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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    
Why not sign up for a (free) account and create your own content?
Now that I've actually watched it, I'd say it's pretty good. Lots of good examples again. And she points out some games she thinks do things well, the lack of which was a criticism of her past videos.

I'd totally play the theoretical game at the end. Would be all over that.

I will agree with Mustache that Peach is the obvious superior choice in Super Mario Bros. 2 though. Well, Peach or Luigi, so she gets at least 50% credit there.

@Mr_Mustache Yeah, I see that she has some issues with something that she enjoys, and is talking about it in a calm and collected manner. Much like all of the rest of gaming nerds do, except that actually outside of Negative World, the whole "calm and collected" thing is rare.

I think you like thinking of her as some constantly pissed off feminazi or something, because she is easier to write off that way, but she has never shown any signs of being anything close to that. But then, I kind of also think you think all feminists are angry feminazis.

Posted by 
 on: 08/02/13, 03:34:18  - Edited by 
 on: 08/02/13, 04:27:53
I was kind of whatever about Sarkeesian before, but she has dared to impugn Spelunky, and is, therefore, now my enemy for life. Seriously, now we can't even parody stuff? Nothing bugs me more than those without senses of humor.

She also spoiled a bunch of games. WTF.

Posted by 
 on: 08/02/13, 05:05:38  - Edited by 
 on: 08/02/13, 05:09:40

When she mentioned Spelunky (before she said anything), I actually thought (possibly said out loud) "uh oh" with you specifically in mind.


Nah, man, its there. You just gotta see. Just because she isn't throwing books and flipping tea tables doesn't mean she's not a grumpo. In fact, look at like any psychological thriller: the calmest ones are often the ones who are the most nutrageous. Hannibal Lectre. Verbal Kint. Not long before "HEEEERE'S JOHNNY!"

Posted by 
 on: 08/02/13, 05:16:16  - Edited by 
 on: 08/02/13, 05:16:33
@Mr_Mustache Sorry man, not seeing it at all. Complete projection on your part.

Posted by 
 on: 08/02/13, 05:38:55
Real talk. First of all, what do you think the purpose of this series is, and who do you think that it's targeted at?

Secondly, has she said anything at all that you didn't already know? Or presented any data from a new, unique perspective (that you couldn't just guess by reading the episode title)? Or pointed out a trend/causality that you weren't aware of? Like, has she educated you, specifically, in any way?

Posted by 
 on: 08/02/13, 06:07:03
I think the purpose is to get people, more specifically the mainstream video game media / gamers who hang out on those sites / etc., talking about the representation of women in video games (and if so, it has clearly been successful) and thinking deeper about the representation of women in video games (may or may not be quite as successful?), and I think it is targeted at "everyone" who plays video games, really.

I'd say she has educated me on some details, especially related to the history of the specific tropes and some examples of games that I have never played. Most of the larger points like "this trope exists in a pretty substantial way" I already knew from my years of playing games. But I think guys who have probably played over 1,000 video games in their life (I'm willing to put my number that high) aren't the only demographic here.

Posted by 
 on: 08/02/13, 06:53:01  - Edited by 
 on: 08/02/13, 06:54:30
I don't necessarily think that the series is targeted at us, either. But I want her to do more than present existing issues. I want to see a deeper, less superficial, more even-handed analysis. Like, for example, female characters in games being more agile or having more mana or intelligence, but having less overall health and strength than their male counterparts. Or covering a bit more of the emotional spectrum. Like, are those bad, gender-role-reinforcing messages? Or are they okay or maybe more accurate? And why? What would a realistic solution be?

Finding examples and finger-wagging is going to get old fast. She's doing a research paper, but I want to see an essay.

I dunno. People are talking, I guess. Which, like Occupy Wall Street, is maybe the point of the whole thing. But OWS didn't amount to much in the end.

Posted by 
 on: 08/02/13, 19:03:54
It's probably easier to touch the minds of game developers than it is to move the minds of Wall Street bankers.

Well, probably not. Especially not big budget gaming, which is basically just straight up unrestrained Capitalism at this point.

It'd be interesting to see some of what you're looking for, but I'm not sure that is within the scope of her project. Especially so far, her first three videos were literally just about one specific trope. The next video is about new stuff though.

One point that she has only sort of vaguely made which is sort of at the root of my own beliefs is that the issues aren't as much with any given individual game as they are with the bigger picture that an entire industry paints. If there were a lot more depth and variety in representations of females in games, it might not be that big of a deal if any given game decides to go with the ol' staple of a knight rescuing a princess.

I don't always agree with everything that she says though. I only kind of half agree, half disagree with her comments on the parody games.

