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Tropes Vs Women in Video Games, Somehow a Controversy? (+ general gender / video game discussion)
[locked]
News reported by 
Editor-in-chief
June 14, 2012, 17:58:56
 
The short story is that Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency has started a Kickstarter to explore the stereotypes of females in video games. Or well, why not just hear it in her words?

I love playing video games but Iím regularly disappointed in the limited and limiting ways women are represented. This video project will explore, analyze and deconstruct some of the most common tropes and stereotypes of female characters in games. The series will highlight the larger recurring patterns and conventions used within the gaming industry rather than just focusing on the worst offenders. Iím going to need your help to make it happen!

The longer story is that because she is a self-proclaimed "feminist" (what this means in her case I'm really not sure, since everyone interprets this label differently when applying it to themselves) that anything she does somehow automatically becomes super controversial, and she has received rape threats and death threats and attempts to shut down this project from (primarily) male gamers. Because obviously if you disagree with feminism the way to get your point across is to tell a women she needs to be raped and murdered. (That was sarcasm, in case you missed it. This is not the correct way to express disagreement. At all.)

Personally I think that, all fears of succumbing to the feminist agenda aside (also sarcasm), projects like hers are necessary for the video game industry to truly mature. Gamers seem to love talking about the word "mature" a lot, so why do we rebel against actual maturity so much? I think that it's a good thing that she is sticking to her project, all threats aside. And whatever the case, it is ridiculous that people are fighting so hard to shut her up. Why not let her say what she has to say and if, after actually hearing it, you disagree with it, you are well within your rights to say something.

What do you guys think?

PS. As of this writing she has brought in $126,768 of her $6,000 Kickstarter goal. So things aren't completely dire. But this doesn't negate the abuse she has had to (and most likely will continue to) sustain just to get this project moving.

As of today this thread will be locked. What originally was meant to be a thread discussing the soon-to-be controversial Anita videos about female tropes in Video Games grew into something much more. We at Negative World absolutely love a good conversation and we will always encourage mature and respectful conversation. That said, the thread has had it's moments of polarization to the extreme in the past and recently. While at the moment I write this, the thread is rather calm,.. there has been a joint decision by the moderators of this site to close this particular thread down. The thread strayed way outside of the original bounds of it's intent. We have a different idea of how to frame this delicate and polarizing topic at Negative World.

For future installments of Anita's series we will either have a mod create a new official thread for it (as well as posting links to previous episodes) or we will use our already established Youtube Video thread. The latter could have easily been the original home for this thread if it wanted to. Discussion can continue as normal in the future thread but we ask to keep in mind that the topic should relate to Anita's videos and her message. Hear, analyze, and discuss that. This new location for this discussion will be established with the release of her next video. Please find patience till then.

Thank you from all of us at Negative World for understanding.
~ Negative World Moderation

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Posted: 06/14/12, 17:58:56  - Locked by 
 on: 08/22/13, 04:37:22    
 
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NinSage said:

As you watch TV or play video games, try mentally swapping the gender roles and/or expectations. You'd be amazed at the double standards. Also, try swapping the side your mental devil advocates. In other words, if a woman plans to seduce (sex, flirting, anything in between) a man to get what she wants, why is that not her OUTSMARTING him? Why is that not an example of the male WEAKNESS when it comes to sexual temptation? Why, instead, is it almost always viewed as some kind of feminine "sell out" or "slut out" to be more vivid?

Why is the best way for any male to solve a problem always aggression? If a man said "let's put our weapons down and talk about this," would he be viewed as sophisticated, classy and intellectual? Or would he be a "pussy"?

Lastly, as Cube191 said, when the spectrum of males portrayed in video games widens, then yes, by all means, let's do the same for females. But to act like one side is worth examining while the other is not? That's just naive.

I've said this before, but this is not necessarily indicative of double standards. You cannot expect to swap aspects of a character or situation with other aspects of a character or situation and expect the reaction to be the same.

People do this with games all the time, and it's fallacious. When RE5 media came out, people jumped to conclusions. In all of the talk about whether or not the game was RACIST, what got lost was the notion that even if the game was NOT racist (and it wasn't), having a heavily armed white guy shoot a bunch of poorly armed black folks (again, talking about the initial trailers, not the game at large )unable to control themselves is going to evoke different emotions than if the villagers were white.

AND IT SHOULD. That doesn't make it racist (again, it wasn't), but it is NOT a double standard that the situation would be perceived differently if Chris was shooting at a bunch of white people.

