Tropes vs Women in Video Games
March 7, 2013 2:12 PM   Subscribe

Feminist Frequency has released the first video in the "Tropes vs Women in Video Games" series: Damsel in Distress (part 1), hosted by Anita Sarkeesian (previously). It was funded by a kickstarter campaign that was notable for the level of backlash (previously).
posted by rmd1023 (173 comments total) 79 users marked this as a favorite

 
Remember the counter Kickstarter project? Tropes Vs. Men? Guy took the money and ran.
posted by The Whelk at 2:21 PM on March 7, 2013 [49 favorites]


Well, that could be thought of as delivering on his promise. I mean, that's really the premise of pretty much every video game.
posted by cmoj at 2:23 PM on March 7, 2013


This is great. I'm looking forward to part 2, and the rest of the project!
posted by CancerMan at 2:24 PM on March 7, 2013


Ha! I had missed the "tropes vs men" project, and I am schadenfreudily amused but not surprised that the guy took the money and ran.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:26 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I hope the ritual "she scammed everybody!!11!!!" topic on r/gaming stops, but I would imagine they are eager to use the pitchforks they've been sharpening for almost a year now on her new series.
posted by FJT at 2:27 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I doubt it will, but in the end who really cares what reddit thinks anyways?
posted by emptythought at 2:38 PM on March 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


Three grand worth of ripped-off dudes.
posted by griphus at 2:39 PM on March 7, 2013


Seriously, though, this is awesome and while money isn't everything, the fact that you can quantify the desire to see something like this made at $160,000 is heartwarming.
posted by griphus at 2:42 PM on March 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


So far at least the Reddit thread isn't as bad as I'd expected.

The video, though, is great; looking forward to part 2. I'm feeling very happy about backing the project.
posted by jacobian at 2:44 PM on March 7, 2013


I hope the ritual "she scammed everybody!!11!!!" topic on r/gaming stops, but I would imagine they are eager to use the pitchforks they've been sharpening for almost a year now on her new series.

Let the studying of the dollar per pixel ratio begin!
posted by Artw at 2:45 PM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you're a redditor interested in video games, I strongly suggest you unsubscribe from /r/gaming and subscribe to /r/games instead; it's much better moderated.
posted by Jpfed at 2:52 PM on March 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


I hope the ritual "she scammed everybody!!11!!!" topic on r/gaming stops, but I would imagine they are eager to use the pitchforks they've been sharpening for almost a year now on her new series.

Some people commenting in the article The Whelk linked are all "She hasn't updated in ages either!" even when people point out she updates frequently - to backers.
posted by rtha at 2:56 PM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thanks for posting this. Should be interesting.
posted by zarq at 3:01 PM on March 7, 2013


Oh my God, my attention span is almost too short to watch this.

(Thanks somewhat to video games, oddly enough.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:03 PM on March 7, 2013


"Remember that it's both possible and even necessary to simultaneously enjoy media while also being critical of its more problematic or pernicious aspects."

A fine point lost on dull hammers.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:04 PM on March 7, 2013 [37 favorites]


Very smart of them to disable comments on that video...
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 3:06 PM on March 7, 2013


MRA Comment Commandos are used to being silenced all their lives!
posted by Artw at 3:07 PM on March 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


Won't someone stand up for their freedom of speech?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:10 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I had to google MRA. I was really hoping it stood for Michigan Reading Association but was really disappointed to see it actually stands for a bunch of Jackassery.
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 3:12 PM on March 7, 2013 [12 favorites]


Remember the counter Kickstarter project? Tropes Vs. Men? Guy took the money and ran.

Of course he did. He was clearly a raging asshole. As was anyone who donated to his 'cause'. They deserved what they got.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:13 PM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


This was a really good video and I want to see part 2 like right now. There's a couple games in the big stack of games she posted of (a selection of) the games she+her crew are working through for the series that I'm really sure are going to show up in Part 2 and I'm very interested in hearing her thoughts on them.
posted by flatluigi at 3:16 PM on March 7, 2013


Good lord, I didn't remember the PUNCHING WOMEN IN THE STOMACH AND SHOWING OFF THEIR UNDERWEAR part of Double Dragon. For fuck's sake.
posted by lazaruslong at 3:16 PM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've been following the tumblr and I've played games my whole life and I was still struck speechless by the parade of clips featuring kidnapped and petrified damsels. I mean, I knew game designers were lazy and sexist, but damn.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:19 PM on March 7, 2013 [12 favorites]


I'm looking foreward to part 2, when she tackles modern video games. There's going to be a lot to criticize there as well.
posted by happyroach at 3:21 PM on March 7, 2013


Hmm. This is pretty good. It feels a like it's talking down to the viewer a little when, for example, she goes through the exact definitions of object and subject before using them to define objectification of female characters, but on the other hand I appreciate building an actual firm basis for an argument.

With the intercut clips and flashy opening titles this has the initial sense of the sort of hyper-edited video I'm used to seeing on video-game topics, but in fact this is a really serious essay on the subject that happens to be narrated to a camera and occasionally illustrated with relevant footage. Once I got over that disconnect, I really enjoyed it.
posted by figurant at 3:23 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Good lord, I didn't remember the PUNCHING WOMEN IN THE STOMACH AND SHOWING OFF THEIR UNDERWEAR part of Double Dragon. For fuck's sake.

I knew guys in grade eight who thought that was the best part.

Left unexplained by the beginning of that game is why the two Dragons are working on their Trans-Am in what is ostensibly a private residence named "MATIN" next door to a pub (?) named ENGLISH TEAR when their lady friend gets kidnapped by Green Lantern, two dudes who look like Billy Squier in the "Rock Me Tonight" video, and a guy wearing Mad Max body armour.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:31 PM on March 7, 2013


Haven't watched Sarkeesian's video yet (I intend to soon) but I find the backlash against her deeply troubling.

I also find it really, deeply amusing that a documentary from a masculist perspective talking about misandry in video games also ended up not being a real thing.
posted by HostBryan at 3:53 PM on March 7, 2013 [14 favorites]


I just came here thinking that if this video hadn't already been posted I was about to make my first FPP. :)

I enjoyed this video a lot. Sarkeesian probably isn't saying anything new to people who have already put some thought into the history of female characters in games, but frankly the internet could use a little easy-to-access "101" level discourse on the subject.

It's presented a little academically, which might strike some viewers as being dry or being talked down to (I saw a comment somewhere that complained that she "said something in French"), but while I understand the reaction I think academic criticism is her preferred genre.

Anyway, I contributed to the Kickstarter, and consider me a happy investor!
posted by jess at 3:55 PM on March 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Weirdly, all these Damsel in Distress storylines has me thinking about James Cameron, who constantly tweaks the formula. In the original Terminator, Sarah Connor starts off a damsel in distress, but when Kyle Reese dies (SPOILER) she takes control of the narrative; by T2 she's got so much agency that when her son mounts a rescue attempt, she's already in the process of breaking out of prison, and she goes off on her own storyline later on, forcing everybody to chase after her.

Likewise in Titanic, the first rescue that happens is actually Rose rescuing Jack, and the first rescue in Avatar is Neytiri rescuing Sully; on top of that, there's Aliens, where Ripley rescues everybody, constantly, all the time.

His films have problems, sure, but I do appreciate how often he rejects the simple damsel in distress model, and demonstrates that audiences are just fine with that.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:56 PM on March 7, 2013 [37 favorites]


Ripley rescues everyone in Avatar too.
posted by Artw at 3:59 PM on March 7, 2013 [27 favorites]


This was pretty good. I'm looking forward to the next installment.

