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Female Enemies in Beat 'em Up


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Poll: Female Enemies in Beat 'em Up (33 member(s) have cast votes)

Are female enemies or bosses in beat 'em ups offensive or sexist?

  1. Yes (3 votes [9.09%])

    Percentage of vote: 9.09%

  2. No (30 votes [90.91%])

    Percentage of vote: 90.91%

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#1 Rakukojin   Members   -  Reputation: 100

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Posted 12 September 2011 - 09:26 PM

My team and I are creating a beat 'em up title (like Streets of Rage, not a fighting game like Street Fighter), but right now I am having some creative differences with one of my developers. As the lead designer, I created a female boss that would play a pivotal role in the story. This character is a narcissistic, sadistic and megalomaniacal so I gave her a sexy appearance to match the personality. This personality fits in with the gameplay as the character is very powerful and almost invulnerable unless you find her weakness, after which her attack patterns change as she's freaking out.

However, one of my developer is worried that by adding a sexy character, we will be catering to the teenage male audience but alienating the female market. Also, having a female enemy getting beaten up by male characters (there are playable females as well) may be seen as offensive to some people. Since this game is aimed to be a commercial product, my developer is worried that alienating a small market may hurt potential sales. I know that Capcom was worried about this with their beat 'em up Final Fight, so they censored their character Poison by either replacing it with a male gang member or calling her a transvestite. However, Sega had female enemies in Streets of Rage and nobody seemed to care.

Do you think it is inappropriate to have a female enemy in a beat 'em up? Do you feel it's sexist to have a sexy female character even if it's meant to fit with a specific archetype? Even if it's offensive, will it really hurt sales?

Unfortunately I have no pictures at the moment since my artist has all our concept art.

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#2 Caldenfor   Members   -  Reputation: 323

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Posted 12 September 2011 - 09:48 PM

My team and I are creating a beat 'em up title (like Streets of Rage, not a fighting game like Street Fighter), but right now I am having some creative differences with one of my developers. As the lead designer, I created a female boss that would play a pivotal role in the story. This character is a narcissistic, sadistic and megalomaniacal so I gave her a sexy appearance to match the personality. This personality fits in with the gameplay as the character is very powerful and almost invulnerable unless you find her weakness, after which her attack patterns change as she's freaking out.

However, one of my developer is worried that by adding a sexy character, we will be catering to the teenage male audience but alienating the female market. Also, having a female enemy getting beaten up by male characters (there are playable females as well) may be seen as offensive to some people. Since this game is aimed to be a commercial product, my developer is worried that alienating a small market may hurt potential sales. I know that Capcom was worried about this with their beat 'em up Final Fight, so they censored their character Poison by either replacing it with a male gang member or calling her a transvestite. However, Sega had female enemies in Streets of Rage and nobody seemed to care.

Do you think it is inappropriate to have a female enemy in a beat 'em up? Do you feel it's sexist to have a sexy female character even if it's meant to fit with a specific archetype? Even if it's offensive, will it really hurt sales?

Unfortunately I have no pictures at the moment since my artist has all our concept art.


Chūn Lì say what?

Why can't it be done? The problem is this. Don't over do it! Some people are pervs and go too far. Make it decent.

#3 tariqwalji   Members   -  Reputation: 162

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Posted 12 September 2011 - 10:32 PM

If by sexy you mean Kill Bill style sexy, then sure! To me the great thing about Kill Bill was that at no point did I sink into the usual "ooh sexy" mindset, I respected the female characters and as a result I enjoyed the movie that much more. Even concepts such as honour and struggle were very well told through female characters. Probably most interesting to me though was the "eye patch" lady - a female character fitting into a very classic bad guy role!

#4 rip-off   Moderators   -  Reputation: 8223

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Posted 13 September 2011 - 03:41 AM

Female characters are not inherently offensive or sexist. It is all in how you portray them.

People who get offended by virtual men beating up virtual women - I cannot imagine them being happy no matter what you do. However, one option would be to give the player a choice between a male and female protagonist. This way it is the player's choice, not the designers. This doesn't always work for story heavy games though. A common complaint among female gamers is a lack of strong female protagonists, not just the portrayal of female characters.

