This is Not a Joke: Dead or Alive Community Bans Skimpy Costumes

Few video games are more upfront about having the hypersexualization of women as a main selling point than the Dead or Alive franchise. Dead or Alive is a 3D Japanese fighting game with a sizeable presence within professional gaming here in the United States. Although the game has solid fighting mechanics, the series is best known for its scantily-clad female fighters and the amazing level of attention paid to animating such character’s breasts. This feature was so loved by the game’s fanbase that Tecmo, the production company, has created a spin-off series called Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball that is entirely focused on showcasing the female characters in bikinis.

Given this background, when I first read that the professional DoA community decided to ban over 120 of the skimpy, nonsensical costumes, I thought I had found a video games version of The Onion news. Alas, I was mistaken. The ban was announced on FreeStepDodge, the main online forum for DoA. Maybe most surprising of all, it came from the people who actually attend tournaments and dedicate hours upon hours of their day-to-day lives to becoming better players, not some outside force trying to make DoA more “politically correct”. Of course, the costume bans only apply to tournaments . In the privacy of your own home, you can still fight while wearing nothing but a towel if that floats your boat. Also, this is only a “soft” ban, as in players are strongly encouraged to choose different costumes, but will technically be allowed to compete in the tournament with whatever costumes they want.

Some people seem to think that the ninja costumes were banned. They were not. There is an imgur list going around the internet that mismatched the costumes to the ones on the banned list because of numbering differences among platforms.

The ban came following the release of Dead or Alive 5 Last Round last month. The release of any new game brings attention to a franchise, and the professional DoA community decided that it wants tournaments to appear more professional and focus on the gameplay. The community also hopes that shifting the focus away from the female character’s figures will make the game more palatable to a wider audience and potentially attract more players.

I think it’s fantastic that some corners of the e-sports world are developing self-awareness. I also find it fascinating that this was an entirely self-motivated move. Of course, it has sparked plenty of controversy and useless debate. However, the general feeling I get from reading FreeStepDodge is that most of the professional (super emphasis on ‘professional’) players:

  • indeed find the revealing costumes distracting
  • desperately want new players to join the professional scene
  • are fine giving up some of the sexual appeal in the name of attracting potential new players
  • don’t care either way, they just want to play

I think this hints to the growing disconnect between what game creators think their players want, and what the players actually want. Game production companies have long relied on sex appeal to sell their games to young male gamers, but some of those gamers are starting to (rightly so) take offense at this notion that all they care about is sex. As far as DoA is concerned, I’m certain that sex appeal will always be a part of their games, but I hope that other production and development companies, especially in America, take note of this and begin listening more closely to their consumer base.

0 thoughts on “This is Not a Joke: Dead or Alive Community Bans Skimpy Costumes

  1. I’m interested in what kind of controversy this move sparked, and where it came from. Did any of it have valid points, or seem warranted? (Not to seem like I don’t think this is a good move, but maybe some people expressed concern that a soft ban wouldn’t do enough, or their sudden self-awareness would only be validated if DoA developers continued in this trend.) How people publicly respond to an action colors its effects.

    1. The most common complaint I saw was that this was infringing on players freedom to play whatever/however they want, which honestly, I think is a weak argument. Some players said they would stop attending tournaments altogether because they were so appalled by the ban. One argument that I thought was actually valid was that just banning costumes from tournaments won’t make players who avoid over-sexualized games suddenly want to play DoA. I think this is true, but I also belive that the true aim of the soft ban is to improve DoA’s image among the professional fighting game community itself, rather than all video game players.

      Team Ninja (the developers) have actually been very firm in saying that DoA will always be about large-breasted women fighting. They reduced the breast size and released tamer costumes in the latest release. but almost immediately released DLCs to fix that after the negative backlash from fans. At this point, DoA has built a niche for themselves. They practically invented the physics engine for animating breasts. I don’t think they want to move away from that.

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