In Praise of Makoto

I love fighting games. I love Soul Calibur, Super Smash Brothers, Mortal Kombat, and Guilty Gear. I even kind of tolerate Tekken, if there’s nothing else available.

For and away the best by far, though, are the Capcom fighting games. Capcom has been making pretty much the same game again and again since Street Fighter II over two decades ago, but it’s a successful format which has successfully consumed a good portion of my fan energy, despite (or maybe because of) its sameness/consistency.

I will admit to being a fairly boring Street Fighter player, in that I usually choose Ryu or Ken, easy-to-use characters who spew fireballs. However, due to zoning out after work and playing way too much Street Fighter III at Ground Kontrol, I think I have a new favorite Street Fighter character: Makoto. We need more Makotos in video games. Badly.

We need more female characters in games.

This is kind of a “duh” point, but it’s important. We actually need more female characters in all media. A frightening amount of movies and TV continue to fail the Bechdel test, prove the Smurfette principle, and otherwise fail at portraying half the species in any meaningful way. So, there’s that. But…

We need more female characters whose gender is not the defining characteristic of their being.

I love Chun-Li as much as any fighting game nerd- she’s fast, she’s dodgy, and if you know how to play her she can be really, really cheap. However, Chun-Li is very much Street Fighter‘s Smurfette- the defining bit of her character (at least initially) was that she was the one lady amid a series of dudes. Her little bit of victory banter wasn’t anything about her fighting style or any kind of trash talk. She said to her vanquished opponents “I am the strongest woman in the world.” It was all about her XX chromosomes. Later additions like Cammy and Sakura hit the same note- their gender was pushed front-and-center, and their identities as martial artists were secondary.

Makoto’s different. She’s a fighter first. Wearing a gi, she’s doesn’t have any kind of costume that shows off her tits or ass, and there’s no obnoxious schoolgirl posturing or spurned-lover weirdness like there is with Sakura and Cammy, respectively. Makoto looks and acts like a martial artist, and in Street Fighter III it’s her martial arts skills and her fighting style that define her, rather than a costume that barely covers her butt. She is a martial artist who is female, rather than a female martial artist. We need more of that. Which brings me to my last point…

We need more female characters whose play style transcends their gender.

Let’s go back to Chun-Li again (and I want to emphasize that I like Chun-Li, I’m not trying to rail against her or anything- I just want a broader pallete here). Chun-Li is lighter, faster, and dance-ier than the other Street Fighter characters. Her play style, broadly speaking, is strongly influenced by the fact that she’s female. This is true in lots of games. The female characters are the quick, light ones speedy-dodgy ones.

Makoto, on the other hand, hits hard. Makoto is all about hard punches and high, close-range damage. She is not a character who flits about elegantly or whose movement or play style is at all feminized. One of her moves is a choke, and one of her super techniques involves her turning red, hulking out, and turning into a relentless damage juggernaut. The Street Fighter character whom she resembles more than anything else is Zangief, the immense Russian bear wrestler.

When Capcom designed Makoto they did something right. They’ve put out a lot of nonsense like Crimson Viper, but with Makoto they got something right. I’ll take Makoto over the Laura Crofts or Bayonettas of the world any day- more than anything else she’s a punching, choking, utterly punishing martial-arts damage machine. She just happens to be a woman. We need more ladies like her.

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