Another option is to decide that if this matters enough, change the story. Emphasise a different aspect of her personality.

If you decide you must have a "sexy" female character, you'll need to tread carefully if you're trying to avoid causing offence or accusations of sexism. Some people are, unfortunately, very easy to offend. These are often the loudest people.

I think if she's wearing practically nothing, and is all boobs and no muscle, then you certainly have problems. I think define her as an athlete first - don't have her wearing something impractical like high heels. She can be stunningly attractive - this is generally not a problem.

Clothing is the fine line, I feel. You can retain a "sexy" look by exposing areas such as the abdomen and shoulders, without exposing her entirely. Tight clothing is another way of walking that line. You could always ask some women you know about what they would feel as reasonable. There are plenty of blogs, podcasts, etc sites dedicated to women in gaming - doing some research will show you what other developers are doing that is perceived badly, and what developers did that was received well.

As for your sales, that is another hard question. A semi-nude person on the screens/cover will attract eyes, which might gloss over your game otherwise. Controversy can fuel sales. For every person who would be turned away because of your portrayal of women, how many would just shake their fist at the status quo and buy it anway... You're going to need to do some market research.

#5 LorenzoGatti   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2705

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Posted 13 September 2011 - 03:48 AM

There can be different sexy female enemy roles. "Beat her up because she's a whore" is sexist; "beat her up because she is a sadistic megalomaniac, with some ambivalence because she is so cool that you find her sexy" is fine and quite traditional.

Are your sexy characters realistic people or caricatures? Slutty or elegant?
Produci, consuma, crepa

#6 Emergence   Members   -  Reputation: 121

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Posted 13 September 2011 - 01:25 PM

I only have one question for you...

"What is happening in recent movie releases, relative to female characters and combative storyline?"

No joke... what is socially acceptable in movies will most likely be socially acceptable in video games.

#7 microscope   Members   -  Reputation: 104

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Posted 13 September 2011 - 02:15 PM

Sexism would be NOT including them. If a feminist heard that a female was not being included because the male designers thought the little delicate flowers should be kept out of violent and dangerous situations, their heads would spin! :o

So no, I think they should be included, and I personally consider it the opposite of sexism if anything. Go for it. As for the character being sexy, that's a bit different but ultimately the same bottom line. And lastly, I think that it is a very small percentage of gamers who would even question this kind of thing. Good luck.

#8 JoeCooper   Members   -  Reputation: 338

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Posted 13 September 2011 - 04:06 PM

Whole bunch in this here 90s SNES Robocop game.

Here

Played it as kids, later played it with my young nephew, nobody blinked an eye at, not even some of the southern super-Christians in the family.

In general, try to be less timid than someone who made a franchise side-scroller in the early 90s. SO... I'd say the following.

1) It's rather easy to interpret your idea as sexist (I do, actually) but

2) it doesn't seem malicious, more like just a cliche you didn't think too hard about (or in the right terms)

3) and due to this, it will have no affect on sales because nobody will notice, except

4) people who do notice and don't like it will say "oh it's another one of those".

Back to point one for a second, I'll put it this way; it's a lone, token female and because she's female, it's about sex. Sex is prominent in her social \ power toolkit. Usually an associated idea is that this is connected with power in that sex or sexual attraction is a tool for power, which makes men out to be some kind of morons.

I assert that the idea does not make sense in and of itself. Further, the context of her being the only one means the work as a whole gives a "girls = sex things" message regardless of whether the character works or not in and of herself. I assert that nobody will likely really care anyway, and that it doesn't actually resonate with anyone except for writers hoping to "appeal" to someone. (I don't think it'll work.)

Chun Li was mentioned. Chun Li is actually a fine example of not using this trope in any way shape or form. She's reputed most for kicking very fast and generally being an effective person. She looks fine but is also relatively conservatively dressed and does not play on this trope.

I won't judge you if you don't you don't actually care that much. I strongly doubt anyone will notice or care with your plan. It's safe and reward-free. I would not be concerned with anyone being offended by your idea.