I think it was interesting seeing her examples of games that she thinks do a good job of representing females. Most everyone seems to agree that Beyond Good and Evil gets it "right", and certainly a lot of us love that game, so it's not like getting it "right" makes for a worse game. But the game kind of tanked with the mainstream, so maybe it killed its sales potential? Then again, it probably would have tanked with a male lead as well, it was just a sort of weird game with a weird name.

But she also liked Braid's alternative take on the rescuing the princess trope, to some degree, and that game has done pretty well for itself...

Posted by 
 on: 08/02/13, 19:13:15  - Edited by 
 on: 08/02/13, 19:16:51
Watching Part 3 now.

I ALWAYS played as Peach in SMB2.

Wait, what...? Female protagonists in video games were because of Buffy? uh...

Women saving men stories are invalidated because it's uncommon, so men aren't portrayed as weak by being captured and needing help from their women but women are when it's reversed... because it's not the norm... wow, she's really losing my respect quickly.

Now putting the studly chip-n-dales man in the exact same role as the attractive woman in Spelunky is demeaning to the woman, but not to the man... because society views it differently??? C'mon Anita... this is insane.

Wait... you could play as a female warrior in Guacamelee as well as the male Lucadoor.

Ahh, she brings that up. But it's still not ok, because it's still a princess that's being held hostage. But - as we've seen - she still wouldn't give the game any props if it was a prince being held hostage... because... y'know... that's not the norm so it doesn't disempower the man like it would for the woman in the exact same role.

Wait... a damsel, that turns out to be secretly a lethal villain is still "just as disempowered as ever"? What?

Ok, that Earthworm Jim stuff WAS hilarious. Ironic sexism DOES draw attention to sexist stereotypes and traditional gender opinion ARE a thing of the past for MANY people.

Her game sounds good, but, I'd be willing to bet that if it was actually made, Anita would find a way to make it sexist against women. That's what she does, it seems.

IMO, as someone who has said a lot of positive things about previous episodes, this was definitely the worst one.

Posted by 
 on: 08/02/13, 21:39:44
I think she wrote off games where females rescue males much too quickly, but I totally get where she is coming from when it comes to imagery / themes that support pre-existing stereotypes versus the reverse (gender swaps) which aren't really tailored to stereotypes at all though. There is a reason why, for instance, giving a White guy huge buckteeth is not the same as giving an Asian guy huge buckteeth, even if both are meant to make the guy ridiculous in some way... one is supporting a pre-existing stereotype, the other can stand alone a bit more.

Either way the whole females rescuing males thing in video games is so rare that I don't even get why she tried to deconstruct it like that. She could have totally acknowledged it as a step in the right direction while still making a very strong point that it in no way represents a large trend in the industry like the reverse does.

Posted by 
 on: 08/02/13, 22:01:19
Every now and again a game comes up that stirs up the debate. Dragon's Crown being the most recent one.

Here's an editorial written by Jeremy Parish at USGamer:

Posted by 
 on: 08/03/13, 22:00:05
Look who is Weighing in!

Yes, I came here just to post that.

Pretty interesting write-up. One thing that I believe is that you can really enjoy things while still having some issues with them (and Anita believes this too, as she has stated several times now.) For instance, Anita mentions Guacamelee! as a game that just sort of goes along with the tropes without really questioning them much... which is true, and a bit of a shame, but it's still one of my favorite games in recent memory. The only game in recent memory that has really turned me off with the way it represents women enough to actually stop playing future games in the series is God of War III. Although there are probably some that I just never bother with to begin with. Like, I'd probably be more interested in Bayonetta if it wasn't all in my face about the SEXY FEMALE LEAD. But that's just one consideration among many (for instance, it's not really my favorite genre.)

I think he is only somewhat correct when he suggests that it is misguided to be "offended" for the sake of others though. Because yeah, he is right, we don't always know what other people are thinking. But we can get a pretty good pulse on it sometimes. I'd say I'm probably like 90% accurate in determining what kind of representations of females in games are going to bother Shirley and what kinds she will be ok (or even pleased) with. And she's not an active part of the gaming world (in part because, as she has told me before, few games seem to be made to appeal to people like her) so if I don't speak up for her tastes, no one will. I also hang out on various gaming forums and I can tell you for certain, this isn't just an issue men are making up to be offended at for the sake of women who don't really care. An awful lot of women really do get turned off by the way women are presented in games, and many of them aren't in the same position that men are to voice themselves to the same degree, so I think it is important for men to care and speak up about it in appropriate places.