I wonder if there's any statistics about the number of game, sorted by year, where women are either - objects, invisible, participants, or lead characters.
posted by rebent at 4:03 PM on March 7, 2013


I am of an academic bent and I unabashedly love this video. This may have been linked already, but Sarkeesian's talk at TEDxWomen 2012 is an excellent summary of the baffling (to me) and stunningly offensive (to all rational humans) challenges this project faced.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:04 PM on March 7, 2013 [11 favorites]


Great stuff! I now look forward to arguments of the form "If attitudes towards women in video games are such a big problem, why doesn't anyone else make a documentary about it" and of course "She only found enough examples for n episodes, but clearly n + 1 is the minimum required number to demonstrate a real problem (∀ n)."
posted by No-sword at 4:12 PM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's not a very good movie, but in The Long Kiss Goodnight Geena Davis rescues Samuel L. Jackson.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:13 PM on March 7, 2013


Great stuff! I now look forward to arguments of the form "If attitudes towards women in video games are such a big problem, why doesn't anyone else make a documentary about it" and of course "She only found enough examples for n episodes, but clearly n + 1 is the minimum required number to demonstrate a real problem (∀ n)."

MRA Football is hard because they have to haul the goalposts around so much and so quickly.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:14 PM on March 7, 2013 [23 favorites]


Never heard about Dinosaur Planet before, damn that sucks.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:15 PM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's not a very good movie, but in The Long Kiss Goodnight Geena Davis rescues Samuel L. Jackson.

LIES.

(It's an awesome movie).
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:20 PM on March 7, 2013 [16 favorites]


The Card Cheat: "It's not a very good movie"

You take that back!
posted by brundlefly at 4:22 PM on March 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


Well, I haven't seen it since 1996, so for the time being I retract my critical review.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:25 PM on March 7, 2013


I'm finding it very refreshing how she traces the trope through various stories and continues from Popeye to Miyamoto without missing a beat. None of that "games are different and perilous!" She just folds them right in with the rest of the stories and myths.
posted by postcommunism at 4:27 PM on March 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


One of the things that still bugs me about FO3 is the Happy Hooker NPC near the beginning of the game. Out of that entire cast, she's the character most content with her lot in life in post-nuclear DC. And she does nothing. She's shoehorned out of nowhere, and her dialogue is cartoonish. Sorta balances out over the course of the game, but that one character - that's a recurring theme I could do without.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:27 PM on March 7, 2013


Another previously thing: Jay Smooth on this subject on Ill Doctrine.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:28 PM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sarkeesian's talk at TEDxWomen 2012

Holy crap but that is an upsetting talk.
posted by yoink at 4:28 PM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


With Jon Stewart going on hiatus, it'd be nice if Comedy Central gave over, say, the Thursday night Daily Show slot to show features like this.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:32 PM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


As an educator myself, I thought this was pitched at a good level: assuming the audience is smart but not that it is familiar with key academic concepts like subject vs. object. The evidence is marshaled clearly, with enough repetition ("Save me!" "Save me!" "Save me!") to prove the point without going overboard. Nicely done--a good resource for instructors touching on gender and popular culture--and I look forward to seeing the entire series.
posted by DrMew at 4:36 PM on March 7, 2013 [10 favorites]


I thought this was very good!

I'm at home sick today so I've been watching a lot of 30 Rock and one of the things that made me bark/laugh (it's a throat, lung horribleness that I have) was this line from Season 6 where Jenna and Tracey go to a Bar Mitzvah and are disappointed that the kid wanted Transformers and not these faux celebrities. So, they decide to be sensitive and find out what his real problem is and he reveals that he's shy about girls:

"Everyone expects me to dance with a girl today.... and I don’t know about girls. I mean, I’ve played this Japanese video game where you slap prostitutes to death... but you only dance with this penguin."

I love Tina Fey so much. That episode ended with a toast "To white men!"
posted by amanda at 4:55 PM on March 7, 2013 [10 favorites]


Nicely done--a good resource for instructors touching on gender and popular culture--and I look forward to seeing the entire series.

She mentions in the Ted talk linked above that she's going to making a "classroom curriculum that educators can use for free" to accompany the series.

Oh, and I can vouch from direct experience that a classroom of undergraduates even at a pretty highly ranked university won't all understand what you mean when you talk about "subject vs object"--I think she's pitching the level of this pretty well.
posted by yoink at 4:57 PM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am so glad she considers the cultural history of the trope and links the game genre to literature, saga, theatre, etc. I don't think it's too elementary, especially not for a big part of her potential audience. "Damsel in distress," after all, is one of those tropes that's so pervasive it almost feels like it's just a natural reality. Calling out its genealogy is fantastic.
posted by Miko at 5:09 PM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm bemused that the primary objection in the Reddit thread is that the project doesn't look worth 165 thousand. Nice derailing guys.
posted by happyroach at 5:23 PM on March 7, 2013


Finally got a chance to watch it just now.

So awesome.
posted by kavasa at 5:31 PM on March 7, 2013


This was excellent. Sarkeesian is doing a fantastic job.

I don't see anywhere any idea of when we can expect the next one, though. Is there a schedule for how often these will come out, or is this a "when it's done" thing?
posted by IAmUnaware at 5:47 PM on March 7, 2013


"Remember that it's both possible and even necessary to simultaneously enjoy media while also being critical of its more problematic or pernicious aspects."

A fine point lost on dull hammers.


Yup.

It's been mentioned in thread already but what I really like about this and what I think a lot of the kneejerk reactionaries are missing is the extent to which Sarkeesian treats games with respect. She doesn't dismiss them as frivolous and unworthy of criticism, but operates on the basic assumption that they are cultural products, that they are indeed saying something and it is worth our time to discuss that.

So when people produce responses like this, yeah I get the feeling we're on different planets.
posted by dumbland at 5:52 PM on March 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, the pause after Dragon's Lair was golden.
posted by dumbland at 5:53 PM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, the pause after Dragon's Lair was golden.

When she mentioned Dragon's Lair, I thought "You know, I haven't played that game since the early 90s, but I don't remember the princess being that... oh, criminy." You would think something like that would have stuck out to my adolescent male memory, but all I could conjure was Dirk dying a hundred thousand times.
posted by IAmUnaware at 5:57 PM on March 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've been following the tumblr and I've played games my whole life and I was still struck speechless by the parade of clips featuring kidnapped and petrified damsels. I mean, I knew game designers were lazy and sexist, but damn.

Oddly enough Bayonetta and Lolipop Chainsaw, which look very sexist, have dudes you need to rescue. And in Borderlands 2 the sexualized female bartender gives you the best guns.

I look forward to watching this. The fact that there is such a backlash is proof that gamers and gaming culture do have many, many, many sexist elements.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:03 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


So when people produce responses like this, yeah I get the feeling we're on different planets.

I don't get this video. Ignoring the "problem" won't make it go away? I'm sorry but what exactly is the problem? That gaming might be the latest cultural area to see an end to a white male hegemony?
posted by Talez at 6:07 PM on March 7, 2013


Also, Bayonetta becomes a much less problematic game (and one that makes a lot more sense) if you just play it with the assumption that Bayonetta is, in fact, a female impersonator.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:10 PM on March 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


So when people produce responses like this, yeah I get the feeling we're on different planets.

From your link: "I don't like feminists, but that's not the point."

I think it may be a little bit of the point.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:22 PM on March 7, 2013 [22 favorites]


Designing and publishing gender balanced games, especially with the shifting social ideas and MASSIVE women gamer demographic increases, is going to be a really fun and successful industry over the next 30 years of videogames. I wish I could be a part of that.
posted by lazaruslong at 6:22 PM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I thought this was actually really good-- it did a great job of going in depth about what she's talking about and engaged well with the material. I didn't like the other Tropes vs Women videos because they were so short that I felt like they glossed over a lot of context and oversimplified the issues at hand; I'm glad she decided to spend more time on individual tropes this time and am really looking forward to her next ones.
posted by NoraReed at 6:26 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you haven't watched the TEDx talk by Sarkeesian linked above, do. It's 10 minutes long, and examines the way she, in effect, became the Big Bad Boss in an online game of harassment.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:56 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oddly enough Bayonetta and Lolipop Chainsaw, which look very sexist, have dudes you need to rescue. And in Borderlands 2 the sexualized female bartender gives you the best guns.