I also don't think it's inappropriate to give more scrutiny to how one group is portrayed in a medium over another. Yes, the portrayal of men in games is frequently lousy. But it's a male dominated industry in most respects. And when you have, as is the case with Tomb Raider, a male developer talking about a character whose depiction has always been hypersexualized to appeal to men, being changed in such a way as to put her through the wringer so that you'll want to protect her... it's worth additional scrutiny, even if some people HAVE overreacted... and they have.


Posted by 
 on: 06/14/12, 20:52:48
@Zero

I was speaking generally, yes.

And I'm not saying she should study both or none at all. Let her do her thing and more power to her. I'm just saying that the idea of studying female portrayals hasn't been novel for decades. So it surprises me that it can still so easily get the attention it does. Where as, if tomorrow someone said they wanted to study the role of men in media, I think that study would be met with overwhelming ... apathy... and I don't think that's right.

PS - Freshly minted PhD. I know the research drill.

@kriswright

Well, do you think it doesn't get enough attention or doesn't get enough results? That's a big distinction.

Just looking at the number of studies I think it gets enough attention. When you factor in comparisons to the other half of the population it becomes even heavier. As far as results, well, that may be an uphill battle for reasons you and I just discussed. If you account for how humans (men AND women) are wired, and conclude that a pretty girl doing attractive things is going to sell more games, get more ratings, move more concert tickets - guess what? - she's hired!

As for the brains thing... a difference of opinion is fine. But for me, if a girl solves a problem and gets what she wants by evaluating the situation and then successfully executing a plan, I don't really see how that can only be viewed as "outsmarting" in some circumstances versus others.

After all, when a man does the exact same thing, solving a problem by using his brain and then his body (muscles) no one seems to have a problem with it.

@Kal-El814

Yea, it can evoke different reactions but are reactions what we should be basing research on? Or should we, more wisely, be able to rise above things like the RE5 example and work from what is really going on?

Next, if the portrayals of women are really that much more terrible, then yes, it makes sense to apply bandages where the bleeding is worst. However, my point is that right now we have one gushing wound in the head, and one in the leg... 99% of all bandages are going on the head. See what I mean?

