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Tropes Vs Women in Video Games, Somehow a Controversy? (+ general gender / video game discussion)
News reported by 
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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Regarding Lelliana and Morrigan...

I don't recall Lelliana ever being provocatively dressed unless you initiate a romance with her, and then she's not treated any differently than other characters of either sex that you can hook up with. Her backstory is as an assassin/spy, and sex was one of her tools. Also she has a religious epiphany prior to meeting the main character and sometimes struggles with her past compared to that. I think it's handled well overall.

And I do think Morrigan's backstory and situation explains why she dresses the way that she does. No doubt there were "marketing" reasons as well but those are more easily tolerated when the justification is present/logical and the character is compelling.

Posted by 
 on: 06/15/12, 22:55:14
Zero said:
B. Greek art also had tons of nude males, so where is all the penis?

... let us not continue down this path.

I should say that I also feel that the term 'exploitative' is totally out-of-place when discussing fictional characters. I mean, come on, now. If we assume that most of the players are male, then the only possible significant damage would come from how these portrayals shape those players' views of women.

Let's not go crazy and treat fictional creations as if they were images of actual people.

Posted by 
 on: 06/15/12, 23:41:35

When I use the term "exploitation" I only mean it in the same way that it's used in film; a cheap attempt to appeal to the zeitgeist absent other merit. When I say that Lara Croft is an "exploited" character, I don't mean that she, herself, is exploited per se, merely that she is designed to exploit particular trends.

I should have been more clear.

Posted by 
 on: 06/15/12, 23:47:31
kriswright said:
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.

Peach doesn't have emotion powers. The game took place on Vibe Island. EVERYTHING on the island was affected by the different moods. The entirety of the flora and fauna in the game had wild mood swings. Which the player controlled via the touch-screen.

Posted by 
 on: 06/15/12, 23:49:38

You don't think that's a big deal, though? How those portrayals shape a male player's view of women?

Maybe you're right that exploitative isn't the right word - I was thinking more how it exploits sexual imagery to make a buck from male players, but obviously it isn't exploiting a person and shouldn't be viewed that way - but I still think that, you know, having a generation of males sexually imprinting on Ivy from Soul Calibur is, at the very least, worth questioning.


Do you really buy that argument, though? I mean... come on. Here you have Peach, the most recognizable female character Nintendo's got, finally starring in her first game. And what's the hook? She has mood swings. Do you really think that was accidental? 'Cause I don't. And I liked the game.

Vibe Island may be the explanation for the powers, but that's just a handwave, surely.

Posted by 
 on: 06/15/12, 23:53:11  - Edited by 
 on: 06/16/12, 00:01:10
I can see that. It seems more like pandering than exploitation, though.

Weren't there a bunch of studies about how Tomb Raider, amidst all the cries of sexism, was actually one of the franchises most played and enjoyed by women? There's probably a certain element of 'any port in a storm' there, though. Like, "Yay, I can play as a girl!"

Honestly, it would be incredibly easy to include an alternate female character in most gameplay-focused genres. It's much harder in RPGs (where it seems to happen more often).

Did Jade actually have any feminine characteristics besides her clothing? Or was she just gender-neutral? Didn't they give her an uncle-type character instead of a love interest? I can't remember. But I think that creating a solid, memorable female character with 'feminine characteristics' (if such things exist!) is far more impressive.

To wit: Trip from Enslaved. Yes, the female was the 'brains' of the operation, but it worked well and was believable. Well, as believable as Penny from Inspector Gadget. Also, she wasn't a flawless saint, like most female characters in male-oriented media. Enslaved was kind of more of a movie than a game, though...

One more query for the crowd: Panel de Pon - a mark in the positive column or the negative column?

I still think that Nintendo is missing out on a licensing goldmine by not taking the money train to Princess Town.

It could be a big deal, or it could be a statistically insignificant reflection of society as a whole. To me, it's a matter of the overall importance of that medium, relative to everything else. I mean, you have to pick your battles. You can't just go to war with Youtube commenters. YOU WILL NEVER WIN.

But, yeah, what is the ultimate goal here, in terms of the female's position in society? And what's the best way, in realistic terms, to achieve it? Could it ever be possible? (Not really burdening you with that, specifically. Just throwin' it out there.)

