Spiker, Christina M. “Fighting Stereotypes: Reimagining Gender and Race in Street Fighter II (1991) and Samurai Shodown (1993),” paper delivered at the SGMS/Mechademia Conference on Asian Popular Culture, Minneapolis College of Art and Design (September 23-25, 2016).
Street Fighter. Mortal Kombat. Tekken. Dead or Alive. These game titles conjure iconic images of international fighting tourneys where characters test their strength in hand- to-hand combat; an alternate world history where button combinations and joystick movements solve global crises between heroes and villains. This paper examines two 1990s examples of the fighting game genre–Street Fighter II and Samurai Shodown–in an exploration of the multiple ways that the visual storytelling of fighting games challenges, complicates and constructs a parallel understanding of domestic and international relations. In my unique focus on popular female characters such as Street Fighter‘s Chun-Li, an expert martial artist and Chinese Interpol officer, and Samurai Shodown’s Nakoruru, an indigenous Ainu priestess of Nature from the Japanese island of Hokkaido, I demonstrate how these games reimagine issues of ethnic diversity, gender equality, and Cold War politics in 1990s visual culture against the background of Japanese racism and indigenous activism.