Sexism and Women in Video Games: Anita Sarkeesian goes to bat for girls

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  • JinTypeNoir 8 Mar 2013 01:29:00 4,371 posts
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    Familiar with Anita Sarkeesian? I would have thought she would have been heavily discussed on this forum, considering she was quite a controversial figure last year. In any case, if you don't know who she is, a simple explanation would be that she is a woman with bachelor's degree in communications theory and a masters in social and political thought; she's also a blogger, does lectures and has created a video series called Feminist Frequency. I think you can guess where the controversy comes from right there.

    Last year she used Kickstarter to finance a series within that called Tropes vs. Women, that examines sexism toward women in video games. The first video of that series has been released. You can see it below, or go here, where YouTube has helpfully suggested videos from her wider series to watch, should you be interested in them.



    So, what do you think? Doing a good job with this, messing it up or somewhere in between?
  • GuiltySpark 8 Mar 2013 01:39:42 6,355 posts
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    So far there's barely anything in this video that I didn't write in an essay on the same subject in college.

    That doesn't necessarily make it uninformative or useless, but I was perhaps expecting something more (considering I was 16 when I basically wrote everything she has just said).

    Edited by GuiltySpark at 01:59:05 08-03-2013

    Get bent.

  • GuiltySpark 8 Mar 2013 01:43:49 6,355 posts
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    If anything, it's really just highlighting the Japanese gaming industry's utter reliance on traditional narrative/gender roles.

    Get bent.

  • ecureuil 8 Mar 2013 02:00:52 76,699 posts
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    She needed $150,000 for this? It's not bad, but people are producing things as good as this for nothing but their free time. There's nothing wrong with it, but I didn't feel like I learnt anything from watching it.
  • GuiltySpark 8 Mar 2013 02:20:01 6,355 posts
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    ecureuil wrote:
    She needed $150,000 for this? It's not bad, but people are producing things as good as this for nothing but their free time. There's nothing wrong with it, but I didn't feel like I learnt anything from watching it.
    Gaming narrative, in its infancy, relied on and reinforced negative archetypal roles of gender. That's the 20 minute video summed up on one sentence.

    Cinema was the same, as was literature. You see a regression now and again - Resident Evil for example, Jill Valentine to Claire Redfield to the utterly useless Ashley Whatsherface, but so what?

    You can say these tropes (I fucking hate that word) are "toxic" all you want, but you're completely underestimating the audiences power to realise fiction here; Anita played these games in her youth and obviously hasn't grown up to be a damsel in distress, so why would any other woman?

    These games are fantasy, generally male developers creating for males. You have exactly the same situation happening in Twilight, which is far more toxic because it's encouraging women that it is okay to be fucking boring and useless as a person, ala Bella Swan.

    Edited by GuiltySpark at 02:23:03 08-03-2013

    Get bent.

  • Fatiguez 8 Mar 2013 02:32:32 8,714 posts
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    5/10
  • daddygerplex 8 Mar 2013 02:48:00 305 posts
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    I wish someone would give me 150k to make that. Could i do better? No way. But theres plenty of videos with the same production values for free.
  • El_MUERkO 8 Mar 2013 02:51:14 16,970 posts
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    Wonder if a man would of gotten $150k to do something similar.
  • ecureuil 8 Mar 2013 02:55:00 76,699 posts
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    I just don't see this as a feminist issue at all. There are games with male leads, there are games with female leads, there are games with women in peril, there are games with men in peril, there's a whole variety of stories and tropes.

    Games that run the "damsel in distress" trope tend to not have fleshed out characters of either gender. Men are generally represented in games as violent, emotionless murderers. People who are psychotic and take pleasure in killing. Where are the thinking men, or the sensitive men? They're as rare as strong leads such as Samus or Terra.

    She's implying an undercurrent of sexism and women-hating from games creators, when really in 90% of games (especially 16 bit and earlier), the plot is totally periphery and is just an excuse to get your male character out there killing things. Games which have deeper characters tend not to run this trope, and they at least make an effort to have more developed characters of both sexes.

    Since there are many other parts to come, maybe she'll balance it out, but currently it feels like she's trying to push an agenda.
  • Nanocrystal 8 Mar 2013 04:23:41 1,013 posts
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    ecureuil wrote:
    There are thousands of games with male leads, there are one or two games with non-sexualised female leads, there are thousands of games with women in peril, there are hardly any games with men in peril who end up being saved by a woman...
    Fixed that for you.

    ecureuil wrote:
    Where are the thinking men, or the sensitive men?
    You're verging into "Why isn't there a white history month???" territory.
  • JinTypeNoir 8 Mar 2013 05:06:45 4,371 posts
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    GuiltySpark wrote:
    If anything, it's really just highlighting the Japanese gaming industry's utter reliance on traditional narrative/gender roles.
    Stop that. You're generalizing way too much. Most of the notable games she is mentioning are from the Famicom/NES. The notable developers there were almost entirely Japanese. There wouldn't have been much of a difference the console markets developer demographic was more varied like it is today. For instance, Rare made Wizards & Warriors which was about getting back the princess and Konami's turtle games were based on a property where the female character got kidnapped nearly every episode. There's just as much of the good and bad in Japanese storytelling as there is any other part of the world. Also, Anita hasn't addressed any of many games of the era with female protagonists, like Reira, Kai's Adventure, Athena and Wonder Momo. Will she get around to that? We'll see. She did highlight Japan-only games in this first video, so maybe.