Hey, he mentions one of my favorite movies, Royal Space Force: Wings of Honneamise! And yeah, that attempted rape scene did always feel a bit out of place, although I think it was done, in part, to establish Riquinni's self-crucifying religious nature. She actually blames herself for unintentionally tempting Lhadatt and apologizes to him, and when you think about rape culture and how often females are made to take the blame for the actions of males, this is, sadly, not a totally unbelievable reaction, especially in very religious cultures (reminds me of the old ladies from my church posting on Facebook and how they seemed to think that women dressing "sexy" were more at fault for men's sin than the men themselves.) I think the movie could have said a bit more about this though, and instead it just kind of brushes past it with Lhadatt being all no don't blame yourself it was my fault, and that is that.

Posted by 
 on: 08/03/13, 22:40:42  - Edited by 
 on: 08/03/13, 22:48:49
@CPA Wei
I'm pretty much not going to play Dragon's Crown because of the boob issue, it actually kind of disgusts me, and it's a shame too because the game seems so cool except for that.

Posted by 
 on: 08/03/13, 22:45:31

Bayonetta is an amazing game with a some cool throwbacks to retro titles. I think you would find it a hoot. There are also many women who see Bayonetta as a positive step forward for women in games so its a shame if that is holding you back from playing it.

Posted by 
 on: 08/04/13, 00:35:12
@warerare Many women may feel that way, but many women also feel the reverse. I'm more on the side of the reverse. She's no Jade, that's for sure.

Either way it's mostly just the fact that I rarely really get into that genre that has kept me away. I played Devil May Cry 1 and 3 and Ninja Gaiden (tropes!) and they were all just kind of good but not really pulling me in. No More Heroes I liked, but that had a sort of ridiculous / retro aesthetic to it.

Posted by 
 on: 08/04/13, 00:40:15  - Edited by 
 on: 08/04/13, 00:44:02

I got Bayonetta in a bargain bin for the same reason, DMC and NG have never been my thing. Bayonetta mixes things up enough every few stages to keep you wondering whats going to happen next, I really dont want to spoil some of the cool retro moments but there are few littered throughout. I also find the game far more accessible due to a very lenient checkpoint system and the combat system is very customisable too after a few stages. As a character you really come to embrace her, she is very likable and the fact that she is a woman, a witch and overtly sexual plays well with the religious aspects of the game.

Posted by 
 on: 08/04/13, 01:20:29

Yeah, I don't get how the guy in the banana hammock isn't "demeaning" or whatever. I actually find it funny..isn't that why they do those things though, to be funny? I don't think I've ever been upset about a huge, muscly dude in a game. Ever.

I feel like Feminists want every female lead to be a mid-30s woman in a pantsuit with a smaller than average chest.


So, Bayonetta 2 looks decent, with a female lead, and you don't want to play it because of how she's portrayed? You folks holding out for "women as lead" certainly have a laundry list of things that need to happen. (Including Genre? Sheesh, Zero; you're going out of your way to NOT play this game.)


..You won't want to stay with me at the Rochester meetup then. I had you penciled in for The Boob Den..

Posted by 
 on: 08/06/13, 00:12:19
@Mr_Mustache I never said I'm holding out for a game with a "woman lead", I said I want better and more varied representations of women in video games. A huge boobed, "sexy" woman who gets naked while kicking ass isn't challenging the status quo for jack. It's the kind of "strong" woman built to appeal to men's sex drives... yet again.

Mr_Mustache said:
I feel like Feminists want every female lead to be a mid-30s woman in a pantsuit with a smaller than average chest.

No idea where you get this stuff. Honestly... no idea.

Posted by 
 on: 08/06/13, 00:39:16  - Edited by 
 on: 08/06/13, 00:39:58

Educated Guess.

EDIT- "Skin" is seemingly unacceptable to Anita, and "boobs" are often among the first things she mentions (if they are below average, who will complain?). She MAY be even MORE one-dimensional than Average Guy is in that realm (as she is writing off a chunk of the female character population; men aren't). Also, women often get jealous of younger women, regardless of age. A sexy, 26 year-old woman would normally have nothing to "worry about" in a relationship; ask her again when a *new* 19-year old filly hits the scene.

Posted by 
 on: 08/06/13, 00:54:33  - Edited by 
 on: 08/06/13, 01:00:09
I honestly have no idea where you are getting any of this from. Anita (and most of us crazy "feminists") liked, for example, Jade from BG&E, and Jade has decent sized boobs and wears a lot cut top and shows off some tummy.

You're just literally making up stuff to be mad about. Straw (wo?)man. Stop "guessing" and actually listen to what people are saying.

Posted by 
 on: 08/06/13, 01:31:35  - Edited by 
 on: 08/06/13, 01:32:04
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