Lastly, since you brought up gender source of content, we all know the landscape of the gaming industry and it's easy to say that's inherently problematic. However, the magazine industry is the single most scrutinized when it comes to female body image. Now, I don't claim to know the gender source breakdown in who creates that content. I'm told a lot of men make those decisions and I believe it, but I get a feeling a great deal of women (including the models themselves) contribute to the content of magazines. What I DO know is who the target audience is for that content. So, you see, there are flaws in the "male gaze" argument if women (almost exclusively) enjoy supporting it.

~~~

Good discussion. I know I'm taking the less politically correct stand point. But hopefully everyone realizes the the difference between working towards a solution with real critical thinking versus simply towing the PC line. Things that are PC are not mutually exclusive from things that are beneficial - not by a LONG shot!! However, I just want to make sure everyone in this thread understand that, conversely, questioning that which is PC is not inherently bad either.

We're all working towards the same goal of understanding.

And hey, I love women so much I married one! =P


Posted by 
 on: 06/14/12, 21:07:05  - Edited by 
 on: 06/14/12, 21:24:00
Political Correctness was a fad in the early 1990s. Who is talking about that in here? I thought we were talking about the legitimate questions about the portrayal of women in media. That's not politically correct by nature and I'm somewhat bothered that you've introduced that kind of language into the discussion. It suggests those of us who are more concerned about how women are portrayed are somehow politically motivated. Which is complete tripe.


Posted by 
 on: 06/14/12, 21:40:28
@NinSage But again, this is the video game industry specifically. Who is actually studying the representation of females in the video game industry? I am sure there are some isolated cases, but it's nothing like film or TV or the likes. Almost no one studies the video game industry seriously, unless it is someone trying to link it and usually failing to violence.

And the reason why it is such a hot topic lately is we have an industry that is kind of simultaneously trying to expand to include "everyone" (in no small part because of Nintendo with the DS/Wii), and yet still so far removed from being female-friendly to a point where it is almost laughable (booth babes still? really?) I feel like the message from the game industry (at least certain segments, not generally Nintendo I guess) is sort of along the lines of "Come on in females, we have something for everyone! You don't have to play as a male blowing stuff up! You can play as a scantily clad female blowing stuff up! What, you're going to call that sexist? It's not sexist because she is empowered! Now check out the demo that our scantily clad women show you!"

And then the industry is confused about why so many female gamers never graduate beyond non/casual games and the likes.

And yeah, Nintendo itself doesn't really fall prey to the selling games with scantily clad women as much, but Nintendo still has problems in how it portrays women.

I'd also argue that the portrayal of women in games is worse because it is specifically built to cater to male fantasies, in most cases. Whereas, as I stated above, the portrayal of men in games is built to cater to... male fantasies as well. You definitely will find some males insulted by the way males are portrayed in games (here more than most places, the whole beefy space marine thing is definitely a turn-off to a lot of us) but a large portion of males like playing as those stereotypes, and those stereotypes exist because tons of males like playing as them. There are very few female characters that exist because females like playing as them. It's just a different world.

I'd also say that there are more alternatives for males who don't like the mainstream portrayal. If I don't want to play as a violent, beefy brickhead I can still go play Mario or Zelda or I dunno... Castlevania, Mega Man, Rayman (I'm noticing a lot of "man" here), etc. and even more "obscure" stuff like Hotel Dusk, Zack & Wiki, Henry Hatsworth, yada yada. But I'd be hard-pressed to find a game to play as a woman if I didn't want to play as a scantily clad woman. And offhand, the only ones I can think of are ones that have both male and female characters like Trauma Center and various RPGs (which is fine, but the female characters are still generally secondary in the story.)

I was about to mention Shantae and then I remembered that A. she is still scantily clad, just not stacked and B. a lot of the OTHER females in the game are both scantily clad and stacked.

Yeah.

NinSage said:

As for the brains thing... a difference of opinion is fine. But for me, if a girl solves a problem and gets what she wants by evaluating the situation and then successfully executing a plan, I don't really see how that can only be viewed as "outsmarting" in some circumstances versus others.

After all, when a man does the exact same thing, solving a problem by using his brain and then his body (muscles) no one seems to have a problem with it.

But again, this is about who you are marketing your character towards. Guys like seeing guys who use their brain and then SMASH THINGS. Guys like seeing women who use their brain and then SEX. In both cases you're just selling these characters to guys. So of course it starts to feel a bit sexist when the main purpose of your FEMALE character is to appeal to men. You almost never see the reverse (male character meant to appeal to females), at least not in the game industry. Maybe in romance novels.


Posted by 
 on: 06/14/12, 21:40:44  - Edited by 
 on: 06/14/12, 21:55:48
I'm trying understand the perspective of the people who flamed her and vandalized the Wikipedia page. Leaving terrible Youtube comments is easy, anyone can do that. But this organized effort to take down her Kickstarter and stop the project? That takes brains. And anyone who would go through that much effort is probably passionate about gaming. These gamers don't want our medium to evolve? I mean, there's got to be some deeper issue here besides "they're sexist pricks," right?

Of course, it's possible that it's just /b/ causing mayhem for the sake of causing mayhem. Actually, that's probably exactly what it is. But they're only hurting themselves.


Posted by 
 on: 06/14/12, 22:19:02
Zero said:

And yeah, Nintendo itself doesn't really fall prey to the selling games with scantily clad women as much, but Nintendo still has problems in how it portrays women.

The concept behind and the box text for Super Princess Peach is absolutely some of the most sexist shit I have ever seen in games. It's beyond the pale.


Posted by 
 on: 06/14/12, 22:22:25
@kriswright

Oh no, that was not my intention at all. Nevermind the connotations of the phrase PC. It's just that typically it is ALWAYS socially acceptable to say "women are getting a bad deal! we need to do more for our women!" And, in this case, I just don't personally think it needs the amount of attention it gets, especially considering the imbalance. And since that view MAY be perceived as contrary to that which is ALWAYS acceptable, I didn't want people to immediately leap to conclusions about my views as being sexist, or anything else extreme.

@Zero

Well that gets at a philosophical difference that you and I apparently have. I don't view games, films, TV shows, plays, etc as being fundamentally that different. Not different enough to consider this new study something potentially revolutionary.

Just as we scoff at people wondering if violence in games is any worse than violence in films, I believe the same when it comes to gender roles.

In your example, using physically attractive, scantily clad women is very pertinent. You see, it is the same as using muscular, uncompromising men. It is assumed that taking on the role of that kind of man is empowering for male gamers. I have a well-documented history of feeling that is not a healthy portrayal of men, but the assumption remains and, in all honesty, they are right because most men STRIVE to be like that (to some extent). The exact same case can be made for physically attractive, scantily clad women. The assumption is that if women are out in the world trying to look like Angelina Jolie, then it is empowering to give them that type of avatar. Women (and men) are welcome to be just as offended by it as I am when I look at Kratos or Marcus Fenix. However, this is the EQUALITY of the situation. And while I feel studies and changes should be done about both, I just feel they should be done with some semblance of EQUALITY.

Also, again, the kind of battle being hinted at here is extremely uphill. You say people wonder why more women don't cross over beyond certain games. That would be like asking why more women don't go see action movies instead of romantic comedies and dramas. There are social (and to a far greater extent biological) reasons why men are attracted to blowing stuff up and women are more interested in other things.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, which is why we don't need to worry about what kind of attire/body type designers need to create to get women playing Call of Shooter 19.

EDIT: You added some more text but it also ran a very similar path as where I took this post. The difference is that you are automatically seeing the negatives in things targeted towards men. Again, magazines are targeted towards women. Talk about scantily clad. At the grocery store a lot of typical magazines need to have opaque covers put over them so little kids don't see!

The issue, again, is that we are all so conditioned to find things that could be offensive or objectionable to women ...

Fighting as an attractive dude?
Too violent. Can't identify.

Fighting as an attractive girl?
Too violent. Also, sexist.

Cooking?
Sexist.

Raising any kind of living creature?
Sexist.

Being in any way pink or pretty or cutesy?
Sexist.

So, what's left?
Are we hoping the female lawyer/doctor genre is going to take off? How is that going in other media? Is Grey's Anatomy and Drop Dead Diva where gaming should look for inspiration?