Back to the exploitation thing, I know that you guys didn't mean it like that, but it makes me think of how that one dude went to jail for importing naked pictures of fictional women from Japan. That is some chilling-ass shit. Especially in a world where people regularly get away with actual crimes against actual people.

Now, could that kind of material cause actual damage to someone's psyche? Just like the Columbine thing, there have been some scary cases cited. On the other hand, just like the Columbine thing, I think one have to be somewhat deranged to even consider that kind of thing in the first place. I mean, the world is increasingly full of violence and naughtiness, but the crime rate has actually been going down, right? Video games didn't invent violence (even if I wish they would stop relying on it).

Back to your actual point, I'm sure that every portrayal of females in society affects their overall perception in some way. But are gaming girls just a ripple in a pond or just a drop in the ocean?

If 60% of Soul Calibur players get some sort of enjoyment out of that portrayal of Ivy, and it offends 1% of players, is it worth having? (Sorry to continue to pull meaningless statistics out of my ass.) Is it acceptable? Is the level of magnitude of fictional fanservice even close to that of the actual porn industry, which chews up actual women and spits them out? To me, it seems like the war on marijuana, kind of.

Like, the world is full of horror. Without a strong sense of priority, you just can't rationally deal with it.

Why the fuck did I type so much? I don't want to have to follow up...

Posted by 
 on: 06/16/12, 00:02:10  - Edited by 
 on: 06/16/12, 00:22:01
NinSage said:
The goal shouldn't be to REMOVE sex from women. It should be to equip the audience with enough sense to process sexuality in a healthy way.

Well, this requires building more complex characters than we tend to see in the current video game industry.

Still, I'd say (at least this is my theory of creation) that there should always be two things in mind when creating something: the project's internal logic, and the project's external piece in the broader world. For instance, the Resident Evil 5 example was brought up. Internally, it might make sense for the storyline of the game to head to the heart of Africa (where man is thought to have origins?) and it also makes sense that a large portion of the people who you run into in Africa are black. But externally, you still have to think about the type of imagery presented when a white man is running around killing crazed blacks. Yeah there is a black woman running around killing crazed blacks too, but that's not really the point. I'm not necessarily saying the game was WRONG (and I did buy it and enjoy it), but I do think the developers were a bit naive when it came to the broader implications of their choices (I'm basing this off comments I saw way back in the midst of this controversy.)

So back to the video game industry as a whole. You're a developer, and you have choices to make with your next project. Sure, you can think up a project that, internally, makes a ton of sense and involves sexy women doing sexy things. I'm not saying this is always going to be a bad thing. But when you take the broader context into account (IE, the fact that the industry is TERRIBLE in its depictions of women as a whole) then I think that, as a developer, you should at least think about other ways to present your female characters besides a lot of the staple cliches that involve sexiness.

Honestly, if the industry was more balanced in its depictions of women, then there wouldn't be as much outcry over the times when a character is obviously just there to be sexy. But it's not. So of course people are going to have a problem with it.

@kriswright OMG, YES.

@kriswright Um, I think I just wrote a ton of stuff before reading what you wrote which is basically saying the same thing only better. Except for the defending Lara Croft and her ridiculous boobs part.

@Kal-El814 Well, like I said, I haven't played those games.

Posted by 
 on: 06/16/12, 00:14:52  - Edited by 
 on: 06/16/12, 00:15:52

Panel de Pon... Seems alright to me. Yeah, I guess she's showing some leg, but that doesn't seem particularly sexual. Unless I'm just being naive.


I'll put it like this, kind of in line with what Anand said above. Steph likes Lara Croft. She likes her because she's a tough action chick. She saw both movies, even though they weren't very good. We played through Legend and attempted to play through Underworld (damn game is too dark!). And while I'm sure Steph would like to see Lara's breasts downsized a bit, I'm convinced she likes Lara's sexy adventurer routine the same way I like James Bond's suave spy routine. So... the boobs may be obvious fanservice, but the idea that Lara is desirable is perfectly reasonable. And, hey, she came from an era when her chest was made of like 7 polygons. I cut her a little slack for being exaggerated.

Posted by 
 on: 06/16/12, 00:14:58  - Edited by 
 on: 06/16/12, 00:19:07
Actually, I was just joking about Panel de Pon, but I wasn't alluding to sexuality. Rather, to reinforcing female stereotypes.

I also think that it's kind of amusing that a bunch of dudes are arguing amongst themselves about feminism. I mean, we can guess how women feel, but... C'mon, NW ladies! Represent!

