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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.


  1. Camestros Felapton
    November 9, 2015 @ 5:24 am

    //More than any major video game before it, Mortal Kombat was about declaring video games to be the province of a very particular view of masculinity.//

    In which case I’m glad that I usually played as Sonya Blade…


    • maruhkati
      November 10, 2015 @ 12:42 pm

      Wasn’t Sonya actually brokenly powerful in the first MK? Kind of a fun little accident – all these hypermasculine embodiments of extreme 90s extremeness getting bodied by one woman in workout pants.


      • Dadalama
        November 10, 2015 @ 11:45 pm

        I actually remember sub zero being the broken one in the first MK


        • maruhkati
          November 11, 2015 @ 1:15 am

          Never played MK1, so I looked it up. According to the page I’m looking at, her leg toss move in MK1 was basically a “win the round” button if you timed it right – it could lead to a true infinite. She could also make herself extremely difficult to hit up close just by ducking.

          I’m not sure which version this is for, though – it may have been different for the console version.


  2. Frezno
    November 9, 2015 @ 6:53 am

    It’s telling that, for most of my childhood, circumstance caused me to avoid Mortal Kombat. I didn’t have a SNES until 1995. Once I could have played it while visiting a cousin, but he had lent his Genesis out. I remember seeing the cart, and wondering what in the world it could be. On another family trip to Nova Scotia, a year later, I got Mortal Kombat 2. For the Game Boy. And I liked it.

    I did eventually rent Mortal Kombat, the original, from our local rental place once I got our SNES. It was okay, but they also had Super Street Fighter 2 and I much preferred to rent that. I would later buy that copy of SSF2, whereas Mortal Kombat faded away into the mists of time. I think I sold my Game Boy Mortal Kombat 2 at some point, but I cannot even remember when.

    Looking forward to the next little bit of the SNES Project, now that your own Dread Beast has been revealed.


    • plutoniumboss
      November 9, 2015 @ 4:33 pm

      Frezo? Hey, I remember you from SMPS.


  3. AndyRobot
    November 9, 2015 @ 8:01 am

    ‘”This sense of “cool” is exactly what Mortal Kombat demands of its players. It’s the grounds on which its deliberate provocation seeks to divide its tribe from the others. “Are you cool enough to revel in decapitation, or are you one of those overly emotional people who cares about feelings?”’

    Nailed it, utterly and completely. And I’ll go you one further.

    The Street Fighter series is about a tournament – learn, adapt, practice, grow, and – as a result – win. There are winners and losers, and someone’s going to go home broken and bleeding, but at least they get to go home.

    Games like Doom, Quake, Wolfenstein, and so on – which also attracted Lieberman’s ire – are violent, bloodsoaked, and full of cruelty, but the point of those games is the same: escape. You’re stuck in a bad place and you have to do bad things to get out, and it might even be fun, but the point of the game is to escape.

    Mortal Kombat is about cool, detached characters fighting to the death while hordes of evil creatures cheer them on. There’s some token plot about Elder Gods and entering forgotten realms and whatever, but the tournament is clearly being staged for the enjoyment of those in power.

    In other words, MK turns its characters – and by proxy, its players – into willing little slaves who revel in cruelty in a pointless quest for power. The whole time, they think they’re the cool individualist rebels bucking authority. In reality, however, they’re willing stooges, perpetuating their own series of oppression.

    In other words, your Nemesis is the junior Tea Party.


  4. Jane Campbell
    November 9, 2015 @ 8:54 am

    The “Project Wonderful” ad I’m seeing here is rather ironic. And older, overweight man, naked, a bit hirsuit, shown from the waist up, but cropped just above the mouth, giving him no identity. He holds a placard in front of his chest. It reads, “Got Moobs? Lose them without sprays, supplements, or surgery.” Not the sort of ad I’d expect to find at Eruditorum Press.

    The ad goes to a link that makes it baldly clear that such a physique needs to be replaced by hard-cut muscles. As I said… ironic.


  5. Lambda
    November 9, 2015 @ 9:18 am

    There’s a point to be made about conformity too, I think. One of the good things about Street Fighter 2 is the huge variety of characters it has, the only thing they have in common is that they all want to win fights, which is kind of inevitable for a fighting game. Beyond that, they have all sorts of different motivations and personalities. But the inevitable consequence of Mortal Kombat’s schtick is that it creates a world full of people who don’t just want to win fights, but also want to kill their helpless defeated. (Erm, I presume, my sole experience with the franchise was a single playable demo a long time ago, so I’m dangerously close to criticising things I don’t have experience of here.)

