Anita Sarkeesian has posted the latest in her Tropes vs Women video series examining the way female characters are portrayed in video games.
The new episode is the second focusing on "Women as Background Decoration". As Sarkeesian puts it, this is the "subset of largely insignificant non-playable female characters whose sexuality or victimhood is exploited as a way to infuse edgy, gritty or racy flavouring into game worlds. These sexually objectified female bodies are designed to function as environmental texture while titillating presumed straight male players."
As usual, it's uncomfortable viewing, drawing on a huge range of action, open-world and role-playing games, most of which we all love, where this kind of stuff is glaringly evident in hindsight. (Now feels like a good time to emphasise, as Sarkeesian herself points out in the note accompanying every video, "it is both possible (and even necessary) to simultaneously enjoy media while also being critical of its more problematic or pernicious aspects".)
Here's the video. (Trigger warning: rape, sexual violence.)
Sarkeesian has been producing this series for a while now, having successfully sought crowdfunding in mid-2012, raising nearly $160,000 after asking for $6000. Previous episodes have dealt with Damsels in Distress and Ms. Male Character, among other things, identifying aspects of games that are often ignored or overlooked by fans and critics and eloquently pointing out the patterns.
While the videos have inevitably led to Sarkeesian's vilification (it's barely news that she has tweeted about yet more threats made against her in light of posting this one), they have also caught the attention of plenty of prominent creators, including Tim Schafer and Joss Whedon, who tweeted this week voicing their support for her work.
I think everyone who makes games should watch this video from start to finish. http://t.co/5W56lFNVp2— TimOfLegend (@TimOfLegend) August 26, 2014
And to her credit, she shows no signs of giving up.