Chances are that if you have been following Street Fighter V news, you have heard that R. Mika’s butt slap animation has been censored (for more information in this, click here). Unlike last time, the event that reignited this debate was not something else that had been taken out, but rather something that was added: a costume for Laura Matsuda.
The Street Fighter V beta was updated a short while ago on PC, and with it came a veritable smorgasbord of content in its files. The most notable assets found in this datamine were skins/costumes for the majority of the game’s cast, with the most talked about being Laura’s “Bonita” outfit. As the above image shows, the Bonita alternate costume is rather revealing; bringing the age old debate, whether or not racy or provocative costumes should be in the game, back to the forefront.
Last time, when Mika was announced as well as when she was censored, there were two major camps: for and against. However, this time around there are three schools of thought.
Pro-Costume: This camp shares my belief that this costume is fine. They don’t have to like it, but they see nothing wrong with it being in the game.
Anti-Costume: The vocal members of this camp say that outfits like these have no place in the game, with some claiming them to be borderline pornographic.
Pro(?)-Mika: I’m not sure what this new faction is all about. Are they so upset over losing the slap that they’d rather see no more suggestive content at all? Or are they still fighting to undo the censor by pointing out that there’ll still be suggestive content in the game regardless? Either way, their battlecry is always some offshoot of “Why did Mika get censored only for Laura to show off her butt?”
Now, if you’d bear with me, every so often I play Ultra Street Fighter IV with a small group of friends. During our last session, two friends of mine, let’s call them Richard and Rudy, were voicing their distaste for the costume in question. Among the arguments, two common points came into the picture “If you want to see porn, you could just go on the internet” and “I have a daughter, and I don’t want her seeing this.” Being of the camp that believes the outfit is fine, I challenged their points.
The first argument, as far as I’m concerned, holds no water. I play and adore one of the most shameless series’ out there, Senran Kagura, which the publisher itself has proclaimed to be in the “Giant breasts hyper battle” genre. I do not play these games because I’m sexually repressed or desperately seeking out pornographic material; I play them because they actually have decent story, good characters, and great gameplay. After all of that, the game’s raunchy nature is really just gravy; the same basic principal applies here. Yes, there are some games that use extreme violence and/or sexuality to cover the fact that they’re otherwise poor games. From what we’ve seen however, that really doesn’t seem to be the case here. At the end of the day, is there anything inherently wrong with a little eye candy?
Looking past that, there was still the issue of Richard and his daughter. At first I was sympathetic to this issue, children can be really impressionable, and I can more than understand that he wouldn’t want his daughter to start wanting to go out in a barely existent crop top and hot pants. However, it’s not Capcom’s obligation to make a game suitable for all ages. If a parent does not want their child to be exposed to a certain piece of media, the responsibility falls on them to help ensure that the child is kept away from it. I didn’t want to say it then, but I had the overwhelming sense that Richard was saying this because he liked Street Fighter, and that he was really only complaining because he wanted to be able to play SFV out in the open and in front of his child as he does USF4 (a game with a playable scantily-clad, violent criminal transexual dominatrix who repeatedly spanks people with a riding crop as a super move. But I do digress).
He then went on to say “Stuff like this shouldn’t be in a T-rated game,” but is that really the case? PG-13 films allow “more than brief” nudity so long as it is not sexually oriented, and last I checked, there weren’t any sex acts within Street Fighter V. At first, I was at a loss as to how to approach this, but then it hit me: how many people really take the rating system seriously? I’m not talking about giving younger children M-rated games because they’ll be shooting aliens and not people; rather, this is about actually having T-rated games taken seriously. After all, there is no restriction in place for such games; cashiers are only instructed to ask for Identification if the customer is buying an M-rated game. By that same token, it feels like society has simply divided games into M-rated and not M-rated, without regard for whether T-rated games might actually be unsuitable for children under 13. With all of that said, is it really that bad to have a little underboob and sidecheek in a game that explicitly says it’s for teenagers and above?
Compared to my practical essay on why some are overreacting to the costume, my comments to the pro-Mika party are somewhat shorter, but I feel they need to be said. I really do think it was a shame that Mika was censored. As a game designer, I had a great respect for its presence in the game. This wasn’t because I specifically wanted such an animation in the game, but because I recognized that they decided to take what really proved to be a controversial route for the sake of making their character all they envisioned her to be. However, when all is said and done, it is not up to Richard, Rudy, or me to decide what is suitable for a T-rated game. That’s what the ESRB is for, and if we have gotten the whole truth from those involved with the game’s development, that’s exactly what they did (though it is currently unknown as to whether the edit was made preemptively or if it was a sacrifice the ESRB told them they had to make). And really, is this costume more provocative than Mika’s anyway? Sure, Mika’s singlet has slightly more overall coverage, but there is still a degree of exposed cleavage and a complete lack of coverage for her backside, whereas Laura’s Bonita outfit showcases less posterior (and cleavage at most angles) and lacks any provocative gestures such as a butt slap. The two simply aren’t equal.
When all is said and done, Street Fighter V is simply going to feature more fan service than we’re used to, within limits of course. Some may like it, and some may not, but Street Fighter has always been over the top, and that’s the way it’s going to stay. A little titillation doesn’t automatically turn this game into a shameless smut heap, or even Dead or Alive, it just serves as one of the many character traits of the girls that it’s present in.