WWE2K16:SEXISM IN WRESTLING VIDEOGAMES by JESSE BUSH
Put your four fingers away.
On Friday, 2K Games swept the rug out from under the very consumers who've continuously thrown hard-earned cash at them over the years in an announcement regarding the state of female wrestlers in their upcoming WWE 2K16 title. In that statement it was confirmed in no uncertain terms that Charlotte, Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks and Bayley will absolutely not be included in the latest entry into the wrestling franchise.
The anticipation for the series-debuts of The Four Horsewomen (as they've come to be affectionately known by wrestling fans) has been undeniably hot over the last couple years. They have frequently been among the most requested group of roster additions in recent memory. The Horsewomen have been lighting NXT on fire for years now to the point where the brand is best known for its Women's Division. The NXT Women's Championship is often just referred to as the NXT Championship. A slip of the tongue, surely, but a slip that speaks volumes.
On at least three separate instances this year in various combinations and match types, they've stolen the show at NXT specials, including last month's TakeOver: Brooklyn where Sasha and Bayley painted a masterpiece destined to be recognized as the match of the year. The rematch will main event NXT's next WWE Network special event, TakeOver: Respect, and it will be the first ever women's Iron Man match.
The heights to which the NXT women have single-handedly elevated WWE's legitimacy is why players were utterly baffled when gaming website IGN released the final in a string of weekly roster reveals for the game and not a single one of these women was included. Instantly there was a small spark of outrage.
In distress, we all kicked up some dirt and started planning our boycotts. Still, there was a looming silver lining in knowing these women would be included in 2K16's downloadable content, and what a DLC pack that would be!
It would all be okay. Expectations would simply need to be adjusted and we'd have to wait to create a Boss-style NXT rule of pixellated supremacy.
Then the aforementioned news came down and we were told that we would not be getting the Four Horsewomen. Any of them. Not the Boss. Not the genetically superior Queen. Not the fiery steampunk goddess. Not the lovable headband-wearing hug machine.
Not even as DLC.
A sizable subset of the WWE gaming community, myself included, feels immensely offended by this questionable decision, and it's a hurt made worse by 2K Games' half-hearted defense.
"With our final roster reveal this past Monday, it was awesome seeing the excitement for The New Day, Enzo and Cass, Mikey Whipwreck, and more. But it was clear that some in the community are frustrated by the lack of the newer Divas added to the main WWE roster recently. We pushed as hard as we could to include Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and Bayley in WWE 2k16, but it simply did not work out for various reasons. While we are not divulging full details on WWE 2K16's post-launch plans just yet, we can confirm that the Four Horsewomen will not be available as DLC."
"Pushed as hard as we could?" "Simply did not work out?" There is nothing concrete here. It feels like 2K is shifting blame without naming names.
"We are proud to have and built the largest WWE roster to date featuring the most Divas ever. The WWE 2K16 disc includes all of the Divas on the main roster at the time we locked it in (13 playable in total)."
This is eerily similar to the lip service players got years ago when only ten playable Divas made the cut for WWE 2K14, even though 2K touted the ability to have an all-Divas show in Universe Mode. What could we do with a roster of ten women and a minimum five matches per show? 2K assured us that, despite the small number of women included, they were all amazing. As it turned out, at least five of them almost looked to be cut-and-paste models from the previous year's game.
"We all agree the Divas Revolution is great for business and look forward to celebrating the Divas even more in future WWE 2K titles."
Players are told something along these lines every year and it never gets better.
Is it a case of art imitating life?
WWE itself often assures us the Divas are on track for a revitalization, but the girls are always the first to get tossed under the bus when time needs to be made and resources need to be freed.
I've purchased every game in this series and as a result I’ve had to swallow a lot of excuses when it comes to the presence of women on the roster, or lack thereof. This business about how WWE 2K16 includes every active Diva at the time of roster finalization feels like sexism hiding behind the guise of growth.
Create-a-Diva was removed from last year's game and we were told it was due to time constraints. 2K Games is bringing back the mode this year and has added three more Divas, bringing the total to 13. This is being presented as progress and handed to us like an olive branch in response to the outpouring of concern over The Four Horsewomen.
In Friday's announcement, 2K stated that this is the most amount of Divas ever in the series, but that's not exactly true. Including all DLC, WWE '12 featured exactly 13 Divas, and that number went downhill in subsequent games. Isn't that like a retail chain hiking prices right before a sale? How is coming back to where we were four years ago at all considered progress?
Players are particularly enraged this year, not just because they aren't included, but because of who is included.
Who is that? A whole slew of filler male Superstars that almost no one asked to have in the game, like Heath Slater, Santino Marella, Colonel Mustafa, General Adnan, Haku and Mikey Whipwreck.
A real head-scratcher is the fact that so many male NXT Superstars made the cut, many of whom have been around a fraction of the time of The Four Horsewomen. These include wrestlers we're actually all really excited for such as Finn Balor, Hideo Itami and Kevin Owens.
Not to mention all the alternate Superstar attires that seem to be taking up character slots after 2K promised us those days were behind us? If so, the problem seems even more out of hand than before. There are multiple copies of the Undertaker, Steve Austin, Sting, Mick Foley, Big Show, and even Stephanie McMahon, just to name a few. But even if these alternate attires aren't taking up extra space, was the time taken to design them all worth giving up four unique additional characters that so many in the community were begging for?
Some defending 2K's decision claim that these male NXT wrestlers probably made the game because of MyCareer mode. The argument is that since there isn't a MyCareer mode for Divas, the women took a back seat in production. It borders on sexism for there to not be a Divas MyCareer mode in the first place. WWE games have a long, long history of making female fans - and those who prefer women's wrestling over men's - feel left out in the cold.
I implore 2K Games to finally take note of what players are asking for. It was respectable of them to tell us before the game's release that we needn't be expecting Sasha, Charlotte, Bayley and Becky, but that doesn't fix the larger problem.
The Four Horsewomen were the selling point for me this year. I waited an entire year, giddy as a child, plotting out where I wanted to take four of my new favorite wrestlers in my virtual WWE Universe. But I feel now that I am an undervalued member of the community - a community of people who love a game made by developers who don't seem to listen like I once thought they did.
There are plenty of things to be excited about in WWE 2K16, but none of that matters for me anymore.
I've gone back and forth on whether or not I plan to purchase WWE 2K16, but if I do decide to purchase the game, my conscience will take another beating and that is a shame.
I suggest we use our voices so that this doesn't happen again.
Let 2K Games hear you.
Start a revolution for #WomensWrestling.