.

    This is the *purpose* of reviews. Please don’t tear into writers for being thorough.

    • Phendron says:

      Being thorough may have included some mention of the relatively small roster, probably the game’s weakest point.

      • wererogue says:

        Well, this is an impressions post – if “small roster” wasn’t among Ben’s impressions then he’s still being thorough

        “You didn’t mention (something I thought was important)” is definitely reasonable criticism of any piece though.

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