Donny’s Deductions: Super Smash Bros. & The Gender Barrier

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The library has books and resources on video games, too! Read Donny’s essay on what he’s learned about gender in the gaming community, and check out our eBooks on related subjects.

In competitive video gaming, there tends to be a gap between male and female competitors. In any professional team, one rarely sees a woman playing on a team or making it to the top of tournaments. This is quite surprising because women are scientifically better at quick decision making and hand-eye coordination. They should be represented better; however, the putting down of female gamers has caused women to feel unwelcome in most gaming communities. Hopefully, this is changing.

Super Smash Brothers, a two decade long fighting gaming series that has come out with 4 distinct titles (and a 5th coming out December 7th, 2018) focuses on popular characters fighting each other and has amassed a considerable following in the competitive scene. Smash Bros. Melee, the second game in the series, has the most dedicated followers, but the most recent one has brought in the most new players. For years, the Smash Bros. community faced similar problems that other gaming communities faced: segregation among genders. Often times, women would be looked down upon at tournaments or even made fun of simply because of their gender. More often than not, this dissuaded female competitors to participate in tournaments; they felt uncomfortable and harassed. Thankfully, this has been noticed recently and is being worked on.

The leaders in the competitive scene of Smash Brothers have worked hard to make sure everyone feels welcome. Some tournament organizers helped form Smash Sisters, a side event at tournaments specifically for women. This isn’t ideal, as the best situation would be for female players to just compete in the same tournaments as the male ones, but it is a stepping stone to getting to the right place, and many female competitors have noted that this has helped them feel more involved and accepted. The trend to fight sexism has also popped up greatly online.

On websites like Reddit and SmashBoards (a forum website dedicated to the competitive Smash Bros scene), many have started real discussion about how there must be more equality. In the most recent iteration of the game, there are many female characters. When deciding which characters are the best in the game, there has been no gender stereotypes. Female characters are placed just as high (or low) as other characters. The only determinant on the best characters is through merit, and their gender is not a factor. When character specific discussions have popped up, female character’s appearance is talked about more than the male characters. Thankfully, this discussion is focused primarily on the characters, and the sexualization of the female cast has dropped significantly over the last few years. If anyone starts to comment on the body of a female character in forums, others are more quick to rebuke them. There is no support for hypersexual discussion. This online focus has translated well into the real world.

Female competitors still face sexism at tournaments, but it has gotten better in the last few years. If any competitor is seen getting harassed, or if they ever feel uncomfortable, the harassing party is kicked out and often banned from tournaments. There is no tolerance for bad behavior. Also, when female players ask questions about certain aspects of the game, there is almost no condescending behavior towards the competitor. Their question is simply answered just like they would answer any other player. The gender barrier in the competitive gaming community still exists, but it is getting less and less prevalent. Through hard work from everyone in the community, this gap will, and should, disappear.


To read more on this subject, check out this eBook (available from the library)!

Female Fighters: Perceptions of Femininity in the Super Smash Bros. Community