Although I can totally understand why you wouldn't want to.

Posted by 
 on: 06/16/12, 00:27:40
@kriswright I'm not sure I buy the comparisons to James Bond though. Bond is a ridiculous man built to appeal to men. Lara Croft is a ridiculous woman built to appeal to men. A better comparison would be a ridiculous man built to appeal to women. That is distinguished by some fundamental trait that women obsess over and have a reputation for using men just to obtain, even though most men can't even begin to live up to the ideals presented by the media.

But like... does that exist? In the video game world? Or even much in the real world? Women certainly don't obsess over our bodies in the same way (to the same extreme, yes I know ROCK HARD ABS turn some girls on.) So what trait would it be? Again, the best I can come up with is "money". We tend to worry that we won't be able to support our women, yada yada. Wouldn't we start to feel just a wee bit uncomfortable if every other game had some RICH dude who was clearly appealing because of his wealth and women were constantly obsessing over these guys? Especially when it started to become very clear that the "ideal" man in this media made for our women was something none of us would ever be?

I dunno man.

Posted by 
 on: 06/16/12, 00:41:31  - Edited by 
 on: 06/16/12, 00:43:19
Hey, I thought about an example that no one mentioned (not that I saw). How about Fat Princess?
Would 36.1% of the 25+ female population appreciate a more fitting likeness in their games? Is that the problem?

I don't think she's sexualized at all, btw. Great example, more extremely fat women in videogames, please.

I love videogame royalty.


These are extremely offensive.


But your picture of Jade is how a lot of women really dress.


Day 1


Man, women in porn; yeah, they're chewed up and spit right out and do things for money that some people didn't ven know about..but do you know their careers are like 8 years, and then they're set for life? Dude. DUDE.

Posted by 
 on: 06/16/12, 00:42:35  - Edited by 
 on: 06/16/12, 00:46:15
@Mr_Mustache I know! I'm not complaining about Jade! I'm just saying that our "best" example that we can all agree on (although I'm sure there are some others) is still showing some skin. You're not going to see many female leads dressed like this in games:

Posted by 
 on: 06/16/12, 00:45:18

And then the girls who are "sexualized," I don't even think they're that bad. No boobs are ridiculous huge. You gotta be nimble, and able to move!

Posted by 
 on: 06/16/12, 00:51:53

While it's obviously directed at young readers and not women, I would say that the Twilight books feature male characters in a way that is meant to appeal to female readers. Not the best example perhaps, but the most obvious and popular contemporary one.


The porn discussion is really a whole other thing, but I would contend that the number of women who work in the porn industry for 8 years and are set for life are the small, small minority.


Pandering is probably a better term generally and certainly better suited for this conversation specifically.

Posted by 
 on: 06/16/12, 01:08:15
@Mr_Mustache I guess I mean "lead" as in a game where the main person is a female. Fire Emblem games... hmm. Half the time they don't even have a sole main person really.

@Kal-El814 Probably true with Twilight (and romance novels in general) but that's like bottom of the barrel stuff there. Hopefully the game industry can be better!

And yeah about the porn industry, I think there are like 8,000 nobodies for every "star", and most are doing low budget stuff and certainly not earning a big living doing so. It's basically like the regular acting world, it's easy to point to those at the top and say wow, acting is big money! But that's the minority.

Posted by 
 on: 06/16/12, 01:13:08

Yeah, Fire Emblem kicks a lot of ass with female characters.

Posted by 
 on: 06/16/12, 01:15:33

Titania is FORCED to stay in your group (at least in cutscenes) from start to finish, and she starts out as your strongest unit.
And I wouldn't put Lucca anywhere near the top either. She's not even on the boxxx.

There is a lead girl in the Ambassador game.

Posted by 
 on: 06/16/12, 01:16:22
Mr_Mustache said:
I don't think she's sexualized at all, btw. Great example, more extremely fat women in videogames, please.
Your wish is granted.

Chubby AND sexualized!

Posted by 
 on: 06/16/12, 02:01:35

Posted by 
 on: 06/16/12, 02:40:04
kriswright said:
I don't think anyone in this thread is a Puritan.
Wouldn't you feel just awful if we had some Puritan lurkers? (Joey-Joe-Joe!!)

Posted by 
 on: 06/16/12, 02:48:40
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