Tropes vs Vidya

edited in General
As an extension on this thread by Tuism, I was wondering if anybody had watched the (fucking long) first part of the video series by Anita Sarkesian on Tropes vs Women in Video Games.
Also: what do you think?


  • It's a very good piece. Well balanced and argued.
    It unfortunately isn't able to do more than touch on the vast body of theory that underlies the arguments. She begins to with her very simplified mention of the subject/object relation, but her target audience is not academic so she keeps it to an introductory level of critique and historic contextualisation instead.
    One thing that must be remembered (that she alludes to at the end) is that critique (and criticism in the realm of cultural studies) is NOT the act of criticising someone or something. It is to engage with it meaningfully. Critique should therefore be used as a springboard for further discussion and deeper engagement, and not reacted to as a personal slight.
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    Totally agree with @Hanli

    Also, I'd love for her to go a bit deeper into the theory. Maybe she will in the next episode now that she'd laid some groundwork (although explaining the field of gender studies and arguing its value isn't really part of her stated objectives, so I'd understand if she stays quite light on it).
  • I cringed at the Zelda adverts, wow. And then Ditzy Princess happened. Holy hell people, who thought that was ever ok?

    Related, kinda: Found this lady's take on symbolism in Bayonetta and what it was like for her to play.

    And now I'm wondering about PoP - Sands of Time and if Farah was a damsel in distress or not. I think the ending of that game series is probably the best I've seen, mostly due to the growth of the main character by the end of it all, despite the daft emo phase in the middle.

    Come to think of it: Kerrigan. Felt like she'd been converted to a damsel at the end of Wings of Liberty, but now Heart of the Swarm is apparently about her regaining power that it feels like Raynor stripped away from her before (because genitals!)
  • I mostly agree with what Sarkesian has to say(which is most of the time a painful reminder of how oblivious I can be). The video does a great job of highlighting what is wrong with the Damsel in Distress trope and it's a good starting point but I would like to move on to where we actually try to solve it(which is what Sarkesian's videos lacks for me most of the time.) I know that this video is part 1 so maybe she will get to some proposed solution in part 2, but I haven't seen her mention it yet.

    I remember the talk that Pipa gave at Amaze last year about character generation(some of it anyways :P), and I think having that in more games could go a long way to solving the problem. Having the protagonist not be a fully formed character that has to save someone, but rather a representation of what the player wants can go a long way to solving the problem. I'm not sure if will help teach players that there isn't really a difference between the sexes, but at it will at least not enforce the idea.

    Any thoughts?

    @dislekcia, I think Farah shifts constantly. And I think if the prince wasn't the player character he would shift between the two roles as well. I remember seeing how Farah saved him with arrows from enemies and pulling levers he couldn't get to, but because most(if not all) of those moments happen in cut scenes the player never feels powerless because they never have control anyways. Kerrigan is something else for me. I don't think if you look at how the SC plot works she can be seen as a damsel in distress. I think that Raynor makes her out to be one, but that is his character placing her in that stereo type. He also has a tendency to feel guilty about stuff he can't control so that is mostly his motivation for me. He's not really trying to save a damsel, he is trying to free himself of guilt. But I get that different players might see it differently, I guess it comes down to whether you see yourself as Raynor or "the commander".
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    Rigormortis said:
    ...but I would like to move on to where we actually try to solve it(which is what Sarkesian's videos lacks for me most of the time.)
    Hanli said:
    ...Critique should therefore be used as a springboard for further discussion and deeper engagement...
    Sarkeesian's role is to provide critique on games. But we are the developers of the games. The critique is there so that we can better discuss games and so learn to make better games. Her expertise is in the critique and analysis of media, and I think she is right to stick (mostly) to that and leave the implementation up to us.

    Though I expect her second video, which will be dealing with modern games that employ the damsel in distress trope might have some more actionable information.
  • @BlackShipsFilltheSky, it's true that her role is to provide critique. So it's not fair to expect her to solve it for us :P But how do we solve it? Any suggestions?
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    lol, Well not putting Damsels in Distress in our games a good start.

    It's a bit of a problem in Broforce actually to portray women. The game is being played by a 96% male audience, which is more than most AAA games, so that does not help, but the theme gets in the way as well (it's all about Bros).

    In fact having playable female characters at all is kinda a problem, though we're going to find a way to stick Ripley (and some others) in somehow.

    What we'll probably try do is subvert the trope, have some of the bros expect women to be damsels in distress, but then the women end up kicking ass and then the bros are enlightened and grow as characters. We definitely will not EVER have a romantic interest as a motivator, I'm not sure we'd even do that as a parody (like in Spelunky, which makes me a little uncomfortable, although the elegance of the damsel gameplay is excellent and on balance I'd argue it improves the game).

    Though Expendables 2 tried just that and kind of stuffed it up. I guess because they add romance into the mix it makes the enlightenment seem dubious, even though the writers were labouring hard for character growth. (Yes I am actually analyzing the plot of Expendables 2)

    Basically not using a romantic interest (or helpless woman in a story which only has one woman) as a prize would be a good thing to take away from this. It's very damaging to gamers (especially male gamers), and insulting to some female gamers.

    And there are plenty of other ways to motivate players, like Satan has bought off the word's leaders, organized the world's terrorists, has built enormous thrusters on the dark side of the moon (and is driving it into earth) and has framed you for it, and ALSO there are Giger-esque aliens trying to kill you. For instance.

    Also re Kerrigan:

    Although I didn't play the Starcraft 2 campaign, Blizzard lost me as far as their narratives go at Warcraft 3 (though I still play multiplayer).
  • I really enjoyed the video as a different perspective on the history of video games. We often think of the technical advancements of platforms, interfaces and graphics; stories and narrative; but we hardly ever think of the ethical or social environments in which the games are developed.

    My nephew was at my house recently and I popped in Need for Speed: Carbon for him to try and I watched with him the intro warning state the racing is just a game and you should drive responsibly; showing, I think, the developer's/publisher's responsibility to ethics. You can also raise the little label on Assassin's Creed saying they respect all religions and races.

    I hope this turns out to be a great series looking back at video games at designers can draw inspiration and ideas from.
  • @BlackShipsFilltheSky Broforce should have "girls only" mod where all the characters (heroes and badguys) are replaced with female version (I want to see a female thug and female devil in a business suit. Not to mention a feminine mech platform)
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    "girls only" brings in its own problems.

    Unless we put in a fuck-ton of work it's only ever going to be an inferior mode, which is not how we want to represent women.

    And if we do do it separate it kind of drives home the message that women cannot compete with men (which if you watch Aliens, and watch how Ellen Ripley bests every man in that movie, you'd see that we'd be doing an injustice to the source material).

    For a while I was thinking about having women in their own team, like Ultra Prison and Super Jail, but we'd really want them as protagonists. Although having their own team isn't out of the question, but at least at some point we'd like to have them playing alongside the guys (and holding their own).

    There might be some humour we could derive from guys and girls being on the same team. Building up the expectation that the guys are douchebag adventurers which the guys then defy by being sexually well adjusted (thus foiling Satan's plans which required the guys to behave in sexist ways and the girls to be helpless).
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