"As a trope the Damsel in Distress is a plot device in which a female character is placed in a perilous situation from which she cannot escape on her own and must then be rescued by a male character, usually providing a core incentive or motivation for the protagonist's quest."

This is part one in a video series by Anita Sarkeesian from her successfully funded Kickstarter about "The Tropes vs Women in Video Games." This first video is very well done and I found myself looking at these old games from a different perspective.

Travis   Admin wrote on 03/09/2013 at 08:39pm

I really dig this. I think she stretched a few times, but it was mostly spot-on. I had never really thought about some of it since it was so ingrained from having grown up with it.

But with women being treated as possessions, while I won't say that never happens, that's not necessarily the case. If my wife was kidnapped, and I was able, I would rush to rescue her. Not because someone had taken my possession, but because the woman I love is in trouble and I can help. There doesn't have to be anything sexist about that specific part of it.

But it's overuse is, as she demonstrated. It's getting better, though. At least it seems to be. There have been more strong female leads in games recently. Lightning in Final Fantasy 13 (and more than half of your party in that game), Nariko in Heavenly Sword, even Tomb Raider, in which the protagonist is way overly sexualized, has a strong and powerful woman in the forefront.

I think, and hope, it's getting better. Video games stand in a unique position to affect change as well. The Call of Duty crowd probably wouldn't dig a female protagonist, but RPG and Adventure games could really step things up.

I hope at some point she talks about how horribly inefficient the female versions of armor are in video games, just to show more skin-colored pixels. That's been bugging me for decades.

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 03/09/2013 at 08:45pm

I hope so too, I was looking at some game, maybe Final Fantasy or something or maybe not I don't remember which and this women was walking around a desert in high heels and armor. I was like how is that possible, its hot as shit in a desert and high heels on sand? I mean, video games are like not real but... WORST DESIGN CHOICE EVAR! :D

Robert_Lount wrote on 03/09/2013 at 09:02pm

Great video, I'm really enjoying it. Super valid and it should be a configurable option.

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 03/09/2013 at 09:06pm

Yeah that would be a pretty cool thing. As I was watching the video I was like "I wonder if Nintendo would ever do a Zelda game where you could pick between Zelda or Link to play." Be pretty cool.

I also thought a bit about Mario 2 as well. That's my all time fav. Mario game and the Princess is hands down the best character in that game. It was a huge bummer they didn't put her in New Super Mario Brothers because, again, she would have been epic to play as. I think there was only like 2 levels in SMB 2 I played as other characters for various skill reasons.

Robert_Lount wrote on 03/09/2013 at 09:23pm

The skinheads kidnap Madonna? Heh. So does acknowledging certain video game tropes promoting sexism a nod to them possibly contributing to violence?

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 03/09/2013 at 10:04pm

Aside from the interesting information about early iterations of certain games, I felt this particular video is about 20 minutes too long, in the wrong direction. Female objectification, in any medium, is a tired, and often sexist vehicle, but one that I thought we were moving away from. I admire Anita's conviction, but I don't really understand the purpose of this episode. We've gone past awareness - at least most of us have - and all I'm really seeing here is the beating of a dead horse, and therefore no real effort had to be made to make this point, yet again. Move it forward. Start with now, not 20 years ago. Hopefully the next episode will be more enlightening.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 03/09/2013 at 10:15pm

Oh, and, Travis, those are great examples of games that feature strong women protagonists. Any Metroid game, Portal, Fear Effect, or any game that allows the option of choosing a sex for your player - Skyrim, Borderlands, Dragon Age, etc. - are examples of how this has turned into a dying argument.

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 03/09/2013 at 10:49pm

I don't know about a dying argument but progress has been made no question. Its actually kind of cool because if I can choose whom the protagonist is I pick females and its interesting how it changes the game.

Skyrim, Dungeon Siege, Borderlands all have great options in this regard.