~~~

So, yes, let's analyze the portrayal of women in games. But let's not expect something we haven't heard before from the countless studies done on other mediums. Furthermore, I just believe that, based on what I've observed of the industry, there is just as much work to do on the portrayal of men in gaming - and I think we're conditioned to believe someone sticking up for men in this capacity is automatically anti-women. So I want to make my intentions as clear as possible, which, given the subject, is no easy task!


Posted by 
 on: 06/14/12, 22:27:35  - Edited by 
 on: 06/14/12, 22:40:42
@Secret_Tunnel Some people see fighting "feminism" as a battle worth putting time and effort into before women completely emasculate men or something like that. I don't understand that viewpoint at all, but that's probably where it is coming from.

@Kal-El814 Probably yeah. I've heard that it all makes slightly more sense in context of the game, but I forget why. Something about how these are not Peach's natural emotions, she is under some spell or something. But still, the whole idea of a game built on a woman involving lots of EMOTIONAL OUTBREAKS and such... definitely questionable.

@NinSage I think video games and other media have to be looked at separately though. Well, looked at both as part of a bigger whole, and individually. For instance, you wrote your thesis on casual / hardcore gaming, right? Sure, there are similar casual versus hardcore divides in every medium, but there are also a lot of things very specific to the gaming industry that you don't see in the same fashion elsewhere, so it made sense to focus on gaming.

As for the "female avatars" I don't really buy that developers are trying to present characters that females will want to strive to be, because these games are clearly tailored towards giving eye candy to men, and although there is probably some crossover there (if that is what men want to see, that is what I need to become!) the intent from developers is definitely to cater to men first and foremost, because this industry was historically built upon selling primarily to males, and only recently have developers even acknowledged that a large portion of female gamers exists. And I'll bet that most females would be turned off by these representations more than anything, but... who knows? There isn't much data on this stuff in the video game industry. We would probably need some sort of study on how females are represented in the industry and ho... AAAAAAAAH, I SEE WHAT I DID THERE.

Anyway, I still think there is a huge difference of degree in the way male and female characters are portrayed in video games in general. Let's look at our favorite offender, Resident Evil:



What the F purpose does that suit serve other than exposing her skin... IN A WORLD WHERE THREATS ARE SPREAD VIRALLY IN AN INSTANT? What is the male equivalent here? Sure the male characters all look like they pump steroids, but they aren't dressed in a ridiculous way just to appease sexual fantasies:



They wear the type of outfits you would expect to see someone in this situation wearing.

It's not just Resident Evil either. Here is some Trauma Team:



Yeah. You just don't see men completely objectified in video games in the way you see women objectified. I don't think there is any reasonable comparison.