I only write this since you asked. If you're feeling spirited, I recommend the following:

Take "appeal to ..." and "avoid offending ..." and so on off your list of specs and focus on making characters (including this one) who are "awesome".

Awesome characters are effective in ways that command respect. Exactly what commands respect varies between cultures, but in mine, I'd point at Batman, Bruce Lee, Frederick Douglas, Steve Jobs, Benjamin Franklin, ... Effective people who take their effectiveness seriously. Fresh and bold. Sex is simply too cheap.

Gather all the intellectual & creative tools you have at your disposal and see if you can make characters that are awesome. Do this for everyone.

#9 Telgin   Members   -  Reputation: 200

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Posted 13 September 2011 - 04:25 PM

I agree with pretty much what the others above have said. Being female isn't enough to cause a problem (or shouldn't anyway). It sounds like whatever your story is, she deserves what she's getting, and that's just fine. In fact, I think it's a step in the right direction to represent both genders in these sorts of games.

If your game was some testosterone poisoned hulk running around beating up scantily clad and impractically endowed women for no or little apparent reason, I think you'd have a lot more to worry about.
Success requires no explanation. Failure allows none.

#10 Casey Hardman   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2208

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Posted 13 September 2011 - 10:59 PM

Why is it that people only worry about offending the females?

<rant> Probably because most of them are overly sensitive and offensive about their gender because they feel they are worse due to their own projections. </rant>

Anyway, as I was saying, if it never crossed your mind to ask yourself this question:

"If this main character is a handsome male that will ultimately get pommeled, would it make the males playing this game feel alienated?"

then why do you ask yourself this question:

"If this main character is a beautiful female that will ultimately get pommeled, would it make the females playing this game feel alienated?"

<rant> It seems like females want equal rights for the positive things it will apply to them, yet they neglect to realize that men are treated unequally in thousands of situations, too... </rant>

Seriously though, if no one would care about applying a man to this position, why would it be any different for a female?

#11 JoeCooper   Members   -  Reputation: 338

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 01:29 AM

"Why is it that people only worry about offending the females?

For what it's worth, in my post above I basically "yes it's sexist against men, but likely nobody will actually get offended anyway".

Anyway, does every thread on the topic have to get derailed like that? Go post on the lounge if you're uspet about feminists.

#12 Lauris Kaplinski   Members   -  Reputation: 841

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 04:28 AM

Answering directly to your question:

No, I do not think it is inappropriate.

No, I do not feel it is sexist.

Like it or not, scantily clad evil female bosses is a certain cliche in pop-culture. Be aware that by including them you are making all kinds of associations with existing cultural items. So it all comes down to your overall artistic concept and style whether it works or not. Think about the general design, references, artistic style etc. - and if you feel female bosses fit in, then keep them. You cannot please everyone - or even worse - the more people you try to please, the less interesting your product will be.
Lauris Kaplinski

First technology demo of my game Shinya is out: http://lauris.kaplinski.com/shinya
Khayyam 3D - a freeware poser and scene builder application: http://khayyam.kaplinski.com/

#13 Casey Hardman   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2208

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 01:58 PM

"Why is it that people only worry about offending the females?

For what it's worth, in my post above I basically "yes it's sexist against men, but likely nobody will actually get offended anyway".

Anyway, does every thread on the topic have to get derailed like that? Go post on the lounge if you're uspet about feminists.


I was just noting on a few things that no one else seems to be able to notice. It was an answer to the question presented. I wasn't trying to start an argument or derail the thread.
I don't know why people always try to shove words down my throat...

#14 JoeCooper   Members   -  Reputation: 338

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 02:03 PM

They're not things nobody else notices. They're talked about to death every single time the topic comes up. It's boring. I think the OP brings up an interesting topic if one has the energy to really get into it. You bring up a different topic. There's a button for that, and it's not "reply".

#15 Casey Hardman   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2208

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 04:46 PM

They're not things nobody else notices. They're talked about to death every single time the topic comes up. It's boring. I think the OP brings up an interesting topic if one has the energy to really get into it. You bring up a different topic. There's a button for that, and it's not "reply".


Sorry, I was just giving my opinion on the thread. I didn't know those belonged outside of replies. I guess I could make a blog for it, post it there, make a new thread called "My Opinion On "Female Enemies in Beat 'em Up"" and leave a link to my blog post there.