Robert_Lount wrote on 03/09/2013 at 11:24pm

I'll throw in again with it's something for options as well. It doesn't matter what gender a person is, either can get in a scrape that requires help getting out of. Kidnapping by giant ape sees no distinction in victims.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 03/09/2013 at 11:28pm

I meant that lack of awareness was a dying argument. Pointing out over and over again that women have been objectified in games is not serving any purpose. We know it happens. I want to hear her solution for overcoming/moving forward. She's just regurgitating what we already know. Sexism is bad. I just felt like she could have used that first episode - especially after all the eyes that would be watching it, due to the Kickstarter noise - to make a case for progress, rather than detail the offenses of the industries history, which has been done many times by many others, and, again, I thought we were already moving in a better direction.

Travis   Admin wrote on 03/10/2013 at 01:11am

scrypt, you're partially right. I was quite well aware of sexism in video games, but I would have never thought about the damsel in distress trope being so prevalent. I saw a lot that I hadn't thought of.

Further, I also think that not everyone is as mindful about things as you are. For everyone that realizes there's sexism in video games, there are 5 or 10 that never thought about it. Granted, they also probably won't be the kinds of people who watch her videos. But, since this is a series it makes sense to start with the history, a primer for those not well-versed.

Robert_Lount wrote on 03/10/2013 at 01:44am

Maybe she'll have the answer in part 2.

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 03/10/2013 at 02:07am

@Robert_Lount: I think so. According to the end teaser its about more recent games.

She has a series of videos she is doing, I think its ok starting from square one on stuff. Some of it was new to me too, like the Starfox bit.

krcDeuce   Supporter wrote on 03/10/2013 at 02:21am

I liken it to being good at math, music, reading, or any science: you forget about the basics if you don't go over them once in a while. I think it's easy to be sexist and not even be aware. But then again, am I really being sexist if I have no intent of it? It comes down to whether or not you're comparing this to the law or to morality. I can break the law even if I am not aware, but I am not immoral if my acts align with my morality.

Regardless of that discussion, there is no reason to revisit the facts: that racism can occur, it comes in various forms, and you should know how to recognize it. Besides, she's building a series. She has to make sure everyone in the audience has the same level of understanding. Who's to say that she won't eventually get around to the part where we are progressing against sexism in the gaming world.

I'll also be the first to admit, I didn't know what the word trope was before I saw this video.

Talky wrote on 03/10/2013 at 10:59pm

I find it interesting that we are waiting on her to give us a response to move forward with. I wonder what we as a group of intelligent people would suggest as a solution to move forward?

I also find it interesting how quickly we started listing off the modern games that are not promoting sexism, but shied away from pointing out the current games that do still promote sexism. What games exist now? Maybe grand theft auto...

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 03/11/2013 at 12:01am

The games now that I are not moving society forward in ways I would like are games like "Dead or Alive Volleyball," "Grand Theft Auto," or something like "Gears of War." I am not saying those games don't have an audience, but personally I don't think they say much or move us forward in an way that speaks to me.

So what I do to sort of move things forward for me is first off realize that "Saving Princesses" is a tired old trope that doesn't make a great game any more. Clearly the market can handle and reward developers for making games with female protagonists and antagonists like Portal and Portal 2. In fact, with Portal it was one of my most recent beloved games and it was amazing. I am not showcasing it because it featured a female lead, I am showcasing it because it was amazing and moved the ball forward where certain companies can't seem to do.

When I have a choice to pick male or female, like with Skyrim, Dungeon Siege, Borderlands 1 or 2 I often pick females simply because its a fresh look at the game and is fun. Ive been playing as dudes for 90% of my life, personally I like mixing it up and honestly find that choosing the female option in games to sometimes be simply better, like in Borderlands.

In games like Skyrim, its fun to go through the world as a female with Lydia. No problem kicking Dragon ass with that combination. So again, really I just make choices that are fun and when developers provide options in games for the most part, I find that more fun.