Lollipop Chainsaw, at least, is surprisingly feminist for a game that features a half-naked cheerleader in the lead role. I liked it an awful lot, even if I had some issues with the achievement you get for positioning the camera to look up the lead character's skirt and the fact that the characters that ogle/make creepy comments about Juliet never really get challenged or punished.

Still, it's a game that cleverly comments on female objectification by making the male lead a passive bystander and literal object and consistently challenges stereotypes along the way (Juliet is an A-student and clearly very intelligent if not a little naive). It's not perfect by any means, but it's a step in the right direction.
posted by HostBryan at 7:11 PM on March 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


We've been backers since the beginning, and I've personally noticed a damn near 1:1 ratio between people complaining about lack of updates and alleging fraud and MRA attitudes. There are a significant number of assholes who appear to have donated to the project solely to talk shit about Sarkeesian.

Res ipsa fucking loquitur, I guess.
posted by scrump at 7:35 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bunny Ultramod: "His films have problems, sure, but I do appreciate how often he rejects the simple damsel in distress model, and demonstrates that audiences are just fine with that."

If I recall correctly, Cameron has on more than one occasion directly attributed much of this mindset to Kathryn Bigelow's influence. They may have made a shitty marriage, but Cameron has often and publically credited her as a major force in his filmmaking.
posted by scrump at 7:39 PM on March 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Of course he did. He was clearly a raging asshole. As was anyone who donated to his 'cause'. They deserved what they got.

Unfortunately, they basically got what they wanted, which was to thumb their noses at Sarkeesian. I doubt many of them cared if a Tropes vs. Men video got made or whether any money was donated to charity.
posted by straight at 8:35 PM on March 7, 2013


Also recommending the TED talk. Very uncomfortable, very enlightening.
posted by AdamCSnider at 8:44 PM on March 7, 2013


While I'm glad I missed out on the parade of butthurt MRA manbabies upset about this project, it's pretty sad that Sarkeesian had to disable comments on Youtube, and there is some seriously disturbing shit in the sidebar links. Watching her "straw feminist" video (part of the earlier, more general "Tropes vs Women" series), there's a featured link at the top of the sidebar to a video called "Feminism Fail: Female Marine Officers Pass On Grueling Infantry Training!" posted on a channel called "ViolentWomenAmongUs." Fucking really?
posted by Merzbau at 9:34 PM on March 7, 2013


Merzbau: "While I'm glad I missed out on the parade of butthurt MRA manbabies"

Please consider refraining from using the term butthurt in future. It's offensive, especially to survivors of sexual assault.
posted by lazaruslong at 9:52 PM on March 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


Given the nasty stuff that is posted on YouTube for innocuous videos of zero political interest, I don't find it sad that comments aren't allowed. But then, I don't think public commenting is the vanguard of first amendment freedom like some people seem to think. I find it refreshing and I hope none of these videos come with commentary of the masses.
posted by amanda at 9:57 PM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Duly noted- I've honestly never thought of it as having sexual connotations, but I'll definitely rethink my usage of the word.
posted by Merzbau at 9:59 PM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Uhhhhh....I have never associated the phrase "butthurt" with sexual assault. I just feel weird about my comment being posted after that. Really? Huh.
posted by amanda at 10:00 PM on March 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yes, really. I'm not too interested in going all-in on the details, but the original usage of the term was frequently used alongside "u mad bro" and "omg raped" in videogame circles / shitty online communities. It's a term used to mean someone's feelings are illegitimate, and has direct connotations of being "made a bitch" and "whining like a bitch" because one has figuratively been "fucked in the ass".

As much as I dislike linking to Gawker, this is a decent primer on the history and usage of the term. Anyways. Carry on.

posted by lazaruslong at 10:05 PM on March 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


Hopefully this will fix the small tag situation. Testing? OK, good.

Re: butthurt, I'm feeling like an idiot for not making that connection, which is more than a little embarrassing to admit as an (ostensible) adult who's been online for most of my life.
I find it refreshing and I hope none of these videos come with commentary of the masses.
True. I mean, discussion is awesome, but when was the last time anyone read something really edifying in Youtube comments? Still, though, it's still pretty awful that an entire channel of communication has been shut down because abuse would be so predictable.
posted by Merzbau at 10:12 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ah! So it's from the gamer community! That makes the most sense. I don't want to derail this further but I don't think this word has such a strong connotation that it must not be used. And, in fact, I thought you were purposefully trolling in order to derail the thread. It's appears the most popular definition is that someone is behaving like a child, with their feelings hurt. But, hey, a few people want to take it too far and it spoils a good put-down, doesn't it? Damn gamers, what is up with those guys?
posted by amanda at 10:17 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Interestingly, Entertainment Weekly gushed in their review of the new Tomb Raider game. Nearly the entirety of which was devoted to writing about a lack of positive female role models in video games, discussed the Sarkeesian debacle, poo-poo'd 'Raiders past in its treatment of the Croft character.. but did not even mention the rape storyline or its origins.

But it did take a chance to shit on Chell, and Faith (Mirrors Edge) as characters who are only "incidentally" female. Which.. I don't know, isn't a female protagonist whose femininity is "incidental" and not some major plot point.. isn't that like, the purest form of the sort of equality that people ask for?
posted by mediocre at 10:22 PM on March 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


Back on the video, I'm hoping that part two takes on the two Team ICO games (Ico and Shadow of the Colossus), both of which have a potentially thorny relationship with this particular trope.
posted by Merzbau at 10:24 PM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Guys please go ahead and take the discussion of offensive terms to Metatalk if you want to hash it out further. Thanks.]
posted by taz at 10:25 PM on March 7, 2013


Back on the video, I'm hoping that part two takes on the two Team ICO games (Ico and Shadow of the Colossus), both of which have a potentially thorny relationship with this particular trope.

I hope she mentions in passing that Red Dead Redemption apparently gives you an Achievement for literally tying women to train tracks, though I didn't encounter that in dozens of hours of play (it also has a traditional Damsel in Distress).

I liked the video. It didn't really tell me anything new, but seeing all the examples stacked up really drove home how pervasive the trope is, and it makes sense to start with something obvious and easily understood. I really liked how she explained about why the portrayal of games matters in the broader culture, since 'it's just a game' is a frequent defense by the same people who also think games should be art.

Every time I see other gamers get angry about, well, any critical examination of games I think of that Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where he says something like "TV doesn't make you violent, and if it does, I'll kill you". I don't want to blame it on games, since I love violent videogames, but I don't understand the knee-jerk anger when people point out that an aspect of a game might be problematic. Or even if a game gets the 'wrong' score (either too high or too low).

I'm starting to think that critics of the effect of videogames on people may have a serious point.

On that note, Happy International Woman's Day!
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:47 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Charlemagne In Sweatpants: I don't want to blame it on games, since I love violent videogames, but I don't understand the knee-jerk anger when people point out that an aspect of a game might be problematic.

The problem is that people always want to infer the idea that a game that utilizes a concept such as violence induces the behavior in the player outside the game, but studies have just not backed that up. However, many people are sure it must work that way, so they just keep repeating it forever without evidence. Which is annoying, and ultimately represents a threat to gaming, since enough persistence in repeating a concept can make it enter the public mindspace whether it is true or not.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:55 PM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Still, though, it's still pretty awful that an entire channel of communication has been shut down because abuse would be so predictable.

A friend of mine asked me the other day if I'd be on a YouTube show she wanted to do on crafting (not existing as yet, she's pondering creating one). And I was all um, noooooo.... I don't want to get death threats because I was female on the Internet and people saw what I looked like on camera. And I'm not even attractive like Anita here is, so that would double the "die bitch die iwill rape U" shit.