Posted by 
 on: 06/14/12, 22:30:40  - Edited by 
 on: 06/14/12, 22:50:05
Regarding Super Princess Peach, I'm not going to complain about it because I think our culture should be more welcoming of emotions! I am cool with a game where a MAN cries on things. I want to see that sort of acceptance of who we are as humans! We have emotions! We're not just robots... so I'm fine with Peach showing emotion, because I'd also be fine with Mario doing the exact same thing.

Again, I think the issue there isn't so much a problem with women, but a reflection of our cultures issues with emotions... "the baby! the baby!" oh no! Samus has parental instincts and the ability to care! How terrible!

My mom had maternal instincts. My dad had paternal instincts... call me crazy, I'm kinda glad they did.

@Zero

But you have to understand, in our culture, half naked men is not the equivalent of half naked women. The equivalent is men who are confident, uncompromising, and display emotions that range from stoicism to anger. Look at the roles Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, George Clooney, etc play ... how many times have we seen those characters break down due to fear or insecurity?

Depending on various shades of truth, even when an attractive man starts stripping women will say "ew, put a shirt on!"

Unlike in the bird world, in the human world, women are the ones that are pleasing to the eye. Men are designed to be utilitarian ... hunt, gather, blah blah blah. The funny thing is, somehow that's "sexist" right? As if being utilitarian (a tool) is insultingly better than being attractive. I don't know about you guys, but I know which one I would pick!!!


Posted by 
 on: 06/14/12, 22:45:31  - Edited by 
 on: 06/14/12, 23:02:08
@NinSage

Fair enough. I don't think anything you initially said was sexist. But I didn't notice anyone accusing you of that, either, so the preemptive strike against it was hard to parse.

Though I do still disagree that showing an empowered woman controlling a man via sex is, necessarily, a positive depiction of a woman using her brain. Basic Instinct is a good example. When Sharon Stone is crossing and uncrossing her legs, she's dominating the interrogation proceedings, obviously. Strong woman? You bet. Smart woman? Yeah. But isn't that scene also about showing the attractive actress Sharon Stone's hoo-hah off to a paying audience of men who want to see it? Of course it was. So can we really count that as a positive portrayal of a woman? At best, I think it's debatable.

As far as Super Princess Peach... I liked the game, but it bothered me throughout that Peach's emotions were her power. Ridiculous. Sexist is right. I had to tell myself it was a Japanese thing to finish it. So, there you go. When you encounter sexism, fight it with racism.


Posted by 
 on: 06/14/12, 22:46:01
@kriswright

Yea, sorry, I did feel that treading this ground, a preemptive strike was in order. As soon as "ists" start getting thrown around all is lost, right? =) Sorry if that was a bother. (Also, LOL at your conclusion regarding "isms" of your own.)

I don't doubt in the slightest that the scene you bring up is PRIMARILY designed to show hoo-hah (=P) as opposed to make some kind of social comment. It just seems that, in general, people mistake attractiveness and personal value as being mutually exclusive. And that makes no sense to me.


Posted by 
 on: 06/14/12, 22:57:29  - Edited by 
 on: 06/14/12, 23:02:29
@NinSage I don't think you can make an equivalent so easily though. There is no real equivalent to the complete sexualization of women for the pleasure of men in video games. There just isn't.

Also, there is a sort of elephant in the room so I guess I'll just have to come out and say it.

Women have to live with a fear that most men don't. Most, not all. Obviously men are victims of sexual abuse as well.

It's tough to make the direct connection between sexualized imagery in the media and sexual abuse. But whether or not being overtly exposed to these kind of visuals consistently has anything to do with sexual assault (probably not in most cases other than borderlines?) it still adds to the view of women as objects that will, of course, make many women feel uncomfortable. It's not just women being "prudes" or whatever. It stems from a very serious issue. Women don't get to be as flippant about sexuality as men because women are often in real danger over their sexuality.

I just don't think there is any male equivalent here. I walk home late at night and my only worry is "someone might try to get my wallet".


Posted by 
 on: 06/14/12, 23:06:13  - Edited by 
 on: 06/14/12, 23:08:42
@NinSage

It's not about emotional acceptance generally; I'd agree with that.

The concept behind Super Princess Peach is offensive because gameplay involves manipulating Peach's emotions with the press of a button, which inspires ridiculously exaggerated shit like Peach spewing tears because of gloom or lighting herself on fire with anger. And then at the end (spoiler alert, if anyone cares), the fucking umbrella saves Mario, who runs over to Peach and sweeps her off her feet. Not that Peach has ever really been a paragon of womanhood, but Super Princess Peach is pathetic.

