For all the many, many problems fighting games have had with women over the years, Fighting games are still one of the only genres where you can almost always expect to have playable female characters.
One of the major problems modern games have with appealing to female players is the lack of playable women in games, or women having any significant role besides love interest/plot device. From action games to RPGs, players are forced to play the same basic square-jawed male protagonists with few exceptions. But not so in fighting games.
Fighting games have had playable women be common, even expected, since some of the earliest incarnations of what we now consider “fighting games.” It is in fact very rare these days to see fighting games which lack female characters, while plenty feature exclusively female casts. There are those which exist to appeal to a male audience, but even those stand as examples of games featuring women first and foremost.
Intentionally or not, fighting games have always had male and female characters be on equal footing. Due to the need for a balanced character roster, no character can be less effective than another (with some exception). Even in cases where an individual character is weaker or does less damage, they make up for it in other ways that result in them being no less lethal than a male character.
This stands in contrast to other genres, where it’s not uncommon to see playable women be less effective than their male counterparts, or to see sections where women require a male character/player character to assist them. One such example being the dynamic between Sherry Birkin and Jake Muller in Resident Evil 6, with Jake having unique gameplay sections and abilities due to being stronger and more acrobatic. Similarly, a section in that same game has Leon saving his partner, Helena, from a zombie. Even though Helena is a zombie veteran at this point and Leon is currently flying a helicopter, she still needs help from her male partner to make it through this.
By nature, fighting games feature violent acts being committed towards any and every character. This rarely feels targeted or excessive, however, even for highly sexualized characters. Characters of any gender receive equal punishment, and can dish out equal punishment in turn.
While this may sound odd, it comes as a relief after game after game feature women being attacked, beaten, killed, or otherwise hurt in excess. It’s not uncommon in games, or media in general, to see female characters introduced simply to be unceremoniously killed off for cheap pathos.
Without a doubt, there’s a problem with the way women are treated in fighting games. But it’s impossible to deny that female characters have carved out a place for themselves in fighting games, a niche that no one can take away. No matter the game, no matter the developer, you can set your clock by it having playable women in it.
Image 1: The King of Fighters XIII
Image 2: Skullgirls
Image 3: Street Fighter IV
Image 4: Guilty Gear Xrd
Screenshots provided by @shadowmar
All games shown in screenshots can be bought on Steam (Skullgirls, The King of Fighters XIII, Street Fighter IV, Guilty Gear Xrd). Steam codes for Ultra Street Fighter IV and Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition can be bought on Amazon (USFIV, SSFIV:AE) and Gamestop (USFIV, SSFIV:AE). PSN carries Skullgirls (PS3, PS4), The King of Fighters XIII (PS3), Ultra Street Fighter IV (PS3, PS4) and Guilty Gear Xrd (PS3, PS4). Amazon and Gamestop both carry physical copies of Street Fighter IV (Amazon: 360, PS3/Gamestop: 360/PS3) The King of Fighters XIII (Amazon: 360, PS3/Gamestop: 360/PS3) and Guilty Gear Xrd (Amazon: PS3/PS4/Gamestop: PS3/PS4).
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