If I ever become Internet famous--so far it hasn't happened, yay--the first thing I'd do is disable any ability to comment and make sure that nobody can find out how to contact me. Okay, I pretty much did the latter already--or at least I stopped getting trolls once I made sure it was difficult to do so.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:58 PM on March 7, 2013


I love this video, though she's pretty hard on early Nintendo (not without cause). Samus Aran (Metroid) is an early female protagonist. Then again, I only learned she was female because there was a code to play as her in her skivvies. I didn't play all the Metroids and don't really remember too much of the story -- it's entirely possible that she was damseled at some point.

Oh, and the big baddie is Mother Brain if that matters.
posted by polyhedron at 10:59 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


The problem is that people always want to infer the idea that a game that utilizes a concept such as violence induces the behavior in the player outside the game, but studies have just not backed that up.

Well, I don't think it makes people violent, but I do wonder from time to time if the gun worship found in media (including games) makes people have a more positive view on guns themselves, which might lead to increased gun purchases. I also do wonder if, in the last decade especially, the depiction of the military and counter-terror operations found in games like Modern Warfare or television shows like 24 create a higher support for torture, or drone attacks, or just the general expansion of the military into spheres more traditionally given to diplomacy, foreign aid, or peacekeeping.
posted by FJT at 11:15 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


But it did take a chance to shit on Chell, and Faith (Mirrors Edge) as characters who are only "incidentally" female. Which.. I don't know, isn't a female protagonist whose femininity is "incidental" and not some major plot point.. isn't that like, the purest form of the sort of equality that people ask for?

I think you really have to have both, incidentally female characters like Chell and early Samus and stories that prominently feature female characters grappling with Women's Issues with a capital W and I. And the Women's Issues ones can't have that as the primary focus. I'm not very far into Dreamfall, so I could be wrong about this, but I think the protag of that game fits into the latter category.

Basically, what I mean is that having female characters that are just reskinned male characters isn't helpful, but characters where the gender doesn't really matter or play into the story-- such as protagonists of puzzle games like Portal-- should be female some of the time, because, well, being represented is nice.
posted by NoraReed at 11:32 PM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Interestingly, Entertainment Weekly gushed in their review of the new Tomb Raider game. Nearly the entirety of which was devoted to writing about a lack of positive female role models in video games, discussed the Sarkeesian debacle, poo-poo'd 'Raiders past in its treatment of the Croft character.. but did not even mention the rape storyline or its origins.

There is no rape storyline in Tomb Raider.

Weirdly while the content is very good, my absolute favourite thing about Anita's videos is that they're not cut by a sugar-addled chipmunk. Just a camera pointing at a smart chick talking about stuff. So goddam restful.
posted by Sebmojo at 11:42 PM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Off the top of my head, I could remember playing one game where there was a possible story line of a woman character rescuing a man. The game was Doomdark's Revenge and it was for among other computers the classic Sinclair Spectrum with its whopping 48K of memory, so there really wasn't much of a story line in the game itself, but there was a background story and other extras in the instruction manual like games in the glorious 80s used to have.

It was sort of a fantasy war game, and you could also win the game by winning the war against the other woman character in the game, who was an evil sorceress leading an evil empire. But rescuing the guy also worked, and she was the only character who could break the spell on him and get him back to the good side. It wasn't the most original story for a fantasy game, but at least not totally stereotypical either.

(The guy didn't do anything in the game either, unless for certain reasons he started wandering around the world and got eventually killed by big beefy barbarians or giants. The usual idea was to find a way to the secret hidden place where he was staying and recruit him back to your side. The woman character on your side couldn't lead her own army, but I usually compensated for that by giving her the magic runes of not dying ever for any reason, even though they were supposedly meant for the bearded wizard dude. He could handle his own shit just fine hanging around the guys with armies. Anyway, I loved that game in all its 8-bit 48K glory. All the nostalgia.)

I have to add this pick is from a rather small selection of games with story lines, because my preferred games are either abstract puzzle, strategic war or Civilization type games with no built in stories and someties no characters at all. So it's not that I've played lots and could only name one out of them all, but that I've played some and could quickly name one.
posted by tykky at 1:50 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


The presentation/format is a little dry for me but there's nothing I disagree with.

Treatment of women in video games almost constantly embarrasses me, it's pretty ridiculous. My wife and I got Halo 4 when it came out and started playing it together, at the first glimpse of Cortana we just looked at each other - "whaaaat?!!?". It's as if designers still think their target audience is 14-year-old boys.

I played a demo of Bayonetta for all of 5 minutes before I couldn't take any more. Seriously, her clothes disappear when you do a special move! Did they really need to do that? Did it really not ruin the game for all those reviewers who gave it 90+% ratings?

What I'd like to see is a female protagonist in the next GTA (for example), equal representation of females in games where one can choose from a range of characters (people cite Borderlands as being pretty enlightened - but they have only 1 playable female, she's got prominent cleavage and she's called a "Siren") and a drastic reduction in hyper-femininity/masculinity in characters across the board. I'd really like to play someone who at least starts out like a normal human, not an adult entertainer.

edit: OK, there's an add-on female character for BL2 - but she's the much-discussed "girlfriend mode".
posted by dickasso at 2:04 AM on March 8, 2013


I played a demo of Bayonetta for all of 5 minutes before I couldn't take any more. Seriously, her clothes disappear when you do a special move! Did they really need to do that?

Leigh Alexander would probably make the case that Bayonetta is doing something different than the depiction of Cortana in Halo 4.
posted by juv3nal at 2:40 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have an idea for a new reality TV show: game designers explaining to their mothers and grandmothers about the games and characters they have designed for them. We could call it "But Mom, it's only a game" or something. I'd watch it. Probably for five minutes tops and then I'd turn it off for embarrassment.

On a more serious note, though, I am glad she is making these videos and I want to watch them all. Playing or replaying that amount of games in a short time seems intense in itself, but analyzing and dissecting them too is, I can only imagine, a whole lot of work. (I'll be also keeping score by trying to think of counterexamples to the tropes from games I've played ymself, just to see how many I can name. No doubt they won't be very common. But it'll be an exercise for my own amusement and education anyway.)
posted by tykky at 2:57 AM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Absolutely brilliant video, but they did a great disservice to Double Dragon Neon. It is quite obviously a parody, and a brilliant one at that. The comparison between DDN and the Watchmen Game/HorseshitParade is fantastic in this following link that I encountered thanks to my peers here at Metafilter: http://gameological.com/2012/10/smacks-and-the-city/

DDN is a beautiful game in every aspect, both micro and macro; the gleeful parody in which it bounds about is built on a very VERY solid video game system, fine tuned to modern tastes, and it mocks the everlivingshit out of all that deserves to be mocked.

For the record, I know people who have been involved in Lollipop Chainsaw, and without ruining anyone's career...they're deeply ashamed of it. Maybe I read too much into the furtive downward glances, though.
posted by GoingToShopping at 2:58 AM on March 8, 2013


Leigh Alexander would probably make the case that Bayonetta is doing something different than the depiction of Cortana in Halo 4.
Well, one can make any case... And I'd respectfully disagree, I don't think the "perform the special move and see her get naked" mechanic is any more empowering to women than a jigsaw of a naked lady. The vast majority of video game protagonists can do something normal humans can't do, it's par for the course; there's no market for "Commuter IV - The Water Cooler Chronicles". I can't know about the intentions of the producers but the end result doesn't seem to be uncomfortable to anyone except those worried about the treatment of women in games, and is titillating to exactly those male gamers who embody the problem. If it's meant to be feminist, I personally think it's an own-goal.
posted by dickasso at 3:57 AM on March 8, 2013


That was fantastic!
posted by odinsdream at 4:53 AM on March 8, 2013


While Chelle may be 'incidentally' female in the first Portal game, I think the interactions with GLaDOS would not work with a male character unless it was substantially rewritten in Portal 2. Partly because the chick-laden resonance of the Chelle/Caroline/GLaDOS interactions as maiden/mother/crazy-computer-ai, and partly because JESUS CHRIST, GLaDOS, ENOUGH WITH THE FUCKING FAT JOKES.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:35 AM on March 8, 2013


On nit I am going to pick is that in the game Karateka at the end when you get to the damsel in distress, if you approach her in the fighting stance she kicks you to death. I don't know if that happens in the new HD version.
posted by asok at 5:41 AM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


There is no rape storyline in Tomb Raider.