And the problem with Samus' characterization in Other M goes beyond the whole baby thing. Maternal instinct is fine. But Samus will let herself burn to death because Adam didn't tell her it's okay to turn on Varia. We have almost 25 years establishing her armor is fundamentally awesome, except against Adam, who can one hit KO her easily. And she's always been able to pull out all the stops and accomplish her mission, except when Adam finishes the hard work so that she can escape. It's awful.


Posted by 
 on: 06/14/12, 23:07:05  - Edited by 
 on: 06/14/12, 23:08:08
NinSage said:

So, what's left?
Are we hoping the female lawyer/doctor genre is going to take off?

Hmm.

♪Single Female Lawyer,
Fighting for her client,
Wearing sexy miniskirts,
And being self-reliant.

.....

Single Female Lawyer,
Having lots of sex♫


This is all I have to contribute to this conversation, sorry .


Posted by 
 on: 06/14/12, 23:08:18  - Edited by 
 on: 06/14/12, 23:09:00
@Zero

1 to 1 equal? No. But it's about as close as I've heard unless someone has a better one.

And yea, I'll grant women have extra worries since they are the ones in our jungle with the pretty plumage, but, I still don't think that is really an issue for the media as much as for our society. If guns in games don't lead to violence, jiggly boobs in games don't lead to rape.

@Kal-El814

Yea, I mean, I don't think anyone was going to argue that SPP was something little girls should try to emulate. But, I still like it's acknowledgement of human emotion.

My beloved Luigi is scared out of his mind in all of his games ... no one seems bothered by it.

Let's imagine Adam is a woman or Samus is a man. Now, the Varia Suit thing... still sexist? Or is it just a lame gameplay mechanic?

Lastly, whether it be Peach or Samus, the "who saves who" game is one that nobody wins. I have heard that come up in SO many classes (including the one I took on Female Sexuality in Literature). Peach trudges through the whole game but one slip up at the end negates it all? Samus spends 98% of the game blowing up aliens and saving the day without killing herself. But Adam gets himself killed saving the day and suddenly it's all about him and his penis-having?

Imagine if Samus had to kill herself to save the day. "OMG! Women have to DIE to be the hero!? SEXIST!"

@Shadowlink

I think you have made a wonderful contribution to the discussion.


Posted by 
 on: 06/14/12, 23:36:19
Super Princess Peach was so over-the-top that it became hilarious to me. Like an old romance comic, or something.

Anyway, if we assume that the vast majority of console gamers are male (which they ARE), is it a problem that women are objectified more often? The analogy isn't totally accurate, but nobody wants to see a naked dude in Playboy.

There's a bigger issue about gender roles, and such, but I don't think that video games are anywhere near the most important aspect of that discussion. I mean, almost everything about games is so puerile in the first place. I don't think the cultural trends are being established there.

The real problem is rap music.

@kriswright
There is no accountability on Kickstarter. Not really.

I saw one of her videos. It was alright. Kind of interesting. I don't see how she could possibly need this much money, but... Kickstarter. I'll just think of it as her 'mental anguish' settlement for dealing with the commenters.


Posted by 
 on: 06/14/12, 23:37:00  - Edited by 
 on: 06/14/12, 23:45:48
Kal-El814 said:
And the problem with Samus' characterization in Other M goes beyond the whole baby thing. Maternal instinct is fine. But Samus will let herself burn to death because Adam didn't tell her it's okay to turn on Varia. We have almost 25 years establishing her armor is fundamentally awesome, except against Adam, who can one hit KO her easily. And she's always been able to pull out all the stops and accomplish her mission, except when Adam finishes the hard work so that she can escape. It's awful.

But is that sexism, or is it just stupid writing? I think women being objectified in games as sex objects is the issue here. There's been debate in this thread about certain characteristics of men and women in games going both ways. Focusing on poorly-written women in games is a double standard, because there are just as many poorly-written men.

Let's take Marcus Fenix for example (who in reality isn't that bad of a character, but let's roll with it). When I play as him, I feel like a badass. "Hell yeah! LOOK MA, NO FACE!!!!" From a gameplay perspective, it's empowering. I feel the same way when I play as Samus in Other M, because she's strong, acrobatic, and fun to play as. However, from a writing perspective, both of these characters are pretty dumb. Marcus being poorly-written doesn't fuel my male-power fantasy. His muscles do that. Samus being poorly-written doesn't fuel my male-power fantasy. Her boobs do that- or at least they would, if Samus was portrayed as a sex object, which she isn't (most of the time).