Seriously though, I didn't mean to offend you (or whatever reaction it provoked; I can't really put my finger on it...) I was just replying to the thread, even if you think I was trying to morph it into something else.


#16 JoeCooper   Members   -  Reputation: 338

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Posted 15 September 2011 - 12:40 AM

That's OK, I guess the thing is that it always tends to morph into something else and I'm grumpy about it. Sorry for replying sharply.

#17 Tachikoma   Members   -  Reputation: 552

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Posted 15 September 2011 - 03:10 AM

Do a survey. Ask girls or women about how they would like to see a female superhero portrayed as, ranging from personality as well as attire. You'll find that most of them will say that a female superhero would not run around with a sword (or gun), wearing nothing but a bikini.
Latest project: Sideways Racing on the iPad

#18 rip-off   Moderators   -  Reputation: 8223

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Posted 15 September 2011 - 04:00 AM

Do a survey. Ask girls or women about how they would like to see a female superhero portrayed as, ranging from personality as well as attire. You'll find that most of them will say that a female superhero would not run around with a sword (or gun), wearing nothing but a bikini.

Just remember the results in a survey won't correspond to what people actually do.

If you ask people what kind of coffee they like, they'll use words like rich, dark, natural and quality. But most people will happily buy and drink cheap, weak coffee. They actually prefer it this way. So I imagine if you ask women their opinion, you'll get results that are skewed in favour of what they feel they are "expected" to say. But that won't measure the true impact of the "bikini superhero" on sales.

Ultimately, the OP needs to define their actual goals. Is their goal only to maximise sales? In that case they are probably worrying too much. There is likely much lower hanging fruit which would yield much higher sales benefits. Is their goal to produce a game that actually respects women? Then they need to think more carefully about how you want to treat female characters in the game. Of course, they can do both.

There is an interesting heuristic that someone came up for gender bias in films. I believe is asks "does the film contain":
  • At least two female characters
  • Who converse
  • And at least one such conversation must not revolve around the male characters
It is very surprising to see the number of films that fail even this ridiculously easy test. Apparently even some "chick flicks" fail it, mainly on the last point.

#19 JoeCooper   Members   -  Reputation: 338

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Posted 15 September 2011 - 05:42 AM

Rip-off's post seems sharp - as in smart - to me and it reminds me of another dynamic where a lot of movie executives throw in an under-25-male character to "appeal to under 25 males" because data or business plan says they're the target audience. But then there's zounds of action movies and games like Meta Gear Solid feature older men and these have a lot of resonance with the audience in question. Far more people remember and know by name Solid Snake than the added-in young American dude in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Meanwhile I know a lot of women who, for whatever reason, are big fans of Severus Snape.

One can find reasons for those working, but they're not quite "add X to appeal to X" and I strongly douby you'd come up with Snake or Snape thanks to a survey, or at least not a naive interpretation of one.

That reminds me of another survey where they found that asking Americans and Canadians "Do you go to church on Sunday?" yields double the church-goers compared to "What do you do yesterday?" when asked on Monday.

I still recommend my "awesome approach" described earlier, but if you do surveys, you might need to be a bit sly.

#20 speciesUnknown   Members   -  Reputation: 527

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Posted 17 September 2011 - 09:25 AM

When it comes to controversy, you need to find a sweet spot, one where people who will never play your game get offended and cause a lot of commotion, and your actual target audience mock these people. When it comes to sexism, you cant win - if you have a male boss this is not sexist, if you have a female boss it is; somebody is always guaranteed to be offended whenever a piece of fiction portrays something they wouldn't want to see in real life.

I would recommend avoiding the usual stereotypes, and stupid skimpy clothing that we frequently see female characters wearing in fighting games. But you have to accept that, if the fiction of your game portrays a woman with undesireable character attributes, somebody somewhere will be offended.

Some feminists are just as brainwashed by thousands of years of male dominated fiction as anybody else; they want to treat women as a special case, and the result is more inequality, so I applaud any game which treats people as equals instead of pandering to the political correctness brigade.
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