Wait, Square/Eidos actually listened to people telling them it was a terrible idea? I did not see that coming.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 5:54 AM on March 8, 2013


When I was little, and heard about the Legend of Zelda, but hadn't played it yet, I assumed that the images of Link were actually of Zelda, and that she was the protagonist.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:01 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


The FPP video is good and thoughtful and makes a strong case for the pervasiveness of women as video game subject matter.

I too am saddened that public comments are disabled on YouTube. And yet it's a reminder that the harassment she has talked about is very, very real and is happening to her (and other people with her views) right now, and would be happening right now, on that video, if it were technically possible.

Looking forward to the subsequent ones in this series.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:02 AM on March 8, 2013


Wait, Square/Eidos actually listened to people telling them it was a terrible idea?

Yeah, I was surprised too. I don't know if they had a rape storyline which got removed or if there never was a rape storyline and it was all just really bad marketing, but iirc the game as it has been published has a scene of violent assault (not sexual) which can be skipped with the press of a button.

So, yeah, still kind of problematic, but at least it's not rape! Which has to be one of the most depressing sentences I've ever written.
posted by fight or flight at 6:07 AM on March 8, 2013


That was awesome - I'd love to see her get one of those cable tv clip shows a la I love the 80's - with her narrating the main focus and D list comedians making jokes along with her.
posted by fermezporte at 6:08 AM on March 8, 2013


I played a demo of Bayonetta for all of 5 minutes before I couldn't take any more. Seriously, her clothes disappear when you do a special move! Did they really need to do that? Did it really not ruin the game for all those reviewers who gave it 90+% ratings?

It's hard to say this without sounding skeevy or like a sexist apologist, but Bayonetta was amazing mechanically. Plus most game journalists get attacked if they focus on any issues beyond gameplay/graphics. It's starting to change, but its amazing what gets a pass. The latest Borderlands 2 DLC features a race of literally spear chucking Savages that included witch doctors and wore giant African style masks and only one reviewer noticed.

Getting back to damsels in distress, tonight I played a game that was usually pretty smart but had to put a woman in a weird techno-bondage, begging you to kill her. It's not the first 'smart' game I've played with this scenario in it, either.

And in Borderlands, both games, the female playable characters are literally magic (and possibly a different species?. They can't just be good with guns or swords or fists like the male characters. It's like they need the powers to 'justify' being in the game. They should have made NPCs like Mad Moxxi or Tiny Tina into PCs.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:18 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


MRA Football is hard because they have to haul the goalposts around so much and so quickly.

I posted this on my facebook today because hey, International Women's Day. Within minutes I got the "she totally should have used the money to make a good game with a female protagonist" and the "I don't think she really likes games" and the "this is all about Anita." When I mentioned the many many death/rape threats, I got the "everyone in gaming gets death threats, I get them on xboxlive." And a brushoff about the fact that $150k doesn't really get you a game with a lot of reach, with a few exceptions.

This is from someone who just graduated law school with me up here in "super-liberal" Canada. Argh.

Although I knew exactly who it would be making those comments before they happened. I guess that's good.
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:50 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


And in Borderlands, both games, the female playable characters are literally magic (and possibly a different species?. They can't just be good with guns or swords or fists like the male characters.

Gaige is just good with robots, and has the most interesting game mechanics of any of them.

But the savages are just embarrassing, yes.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:16 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


[If you want to talk about moderation or what is or isn't a good idea to toss into a discussion, you can reach us at the contact form or start a thread over on Metatalk. Grinding an axe about "fembots" in the middle of a thread is not gonna work here.]
posted by cortex at 7:51 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Link is MALE? All this time I have been paying thinking Link was female and was saving her girlfriend the princess!!

O.M.G.

Admittedly I am a terribly slow player and am still playing Ocarina of Time as young Link, but oh dear that has pretty much upended my gamer worldview :s

Also now I think of it I have only ever seen women cosplay as Link, so that may have gone some way towards mentally cementing my mistake all these years.

wow.
posted by Faintdreams at 7:57 AM on March 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


I never played any of the Zelda games, and figured that Zelda was the main character and that she was female. Then I was all "what? who's 'Link'?"
posted by rmd1023 at 8:16 AM on March 8, 2013


That's elves for you.
posted by Artw at 8:29 AM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


This should be linked -- "Why did small business owner and gamer dad Mike Hoye spend the last few weeks hand-tweaking the text in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker so that the main character was referred to as a girl instead of a boy? As he put it, 'I’m not having my daughter growing up thinking girls don’t get to be the hero.'"
posted by amanda at 8:53 AM on March 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Within minutes I got . . . the "I don't think she really likes games" and the "this is all about Anita."

She does veer there now and again, which is pretty typical of young thinkers. It's hard to do this sort of criticism and remain disengaged from your own perspective. While I think she does a good job of noting where other perspectives diverge, I don't think she does a good job of acknowledging where those perspectives have a stronger grounding than her own. I imagine that will come in time, provided the pushback, criticism and responses she gets to her arguments are thoughtful and focus on the arguments and theories.

I am very glad she is doing this. As someone noted above, she has not yet said anything that I did not already know--but then I'm somewhere between 15 and 20 years older than she is--but she is saying something I have not heard people say and take seriously in 20 years of playing videogames and slogging through a boyzone even more hostile than the American legal profession.

Games do not need to be so hostile, so sexist, so misogynist, or just so blindly, casually, frankly dismissive of women. In fact, they need not to be. That's not going to change without people saying it and without people showing how pervasive and casual and integral that diminishment of women in the games is.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:57 AM on March 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


On the topic of Borderlands 2, I know individual touches don't necessarily make up for any larger concerns (and I hadn't heard or thought about the enemies in the Big Game Hunt DLC. That's an...odd choice), but there's one set of missions that kind of won me over.

Karima, the administrator of the fragile settlement of Overlook, contacts the player character to help secure medicine for a disease affecting the town and build a defence shield that will get citizens out from under the thumb of the Hyperion corporation and their orbital bombardment approach to disloyalty. As she organizes the measures to save the village, she is constantly interrupted by Dave, an ignorant braying jackass of a man who is perfectly happy to sit back and crack actual sammich' jokes in the face of her straining civility. In the end, Karima solves her Dave problem with an active manipulation of the player which I thought was pretty well earned and is also completely hilarious. Spoilery Dave highlights.

It's not like it was particularly subtle, but I felt that Borderlands was at least trying to take gender issues into account. YMMV.
posted by figurant at 9:07 AM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Gaige is just good with robots, and has the most interesting game mechanics of any of them.

I think Borderlands 2 has a lot of good stuff in it even besides the fact that they made the best and most fun character a non-sexualized teenage girl (seriously, Gaige is awesome and her Anarchy tree has by far the best and most complex mechanics of any character in the game). I really liked the depiction of Ellie, for instance. Her mother is Mad Moxxi, who obviously has a bit more of the stereotypical video game female look, and there's a sequence where you're working for Ellie and she mentions that she used to live in Sanctuary and work with her mother until she got tired of Moxxi's constant haranguing about her looks and her weight and her lack of makeup and her lack of attractiveness to men. She ended up moving away and starting her own junkyard business to get by, and she flat out tells you "Moxxi doesn't know what she's talking about. I don't need to change at all; I'm completely awesome the way I am."