    In fact, that's one issue I have with the video. She went into quite a lot of detail about Peach (not Toadstool, Anita, but that's okay) and especially the part about her role in Super Mario Bros. 2. While she did okay being reasonable here, she covered up a pretty important fact that could have helped her point. Doki Doki Panic, had not one, but two female characters, the little sister and the mother of the main character. This was obviously reduced to one in Super Mario Bros. 2. Obviously, because there were only four good characters in Super Mario Bros. and the US arm probably didn't have the go ahead to make a new female character, but still if she were just a little more thorough that would make a great point for her about reducing women's visibility as subjects.

    That's the main issue I have with this. For people who aren't aware that perpetuating these tropes can be troublesome, its an okay overview of the issue, but there's a lack of thoroughness that troubles me. Maybe some of this will be covered in the next video, but her argument is that a damsel in distress is more of a state that can happen to a female character. The reason she argues this is damaging is because it makes them into an object and not acting subjects. Yes, I think we can all agree for how popular she is, and how well Super Princess Peach did, she could use more playable roles in the adventure and platform games.

    However, Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart may not be mainline games, but they are ridiculously popular. If Anita's goal is to make people aware of these tropes and make the more unreasonable people come around to realising how we need to think more when we make games, then she needs to address this, so they don't punch a hole in her argument and just brush it off. A lot of younger gamers may only (somehow at once unlikely and likely) know Peach as the girl you can pick in Mario spin-off games. Peach is often a participant in some of the most popular games and there's not really much to recall he damsel in distress state in these games. Doesn't this complicate her? What should Nintendo do? Never use her in that role again? Make sure when she is, that it also characterizes her, like Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, where's she both captured and playable? Both sides of the coin need to be considered in order for her arguments not to be brushed off as angry feminist with a flimsy point. Same with Dinosaur Planet, and the fact that Krystal was supposed to be one of the protagonists, not the only one. Don't twist the truth for your purpose, not matter how noble.

    Though, she did make a very good point about male characters getting captured and then escaping, and I have a feeling that even though this happens to female characters, I think its true it is more typical for male characters. It's something that even I didn't notice until I saw this and I tend to think about this issue a lot when I think about games.

    The absolute worst part of the video however was that line about how the damsel in distress trope plays in adolescent male power fantasies. I'm sorry. I have never once gotten excited, fantasized or in any way fetishized a desire to save a woman. I mean, even make believe as a child, I've never once thought that and especially not when I was an adolescent. It's insulting and really undermines what she's trying to do. I like saving Peach, because Peach seems to like Mario and Mario seems to like Peach and Bowser (at least until Inside Story) seems like an asshole and the Mushroom Kingdom seems like a great place to save. So when Bowser gets its comeuppance and we get the happy endings, it has little to do with Peach being a girl that makes me happy. It could be Mario saving Luigi, who could be the prince of the mushroom kingdom and in the end they're just happy to see each other and hug like they do in Mario & Luigi games. It wouldn't change much for me. I have a feeling I'm not the only one.

    That said, given the massive controversy over her in the past, this video was alright. I am very sympathetic to the idea of getting rid of systematic sexism by reducing the amount the tropes appear and thinking more whenever we use women in media, but I think a much much better champion of this on the 'net is The Nostalgia Chick. Lindsay is critical, but I feel fairer, more in-depth, raises more insightful questions and not as quick to lay blame on people. She is also much, much more acidic than Anita in that she does a good job of absolutely torching some companies and people for the idiotic things they do with women. And a great deal funnier and more fun to watch.

    Hopefully, Anita improves. Because this is better than her Bayonetta video, but I hope to see a much fuller criticism in the next videos. I kind of doubt it though, because if it continues like this, it is really just laying out the cards, putting a little mark on the back of them so you can cheat and refusing to even to start playing the game.

    But well, we'll see.

    Edited by JinTypeNoir at 05:27:40 08-03-2013

    Edited by JinTypeNoir at 05:36:36 08-03-2013
  • Tonka 8 Mar 2013 06:24:07 20,202 posts
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    If the videos are anything like the ones she did about LEGO they are brilliant.

    Yes, on par. Will look forward to the coming installments.

