Thursday, April 28, 2022

Virtual Enfreakment

In "Contours of virtual enfreakment in fighting game characters," we analyze 64 characters who had ties to physical world nationalities and ethnicities from the popular fighting videogames Street Fighter V and Tekken 7.  

Through our analysis, we conclude that the distinct appearances, costumes, attitudes, and powers of these characters often result in a systematic process that we call virtual enfreakment -- the grotesque amplification of identity attributes based on cultural, ethnic, and gender prejudices, which objectifies and demeans some groups for the pleasure and consumption of others.  We propose that enfreakment not only affects the portrayals of underrepresented gender and ethnicities in a detrimental fashion but also that characters who stand in a power position within the hegemony of play (white, male, primarily Western, and secondarily Asian) can become exaggerated or stereotyped in their gender or ethnic identities.  We identify this as a future research direction.  Although our data contains only characters from Street Fighter V and Tekken 7, we argue that the phenomenon of enfreakment can be observed in other games and genres with crowded rosters of characters such as fighting games, looter shooters, multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBAs), and first-person shooter MOBAs.

-- Sercan Şengün, Research affiliate at MIT Center for Advanced Virtuality, Assistant Professor of Creative Technologies - Game Design at Illinois State University, and Visiting Assistant Professor of Game Design at Northeastern University, via Facebook, 27 April 2022

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