Samus being emotional isn't any more sexist than Marcus being a meathead. But if Samus fought in Power Suit bikini, then yes, that would be more sexist than Marcus fighting with his shirt off.


Posted by 
 on: 06/14/12, 23:45:23  - Edited by 
 on: 06/14/12, 23:47:09


Posted by 
 on: 06/14/12, 23:50:23  - Edited by 
 on: 06/14/12, 23:51:22
@NinSage

In the Varia example, if Samus was male and Adam was female, it wouldn't be as potentially sexist. But that's not the point. It's totally unreasonable to expect that you can take the characters in a situation, change something fundamentally important about them (their gender, their race, their age, whatever), put them back into the same situation, and either expect the reaction to situation be the same or that a different reaction implies a double standard. This approach assumes that there's some baseline appropriate or expected response that's independent of the details, which is rarely the case.

It's the same with Luigi. If his perpetually scared, somewhat waifish traits were put into a female character, that character SHOULD be perceived differently.

The stereotypes about men and women are different. You can't swap the genders of characters and expect the reactions to be the same. That's completely unreasonable, and a really lousy mental exercise.

And no, the endings of SPP or Other M don't negate everything that they did, but the circumstances in which they both end, along with the other stuff that's happening in those games, contributes to how the characters within them are perceived overall. Neither SPP or Other M portray their protagonists in a compelling way.

@Secret_Tunnel

Samus being emotional and Marcus being a meathead, in a vacuum, aren't fundamentally different, I would agree. They both play into stereotypical gender roles. But Marcus was always a meathead and Samus was not always portrayed as emotional, petulant and traumatized, and the greatest damage we've ever seen her take in-game didn't come from her bullish CO who wouldn't let Samus do the heavy lifting, for whom Samus would rather burn to death than disobey.

It's not the same.

@Anand

I can certainly see SPP from that perspective, too. There's an extent to which any kind of change needs to happen organically. Which is part of my issue with the whole Tomb Raider thing to begin with; the stuff that seems like it's happening in that game based off the footage is NOT especially unrealistic considering the circumstances. But it comes off and has been talked about by the developers pretty poorly. It comes off as forced, as a cheap attention grab. What do we know about Tomb Raider? That Lara might get raped and that you'll want to protect her. This is how the DEVELOPER is discussing their game; their motives seem both obvious and shallow despite it being possible that the story could be compelling.


Posted by 
 on: 06/14/12, 23:55:55  - Edited by 
 on: 06/15/12, 00:06:08
@NinSage I'm not really talking about how much media does or doesn't affect real world violence though (and I think the best answer to that is "we really don't know.") I'm talking about why you can't point to all of these sexually exploitative images and say there are equivalents for males in the video game industry. The difference is that there aren't really many images of men in games that promote a single trait of males that real life males are constantly attacked/exploited/etc. over.

Whether or not the games themselves contribute to these problems isn't really the point. The point is that the imagery can be very disturbing to a lot of women because they can see it as kind of condoning the attitude that they are just a piece of meat. And I'm kind of just focusing on the violent side of things and ignoring the broader of men "using" women for sex (without explicitly committing sexual assault) which is even more incredibly widespread.

What would the equivalent fear for men be? If I had to stretch it I'd say "men fear being used for money" or something but I can't think of any media, including video games, that is so in-your-face packed with images of men being presented as only having one value, their wallet. Modern rap music I guess? But that's a super problematic area for a billion reasons. Also money exchanges are not nearly as intimate as sexual exchanges, so I don't think this compares at all.

@Anand But the whole idea of Playboy is "this is a magazine for men." I'm pretty sure that it explicitly says "men's magazine" on the cover (can't start looking up Playboys at work to double check.) Is this the message we want to give out to women? "This is an industry for men?" I don't think so. Especially since many, many women already play video games. I don't have sources offhand but I have read a lot of articles by female gamers who say they don't feel like they are being welcomed. Especially female journalists at E3.

Anyway I think the whole porn industry is pretty problematic too but that's a whole other can of worms.


Posted by 
 on: 06/15/12, 00:01:15  - Edited by 
 on: 06/15/12, 00:07:35
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