I haven't bought a Zelda game in some time, part in because its a very old formula that hasn't changed for years. If Nintendo made a game where Zelda was actually the protagonist I would buy it in a second because it would show that Nintendo was willing to at least try something new with the franchise. So, in that way I would vote with my wallet because I think it would be awesome to see Zelda actually be the protagonist in the game named after her. Not because of some ulterior motive but because it would be awesome to see in the same way Portal and Skyrim are awesome to play.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 03/11/2013 at 12:02am

I just worry that her videos will bring mostly bias against men, rather than an open discussion of what to do about this issue, if it really is an issue anymore. Watch her previous videos, if you haven't already. I spent most of yesterday and this morning watching a good portion of them, including her original "tropes vs women" series. It's all just more of the same, with no real point, other than to expose every perceived instance that could be construed as offensive or biased against women in popular pop-culture mediums. She says it would be awesome to play as Zelda in her own adventure, but would likely criticize that any role you put Zelda into would just be a role based on a male character design, only with a woman's body. And she's not opposed to skewing data in favor of her argument. She praises Dinosaur Planet at the offset of this video, stating that the game would have been "pretty cool, right?!" based on the idea that the protagonist was a strong, capable and heroic female tasked with saving the world. What she doesn't mention is that the other protagonist was a male figure named Sabre (supposedly Crystals sibling) who would have likely seen equal playability as the protagonist by player choice, similar to the character selection in Jet Force Gemini. She also conveniently clips the last bit of dialogue that Crystal has with General Scales after declaring who she is, stating that she has come for the princess. Meaning, the princess was captured, which is the exact trope she is trying to expose.

http://youtu.be/bQ7nyNf2a1M - dialogue is at :20

As far as the 'damsel in distress' plot vehicle goes, I just really don't see it around much these days. Look at your game library. How many of the games that you own have this as a concept, not even as the primary focus, but even as a sub-point. I just ran through mine, and of all the current-gen console games that I own (around 200 titles), maybe 12-14 of them actually use this trope, the most obvious being games like Prey, Rayman Legends, Limbo, and Ico/Shadow of Colossus, which was a remake.

Aside from Mario and Zelda titles, do any of you feel that this is being overused these days? I mean, honestly?

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 03/11/2013 at 12:06am

@scrypt: The Damsel in Distress is an old trope that doesn't come up in modern gaming as much as it once did for sure. But if I were doing a video series on Tropes and Women in gaming I would bring it up for sure.

I think people need to look critically at stuff and be awesome. I haven't heard of anyone looking at the videos and being hateful against men, but it could happen and that wouldn't be awesome.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 03/11/2013 at 12:36am

@jdodson, but why would you bring it up (damsel in distress)? Rather, why would you commit almost a half an hour talking about the way things used to be, as if that had anything to do with the state of games now? Unless, of course, the state of games now is in an offensive place. Why wouldn't you, on the other hand, praise the advancements? Maybe, focus on the positive? It almost seems insulting to ignore the work of artists these days that have made great strides in the stories and experiences in games, that are largely ambiguous, or at least not offensive to the female gamer.

Do I sound crazy?

@Talky, I would say that we already are moving forward. Look at the top games on metacritic. Look at the Gamer's Choice Awards. Look at the VGA award winners. Look at the creativity that's going on in the Indie scene. Yes, there are spots of sexism here and there, but mostly in the AAA realm. The industry is predominantly male. Most females were not compelled to enter a career field that did not interest them. However, more females these days are, in fact, becoming game designers, programmers, etc. That presence will influence the games that are made available to play, as it has already.

I honestly don't think that Anita Sarkeesian is the game-advocate she makes herself out to be (the photo of her playing a SNES at a young age, implying she's been playing games for a long time). She's a feminist critic of pop-culture, and all I'm trying to do is understand what she really wants.

Travis   Admin wrote on 03/11/2013 at 01:32am

I don't know, I didn't see the controversy here. She's definitely a feminist critic of pop culture, and what she wants is to examine sexism in video games. We've made strides, but it's still prevalent. This was an introduction to the series, and if you want to critique it the best place to start is at the beginning, right?