Incidentally, the way Moxxi and Ellie ended up in Sanctuary in the first place was that the patriarchal clan society they lived in decided Ellie was to be the new "clan-wife", to which Moxxi responded by killing the clan leader and taking her kids out of there. Moxxi may be highly sexualized in a very stereotypical way, but she's also a legitimate badass (and independent business owner!) with whom I would not want to end up in a gunfight, especially since she seems to own an awful lot of extremely nice guns.

Finally, Charlemagne in Sweatpants, the Sirens have magic powers, but so do some of the other characters (Salvador's regeneration, for example, is clearly supernatural, as are Handsome Jack's reflexes). It's pretty disingenuous to suggest that their magic is an "excuse" for them to be around, given that Lilith and Maya are every bit as capable as the male characters at standard gunplay and are never portrayed otherwise. Also, while the game does have some damselling going on (Lilith at the end briefly and Angel throughout the game although "rescuing" her isn't really a goal and you're not sure she isn't a computer program until you meet her), the character who's damselled throughout the first significant chunk of the game is the tough mercenary leader Roland (and if you screw up the rescue, he gets dragged off to a different prison and you have to rescue him again). Also, I think "the most powerful beings in this universe are women, which is disempowering to women!" is kind of a weird complaint.

Borderlands 2 certainly has some problematic parts (and also Tiny Tina, the most annoying female character in the history of, well, history), but I think it actually does a much better job than most games with its depiction of women. There are formidable and interesting female characters, and characters like Helena Pierce and Commandant Steele in the first game and Lilith and Angel in the second game are significant drivers of the plot. For the most part, despite its occasional (or not) puerility, it's a step in the right direction.
posted by IAmUnaware at 9:09 AM on March 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


Incidentally, I haven't gotten around to playing Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt yet, but yeah, those enemies are... one has to wonder what was going on there. Anthony Burch is usually smarter than that.
posted by IAmUnaware at 9:14 AM on March 8, 2013


Thanks for the post. I hope someone makes a post about part 2 whenever that comes too.
posted by ersatz at 10:19 AM on March 8, 2013


The latest Borderlands 2 DLC features a race of literally spear chucking Savages that included witch doctors and wore giant African style masks and only one reviewer noticed

This is off topic, but the DLC is in the context of being through the lens of Hammerlock who himself is a parody of the kind of colonialist impulse that would conjure up those kinds of images of savages. Whether being a parody of something should give you a free pass for participating in the very thing you're parodying is certainly debatable, but it isn't a completely unironic depiction.
posted by juv3nal at 11:11 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I didn't like the other Tropes vs Women videos because they were so short that I felt like they glossed over a lot of context and oversimplified the issues at hand; I'm glad she decided to spend more time on individual tropes this time and am really looking forward to her next ones.

I totally agree; this came out better than I was expecting. I had the exact same issues with her previous videos, so I wasn't initially going to back her on Kickstarter, but after seeing the heinous behavior of her critics, I thought signing up and supporting her with some "protest money" would be a good way to show them that their actions were only going to backfire. I wasn't really expecting to get anything I liked out of it, but now I'm glad to have been wrong.

but did not even mention the rape storyline or its origins.

But it did take a chance to shit on Chell, and Faith (Mirrors Edge) as characters who are only "incidentally" female.


Of note: the new Tomb Raider was written by Rhianna Pratchett, who also wrote Mirror's Edge.

Yeah, I was surprised too. I don't know if they had a rape storyline which got removed or if there never was a rape storyline and it was all just really bad marketing

It was never there (in the way people imagined); people just assumed the worst, based on early snippets.
posted by Amanojaku at 11:46 AM on March 8, 2013


mediocre:
“Interestingly, Entertainment Weekly… But it did take a chance to shit on Chell, and Faith (Mirrors Edge) as characters who are only "incidentally" female. Which.. I don't know, isn't a female protagonist whose femininity is "incidental" and not some major plot point.. isn't that like, the purest form of the sort of equality that people ask for?”
Your mistake was thinking Entertainment Weekly would produce insightful journalism.
posted by KuraFire at 11:54 AM on March 8, 2013


But it did take a chance to shit on Chell, and Faith (Mirrors Edge) as characters who are only "incidentally" female. Which.. I don't know, isn't a female protagonist whose femininity is "incidental" and not some major plot point.. isn't that like, the purest form of the sort of equality that people ask for?

It reminds me hearing stories from the US Naval Academy when they started letting women in back in '76. They didn't redesign the academic buildings to take into effect that they would have female students; they simply hung a WOMEN on one of the restrooms of each floor with urinals and all. Eventually they redesigned the building, but I felt the same about the uniforms as they were naturally made for men and went under no great redesign for an entirely different body type.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that as much as it might be progress to make someone's gender incidental, that also privileges the male gender as the default that women should fit into. The default is not unisex in our culture, especially video games. Video games as an art form have to take into account that women are different, and that this difference should neither be trivializes or paved over. As a man, I want to see more characters and stories that deal with the full woman-ness of a main character, because there are plenty of video games now that deal with what manliness means. I want women writers, women characters, woman action so that at some point, some day, if there's a major-release game where the majority of the characters are women, people might not even notice that aspect. Right now one female main character is striking, and an entire male ensemble is not unusual.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 12:07 PM on March 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


Wait, Square/Eidos actually listened to people telling them it was a terrible idea? I did not see that coming.

Yep, there was never any rape storyline. People just got outraged for no reason.

Next time maybe we can wait until the game actually comes out.
posted by Justinian at 12:47 PM on March 8, 2013


A feminist reacts to Anita Sarkeesian’s ‘Tropes vs. Women in Video Games’
posted by homunculus at 1:27 PM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yep, there was never any rape storyline. People just got outraged for no reason.

Actually the executive producer of the game, Ron Rosenberg, told Kotaku back in July that there would be an attempted rape. People got outraged for a great reason, and it looks like it made a difference in the final product.
posted by jess at 1:35 PM on March 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


A feminist reacts to Anita Sarkeesian’s ‘Tropes vs. Women in Video Games’

Strange article.
My biggest concern about these videos is also the reason I didn’t back the Kickstarter project to begin with: Sarkeesian’s experience with video games is fairly limited. She ends by saying she was a big Nintendo and Sega fan as a child, but from her heavy use of Nintendo properties it is quite clear she is not as in touch with the industry as a gamer.
I'm... not sure how that follows? Sure, she's not covered obscure UK-only Spectrum games of the 80s, but if I was going to talk about how gaming affected and was influenced by 80s and 90s culture, I'd start with Nintendo, too.

She also states that she's disappointed the video hasn't advanced the conversation. I'd say it really, really has, in that it has expanded the conversation to include a lot of ordinary gamer guys who'd never really considered any of this before. Regarding this initial video, "get the girl" is such a stock video game plot that if it doesn't irritate you it becomes part of the background noise of gaming, like the way you hold your 360 pad or the concept of HP.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:39 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


She does have a point about the subject matter being Zelda, Mario, Donkey Kong and a whole bunch of generic arcade games (plus Star Fox Adventures), but the preview for the next video promises modern fare, and it's not like they don't deserve time just because they're old; for gamers and game designers in their late 20s and 30s, early Nintendo and arcade games were the games of their youth, and their influence is hard to understate.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:53 PM on March 8, 2013


Overstate! Hard to overstate! Edit window, why hast thou forsaken me?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:00 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Actually the executive producer of the game, Ron Rosenberg, told Kotaku back in July that there would be an attempted rape. People got outraged for a great reason, and it looks like it made a difference in the final product.

Here's the thing; that article does not quote him as saying so. It quotes him as saying Croft has to fight back like a cornered animal. And, having played through that section, she indeed has to do that. Without access to Rosenberg's exact words we have no idea what he said or if he was misquoted or misconstrued.

I wish Kotatku would have printed what he actually said.
posted by Justinian at 3:03 PM on March 8, 2013


I dug up the exact quote
RON: "And then what happens is her best friend gets kidnapped, she gets taken prisoner by scavengers on the island. They try to rape her, and-"

KOTAKU: "They try to rape her?"