    Edited by Tonka at 06:29:23 08-03-2013

    If you can read this you really need to fiddle with your forum settings.

  • Tonka 8 Mar 2013 06:30:11 20,202 posts
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    ecureuil wrote:
    She needed $150,000 for this? It's not bad, but people are producing things as good as this for nothing but their free time. There's nothing wrong with it, but I didn't feel like I learnt anything from watching it.
    Are you saying people aren't allowed to try and make a living by reporting on popculture?

    Interesting stance...

    If you can read this you really need to fiddle with your forum settings.

  • Fatiguez 8 Mar 2013 06:35:05 8,714 posts
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    Jesus JTN you natter on more than a woman
  • CosmicFuzz 8 Mar 2013 06:38:42 23,823 posts
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    Nanocrystal wrote:
    ecureuil wrote:
    There are thousands of games with male leads, there are one or two games with non-sexualised female leads, there are thousands of games with women in peril, there are hardly any games with men in peril who end up being saved by a woman...
    Fixed that for you.

    ecureuil wrote:
    Where are the thinking men, or the sensitive men?
    You're verging into "Why isn't there a white history month???" territory.
    So it's not ok to have a woman in distress but it's ok to have a man going around killing everything? Where is the fair and proper representation either way?

    And as folk say, it's not just video games. Books, tv, film... The ration of male action hero to female action hero is the same. It's far more common to have a male be the lead in a physical role. Why are video games being singled out?

    And really, this only applies to action games (which by the nature of video games make up a large percentage of games). Look at more unconventional games such as as Heavy Rain or Walking Dead to see more fleshed out female (and male) and characters. It's like comparing a summer blockbuster to a drama.

    Edited by CosmicFuzz at 06:47:01 08-03-2013

    Episode 5 of our gaming podcast Open Source is a Gamescom Special. Check it out here!

  • MrTomFTW Moderator 8 Mar 2013 06:46:44 37,765 posts
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    Tonka wrote:
    ecureuil wrote:
    She needed $150,000 for this? It's not bad, but people are producing things as good as this for nothing but their free time. There's nothing wrong with it, but I didn't feel like I learnt anything from watching it.
    Are you saying people aren't allowed to try and make a living by reporting on popculture?

    Interesting stance...
    That's not what Kickstarter is for.

    Follow me on Twitter: @MrTom
    Voted by the community "Best mod" 2011, 2012 and 2013.

  • GuiltySpark 8 Mar 2013 06:57:17 6,355 posts
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    Jeez JTN, I meant in that era. Also me stating that doesn't necessarily preclude anyone else from making the same mistake, but it's only Nintendo who haven't changed their formula for the majority of their titles since that era.

    Edited by GuiltySpark at 07:00:26 08-03-2013

    Edited by GuiltySpark at 07:00:55 08-03-2013

    Get bent.

  • GuiltySpark 8 Mar 2013 07:05:03 6,355 posts
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    CosmicFuzz wrote:
    So it's not ok to have a woman in distress but it's ok to have a man going around killing everything? Where is the fair and proper representation either way?
    That's a fair point.

    Feminism - "Why do I have to wait at the finish line, I want to kill people too!"

    Nobody - not in films, literature, documentaries, fucking home videos - gets a real representation because it's impossible to do so.

    Get bent.

  • Dangerous_Dan 8 Mar 2013 07:18:54 2,380 posts
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    I'd like to see more tigers in lead roles, in video games and entertainment in general - some affirmative action for that would be a good thing.
  • Tonka 8 Mar 2013 08:20:41 20,202 posts
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    @MrTomFTW Really? I honestly can't see anything wrong with what she has done.

    Then again, I havn't read the small print of Kickstarter so I might be missing something. I much rather see projects like hers than successful videogame designers begging for nostalgia money.

    (as an example)

    If you can read this you really need to fiddle with your forum settings.

  • Nanocrystal 8 Mar 2013 08:24:32 1,013 posts
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    GuiltySpark wrote:
    CosmicFuzz wrote:
    So it's not ok to have a woman in distress but it's ok to have a man going around killing everything? Where is the fair and proper representation either way?
    That's a fair point.

    Feminism - "Why do I have to wait at the finish line, I want to kill people too!"

    Nobody - not in films, literature, documentaries, fucking home videos - gets a real representation because it's impossible to do so.
    So we can't talk about sexism and women in video games in a thread called "Sexism and Women in Video Games" on a video game forum because there's discrimination in other media?
  • Armoured_Bear 8 Mar 2013 08:27:09 10,563 posts
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    /would

    XBL : ecosse011172
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  • GuiltySpark 8 Mar 2013 08:28:01 6,355 posts
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    Nanocrystal wrote:
    GuiltySpark wrote:
    CosmicFuzz wrote:
    So it's not ok to have a woman in distress but it's ok to have a man going around killing everything? Where is the fair and proper representation either way?
    That's a fair point.

