Feminism in Gaming: Skullgirls with Mod Knight!

Hey there everyone! Mod Knight here! Today I’m here to talk about Skullgirls. Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar, Skullgirls is an indie fighting game by Marvelous and Autumn Games. The story revolves around a mystical artifact (The Skull Heart) that has the power to grant a girl’s wishes, but in return, transforms her into a monster known as the “Skull Girl.” The story of Skullgirls is a surprisingly complicated one, centered around a conflict with multiple sides, such as the military, mafia, mad scientists, ancient monsters, the undead and even more! In feminist terms, I’d call this game…well, a bit of a mixed bag. While I have a lot of good things to say about gameplay, story, and presentation, my biggest concern with the game falls into character design.

Now don’t get me wrong! Every character in this game is incredibly well made; each one feels and looks unique (save for two who are actual copies of other characters in the roster). 

Not to mention that the game’s roster is 99% female, with only two male characters so far (and they’re both DLC characters, not core). 

Ultimately however, the problem comes down to the high sexualization of the female characters! Luckily, not every female character is highly sexed, as evidenced by characters such as Peacock and Squigly (shown Below). 

Peacock and Squigly

However, quite a large number of the female cast are quite sexualized in their designs, such as Valentine and Eliza.

Valentine&Eliza

Additionally, many of the game’s moves and cutscenes end up giving us lots of cleavage and panty shots throughout the game. Ultimately, my largest complaint is that these sexualized designs are exclusive to the female characters; despite there being two male characters and neither is showing any heavy fanservice.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, however, I’d like to talk about the good parts of this game. Because in my opinion, the good strongly outweighs the bad.

Yes, many of the female characters in this game are sexualized beyond belief. However, the characters are never treated badly by the story for the way they present themselves. Eliza and Valentine (the examples of the games oversexed designs that I brought up earlier) are not only sexual creatures, but masters of their sexuality. They are women who are always presented as being powerful and in control of any situation they step into. Valentine constantly plays a teasing role while she manipulates her enemies and allies alike, whereas Eliza’s the sheer brute force to take what she wants.

Not only that, but these girls are never portrayed as helpless. They are always shown to have the strength to deal with the problems they face; which, might I add, are quite varied! For instance, one of the first things that popped into mind when I decided to write this topic: in the opening cutscene of her story, Filia is attacked by a man who gropes her. What happens next? She curb-stomps him without even moving out of her seat. In another story, a character who has been subjected to horrific experimentation is able to break free of complete mental subjugation and lash out against her handlers, ultimately freeing herself.

Another good thing to mention: these characters are not just strong women, they are deep characters with interesting and varied stories. So often in fighting games we see female characters who are all just…homogeneous; they could easily be switched out and nobody would care. Not the case in Skullgirls! Each character has a strong motivation for seeking out The Skull Heart. Either for those they’ve lost, those they’re trying to protect, for their own gain, or because it’s their job; each character has a strong and well crafted story that really shows them for who they are.

Now, while I could continue on about this game for quite a bit, I think I’ve covered my main points! To sum it all up, Skullgirls is a game which on the surface might look a bit raunchy (with designs that might come off as offensive), however, underneath that is a game which is filled with strong, powerful, and complex women (and two doofy guys). Overall, I say the good outweighs the bad, and it seems that the devs have even decided to tone down the sexualization; a little while back they removed a few panty shots from the game. Maybe it isn’t much, but I personally appreciated that move on their behalf.


Thanks for reading and I hope that this gave you something to think about!

-Mod Knight

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