Capcom

Last week, Japanese game review site Famitsu posted leaked images of one of the new fighters from the upcoming Street Fighter V. Laura, a Brazillian jiu-jitsu master with electricity-based superpowers, sparked a wave of different reactions from Street Fighter fans after screenshots of her choking Ryu began to pop up across the internet.

Capcom executive producer Yoshinori Ono expressed his dismay at the leak on Twitter, saying that he felt as if he'd been "stabbed from behind."

Still, many fans were delighted to see another woman added to the game's roster of fighters considering that only four of Street Fighter IV's playable characters were women.

Advertisement

Like most video games, Street Fighter has had a difficult time with female representation, and those few women characters, like Chun-Li and Cammy, who have become iconic parts of the series, tend to be overly sexualized in a way that can ruin a game.

Gratuitous cleavage? Gratuitous cleavage.

Gratuitous cleavage and minimal representation aside, some Street Fighter fans are taking issue with Laura for a reason that's not often discussed in the video game world: colorism.

Advertisement

The Street Fighter franchise has, historically, featured one of the most racially diverse casts in the fighting game genre, in stark contrast to video games as a whole which have a well-documented problem with women of color.

While Laura's inclusion is a step in the right direction for Street Fighter in terms of playable female characters, some fans of the game are bemoaning the fact that despite her Brazillian heritage, Laura's rendered with a relatively fair complexion.

Diverse a game as Street Fighter may be in theory, to look at this and previous games' rosters, you'd be hard pressed to visually identify characters that deviated all that far from your traditional, Anglo-Saxon features.

EHonda and Elena, two of 'Street Fighter IV's' more notable characters of color.

There is no definitive way a Brazillian character video game character "should" look considering that the population is made up a diverse mix of people from a vast array of ethnic backgrounds tracing back to Portugal, India, and various African countries. Laura's introduction into the game, however, comes just after Elena, Street Fighter's sole black female character, was seemingly removed.

Though Elena being replaced by Laura could have been purely coincidental, some claiming that the impact of the switch could have been lessened if Laura were given Afro-Brazillian ancestry common to many Brazilians.

"Our problem isn't that Laura is light skin, our problem is that dark skin representation for women of colour is non-existent," the staff of The Zone Gamer, a blog about representation in games, wrote in an open letter. "This was the perfect opportunity for Capcom to change that stigma with Laura, a Brazilian woman from a country with the second largest black population in the world."

A fan concept of what Laura might have looked like with darker skin.
The Zone Gamer

Earlier this year, Jef Rouner at the Houston Press calculated that in the entire history of gaming, there have only been 14 black women offered as playable, lead (meaning central to the game's plot) characters.

Advertisement

Even if Laura had been made brown, or if Elena was still a part of Street Fighter, neither of them could be considered central characters to the game. Even still, their presence, and further calls for black and brown women in games, are exactly what's necessary to make that kind of representation the rule as opposed to the exception.

UPDATE: Capcom has officially released the first gameplay footage of Laura in action: