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June 4th, 2013, 15:21
Anita Sarkeesian brings us part two of tropes vs women in video games in which she explores how the damsel in distress is handled in video games.
This is the second in a series of three videos exploring the Damsel in Distress trope in video games. In this installment we look at “dark and edgy” side of the trope in more modern games and how the plot device is often used in conjunction with graphic depictions of violence against women. Over the past decade we’ve seen developers try to spice up the old Damsel in Distress cliche by combining it with other tropes involving victimized women including the disposable woman, the mercy killing and the woman in the refrigerator.

Anita Sarkeesian states amongst others that it is "both possible, and even necessary, to simultaneously enjoy a piece of media while also being critical of its more problematic or pernicious aspects." Jenn Frank at medium.com agrees with this assessment as it describes how she feels about horror cinema, a genre she loves, while still being a feminist.
This video is the second in Sarkeesian’s “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games” series. In it, Sarkeesian underscores a power imbalance drawn along gender lines, an imbalance that is romanticized, not only in cinema and literature and video games, but glorified even in our own everyday, heteronormative relationships.
And while there isn’t anything wrong with rescuing a disempowered romantic interest, nothing wrong with being prompted to revenge by a wife’s untimely death, at some point these themes become so pervasive that it’s worthwhile to investigate what exactly they may signify and why they recur as archetypically as they do. Sarkeesian’s videos seek to illuminate a dangerous cultural pattern. When men and women are barraged with a narrative arc wherein the man is “the rescuer”—and, make no mistake, chick lit relies on this trope too—it reinforces a normative power dynamic that, in practice, can be devastatingly unhealthy.
And in a blog on Gamasutra, JJ Wang does not comment on Sarkeesian's video directly(but certainly does so indirectly), yet does feel that the tropes used are a form of bad writing.
Women also serve as a very convenient symbol for purity, innocence, and completion. Bad guys kidnapping the protagonist's girlfriend can very lazily be dramatically defended as "the main character's world being ruined." It makes dramatic sense. But it's also become a very thoughtless way to piece together a story. The issue isn't that this metaphor isn't "deep" enough. The issue is that this way of thinking is so entrenched within our society that it doesn't require much cognitive effort to see this metaphor. As a result, we don't learn much about our own humanity from this type of dramatic sequencing. Doesn't that go against the point of fiction art? To continue to evolve and challenge our understanding of humanity?

See, whether the damsel in distress trope is sexist or not is immaterial to the dramatic problem of this cliche. The fictionist problem of this trope is that this cliche is now a very easy go-to template for a story. What worries me is that the prevalence of it in video games either symbolizes a lack of respect for the craft of fiction or that our writers are doing the minimum to get their paycheck. Those are not productive ways to treat an artform.

Please don't come away from this thinking that I'm advocating condemnation of all escapism. It has it's place. But, like all facets of fiction, there are more than one way to write escapism. The principle is that overused cliches and tropes aren't bad because they are escapist but they are bad because they are mindless. There is nothing written in stone that says escapism has to conform to certain methods of writing.
Personally I think Sarkeesian is right and we could use a much improved depiction of women in…More information.
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June 4th, 2013, 15:21
Hey, she's kinda cute…..

Oh, yeah, and I also agree the depiction of women in video games is often lacking…

This girl, for example….she seems smart…..and kinda cute….nothing like a smart hot chick….

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June 4th, 2013, 15:48
Couple of things:

1. I dont like how she throws misogynist around without showing truly misogynist games like the current tomb raider which is like death porn. There is even a youtube vid dedicated to the deaths of Lara in that game.

2. I dont understand her skipping over the whole kill a billion men and then kill one woman trope(am i using that word correctly?). In most of these games shown male death is seen as more trivial than female death, ie no plot device or story behind them. If anything it is designed for men to care about women and care less about men which is probably just as wrong.