    Feminism - "Why do I have to wait at the finish line, I want to kill people too!"

    Nobody - not in films, literature, documentaries, fucking home videos - gets a real representation because it's impossible to do so.
    So we can't talk about sexism and women in video games in a thread called "Sexism and Women in Video Games" on a video game forum because there's discrimination in other media?
    I don't think anybody said that in the slightest.

    Like seriously, I honestly don't understand how you came to that conclusion. Stupider still, you aren't even trying to talk about the things that you are bitching about not being able to talk about.

    Some people, eh?

    Edited by GuiltySpark at 08:31:49 08-03-2013

    Get bent.

  • sanctusmortis 8 Mar 2013 08:30:45 9,627 posts
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    The money was for licensing and equipment, as the idea is the series can be used legally for educational purposes. I can't watch it right now, but I hope to HECK she turned comments off...

    It's a great idea to create a video resource series like this, as it means it can be referenced in academic papers that will be printed in journals etc. ironically, the kickstarter's responses, and the idiotic Men's Rights Activism response "Misandry in Video Games" in particular - are also great sources of proof of the issues inherant in gender roles of modern society. Fat, Ugly or Slutty too.
  • CosmicFuzz 8 Mar 2013 08:34:00 23,823 posts
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    Nanocrystal wrote:
    GuiltySpark wrote:
    CosmicFuzz wrote:
    So it's not ok to have a woman in distress but it's ok to have a man going around killing everything? Where is the fair and proper representation either way?
    That's a fair point.

    Feminism - "Why do I have to wait at the finish line, I want to kill people too!"

    Nobody - not in films, literature, documentaries, fucking home videos - gets a real representation because it's impossible to do so.
    So we can't talk about sexism and women in video games in a thread called "Sexism and Women in Video Games" on a video game forum because there's discrimination in other media?
    I think you'll find that's exactly what we're doing. Or can people not have differing opinions?

    Episode 5 of our gaming podcast Open Source is a Gamescom Special. Check it out here!

  • GuiltySpark 8 Mar 2013 08:37:12 6,355 posts
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    sanctusmortis wrote:
    It's a great idea to create a video resource series like this, as it means it can be referenced in academic papers that will be printed in journals etc.
    The problem is, everything she said is generally college-level analysis, it's of no real use. Like I mentioned earlier, I basically wrote everything that she had said when I was around 16.

    And once again, I'm not saying the information is wrong or useless, but I can't imagine it is of use to anyone other than the general public, if that makes sense.

    Get bent.

  • CosmicFuzz 8 Mar 2013 08:39:43 23,823 posts
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    Typical woman doing a half arsed job ;)

    Episode 5 of our gaming podcast Open Source is a Gamescom Special. Check it out here!

  • kinky_mong 8 Mar 2013 08:40:54 10,122 posts
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    Do me a favour love.

    I'll never get my Orc looking the same again.

  • Nanocrystal 8 Mar 2013 08:45:25 1,013 posts
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    GuiltySpark wrote:
    Nanocrystal wrote:
    GuiltySpark wrote:
    CosmicFuzz wrote:
    So it's not ok to have a woman in distress but it's ok to have a man going around killing everything? Where is the fair and proper representation either way?
    That's a fair point.

    Feminism - "Why do I have to wait at the finish line, I want to kill people too!"

    Nobody - not in films, literature, documentaries, fucking home videos - gets a real representation because it's impossible to do so.
    So we can't talk about sexism and women in video games in a thread called "Sexism and Women in Video Games" on a video game forum because there's discrimination in other media?
    I don't think anybody said that in the slightest.

    Like seriously, I honestly don't understand how you came to that conclusion. Stupider still, you aren't even trying to talk about the things that you are bitching about not being able to talk about.

    Some people, eh?
    I was actually about to edit my post because I realised I was replying to CF's rhetorical question with a rhetorical question, which wasn't helpful.

    My point is that sexism is a real and blatant problem in video games, and is far more prevalent in this form of media than it is in films or books. Pointing out that some male characters are violent killing machines in this context is a false equivalency.

    And BTW if we're resorting to calling each other's comments stupid, then what the FUCK is this:
    GuiltySpark wrote:
    Feminism - "Why do I have to wait at the finish line, I want to kill people too!"
    ?
  • CosmicFuzz 8 Mar 2013 08:48:44 23,823 posts
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    But it's more prevalent in games because by their nature games are mostly action games. They're like summer blockbusters. So why is it surprising that they are male dominated? If every film was a Die Hard or Terminator then the same problem would exist.

    You don't get the same diversity in games as you do in films or books. As I said earlier, the few games that ARE different (ie Heavy Rain) have more fleshed our characters and stronger female roles.

    Episode 5 of our gaming podcast Open Source is a Gamescom Special. Check it out here!

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