EDIT: SPOILER WARNING. Major spoilers are included in this video. Most of the games are a few years old, but a pivotal moment in Borderlands 2 is revealed.

I have yet to watch this, but just saw it had been released and wanted to share. I'll be in with my thoughts later tonight.

The first video in the series caused quite a stir around the internet (see: http://www.feministfrequency.com/2012/07/image-based-harassment-and-visual-misogyny/), and this one seems to be off to a similar, if not as extreme, start. It was pulled from YouTube quickly after release due to bogus reports, but they restored it in under an hour.

This video moves into modern gaming and shows how current developers are trying to move away from the tropes of old, but end up falling into more tropes.

So what do you think?

jdodson   Admin wrote on 05/29/2013 at 02:17pm

Ill write more of my thoughts tonight but this video contains mad spoilers for games.

For instance ive only played two games she featured in her video in Borderlands 2 and Prey and what she showed I hadnt seen yet.

Travis   Admin   Post Author wrote on 05/30/2013 at 12:50am

So I've watched this now and given myself an hour to process everything. In the first video I was all-in with what she had to say, but she loses me a little in this one. I still agree with her main point, but I think at times she makes some leaps just because she's looking for all the bad. For example, when someone says "Now I'm taking something from you" and shoots the protagonist's girlfriend, that does not suggest that she was his property. That's a thing people say. When a father dies in a tragic event, he was taken from you. She also calls the protagonist fighting his demon-possessed girlfriend "domestic violence." If a demon possessed my wife and I had to fight it to make it leave, it would not be domestic violence. I don't think this is good for her case, because she's giving people something to latch onto and use that to attempt to discredit her. I don't for a second think she should shy away from difficult topics, but making new problems where there may not be any doesn't help anyone. Those scenes were already bad for other reasons.

When used in certain ways, the tropes she discusses aren't necessarily bad. She even makes a point of saying this. Borderlands 2 and God of War spring to mind for me as two examples. The character mentioned from BL2 is essential, and has more depth than most of the characters. Further, in that game, Lilith is the most badass character around.

I think what it all comes down to is how overused it is. Even today, useless female characters are way overused. With the example about the demon-possessed wife, you could avoid your loved one's attacks while trying to find some magical thing to do something to help. There are many other options here, and that's the point she was trying to make, which I totally agree with. Partly, it's a matter of game plots being incredibly unoriginal, and publishers don't want to take chances. Regardless of the reason, it isn't very inclusive to women.

I think back to my time with the new Tomb Raider. What a pleasure that game was. Not only was it beautifully done, with tight mechanics and great visuals, but it was a woman who was overcoming obstacles, finding her strength, saving women and men alike, and (while there was a lot of shooting) using her mind and keeping her wits about her to get out of some really bad situations. There's a lot of action, but you're rewarded for keeping her archaeological interests in mind as well. How many games empower women like that, or even give you a female protagonist? Not many, and that's really disappointing.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 05/30/2013 at 05:42am

At about 22:36, Anita proposes her alternative perspective on the true motivator of men in these offending games as "weakness and or guilt in the failure to perform his socially prescribed patriarchal duty, to protect his women and children."

I want an option in Max Payne 4, where you can bypass objectives by pushing a button, and your character just runs off shouting "NOT MY JOB!!"

(I'll write something more constructive later.... maybe)

Sparklepop wrote on 05/30/2013 at 06:19am

I am just going to share a few thoughts I had while watching this video, from a female gamer's perspective.

My first one, "What kinda crazy is this woman on?" Yup, that was my first one.

While she had a few good examples, most of it felt like (to me) that she was grasping for straws. I am a woman that plays video games. I have played a fair number of the games she made mention of. And never once have I ever thought anything of it.

I'm not much a feminist, some would say, because I'm completely okay with traditional gender roles. That's not to say I'm not willing to work while he stays at home to take care of the kids, or whatever else, but if they are traditional, I don't care. But I am a feminist in the fact that feminism is about equality.

To say that women shouldn't be cast in the roles, because of the messages that they send, is completely absurd. If she's that concerned, she should be saying that there shouldn't be violence in any game against anyone. And honestly, who wants to play a video game like that?

I've never once not played a video game because of how a woman is dipicited in it. And the men that I surround myself don't think violence against women is okay nor have they been desensitized to it because they see it in a video game. If either case is true of any man, it is because they have issues within themselves they need to work on, not because they saw it in a video game.

Travis   Admin   Post Author wrote on 05/30/2013 at 04:32pm

"To say that women shouldn't be cast in the roles, because of the messages that they send, is completely absurd."

Yeah, it is. In the last few minutes of the video she tempers everything she says in the first 20ish minutes with reason, but some of the claims she makes throughout the first part are a bit absurd.

Scrypt, to your point, I have played games where a woman is guilty for not having saved someone. Was she also socially prescribed a patriarchal duty? Is it only a problem if men have these feelings?

I dunno, again I think this is overuse of standard plots. I think how we've gotten to where we are now could be a sign of sexism in how the plots were conceived, but laziness or lack of scriptwriting budget could be just as much of a contributor to this (if not more).