The damsel trope is (was) overused, but it's called a trope for a reason. Back in the day games didn't really have deep plots. I'd imagine the budget for writing wasn't high. So developers tacked on an easy story to write because it had already basically been written for them.

And I wouldn't say there are "spots" of sexism, I'd say it's pretty prevalent. I mentioned the RPG armor aspect, but that's just one area. I mean really, this armor: http://img.cheathappens.com/walls/o_aprincess_2_7.jpg

Women are overly sexualized, but then men are as well. I mean just look at Marcus Fenix and other space marines, or hell most male heroes in games. They're all impossibly large, an ideal of masculinity that men will never achieve.

What this spells out is that there are these physical ideals that have been thrust upon us, more-so for women, that we're supposed to achieve. That are near impossible to achieve.

This is why I love Valve. A nerd in glasses is the hero that stops an alien invasion, twice. A strong woman makes her way through various test chambers to stop an impossibly intelligent AI, twice. A varied group of four diverse people come together to survive the zombie apocalypse, neither of them what you'd typically see as a hero, all of them normal people you'd see at work, at school, giving you coffee at Starbucks. Valve hasn't just broken the mold, they've melted the molds down. They haven't avoided these gender stereotypes, they seem to act as if they never existed.

So we've seen how amazing things can be when we don't use the typical. Why not strive for more of that?

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 03/11/2013 at 02:32am

Travis, I like your point in the second paragraph about the simple games of the past, and how when working with what they had, story often took a backseat. They went for what was easy and focused on the game play. I wish she would have made that point. Not to mention, the whole idea of chivalry, which you brought up in an earlier post, should also be analyzed. I don't think many feminists like the idea of chivalry, though.

The armor from that King's Bounty character is sexual, but I don't think it's sexist. Is the current portrayal of Wonder Woman sexist? Nariko in Heavenly Sword? Cortana? Bayonetta, even? Sexuality may be prevalent (and even then, I don't think it's as widespread as people make it out to be, though it is there), but I don't see that sexism is. To be clear, I'm using the definition that sexism is prejudice or discrimination based on a person's sex.

And I totally agree that we should continue to move away from, or at least attempt to expand from, the mundane, thoughtless story lines that have been the go-to for years. I'm not at all saying that we are above accountability, either. I do wholeheartedly agree that we should strive to do better :)

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 03/11/2013 at 02:42am

Sexuality doesn't mean sexist but it might not often be far from the wheelhouse sometimes. I walked through WizardCon this year and many booths had male artists that had women nearly 100% portrayed with heaving breasts and skimpy outfits. Does that say something about how the artist views women? Does it say something about how the artist looks at me as a comic book reader? In some industries or game genres that's kind of a lot of what you get.

So is the above picture sexist? Well I think it says something about the artist, the game and how they look at the audience. Leave it up to everyone to figure out what that says to them.

Travis   Admin wrote on 03/11/2013 at 02:46am

As an aside, this is awesome: http://www.destructoid.com/three-year-old-wants-to-play-donkey-kong-as-pauline-248284.phtml

The problem that I forgot to go into in my last, long-ass comment, was that the fact that the damsel trope was so overused, even if only for time or budget reasons, was bad for sexism in games because it kinda set the stage. I assume she's going to go back to that in future episodes. At least I hope she does.

I guess the over-sexualization of female video game characters isn't necessarily sexist in and of itself, but it's a sign of the sexism in the industry. The only way for a female character to appeal to the people funding the game is to give her a skimpy outfit. They've actually changed Wonder Woman significantly, she isn't wearing a gold-plated bathing suit anymore. Bayonetta was made as an over-the-top satire of sexism, so it's kinda... meta-sexism? I don't know how you'd define it. I don't know enough about Cortana's place in Halo to comment on her.

Nariko is an interesting case because she was a very powerful woman who was saving the world, but she's still not wearing a ton. Again, that's appealing to the male demographic who want sexy characters. I wouldn't have had any less fun with that game had it been a middle-aged, unattractive woman in full chain mail, and I would have still bought it because of the gameplay, but their sales would have been way lower without her being hot and somewhat scantily clad.