3. Women should buy the games with strong female leads. The ones she shown, Mirrors Edge and Beyond Good and Evil bombed. Which is why most games cater to men, to change this women have to buy more games when they get released. Men spend an average 170 pounds more than women on entertainment in the UK a year that is like what 3-4 games on release.
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June 4th, 2013, 18:29
She has a point but at my age I just can't spend any more of my time listening to people obsessing about feminism or human sexuality. Both are important topics but after nearly 50 years of life on this planet I'm so tired of the topics as for the most part women/blacks/gays have accomplished the lion's share of what they want from society but their bitching has only skyrocketed. Sorry it sounds crass but this paragraph is already too long and would be longer if I tried to articulate myself more accurately…

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June 4th, 2013, 18:45
At least now we know that violence in video games isn't a problem. Sexism is.

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June 4th, 2013, 19:03
I liked the video, and really liked her point in the beginning about how we can both love the games and take it to task for deficiencies (that's how I feel about many games). I do think that half the time people are tilting at windmills to find something to be offended about, but it's really a matter of scale. Saying, "Oh, this is a quibble, X could have been better" is a lot better than some people trying to play the victim card or pretend to be shocked and appalled.

One thing that does make me go "hmmm…" is a comment my wife and I often make when we leave the movie theater after seeing the Latest Generic Summer Blockbuster: "The formula works."

What that means is that there's a reason it's a formula. It works. And I wonder if the "flaws" in these beloved franchises might actually be the reason the franchise is beloved in the first place. As an indie and fan of some (somewhat) obscure games, I'm familiar with a LOT of games that tried to break the mold, tried to address the common criticisms, and really tried to push video games in new, "better" directions. Better may be arguable, but that was certainly the attempt.

You hear about the ones that succeed. People go ga-ga over them and say, "Gee, why hasn't anybody else done this?" But the truth is the vast majority fail. Miserably. That's a big reason why the AAA studios don't seem to innovate very much. They've gotten their butts kicked so hard for doing so in the past that they still feel the pain years later.

So these "lazy" and politically incorrect tropes that substitute for real storytelling still sell. Better than the alternatives. So as a studio, you may have to ask yourself, "Do I want to win attaboys from a smaller audience, or sales from the larger audience?" It's not quite as cut-and-dried as that, but my point is that it's not necessarily so simple.

For me, I like my princesses to be self-sufficient. I'll take Leia over Peach any day. But even Leia had to be rescued. (But she got to do some rescuing back…)
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June 4th, 2013, 20:53
Originally Posted by Capt. Huggy Face View Post
Hey, she's kinda cute…..

Oh, yeah, and I also agree the depiction of women in video games is often lacking…

This girl, for example….she seems smart…..and kinda cute….nothing like a smart hot chick….

*drifts away in his own mind, as flannel transforms into a plate-mail bustier*
do you know that is sexism?

i dont like bioware games
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June 4th, 2013, 21:09
Originally Posted by RampantCoyote View Post
You hear about the ones that succeed. People go ga-ga over them and say, "Gee, why hasn't anybody else done this?" But the truth is the vast majority fail. Miserably. That's a big reason why the AAA studios don't seem to innovate very much. They've gotten their butts kicked so hard for doing so in the past that they still feel the pain years later.
Agreed. You put it more eloquently than me
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June 4th, 2013, 21:52
Originally Posted by Capt. Huggy Face View Post
Hey, she's kinda cute…..
I wonder what her GF looks like…
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June 4th, 2013, 22:38
Originally Posted by turian View Post
do you know that is sexism?
I think that was his point.
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June 5th, 2013, 00:09
Well, I thought this was really good. Well researched, well delivered, well argued. Exposing the stupidity and darker context of these tropes can only help to advance storytelling in games towards something more interesting than we have today - so this goes beyond the (well justified imho) point that these tropes reinforce unfortunate stereotypes and rolemodels in male-female relationships, it also makes an important point about game writing. Worthy of support, imho.
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June 5th, 2013, 01:08
My only caveat with both videos is that their explanation for the trope is wrong.