The further I get from this video, the more I dislike it. I certainly think there are sexist elements holding back gaming, but I don't think this video helps much in that regard. It's disappointing. I want to see more strong female protagonists, and I want to see more varied stories in games, but those problems can be discussed more constructively than this video. In fact, I think a discussion about what the indie scene is up to, and why those plots and mechanics engage players in different ways (and arguably better ways) could help push things along. But that doesn't get as much attention, I guess.

jdodson   Admin wrote on 05/30/2013 at 04:42pm

I really enjoyed her first video in her series quite a bit. It was short, concise and made some very good points. Plus it really ignited a discussion and I was glad to see that.

This video didn't strike me in the same way the first one did. I think partly because I have nearly no association to the games she presented(I've only played 2 of them) but the style is a bit different. She spends time responding to her detractors which I can understand, but don't really think is useful.

Its good to see modern examples of this trope, but again since I had almost no association with the games it seemed "fuzzy" to me. Not to say its not real or its not useful to see modern examples, it just seemed, well fuzzy. Best word coming to me now.

Beyond the spoilers, which suck but im not petty so ill let that go. :D

I think she brings up something in the video that I need to mention. Only because I am dork that likes camp. Never played the new Bionic Commando game but she mentions the dudes arm is actually his wife. She shakes her head during the video and laughs. Well ok. So I kind of view that in the same way I view Planet Terror or Army of Darkness. In Planet Terror one of the female characters loses her leg and replaces it with a machine gun she uses to kill Zombies. Yeah, its camp and I love that sort of thing.

That said, it was a fine jaunt but im not sure was needed after how strong her first video was.

Travis   Admin   Post Author wrote on 05/30/2013 at 08:03pm


Ben Kuchera with the important bits. I seem to agree with exactly what he's saying here.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 05/31/2013 at 02:38am

@Travis - "Scrypt, to your point, I have played games where a woman is guilty for not having saved someone. Was she also socially prescribed a patriarchal duty? Is it only a problem if men have these feelings?"

The way I understand the deeper feminist points on such things: it's a male driven society that has assigned the duty of the protector to the male, and as such implies that women are helpless and need their protection. A game that assigns such a role to a woman could be deemed as just using role reversal, and thus the same judgement would apply. Placing a sexist, male attributed role onto a female is still a role that operates within the parameters of a male dominated perspective. It isn't an example of how a woman would really act in that situation, rather how a man thinks a woman should act. Did I get that right?

This specific point is interesting to me, only in as far as the feeling of guilt by the character is concerned. I work in insurance, and have recently helped two different people in two unique, yet similar, situations. One was a father who has a son that wanted to go to a friends cabin for the weekend. The dad didn't think it was a good idea, even though supervision would have been present, because the state wrestling tournament was coming up, of which the son was a highly ranked participant. The son complained, said it would be okay, and after a couple days of deliberation, the dad agreed to letting the son go. Over that weekend at the cabin, tragedy struck, and the son was seriously injured due to an accident on an ATV, and thus could not compete in the tournament. Similar situation with the other person, a mother, who allowed her son to go to a friends house against her better judgement. The kids were messing around late at night and somehow (alcohol, I don't know...) the son was struck as a pedestrian by one of the other kids in a vehicle, breaking his right leg. This son was just accepted to college on a sports scholarship and was due to leave in a month for training camp. The common theme, aside from the tragedies, were the overwhelming sense of guilt that came from each parent. Had they just been there, or stuck to their guns and said "No", the accidents would have never happened. It's a real and valid feeling, one, I'm convinced, independent of societal structures.

Travis   Admin   Post Author wrote on 05/31/2013 at 03:02am

I just don't agree that this feeling is sexist. Yes, perhaps it's more likely that society has pushed men into the protector role, but survivor's guilt is strong regardless of gender.

I guess it's a matter of its overuse. It may all be down to the fact that there are more male protagonists and that's an easy plot device. Again, I want more strong female characters and interesting plots. I'm just not sure Sarkeesian has her sights set in the right place.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 05/31/2013 at 03:14am

Also, on the Ben Kuchera article, and the closing of the comments section: I get it. I think it's silly, but I get it. I certainly don't agree with his "shut up, and listen" perspective, but it's his article and can do as he wishes. There are good conversations going on out there, that unfortunately get pushed aside with the rantings of the angry mobs. I think it would serve a better purpose to have these types of things heavily moderated, rather than shunned altogether. We need to listen to both sides, have a conversation. I think it's sad that most people think that there is only one side to consider, and that any opposition is driven by hate or anger or confusion or anything other than a valid perspective. That, I don't get.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 05/31/2013 at 03:22am

@Travis - "I'm just not sure Sarkeesian has her sights set in the right place. "

This is what I've been trying to say from the beginning ;). I think her topic is valid, but her approach is weak and unproductive. I also think it's funny when people defending these video game tropes videos act like they are new projects for her, and we need to give her a chance to say her piece. She's been saying the exact same thing for years! The only variation, is that now instead of movies or TV, she's focusing on games. For my ears, it's become little more than empty rhetoric.

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