Street fighter. The king of fighters. Tekken.
These classic video games have more in common than being part of the fighting game genre. Their lists are all filled with different faces from very different places. Predatory of more recent calls for a greater diversity of the game’s protagonists and characters, these games have given players the choice to play as someone who truly resonates with them on a multitude of levels. Various casts are quickly becoming a staple feature of the fighting game, and are now recognized as a staple of the genre.
Unlike the majority of video games, which feature a single main cast, fighting games feature a plethora of faces that players can choose from to decide who their the protagonist will be. Having so many pre-existing “main” characters puts fighting games in a position to have much more diverse castings than other video games. It’s not just a diversity of character archetypes and special moves, but also character appearances, races, ethnicities, genders, and creeds. In fact, as a fan of the genre myself, I consider those differences (those shared with real people) to be just as important, if not more, to the character roster than the playstyle differences.
Start with street fighter
The first “real” fighting game by modern standards was that of Capcom Street Fighter II, a classic that introduced the basic formula of what fans expect from the genre. Not only did it offer innovative gameplay, Street Fighter II also featured one of the most diverse rosters of its time. Since the main premise of the game was based on bringing together the strongest fighters in the world to take part in a big tournament, the diversity made sense. It made for a unique game, with character designs, beliefs, and backgrounds that many players from all corners of the world could look at and relate to. For once, in the arcade era of the ’90s, children other than white men could see themselves reflected in the games they played, even if those reflections were problematic.
Street Fighter 2 Maybe introduced a great new concept and broadened our horizons a bit, but it also introduced a curse the fighting game genre would fight for years: the blatant racial stereotypes, homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny attached to it. to many of the characters on these giant lists.
The entire street fighter series in particular has been a serious offender with regard to these stereotypes. Almost every ethnic character in the series is portrayed by a stereotype. Balrog (M. Bison in the Japanese versions of street fighter), the super-aggressive dark-skinned African-American boxer inspired by Mike Tyson, is a significant example. The very polarizing Indian / South Asian Dhalsim, dressed in a collar of shrunken skull heads and labeled ‘yoga master’ who fights with outstretched arms and possibly curry-fueled flame breathing attacks, is one of them. other. These are both examples of Street Fighter II that always rub fans the wrong way. Even in recent iterations of street fighter, problematic representations of these characters appear. In 2008 Street Fighter IV, Balrog has two suits. One of them involves darkening his skin and throwing him in a stereotypical “black thug” outfit – a basketball jersey and a brimmed hat that Capcom called his “horror / Halloween costume.” These caricatured racist representations are present in the most recent entry, 2016 Street Fighter V, with Birdie, originally a non-playable enemy that you encountered in the very first street fighter game, the quintessential black caricature (even more than it was in Street Fighter Alpha) and Laura, a Brazilian fighter who first appears in Street Fighter V, an overexualized woman of color who is not too dark or not stereotypically attractive. These are a few examples of the minefield of discriminatory characters that plague fighting games, and these are just some of the street fighter.