In a Twitch steam last Thursday, game developer NetherRealms stated that their upcoming entry in the long-running Mortal Kombat franchise will feature “more realistically proportioned” female characters. A developer from the company said:
The mantra for this game has always been realism; heading towards a more realistic look. So the same thing applies to the proportions where we try to bring things back in per se to where they should be.
NetherRealms released a new image of one of the female characters to show what they’re talking about: more realistic proportions, in this case, means smaller breasts and a flatter ass.
This is a strange turn for the Mortal Kombat franchise, which has always been over-the-top in every way, from its brutal finishing moves to its absurd characters. Eight-armed monsters, girls who transform into face-eating hellbeasts, and skimpy, Conan-esque costumes have been a part of the series since its inception in the mid-90s. It’s possible, of course, that this is a design decision made totally independently of any outside influence, but it’s more likely that this is the latest example of an industry that is tending more and more towards prudery and puritanism.
Why a flatter butt and smaller bust are considered “more realistic” is, as usual, left to the reader’s imagination. It’s simply assumed that “more realistic” equals “less attractive”. In fact, over the past 20 years the average bust size in the US has gone from 32B to 34DD. And for better or for worse, the trend towards larger and rounder behinds over the past few years is unmistakable. So if real boobs and butts are getting bigger and bigger, why is Mortal Kombat going in the opposite direction?
Because it makes certain women uncomfortable.
There is a type of woman who’s self-esteem is so fragile, who’s so unhappy with their body, that they can’t stand the idea that someone, anyone, even a fictional character who only exists as ones and zeroes on a disc, is more attractive than they are. At the heart of decisions like this is a simple envy; the original Kitana is hot, and she is not. Instead of going to the gym, or buying better clothes, changing her makeup, or any of the other millions of things women can do to make themselves more attractive, she’ll just try to get rid of any girl who’s more beautiful than me.
That envy is the driving factor becomes obvious when you realize that none of the male characters will be losing their six-pack abs and tree trunk biceps. These don’t make that type of woman jealous. In fact, she enjoys looking at them. It’s only her (fictional) competition that needs to be made less attractive to the opposite sex.
The girls in Mortal Kombat still wear outfits best described as Arabian-style sex-slave bikinis, but this may simply be the camel’s nose under the tent. If they get away with this, look for the female costumes to become less revealing, and the characters themselves to become closer to the American average: 5’4” and 164 pounds. Here’s a picture of the average American girl by the way, courtesy of the fine folks at MyBodyGallery.
The fact that the developers are toning down the sexuality in Mortal Kombat is a disturbing sign of how far we’ve come from the days of the 90s. Anyone who was into gaming that time will remember that the MK series was a giant fuck-you to the establishment. Fighters were routined impaled on spikes, or chopped into pieces by sharp knives, and one character was famous for ripping out an opponent’s spine as their bloody corpse fell to the floor in a heap.
Parents everywhere hated the game. Congressional hearings were held and there were breathless news stories about how video games could be raising a generation of killers, but the developers stayed true to their vision, and made a lasting, successful franchise that’s still going strong twenty years later. Today’s developers, however, are terrified of a bad review at Polygon or a nasty Tumblr post, or even worse, are actually infiltrated by the sort of person that places their own ideology above all else.
In the 90s, devs laughed at threats from the United States government, an organization with the power to crush them outright. Now, they’re cowed into submission by the threat of a youtube video or an editorial accusing them of promoting a “negative body image”. A pussified Mortal Kombat is no Mortal Kombat at all. Leave this one on the store rack and buy a game that cares about its fans. You’ll be doing your part to make gaming a better place.