Dead or Alive as a franchise has always been known for its fighter’s sexy designs. Especially when it comes to its female fighters and their buxom designs. So much so, that an entire spin-off series, Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball, has existed to emphasize this aspect of the franchise’s characters and play up their jiggly bits, putting them—nearly—on full display. For a while, this served as an effective method to set the fighter apart from others. All fighting games make sure that their characters have appealing designs, as it is a significant portion of the game, but the Dead or Alive series was and has been known as the one with the sexiest fighters (largely because it was the only one to promote them in such a fashion).
Now in 2018, fighting games have evolved to be a bit more revered in the gaming community. What was a genre that was largely focused around couch multiplayer and local tournaments have become elevated to a national and international stage depending on the game. More eyes are now looking on this genre than ever before, and because of that, there is a certain conformity that has evolved within that community that is required to be a game at that international stage. This conformity has been something, that in more recent years, the Dead or Alive franchise has lacked. With the advent of Dead or Alive 6, Koie Tecmo hopes to once again fall into the good graces of the competitive fighting community by removing one of the main elements that have kept it back, its sexuality. However, the way Koie Tecmo is doing it is trading one problem for another and is seeking to hide its sexuality problem by not focusing on its female fighters, but rather, focusing on its male fighters instead.
Take for example the announcement trailer above. In it, female fighters are featured for only 7 seconds, compared to male fighters who were featured throughout the rest of the video. Even during the first character announcements, the focus was still on male fighters throughout the entire video. Compare this to Dead or Alive 5’s announcement trailer:
And there is a distinctive amount of more screen time given to female fighters and even a nod to the problem that Dead or Alive 6 is hoping to fix.
On the surface, this doesn’t seem like much of a problem. Focusing on one character or another, but in the context or Dead or Alive, what would usually be seen as a decision of little consequence, takes on a new meaning. Dead or Alive throughout its franchise has always focused on its sexy fighters as a strength of the franchise (for better or worse), but now, that aspect is being put on the back burner. However, it’s not through means that would seek to rectify the problem in a positive way, instead, the goal has been to sweep the sexy female characters under the rug to focus on the male characters instead. This creates a nasty scenario that promotes an even more sexist situation than Dead or Alive may have had before with its female fighters.
Previously the games used to simply use its female characters’ designs and proportions as a selling point, but now, it’s simply kicking those characters when they are down and giving more time to the male character to achieve their goal of being taken seriously. First, we have the fact that in an effort to conform, rather than deal with the problem of the female characters being seen as too sexy (thanks to their generous display of jiggly bits), Dead or Alive doesn’t wish to redesign these characters. Instead, a half measure has been taken, by simply giving them new costumes to quickly cover up their features a little more than previously.
The second is instead of actually fixing the problem. The male characters have been given an unequal amount of screen time for the goal of being taken more seriously and are still being designed just as seductive as they were before. This results in the female characters being relegated to a lesser role because the goal of hiding the sexy female characters was in an effort to be taken more seriously. But, by being pushed into less notable roles and receive less screen time, it shows that in Koei Tecmo’s mind that these sexy female characters were seen as the problem, not just the characters in general, propagating the issue of the sexy characters to begin with. However, now it is just rubbing salt in the wound where these female characters are being pushed aside in favor of their male counterparts and are still being used as sex objects. Making what was once a mild issue at best, turn into a far more sexist issue than before and defeating the main selling point of the Dead or Alive franchise.
If Koei Techmo and Team NINJA hope to have the Dead or Alive series taken more seriously in the eSports, the goal should not just be to hide its female characters. In doing so, it’s creating a larger issue, especially in regards to sexism, than it ever needed to be. All that needed to be done to avoid this issue was a redesign of its characters; if you don’t want them to be as sexy and need to conform to the eSports scene, update the characters. But by hiding the problem and giving the sexy male characters more screen time, you are pushing their female characters when they are down and just adding more fuel to the flame without fixing the actual problem.