By Tubatic 5 Comments
Sexuality in games comes in all sorts of forms. Sometimes its rammed down your throat, pronouncing and presenting like its in heat. Huge breasts, revealing outfits, obvious allusions to domination and submission, like Ivy and Voldo in Soul Calibur. There's the more subtle sexy, like an Alyx Vance. There's honesty and sincerity, but at the same time, a gaping vulnerability that' maybe even a little creepy in that uncanny valley sort of way. There's even plain-faced cosmetic sexuality. Street corner whores and NPC hookers, allowing no ambiguity to their programmed purpose and offering no more or less than the basic perception of illicit sexual connection.
Sex has been covered several ways in games already and its easy not to expect much from the industry. Games about sex have skewed heavily toward primal/functional. While games that want to include sexuality fall hamfistedly into basic movie tropes and well trod gender assignments. Morrigan's the evil witch, Leiliana's the God-fearing sweetheart and Bayonetta's Hard-Sexy with a slice of "Oh yeah, I've also got some legitimate and separate backstory, should you want to argue your way around my bitchin' curves and into some serious conversation about my character. Silly boy."
But this is still basic surface sexuality. But in a medium that ends up retreading themes about repetition and interaction and even, violence, can't we do something a little more interesting? Until I met Zafina, I didn't think so.
Getting back to my 3D fighting roots, I'd picked up Tekken 6 from GameFly and started in on catching up with years of not paying attention to the series by running a few arcade matches. There's always been a healthy dose of sexy in Tekken. Military-sexy Nina, the generic- slutty Anna. A good smattering of Japan-model barely-legal sexy in Xiayou and the robotic Alisa. And of course, as with all modern fighters, there's the rote exotic sexy of Christie. Its become pretty textbook for a fighting game to throw in some sort of tanned and sexual fighter by the third installment or so. Elena, Christie, Juri, Tanya, Jade, La Mariposa and Vanessa Lewis say "Hi". So naturally, when Zafina appeared, I was immediately underwhelmed and a little dismissive. Not white, check. Showing plenty of skin, check. Dressed in some sort of "ethic" costume, mmhmm. At first sight, nothing new.
Then I watched her fight. I as I watched her move and emote, I was literally turned on and aroused in a way I hadn't been by a video game character since Chun Li, and even way back then, I had no idea what I actually got me hot under the collar. Now, a grown up adult person, with a wealth of sexual awareness and reference, I'm getting sprung by a mashup of polygons. What the heck was going on?
It wasn't just her body. To be honest, Zafina's frame isn't the exaggerated sexy that's supposed to do it for me. I'm a hip man, and Zafina doesn't fit the bill of super sexy dimensions. Bayonetta, by the numbers, fits right in there for me. I've seen the Cherokee D'ass and Darlene/Delanie's of the world (Adult film actresses kids: Do not Google!), with intense but real dimensions. I'm definitely into strong legs, and she's got them, for sure. But none of her outfits really accentuate them, save for her default highline gyspy skirt. But overall, she's not all that hyper-sexual. Why's she got me sprung like this?
I had to figure this one out, so Zafina quickly became my main this weekend. I got down to the business of figuring out how Zafina works. I started to study her moves list and began figuring out how to manage her stances. Her fighting style is very unique, very unconventional. To look at her approach, the direction of her attacks is rarely telegraphed in the lead up animation. She shifts position and stance erratically. A bit like Voldo, which conjurs a whole different type of sexy... that really doesn't do anything for me. I've made a female Voldo before in the Soul Calibur character create, and it just looked weird. Not at all hot.
As I kept at it though, I started to get it. I'm a hip man, and that's a big part of what was getting me. Nearly every Tekken character has kicks, but each one has a specific style. When Zafina kicks, there's a lot of hip movement. More than anyone else, there's a alot of power coming from her hips. Its not just that she's gyrating or showing of physics. The character is moving in a way that she dances and twists and bends. The fight is a dance and a full body extension. Her movements feel very strong if only for how open her moveset should be leaving her. Thankfully, she defends about as well as anyone else, but the fight style comes out as passionate.
It feels absurd to say a punch is more than a punch, but Zafina's style feels very sexual. Or at least, she expresses her sexuality in her fightstyle. This doesn't feel too off base, considering the rest of her characterization. The character whispers most of her lines. One of her victory sequences has her sitting next to her opponent, closely. Her posture implies a nurturing intent. What's really sexy is having a lover that would whisper to you afterwards, or one that I would, at least.
Its not any one thing that makes Zafina anymore sexy than countless other "sexy" female characters. To have screenshots of her alone is underwhelming, I think. And similarly, if all you had was the static character emotes without the fighting, she's easily dismissible as shallow game characterization. But in combination, Zafina becomes more than the sum of her attributes to be this wildly attractive virtual woman. In the act of appreciating her in this interactive space, I perceived a total package of a woman that, more than I realized, pushes all of my buttons correctly.
There's a great potential in this interactive medium, and we've only scratched the surface. If so much attention to character can produce a powerfully attractive character like Zafina, can't we realize this sort of sexy in other genre? Who's really sexy for you?