RON: "She's literally turned into a cornered animal. And that's a huge step in her evolution: she's either forced to fight back or die and that's what we're showing today."
So, yeah, he did say they try to rape her. That's a terrible way to characterize the scene in question, was clearly going to stir up a shitstorm, and does a disservice to the real emotion of the scene which is that Croft is forced to kill a man for the first time in a terrible sequence.

I hope they called him a dumbass in private. 'Cause that was a huge rookie move.
posted by Justinian at 3:09 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I posted the link on FB and the first response I got was whining about how she cherry picked just a select few games and there are plenty of strong women protagonists and and and and.

I can't have conversations with people like that. My brain shuts down, it is like, you are not even wrong, you are just pushing air out of your mouth hole. There's nothing to engage with.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:18 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's always obvious when someone doesn't want something to be true but they know it is. The scrambling for terrible counter-examples -- Zelda rescues Link in a game on the CDI, a non-Nintendo platform that 3 or 4 people owned! -- is half entertaining, half depressing.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:26 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


She does have a point about the subject matter being Zelda, Mario, Donkey Kong and a whole bunch of generic arcade games (plus Star Fox Adventures), but the preview for the next video promises modern fare, and it's not like they don't deserve time just because they're old; for gamers and game designers in their late 20s and 30s, early Nintendo and arcade games were the games of their youth, and their influence is hard to understate.

Is this video series aimed at hardcore gamers or at a wider audience? Either way, it makes sense to start with two series even non-gamers know and a trope that's basic and easy to recognize. To NOT see Mario and Princess Peach as a standard damsel in distress scenario takes an act of willful blindness.

I don't understand the objections. In my mind, thinking about these kind of issues adds another layer to games.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:27 PM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


If I say you're Zelda, then you're Zelda, okay?! (possibly nsfw)
posted by homunculus at 4:45 PM on March 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


JESUS CHRIST, GLaDOS, ENOUGH WITH THE FUCKING FAT JOKES.

I think what Valve was going for there is that GLaDOS is so clueless about human emotion that she has a tin ear for what kinds of insults would be effective to a woman in Chell's situation. But I agree that it fell flat and ended up just being irritating.
posted by straight at 6:32 PM on March 8, 2013


Actually, I thought it was because Chell wasn't going to give any AI the satisfaction of a response. GLaDOS, in an effort to get at her psychologically, tried different methods to get to her and among those ways included repetition with slight variation.

In fact, I'd go so far as to argue that if the player felt irritation at the repetitive insults, that's probably what Chell was feeling, too.

I think one question many of Sarkeesian's critics need to ask themselves is not whether she has enough experience or reviews enough games, but whether these tropes continue to be used in popular media. To my thinking, if the answer is yes (and I believe it is), then we really have no business saying this project is a worthless one.
posted by CancerMan at 8:12 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


She does have a point about the subject matter being Zelda, Mario, Donkey Kong and a whole bunch of generic arcade games (plus Star Fox Adventures), but the preview for the next video promises modern fare, and it's not like they don't deserve time just because they're old; for gamers and game designers in their late 20s and 30s, early Nintendo and arcade games were the games of their youth, and their influence is hard to understate.

So her main objection is that the video didn't advance the conversation, but judging by the death threats Sarkeesian received, there are a lot of people who need to see there is a problem in the first place. The first example of Star Fox Adventures is pushing a decade, but I thought it was illustrative and starting at the beginning of the industry makes quite a bit of sense.
posted by ersatz at 3:48 AM on March 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm glad she is finally getting these out there. It looks like Bosier's objections are more or less about framing. I mean aside from the fact that we don't really know how many hours Sarkeesian has put into gaming, but I wasn't aware there was some kind of mileage people are supposed to pass to be a real gamer. There are tons of things to nit pick but none of that changes the points she makes.

But, there is one thing- it's pronounced:

KALA-TE-KA

not

KERA-TEKA

As in a Karate practitioner, and not some far off exotic location.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:21 AM on March 9, 2013


CNN interviews Ian Livingstone about Lara Croft.
posted by Artw at 7:25 AM on March 9, 2013


KALA-TE-KA

Well, to be an anal douchebag, technically the Japanese rarirurero is somewhere halfway between an R and an L. It is, ironically, a sound that does not exist in English; where we have to put two sounds together, the poor Japanese have to take one sound and make two.
Personally, I think we have it easy.
posted by GoingToShopping at 8:57 AM on March 9, 2013


Sure, but she wasn't even close when she pronounced it. I'd assume someone would want a close approximation if they're teaching it in schools.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:23 AM on March 9, 2013


Very true! She missed it by a mile!
posted by GoingToShopping at 6:09 PM on March 9, 2013


In books: SLEEPING BEAUTIES VS. GONZO GIRLS
posted by Artw at 6:26 PM on March 9, 2013


Pauline saves Mario.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:27 PM on March 9, 2013


Sarkeesian's video got me thinking about games I've played where a character rescued someone in distress and, after a bit, I came up with one game in which the female protagonist rescues a helpless male who has been reduced to an object: Beyond Good & Evil by Ubisoft turns the standard gender roles around with female main character Jade needing to rescue both a male agent who becomes a secondary character and her male relative/sidekick Pey'j at multiple points in the game, including a longish storyline beginning with Pey'j's abduction.

It didn't feel like a girls' game or a deliberate subversion of the dominant narrative: it was a good, playable game whose sequel I will likely pick up if Ubisoft ever devotes the resources to completing it past the couple of trailers I've seen.
posted by thatdawnperson at 8:09 AM on March 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


KERA-TEKA

To be fair, this is also pretty much how Jordan Mechner pronounces it.
posted by eruonna at 1:43 PM on March 10, 2013


Curious to see part 2 of this, since many (most?) of the games mentioned here are Japanese games from the 80's and 90's, which, while undoubtedly familiar to western audiences, maybe aren't as relevant to a "rotten state of affairs" in today's video game market.

There are lots and lots of more recent American games that avoid this trope, (which she explains was borne out of a need for simplified storytelling in the early days of videogames) to the point where "damsel in distress" could more accurately be considered a "lazy cliche" by modern audiences, as opposed to a time-honored tradition.

From my own point of view, most of my favorite games from the past 10 or 15 years have avoided the trope (and indeed gender issues altogether) rather handily:

1. No One Lives Forever 2: Female protagonist, rescues men, uses cunning and skill, maintains a decidedly feminine attitude throughout

2. Warcraft (and world of Warcraft) Time is split between female and male hero characters, although with a bit more males. A few examples of the trope in various WoW quests, but just as many "rescue the guy" quests.

3. RPG's like Knights of the Old Republic and Skyrim allow female or male player characters, and include rescues of both genders.

4. RTS games like Command & Conquer and Age of Mythology each include at least one or two female Hero units, which are often more powerful (or useful) than their male counterparts.

5. Halflife 2. Sure, Gordon's a man, but we only know that because of the picture on the box. Like Chell, his gender is a non-issue. His most helpful ally is, in fact, a woman.

6. Simulation games. (The Sims, SimCity, etc.) Obviously no real gender bias here, apart from the fact that the female Sims get better clothes.

7. Mass Effect series. Does anyone actually play as a male Sheppard? Ugh. Lots of rescuing both male and female characters here too.

8. Grand Theft Auto series.

Well, 7 out of 8 isn't bad...
posted by ShutterBun at 2:24 PM on March 10, 2013


Does anyone actually play as a male Sheppard? Ugh.

Yes. With the dorkiest, doofiest looking face imaginable. Total stick in the mud paragon boy scout who spends all his free time playing with his models.
posted by The Whelk at 2:48 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I play with a male Shepard because it's the only one that has a proper high resolution texture. The female Shepard does not. So she looks funny compared to my modded high resolution companions.
posted by Justinian at 3:07 PM on March 10, 2013


To be fair, this is also pretty much how Jordan Mechner pronounces it.

