Bonnie Nardi’s chapter on gender was evidently of interest to quite a few people in the course. I am no different, I guess. This post will mainly be focusing on the “kombat lingerie” that Nardi’s cites from Fron et al. 2007 study (166) and the world of male-centered games, along with the so-called “boys’ treehouse” talk.
Call of Duty, Halo, and many other shooters, all depict the “narratives of warfare, anti-terrorism… combat” and so on that Fullerton et al. were quoted mentioning on page 167. These games have always been male domain, as I have seen them. Some girls play them, yes, but there are also a lot of real soldiers who play. Grunts, teenage boys who don’t know how to hold their tongues, and all sorts of men play those games normally. The soldiers in game are all men. The swearing in the game is heavy, just like when real soldiers talk in combat situations. Just look at Black Hawk Down or Jarheads- fairly accurate movies, from what I’ve heard.
Likewise, there is only one “Kombat” that I know of that is spelled with a K, and it’s Mortal. So how did that derogatory “kombat lingerie” get its start? It is a trend I have seen mainly in fighting games, though MK is not the first, nor will it be the last to feature over-the-top sexualizations of female characters. I’d have to say Dead or Alive sets the bar when it comes to sexism in games- all of the girls have bikini secondary and DLC costumes, and of course, all of the girls are impossibly beautiful. Not to mention the off-shoot farce of the series, DOA Xtreme, which was basically just a peep-show sort of game with a bunch of bouncing boobs, more bikinis, and volleyball matches on sun-soaked beaches. Note: there was a sequel to the first game.
The Soul Calibur series has oversexualized females (Ivy is an excellent example), but it has some women that aren’t oversexualized (Hilde), and some may argue that these figures characterize themselves, and that their outfits are a product of their characters, as in, its “who they are.” The same can be said for games like Tekken, an possibly Street Fighter, the latter being notably more modest.
Some other offshoots of DOA have been made, and quite possibly the worst violator on the list is Rumble Roses, which was also followed up by a sequel. Basically, this was an all-girl wrestling game featuring the best of DOA Xtreme’s minigames and bouncing boobs paired up with World Wrestling Entertainment’s idea of the Bra and Panties match. The second game featured a photo mode that once again channels peep shows, as the girls could assume all sorts of different poses with various costumes- in a certain match type, the loser would be forced to do a humiliating “penalty action,” during which the player could watch and move around camera angles. Some characters were also raunchy sexualized archetypes- a nurse, a cowgirl, a schoolteacher, and so on.
Mortal Kombat, with its 9th installment in 2011, featured all the violence men loved, combined with super-sexy female ninjas. Some of the girls wore what was basically a single-width of jumprope around themselves, and most if not all had fully exposed backsides.
Heck, one of the sexy ninjas was powered by blood. If you’re not squeamish, you may wish to check Youtube for Skarlet’s MK9 fatalities. Sexiness and blood come together in a rather gruesome way through her. Another character, Mileena, has an alternate costume made of only a couple bandages that renders her basically naked. After attaining this, the player gets an achievement/trophy, reading: “Best. Alternate. Ever.”
All this is to say that, even looking at costumes alone, there are a large number of games that try quite hard to reinforce male dominance in video games. As Nardi mentions, there are a great deal of turn-offs for women when it comes to games, and the way many of the female characters are dressed almost encourages men to talk down to any girl who dares to play a game like MK. In the meantime, it also reinforces the “boys’ treehouse” sort of language and treatment of female gamers as sort second rate to men.