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Skullgirls artist responds to sexism controversy

Explains difference between "something being sexy and being sexist".

Skullgirls artist Alex Ahad has responded to the controversy surrounding his art style - and distanced himself and the development team from comments made to Eurogamer on the subject by designer and community manager at Reverge Peter Bartholow.

Bartholow said those who accused all-girl fighting game Skullgirls of being sexist displayed "misplaced and shallow chivalry".

Some critics have labelled Skullgirls' art style gimmicky and dismissed it as anime fan service because of the inclusion of "panty flashes" and huge breasts.

"Our lead animator is a woman," Bartholow told Eurogamer. "She intentionally lavishes attention on the breasts herself because she thinks it's cool. All the people who seem bothered by it are guys. It's a weird chivalry intent thing that's sort of misplaced and maybe shallow, even, because they see breasts and panty flashes and they go, that's sexist, but I've yet to meet a woman who has complained about it. They're over-thinking it.

"Our characters are strong, powerful women who happen to be attractive. We don't have anyone like Cammy [from Street Fighter], who wraps her legs around your head and then beats you senseless with her Kegel muscles - or whatever is going on in that Cammy Super. There was a very conscious decision not to do things like that. None of the characters use their sexuality in any aggressive way. It's just a thing they happen to be."

Bartholow said a gamer approached him at game show Gamescom earlier this year just to tell him Skullgirls was sexist.

"I'm like, did you know our lead animator is a woman? Then he's like, that's amazing. It's like I gave him the excuse to think it was okay all of a sudden, or to admit he liked it, which really amused me and seemed emblematic of the entire situation around that."

Now Ahad has had his say - reacting to the controversy sparked by Bartholow's comments.

"Our quote was taken out of context and shouldn't have been taken as an actual, serious argument against sexism," he wrote on his DeviantArt page.

"It's rather disrespectful to both Kinuko and her work, as well as the company as a whole. If you read the whole article, you will see that there is an anecdote that demonstrates the absurdity of this female-animator argument.

"I wish it was made more clear that we don't support the female-animator argument as a valid point against sexism at all. It has an incredibly misleading tone since the very first quote is 'our lead animator is a woman.' It's also in poor taste to call out another game/character by name as an example... I feel like these quotes all came from a conversation, rather than an actual interview."

For the record, Bartholow's quotes came from an "actual interview" as opposed to "a conversation", as Ahad puts it.

Ahad goes on to defend his art style.

"Ultimately, the things you see in Skullgirls are there because it just happens to be stuff that I wanted to do," he said. "There are elements in the world that are just here because it's cool and was fun to make. I enjoy drawing girls and monsters. I particularly enjoy drawing monster-girls. There is something more exciting about a design that is both twisted and cute at the same time. It's more interesting than just an overly aggressive monster, or something totally saccharine.

"I also must admit that I have a preference to play female protagonists in a game. Whether the character is sexy or not, I think there is just something more fun and intriguing about a competent female lead character."

Still, Ahad said he understands his style "is not for everyone". "The art style is more of a cartoon exaggeration, both in proportions and poses, with several inspirations mixed in. I would be pretty content if Skullgirls was a small project and had a niche following. If you enjoy the style of this game, I can never thank you enough for your support and welcome you to our world with open arms. If you have too much of a problem with Skullgirls, then this game isn't for you. To each their own. I'm ok with that notion, and would generally prefer to stay out of public discussions."

Skullgirls is created by veteran tournament player Mike "Mike Z" Zaimont and Ahad - a Scott Pilgrim contributing artist. The latter is responsible for the game's anime look - and the design of each of the eight characters that will be ready for the early 2012 launch window.

Concluding his post, Ahad explains the difference between "something being sexy and being sexist".

"I think the role of a character plays more of a defining element than what they look like. People complain about hour-glass figured female characters, but rarely do they complain about muscular/perfectly fit male characters. Both of these are completely fine and acceptable in my opinion.

"The real issue comes from what their role and actions are. If a character is a side-line character and their sole purpose is to be a sex object, then it is sexist. If the character is a competent contributor to the story, then it is not sexist, even if they look sexy. Looking at a screenshot by itself, or judging by the artwork alone is extremely short-sighted. People who make knee-jerk reactionary judgements should have never been acknowledged."

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