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HD video essay with audio, 2019

“PAY2PLAY” uses sprites and graphics ripped from vintage gaming consoles to further examine the roles, depictions and representations of a variety of women characters in the classic arcade fighting games of the 80s & 90s - critiquing the use of women as rewards and the hypersexualization of their death/KO'ed (Knocked Out) animations.

Audio from vintage video games.

Commissioned by Daata Editions as video editions of 8.

Full Length: 13m 40s.
More words about death/KO'ed animations from my interview with Milan Machinima Festival:

"One of the most consistent and violent tropes I encounter in my work, I think, especially when I was working with vintage sprites in Black Room, is the female character’s dying or KO (Knockout) poses. When knocked out, women characters often collapse with legs spread open, backs arched, arms raised above their heads, and, especially in fighting games from the 1990s, their undergarments exposed. These poses, while the women characters are in an unconscious state, are sexulaized to a degree I still find startling, even after having seen hundreds of them.

There’s a character who I think illustrates a lot of these tropes succinctly: Yuri Sakazaki, from the Art of Fighting/King of Fighters series. She starts off as a damsel in distress in the first game of the series, and eventually becomes a fully playable character in the following games. She has a wide variety of sexist dying/KO poses, as expected — when she’s knocked out with a special move, her top is often torn off, exposing her bra. But what’s particularly tragic, to me, is that her winning poses use this effect too. In Capcom vs SNK 2, to quote from the SNK wiki: '...when Yuri finishes a fight with a “Finest KO” (finish with a super move as a counter to an opponent’s special or super move), she will attempt to tie her gi tighter. However, the belt becomes completely undone and her top opens, revealing a semi sheer undershirt. Yuri will then blush in total embarrassment and immediately cover herself.'

Even when she wins, she loses."

↓ Below ↓ Stills from PAY2PLAY.

Notes & References:

"A Game Is Being Beaten," Leigh Alexander, The New Inquiry, 2014.