Critical Play – Play Like a Feminisit: Super Smash Bros

This week my critical play is on Super Mario Smash Bros, a fighting game developed by HAL Laboratories and beloved by many. The fighting premise of the game immediately reveals that the game caters to a masculine target audience, the first of several critiques that I will highlight. As the reading mentioned, it is fine for a fighting game such as Smash Bros, to exist. What bothers me, however, and what should be called into question, is the fact that this game is largely marketed towards boys which uses gender stereotypes to make assumptions about who would enjoy playing the game.

Another observation I made was the discrepancy between the number of female characters and the number of male characters; the sheer number of male characters greatly outnumbers the female characters. This again reveals that the game is catering to masculine players and does not sufficiently provide representation of female identifying persons.

It was also revealing to observe the clothing choices for the characters as well. All of the female characters were either in dresses or overly sexualized outfits. The latter is of course impractical for fighting; dresses aren’t worn during particularly strenuous activities. The former is problematic as it objectifies women and obviously seeks to provide enjoyment for the largely male target audience of the game. Women can of course wear what they like, but the super sexualized outfits in a largely male dominated game suggests that the motivation for the outfit choice stems from a desire to please the target users as opposed to being a message about female empowerment. Additionally, as the reading mentioned, the majority of the female characters (take Bayonetta as an example) normalize a certain body type that is stereotypically of “beautiful women” but that is non-inclusive and completely unrealistic. In this way, Super Smash Bros is furthering damaging stereotypes of females and expectations about their bodies.

Despite these critiques about a lack of inclusivity and drawing upon traditional stereotypes, the game is fun. There are problems in assuming that this game is best for boys, girls can enjoy it just as much! It is honestly cathartic to fight and smash; pent up feelings can be released in a fun, easy way. Part of the fun also lies in playing with friends and getting to banter while fighting; I appreciated the multiplayer functionality and the interaction that was facilitated via the game. Some of the banter bordered on aggressive, but I think that goes with the game and can be done tastefully when you know who you are playing with and how to cater to their needs in the comments made. Overall, the game itself was fun, despite some of the aforementioned problems, and I would definitely play again!

Discussion Question: How do video games impact the self-esteem and body image of female players, especially when it comes to unrealistic standards of beauty?

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