The DiD trope is used because it's a male audience (which is the real problem but another discussion). The DiD trope is not about boys owning women as possessions, it's about making them care. It is exploitation of an emotion unfortunately disregarded by radical feminist theory who often portrays mens love, care and humanity as calculated sociopathy.

That said, I do like her videos on many other levels and I have promoted both to friends, on facebook etc.

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Last edited by JemyM; June 5th, 2013 at 02:32.
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June 5th, 2013, 02:21
Originally Posted by TheMadGamer View Post
I'm so tired of the topics as for the most part women/blacks/gays have accomplished the lion's share of what they want from society but their bitching has only skyrocketed.
In other words …
- Since black men can legally marry white women and no longer need to use separate facilities they should just STFU and go away, despite earning less, having less mobility, still being discriminated against systematically, being jailed at disproportionate rates for the same crimes compared to whites, and so on … ?
- Since women now earn only 25% less than equal level males they should just STFU and go away, despite still being treated as victims when violence is perpetrated against them and being subject to gender discrimination regularly?
- Since gays have made strides towards equal treatment they should just STFU and go away, despite the ability to be legally fired and evicted based on sexuality in nearly 2/3 of states, legally marry in only 20% of states, have to jump through hoops for adoption, and so on?

Um, yeah … sorry but the fact that you find reminders of violence, discrimination and mistreatment 'tiresome' says more about you than about the people who suffer these injustices.

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June 5th, 2013, 14:01
She must narrow her target. She does not speak of video games, but how stories in video games are delivered, what marketing technics are used etc

Gender, among other things, does not exist in video games. In a movie, when you want a hero run faster than the sidekick and when the actor playing the hero is slower than the actor playing the sidekick, the director must cheat. He must shoot in a way that gives the illusion the sidekick actor is slower than the hero actor.

In video games, no restriction of the sort exist. You can make an avatar run faster than another. Want a 2 metres tall street fighter to be able to perform a moon sault from a 1 metre height for balancing matter? You can. There is no limitation. What matters is the game mechanics and their quality.

An avatar is a mere wire skeleton. And it is this skeleton the game mechanics rely on.

Her report of the situation is the result of players playing games for the story or the immersion and not for a gameplay. They push the demand for this kind of tropes.

When you play a game for gaming, the avatar's skin does not matter at all. It can be a monkey, a squid alien, anything. Game mechanics prevail. You dont care about the justification used to introduce a new stage. You could go after a damsel in distress or your lost marbles, it is the same. It just introduces the new stage and its gameplay.

It is when you demand story or immersion you need to be able to relate to the various NPCs etc as you need to associate closely to the decorum.

It is a totally different dimension from gaming.
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June 5th, 2013, 14:02
I thought the video and first article linked to were in the middle. Neither of the women are taking such extreme positions. Sarkeesian is a gamer and enjoys playing games, but is aware of the role women have in those games. Frank is a feminist and loves horror movies and is aware of the role women often have in that genre.
The question is: Is there really no other way of doing this?

As far as the related real-life discussion goes: even after 50 years in this life I still feel that as long as women are not equally treated to men, being tired of the debate is not a reason people should stop discussing it.

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June 5th, 2013, 16:33
When she launched her Kickstarter campaign, I thought that she made some very good and valid points. I went to her website to read some more and watch some video clips but then I realised that she saw sexism and misogyny in areas where there clearly wasn't (IMO of course) and I had the feeling that she sometimes didn't put things into perspective.

An example was a video clip where she criticised the portrayal of feminists in the TV show "Married With Children". This show is a parody on society where everyone and everything is ridiculed with an extensive use of extreme stereotypes. This show is not supposed to be taken seriously and her criticism was simply an epic facepalm moment, in the same as league as criticising the Teletubbies for having gay influence on children. Since then, I take her comments with a grain, if not a bucket, of salt.

Anyway, I think that she is way too one sided and to me she comes across as having an agenda that selectively chooses data to strengthen her believe thus lacking certain neutrality.

