Sexualisation Isn’t Sexism, Or: Why the Dead or Alive Games Need More Dongs
Look, guys, nobody's saying you can't keep your tits and ass. But it's high time we got cock and balls, too.
The Dead or Alive series is famous, or rather infamous, for its amply proportioned and scantily clad starring ladies. The franchise's most recent entry, 2015's one-on-one fighter Dead or Alive 5: Last Round, is no exception. There are hundreds of downloadable costumes available for the game, and while some are fun, like Jann Lee's dragon outfit, the vast majority of them are incredibly skimpy bikinis for the game's female cast. Male characters only get a few paltry outfits thrown their way, none of which are likely to invoke a dreamy sigh or – shudder – cramped wrists. Female outfits dominate the DLC, despite the roster of fighters only being split 60/40 in favour of the girls.
But on Valentine's Day 2016, everyone in the game received some new, (some might say) sexy outfits. The ladies were provided with summer dresses all of, let's say, an inch longer than your average T-shirt; while the chaps could select from an array of tight-fitting shorts and swimming trunks. But before we all high-five each other and declare this a victory in the continuing battle against overt sexism in video games, take a closer look at the character Bayman in his newly acquired smalls. Look at his package. Go on, it won't hurt you.
Now, I'm no licensed doctor, but our friend Bayman here seems to have a severe case of what can only be called "micro penis" – and he's not alone. The entire male cast of Dead or Alive 5: Last Round all suffer from Ken Doll syndrome to varying degrees. The guys wearing shorts have a bit more of a pronounced bulge down there, but even they can't be happy with the gifts God gave them. While it's funny to point and laugh at the ridiculous proportions that the men have been given in Last Round, it's a sign of a rather endemic problem in the video games industry at large: the brazen sexualisation of women remains acceptable in some backwards quarters, not least at Dead or Alive studio Team Ninja, a subsidiary of Koei Tecmo, but the sexualisation of men is still taboo.
Dead or Alive has always been sold as a game where sex takes precedence over substance, which is a shame because its fighting titles are more than acceptable contenders in the genre, and very accessible to newcomers, too. But I'm not here to denounce Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo for their fixation on the female form. If you asked a hundred guys what their favourite things in the world were, boobies and video games would most likely take the top two spots on the Family Fortunes board, so you can understand why developers would want to push that angle. It doesn't make it right, but if they're servicing an audience's wants, so be it.
But what about the millions of women who play video games? You know, the other sex that makes up at least half of the gaming population, maybe even more according to some studies. What about gay men? If studios are happy to titillate, then why aren't they respecting the needs of everyone but heterosexual dudes? What if you really couldn't care less about boobs? Basically: where are all the dongs?
I can already hear the mashing of keyboards as people rattle off their prepared responses: girls don't play Dead or Alive, so the developers would be wasting their time. And sure, the audience for DoA games would likely swing massively in favour of straight men who want to see boobs jiggling about. But isn't that kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy? By making it so Dead or Alive only caters to one section of a much larger demographic, Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo are cutting themselves off from almost the entire female audience, along with any fellas who'd like to see a bit of dick in their games.
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Here comes practised retort number two: women don't want that kind of game, because they aren't as "perverted" as men. Fuck off they aren't. Check the box office numbers for Magic Mike, a film that grossed over $167,000,000 worldwide and whose audience was 73 percent female. And it didn't even have Channing Tatum getting his tackle out; all cinemagoers saw was his bare backside. Women want to see sex on screen just as much as men do, and it's time we dropped this out-dated idea of innocent little girls that simply can't handle seeing a cock, whether that be on TV, in films or in video games.
Team Ninja certainly aren't paying attention. The next game in its DoA beach volleyball spin-off series, Dead or Alive Xtreme 3, is coming out in Japan on March 24th, and features an entirely female cast of playable characters. Playable characters that look like this.
There's knowing sexualisation, and then there's outright shamelessness, and it's debatable where Xtreme 3 falls on that scale. Why are there no men playing alongside these busty avatars? Evidently the game's makers have never watched Top Gun, and assume guys absolutely hate beach volleyball and larking about by swimming pools.
Extra game options and features in Xtreme 3 include "Butt Battle" mode and wardrobe malfunctions for the PlayStation 4 version. It's fan service of the highest order, and I wouldn't be surprised if pre-orders came with a box of Kleenex – but I personally have no problem with any of this. My issue is that Koei could so easily have avoided accusations that their games are rampantly sexist by throwing a few of the DoA series' hunkier men into Xtreme 3. Let the dudes complete with their bulging packages on show; have them throw down in the Butt Battles. Instead, rather than understand the growing need for this sort of representative balance in the medium, Xtreme 3's makers are taking their ball and going home – they're not even officially releasing the game in the West, instead restricting it mostly to the Japanese market, where this kind of nonsense still gets a free pass. (Just look at Senran Kagura. Or, better, don't.)
Related, on Broadly: The Women Pushing Gender Out of Gaming
It's not like adding male characters would be a ton of extra work for the developers, either. Team Ninja can't shut up about their fantastic Soft Engine 2.0, which accurately replicates the squidgy areas of human anatomy – by which they of course mean boobs and bums. But there is absolutely no reason you couldn't apply the same technology to a big floppy cock stuffed inside some Budgy Smugglers. It's not like Zack or Leon are going to be stepping onto the sandy court with massive boners, so the Soft Engine should suffice. And if not, then who knows: maybe the powers that be can develop the Hard Engine, too?
It's too late for Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 to change now, but maybe there's hope for future series titles to offer a little equal-opportunity lechery. Join us in the 21st century, Koei Tecmo. We still have big bouncy boobies and skimpy lingerie, and nobody is going to take those away from you. But we also have swinging dicks and bouncing balls, and it's high time you stopped being so embarrassed about them.
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