(Interesting aside, the mo-cap and voice for Nariko was done by Anna Torv, who played the amazing Olivia Dunham in Fringe. I managed to actually figure that out about 15 minutes into the first episode.)

Travis   Admin wrote on 03/11/2013 at 02:54am

Another point, perhaps I should let these stew before I post so I don't keep missing things.

The Fable games have been pretty good about this. You *can* make your female character wear next to nothing, but you can also do that for the male characters. But one thing that happened with Fable 2 at least is that your build changed based on stat changes. One thing that people had problems with was that unhealthy food would make your character overweight. Regardless of which gender the player used, there were a lot of complaints about that.

BUT. If your speed was high, you'd get taller. If your physique was high, you'd start to bulk up. It makes sense that a taller person would be fast, and that if you used melee a lot you'd bulk up. But there were so many complaints from people playing female characters about how their female character wasn't feminine enough. People would intentionally underlevel things, making the game harder, just to keep their female character sexy.

I think that speaks to the problem.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 03/11/2013 at 04:04am

@jdodson - at a comic convention, I could see that happening, and it's probably typical (I've been to game cons, but not comic cons). But then you are talking about something that is specifically an art form. People still struggle to this day to consider games art.

@Travis - I would argue that even if Nariko had been middle aged and fully covered (I don't think it's necessary that she be unattractive, but even then...), that if the game play was the same, the sales would not have changed. You would have to believe that a warrior woman in her 40s, covered in chain mail, could move with the agility and dexterity that Nariko currently does, which might be the biggest detractor. I think I'd give the game purchasers the benefit of the doubt on that one. The big thing that sets gamers (at least gamers my age) apart in this is that we have a tendency to follow our "artists" on a mechanical level. We know that good graphics don't make a good game, but we know who makes the games, and we'll usually follow the maker, rather than the game. Take the Call of Duty franchise, for example. Infinity Ward always sold more games than Treyarch (until recently), because people loved the feel of Infinity Ward's game play mechanics. Same with the SMT/Persona series and Atlus. If anyone other than Atlus put out one of those games, they could put a full naked woman right on the cover, and I bet it wouldn't sell as well as the current games do. In the case of Rare and Dinosaur Planet, people would have bought it if it hadn't been converted to a Star Fox title, and it would have done well, because it's a fun game, and it was a Rare game. This isn't a ubiquitous outline, but it fits a majority of the time.

You had prompted a thought, though, and I'm curious to see how people respond to this question:

- What, in your opinion, makes a strong female character?

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 03/11/2013 at 04:04am

also, concerning the topic video series: a list of the proposed videos to come (I see a lot of open-mindedness coming):

• The Fighting F#@k Toy - Video #2
• The Sexy Sidekick - Video #3
• The Sexy Villainess - Video #4
• Background Decoration - Video #5
• Voodoo Priestess/Tribal Sorceress - Video #6
• Women as Reward - Video #7
• Mrs. Male Character - Video #8
• Unattractive Equals Evil - Video #9
• Man with Boobs - Video #10
• Positive Female Characters! - Video #11
• Top 10 Most Common Defenses of Sexism in Games

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 03/11/2013 at 04:22am

"What, in your opinion, makes a strong female character?"

The stuff strong people are composed of. I mean, the same stuff that makes strong people?

I was reading the Portal comic book they released before the game and in the comic book Chells overriding personality trait is that she clever gives up. Ever.

So stuff like that.

Oh and you should checkout the Portal comic book, it was free and is very well done!

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 03/11/2013 at 04:23am

Err clever should be never. On my phone and as such cant spell worth a damn :)

kingbllaze wrote on 03/11/2013 at 05:13am

this is great can't wait for the next part, make me take a second look at the games i play

Travis   Admin wrote on 03/11/2013 at 02:44pm

scrypt, can you clarify whether "I see a lot of open-mindedness coming" was sarcasm? It seems like sarcasm, which seems like you've made up your mind about the videos before you've even seen them. I'm personally quite intrigued by them and don't see anything to suggest open- or narrow-mindedness from the titles.

