When Lidia Sobieska was teased way back when there was an air of excitement, not only because a new character was joining the Tekken 7 roster but also because it seemed that there was something different about this new character. When she was finally introduced on the 23rd of March 2021, there was general happiness about the character and what she was bringing to the table. Of the new characters introduced to the Tekken-verse, Lidia does seem to be the most balanced at launch as she is not broken, neither is she super weak. Besides, her plot is another win for female characterization in fighting games.
Video games have been a notoriously male-dominated space for decades, and even the few female characters introduced into games were heavily sexualized. For instance, a 2010 study showed that of the 20 top-selling games of that year, only 14% of all the characters were female, and of those, 41% were hyper-sexualized. Furthermore, in another survey carried between 2015-2019, which analyzed the games showcased at E3, researchers found that only 9% of games had a central female character compared to 32% for male characters.
There have been a couple of iconic characters like Aloy from the award-winning Horizon Zero Dawn and, of course, Lara Croft of Tomb Raider fame, but they aren’t nearly enough. Fighting games didn’t fare much better. For instance, Street Fighter II, one of fighting game’s most celebrated titles, had only one female character— Chun Li. This was in a roster of 12 characters. Killer Instinct had only Orchid as a female character while Mortal Kombat had only Sonya Blade. As time went on, game developers added more female characters to fighting games, but they always felt like an afterthought or were made to wear pretty skimpy clothing and so on.
Who doesn’t remember Orchid from Killer Instinct’s iconic finishing move where she would pull her top apart and cause the opponent to literally die from viewing her naked body? Unfortunately, these stereotypes have continued well into our present reality, and it is clear that there is so much more work to be done.
One of the most impressive things about Tekken is its commitment to giving its female characters real stories, personalities, and powers that cause them to stand toe-to-toe with their male counterparts. However, there has been a constant criticism in that all of Tekken’s female roster are young, beautiful, and lithe. Therefore, there is barely a different sort of body type or age to these characters. This is especially noticeable when you realize that the male cast has been allowed to age with no interruptions. That said, the introduction of Lidia Sobieska is nothing short of good news for game lovers everywhere.
Yes, she’s young, beautiful, and lithe. But she is also powerful, fiercely independent, and patriotic. She is the Prime Minister of her nation (Poland), and her Karate style is nothing to joke with. On top of that, her story shows that the creators didn’t simply hand her role as prime minister. Born to a prominent political family in Poland, Lidia initially wanted to pursue karate. But her father’s murder changed her mind and steeled her resolve to become a powerful politician. She delved into politics from a young age at her school, and her skill as a politician was soon evident. Fast forward to the time of the Tekken 7 storyline, and Lidia, only 29, is now the leader of her homeland.
She shows great courage to stand up to Heihachi Mishima and is ready to enter into the King of Iron Fist tournament to liberate her country from the Tekken forces threatening her. All these aspects of Lidia make up a very intriguing character who was clearly well thought out.
While Lidia is the latest example of a female fighting game character done right, she is definitely not the only one. In recent times, we have seen more intriguing female characters in fighting games. For instance, Kronika is the first female antagonist of the Mortal Kombat series, and she does such a great job at it. Also, her daughter Cetrion is one of the most powerful characters in the game. The reboot of the Mortal Kombat series was a great idea as it recast the female character as more than mere bystanders and more involved in the storyline. In fact, a cursory look at some of the best female characters in Mortal Kombat has to offer will reveal a large amount of awesome queens who are well-written and fascinating to understand. There’s surely still a lot of work to be done. It would be nice if we had older women, unconventionally beautiful women, tall women, and so on in more fighting games. They will certainly add a lot of flavor to what is a pretty diverse cast so far.
Lidia Sobieska represents yet another step in the right direction, in my opinion. She isn’t only a well-constructed character, but her clothing is modest and serious, and you get the feeling she isn’t there to simply be some love interest for someone. That’s great, and it’ll be nice to see a lot more of this, and considering some of the new characters in games (Rose was recently released for Street Fighter V), then perhaps there is a lot more hope for the future of female characters in fighting games.