    Thinking more generally about games in which you play an unambiguous bad guy, which I certainly hope is OK since I’ve enjoyed it a few times, I think it’s interesting that I don’t want to do this for Street Fighter 2(+), I want to play a character who after winning, will go “that was a good fight” or spout some martial arts philosophy or something, rather than an Akuma or the like, but I still liked playing evil in Dungeon Keeper or TIE Fighter or even controlling a dalek.

    I think it might be in reaction to flaws in narratives, or the typical narratives found in genres. When the Rebels monopolise all the good traits through pure authorial fiat, rather than because they represent the kind of thinking which leads to good in the real world, and they win mostly through the ability of the protagonists to instantly render any stormtroopers shooting at them incompetent, they represent a false hope which deserves to be shot down. But I’ve only started thinking about this an hour ago, so I’m likely to be wrong.


    • Aylwin
      November 9, 2015 @ 10:26 am

      Also the Empire totally has the best tune.


  6. Dadalama
    November 9, 2015 @ 10:49 am

    Growing up this game was more of a checklist that I abandoned. I actually kind of preferred to try all the fighters I could. I actually really liked World Heroes 2 most out of all the fighters to be honest. I dunno what that says about me.

    My favorite SNES game was Earthbound though.


  7. plutoniumboss
    November 9, 2015 @ 4:44 pm

    Games are always striving to be more realistic. Always to their own detriment. Digitized sprites should have died with Pit Fighter, and yet here we are: we’d have to endure Batman Forever, Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game, and a handful of other clunky fighters with over-sized and under-animated actors shadow boxing at each other.

    Now, that’s not to say MK didn’t bring new things to the table. The build-up to fighter Goro (not so much Shang Tsung…) is dramatic and well earned. But the inherent flaw of MK is that no one ever stays dead. The fatalities the scenery kills in MK1 had weight. Every playthrough was different, and some challengers would literally not survive the tournament. It was just senseless violence, it had a point.

    By MK3 it had become a joke. The fatalities were just as goofy (if not moreso) as the Babality or Friendship finishers. Cyrax literally blows up the entire planet.

    The disconnect is even larger in MK9, an otherwise-good game in which ordinary combos can shatter your opponent’s spine or jaw (thanks to intrusive X-ray cutscenes). The violence is senseless and worse, arbitrary.


  8. Shannon
    November 9, 2015 @ 9:10 pm

    In discussing this entry, my husband brought up an excellent point that further reinforces this narrative. He recalls there being a rumor when the later games came out (most prominently with Mortal Kombat II) that there were “sexual fatalities” where the player would be able to commit sexual violence on the other character. In some versions of the rumor they were called “pleasuralities” but they were always heard of from a cousin of a friend, etc. etc. I cannot think of a more GamerGate relevant rumor associated with something than the fantasy of committing sexual violence in a video game.


  9. maruhkati
    November 10, 2015 @ 12:33 pm

    I never really engaged with Mortal Kombat growing up. I basically operated under the impression that anyone old enough to buy a Mortal Kombat game was too mature to “appreciate” it in the manner intended. (I had a rosier picture of adults back then). Looking back as someone who only played the series a few times at friend’s houses, my retroactive assessment is that Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 was the best one. It had the best roster, and came after the film infused the series with some much-needed camp and sense of fun. Still wasn’t remotely my cup of tea at the time, so I don’t regret missing out on it at all. I will, however, admit, that the recent entries in the series are guilty pleasures of mine that I enjoy with a shitton of qualifiers, because as Phil just demonstrated, holy shit does this series have problems.

    I’m someone who watches streams of fighting games far more than I actually play them (I only got into them very recently and far too late to have time to get good), but it’s easy to see that the FGC generally (not just MK or SF but literally all of them) aren’t at all friendly to women. Even by e-sports standards it’s bad. The American games like MK, Killer Instinct, and Skullgirls do have a strong black presence (indeed, the EVO champion of MK & SG is black and bisexual), but I literally cannot think of a single prominent professional female player of any fighting game I’ve ever watched, though I’ve seen a couple streamers. And the central importance of Twitch and its noxious culture to the FGC makes it unlikely that will change. I’m not sure if this stems from the nature or history of fighting games or if it’s just an e-sport thing, but this is a community – more even than other gaming communities – that needs to either adapt or be destroyed.

    Which is to say: finish them, Phil.


  10. Feo Takahari
    November 10, 2015 @ 11:23 pm

    How does the reboot fit into this? It was made by the same devs as the recent DC Comics fighting game, and while it’s more violent, it has a lot of the same feel–bold but outgunned heroes struggling against an unstoppable evil. There’s actually a sense of tragedy as it builds up likable characters and then throws them into situations they can’t survive.


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