Heh, indeed. I take it back, Sarkeesian did pronounce it "correctly".
posted by P.o.B. at 3:14 PM on March 10, 2013


Who is Gordon Freeman?
posted by Artw at 3:32 PM on March 10, 2013


Does anyone actually play as a male Sheppard? Ugh.

Unfortunately, 70% of all players.
posted by ersatz at 6:50 AM on March 11, 2013


Re: the Tomb Raider rape/no-rape thing: There is a scene early on where Lara is captured, and one of her captors starts to try to kiss her/initiate rape while her arms are tied up, but as soon as he tries it she bites him in the neck, snaps her restraints, steals his gun, and shoots him in the face. I don't know if it was longer before people objected, but at is, it starts out sort of skin-crawly, and is immediately subverted.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:17 AM on March 11, 2013


Here is the scene (I believe) on YouTube (Warning: annoying narration by the person playing).
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:21 AM on March 11, 2013


Mass Effect series. Does anyone actually play as a male Sheppard?

Required if you wanna be smoochy with Tali/Miranda/Ash/Cortez/Jack, and Tali at least is kinda adorable in a Jordan-from-Real-Genius sorta way. Why you'd want to make nice-nice with the horrible racist Ash instead of sending her to die screaming is beyond me.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:56 AM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also,

(9) Saint's Row 2 and 3. Much like Mass Effect, nobody really notices what sex you are, and you can even mix body type and voice. You wanna look like Brick from Borderlands but talk like an eastern-European woman? Go for it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:00 AM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


It'd be nice if ME had just gone ahead and made all potential love interests Shepard-sexual. But I'd still play Femshep, because she is my favorite Shepard on the Citadel. And I'd still romance Garrus, because reach and flexibility.

For a series that didn't have the imagination to make alien species anything but human-style sexually dimorphic, playing as Femshep is really the most science-fictional-feeling thing it has going. You can be a woman, and lots of stuff happens to you and because of you and essentially none of it is because you're a woman? That's interesting.
posted by asperity at 2:56 PM on March 11, 2013


I played FemShep and had a goddamn blast. I wish I could say I can't believe that only 30% of ME players play her, but it's a sadly believable statistic.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 2:59 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


FemShep is BestShep. Jennifer Hale owned the shit out of that VO.
posted by Sebmojo at 4:16 PM on March 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


More on topic, while the 'rape' comment was a stupid PR misstep, there really is a deranged amount of traumatic penetration in Tomb Raider, both applied and experienced by Lara. Seriously, you can't even eat breakfast without being impaled on something on Tomb Island. It'd be like 'cornflakes, coffee, orange j- OH GOD REBAR THROUGH ME KIDNEYS'
posted by Sebmojo at 4:22 PM on March 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sometimes a rebar through your kidneys is just a rebar through your kidneys.
posted by Justinian at 5:59 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


But other than that Ms. Leigh, how did you enjoy the shower?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:12 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Cliffy B (Unreal, Gears of War) defends Anita Sarkeesian. Its a great read, and has the line 'We're not the bullies. And that's what happened to Anita."

I might just pay full price for the new Gears of War game after this.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 8:00 PM on March 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think one question many of Sarkeesian's critics need to ask themselves is not whether she has enough experience or reviews enough games, but whether these tropes continue to be used in popular media. To my thinking, if the answer is yes (and I believe it is), then we really have no business saying this project is a worthless one.

Well, Bioshock 2 (2010) uses this trope for about 80% of the game. In the remaining 20%, the damsel becomes and unstoppale badass, but only after the protagonsit has rescued her.

So does, by all accounts, Bioshock Infinite (2013) not withstanding that the damsel in that apparently has the ability to tear time and space.

Halo 4's plot is driven by the to get back to Earth to save Cortana from a machine disease or something; plus she's virtually naked and sashays and writhes. A lot. But then again, Halo 4 also has badass female Spartans (as incidental characters). Female soldiers were also on an equal footing to male ones in Halo Reach.

So yes, it's still around. Possibly in a lesser form, or less frequent, than before.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:17 PM on March 11, 2013


...the damsel becomes and unstoppale badass, but only after the protagonsit has rescued her.

An. Unstoppable. Protagonist.

Sheesh. Sorry.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:06 AM on March 12, 2013


I posted this on my facebook today because hey, International Women's Day. Within minutes I got the "she totally should have used the money to make a good game with a female protagonist" ... a brushoff about the fact that $150k doesn't really get you a game with a lot of reach, with a few exceptions.
Well, when she's done with this she can do another kickstarter and make a game with a female lead, which will be easier with the notoriety she's gotten now. People have raised millions of dollars on that site.

And anyway, she only asked for a few $K to do a video, it's not like she could just change in the middle of a kickstarter to a new project.
It was never there (in the way people imagined); people just assumed the worst, based on early snippets.
I actually saw a video talking about the "top 10 gaming controversies" or something like that. There was the clip that's been linked in the thread, but what exacerbated the situation was that they asked a designer about it and he came up with a really ambiguous answer - instead of simply saying she wasn't raped. Although seeing the actual game play footage it's actually an interactive scene, I wonder what would have happened if the player failed to act quickly enough without the outcry.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that as much as it might be progress to make someone's gender incidental, that also privileges the male gender as the default that women should fit into. The default is not unisex in our culture, especially video games. Video games as an art form have to take into account that women are different, and that this difference should neither be trivializes or paved over
But how many games with male characters have main characters that aren't just 'incidentally' male? I suppose games where you rescue a princess might count, but in a lot of those games the plot is so simple that you could have a female rescuing her friend, or even a prince (Mario Brothers wouldn't need to change at all if the main characters were female)
posted by delmoi at 5:25 AM on March 12, 2013


System Shock 2 subverts the DiD trope nicely. Brilliantly even.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:06 PM on March 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


In other damsel news: Marvel Studios CEO Kevin Feige: Pepper Potts Ain’t No Damsel in Distress, Might Be [SPOILER]ing [SPOILER] in Iron Man 3
posted by homunculus at 8:35 PM on March 14, 2013


Rescue!
posted by asperity at 6:09 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pink Book, Blue Book.
posted by Artw at 7:36 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


BREAKING: Girls Play Video Games, Local News Discovers
posted by the_artificer at 11:29 PM on March 18, 2013


What happens when female fantasy adventurers read comics with skimpily dressed heroines?
posted by homunculus at 6:04 PM on March 25, 2013


Trolls take on 9-year-old girl's Kickstarter project...and lose: The conspiracy theories swirling around a seemingly benign crowdfunding campaign turned into a tornado over the weekend. Crave's Eric Mack investigates.
posted by homunculus at 10:01 AM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Rock, Paper, Shotgun['s tongue-in-cheek] Apology For Using Female Writers
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 5:22 PM on March 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Trolls take on 9-year-old girl's Kickstarter project...and lose: The conspiracy theories swirling around a seemingly benign crowdfunding campaign turned into a tornado over the weekend. Crave's Eric Mack investigates.

When I saw the Reddit link doing thw rounds on Twitter I chipped in some money to that... Not because it really needed it at whatever thousand per cent of target it's at, but because fuck MRA bullshit.
posted by Artw at 6:18 PM on March 27, 2013


I hope someone points A.S. to the direction of Starcraft 2: HotS. It loses the ball spectacularly at one point even though Kerrigan generally is the most powerful and smartest person in the room of a flying winged monstrosity.
posted by ersatz at 11:12 AM on March 28, 2013


even though Kerrigan generally is the most powerful and smartest person in the room

Whose mutations have, for some reason, granted her permanent ten-inch heels.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:21 AM on March 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


In Which I Am Pretty Darn Sure That Most Gamers Are Fine With Female Protagonists
posted by homunculus at 6:21 PM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Misogyny, Sexism, And Why RPS Isn’t Shutting Up
posted by homunculus at 4:56 PM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


RPS is better than its community, and I like that, though I wish its community were better.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:10 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


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