I don't think she says anything new in this video that she hasn't said before. All these examples that she states may indicate a certain trend in the use of tropes. It is one thing to show the excessive use of a trope with a critical viewpoint but it is a completely different thing to attribute its use entirely to sexism and misogyny and I think that she exaggerates in her accusations and underlying male psychology. Although I do think that she has some valid points, some conclusions of her would fit perfectly in a propagandistic social pseudo-scientific report.

Of all those games that she mentions, I have only played one, namely Dishonored. I cannot comment on those other games but in Dishonored I absolutely did not have the feeling of perceiving the DiD trope. Regardless of whether it is there in a mild form, it certainly wasn't the main driving force of the game. Instead I felt more like a pawn to do the dirty work of other men.

In all fairness, and this may very well skew my own view, I don't own a console (many games in this video seem to me to be console based) and I rarely play action/shooter games, which IMO seem to be more trope-prone, so I do not perceive all this sexism and misogyny in video gaming as others do. I tend to be selective in what I play and for some reason I avoid this type of games.

About the mercy killing. I guess that in the famous deleted scene in the movie Alien where Ripley kills Dallas, we see a clear example of radical feminism and misandry .

I do hope that she mentions Darth Kreia from KOTOR2 in one of her next videos. That character is one of my favourite NPCs of all time and if she doesn't mention her as a female character done well, then she didn't do her homework .

Originally Posted by JemyM View Post
The DiD trope is used because it's a male audience (which is the real problem but another discussion). The DiD trope is not about boys owning women as possessions, it's about making them care. It is exploitation of an emotion unfortunately disregarded by radical feminist theory who often portrays mens love, care and humanity as calculated sociopathy.
This is my feeling as well. To me this trope comes across as obtaining an emotional response from a male audience and is not necessarily the result of an underlying negative male view towards women.

Originally Posted by Damian View Post
2. I dont understand her skipping over the whole kill a billion men and then kill one woman trope(am i using that word correctly?). In most of these games shown male death is seen as more trivial than female death, ie no plot device or story behind them. If anything it is designed for men to care about women and care less about men which is probably just as wrong.
I guess that systematic men slaughter is OK.
Last edited by Asdraguuhl; June 5th, 2013 at 20:13.
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June 5th, 2013, 16:41
Originally Posted by Myrthos View Post
As far as the related real-life discussion goes: even after 50 years in this life I still feel that as long as women are not equally treated to men, being tired of the debate is not a reason people should stop discussing it.
I am all for equality between men and women but I am also truly disgusted by the current trends of radical feminism and some of the one-sided government policies that victimise men.
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June 5th, 2013, 18:15
Every societal trend also has extremist elements. We have extremist christians, extremist liberals, extremist neo-liberals, extremist misogyinists. One shouldn't judge an entire social direction or movement based on extremist elements. And while extremists can do a lot of harm, they are also often important to focus attention on actual issues.

Now I only saw the above video, and in that at least I did not notice anything extremist.
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June 5th, 2013, 18:20
Originally Posted by txa1265 View Post
In other words …Um, yeah … sorry but the fact that you find reminders of violence, discrimination and mistreatment 'tiresome' says more about you than about the people who suffer these injustices.
You drew a lot of conclusions there that are all yours. I don't think anyone should STFU. I made it pretty clear that I'm just not interested in dwelling on this stuff anymore. Civil rights in the U.S. has moved mountains in my lifetime. That's a good thing. But the bitching never ends and life is short. Feel free to pay attention and engage it - nothing wrong with that.

I've noticed that the only time you respond to anything I write is to rip me to shreds. Don't really know why you have it out for me.

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June 5th, 2013, 19:03
Originally Posted by GhanBuriGhan View Post
Now I only saw the above video, and in that at least I did not notice anything extremist.
There are days I would like to go back on RPGWatch and simply whipe my history here because I have been an extremist myself. But as a feminist for 20 years I classify Sarkeesians previous videos as extremism today. They sometimes have been black/white, overgeneralizing, over-stereotyping and cynic analysis' that exaggerate a phenomenon far beyond it's significance. But we can all get better and her DiD videos were quite good.

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