As for a strong female character, the question you should be asking is "what makes a strong character?" Every character (at least, player characters) will have strengths and weaknesses. Nobody wants a totally flawless protagonist. Kratos, one of the biggest badasses in gaming is crippled by his guilt and rage. But yeah, strength of will, determination, proficiency in skills, caring for other people, the same things that make people successful in real life, only fictionalized.

Gary_Butterfield wrote on 03/11/2013 at 04:19pm

Can anyone point me to an actual example of bias against men? I haven't seen it, certainly not in the games industry.

Travis   Admin wrote on 03/11/2013 at 04:38pm

Actual bias against men? No, not really, at least not in games. It may exist somewhere but I haven't seen it. In other forms of entertainment you can see it on just about any multi-camera sitcom. Back to overused tropes, the men are lazy and stupid, and aren't attuned to their wives' needs. The women are all demeaning, whiny, and nag all the time. Sex is frequently used as currency, suggesting that men have a singular need in life, and women are manipulative with their bodies, perhaps due to the fact that to the men in sitcoms that's the only thing women provide that's worth anything to them. I'd say the bias against men and women is pretty strong there.

As far as gaming, though, the body image thing is the closest I can think of.

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 03/11/2013 at 04:49pm

@Gary_Butterfield I don't think there a bias agains't men in the games industry.

Here are a few thoughts I have had this morning on her video:

I am happy Anita made this video. In fact, really happy she made this video. She wanted to do a video series on Topes VS Women in Games and episode one is doing what she set out to do. After reading other comment threads online it seems many people want it to be something other than it is. This is a video series on Tropes VS Women in Games so, you know, its going to be about that. Nothing wrong with a video series on Tropes VS Women in Video Games in my mind.

Anita has a perspective for certain but just because she has one doesn't mean she is a bad person. Everyone has a perspective and an agenda but her perspective or agenda doesn't make what she is saying factually untrue. Just because someone prints something or says something you don't like doesn't mean what they are saying is not factual, accurate or have value in the public discourse.

Should she stop her video because what she is saying is unpopular? Should she bow to people and stop her video series? I don't think so.

A few years ago Roger Ebert was pretty vocal about saying that "Video Games Are Not Art." He got a ton of flak for this and tons of nerd rage ensued. Personally, I don't agree with him, but read his stuff and at the end of the day felt we just saw stuff differently. It didn't change what video games are, he just thought they weren't art.

I don't agree with him to this day but I respect many of his ideas about movies and think he is a pretty cool guy.

At the end of the day I want to build a world in gaming where anyone can talk about ideas because I want a world where I can talk about my ideas. No one has to listen to me, but its good we have such a system in place where we can share our mind and our perspective and hopefully be awesome along the way.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 03/11/2013 at 04:56pm

It was sarcasm, and I'll explain later, but right now I'm late for work! :) You bring up good points to discuss.

Gary_Butterfield wrote on 03/11/2013 at 04:57pm

I always think of sitcoms as a place where no one comes off well. The men are dumb and lazy. The woman are shallow and conniving.

Calling out the choice of gender in Skyrim as evidence of good female characters in gaming doesn't quite work, I don't think. Your character in that game is a blank. It's not written as strong. And often, the way it's played is as a man in a woman costume. If you spend the whole game doing the same things you'd do anyway, it's not really a gendered role. It's more of a genre'd role. Fighting monsters and exploring dungeons and gender doesn't matter, in so far as your character. However, when you marry the warrior woman in Skyrim, doesn't she give up her warrior ways and open a shop or some non-sense? Or just stay home? I think blank slate RPGs are a bad place to look for exceptions.

One important point, I think, is that exceptions don't mean much when we're talking about trends. Yes, we have Portal, Beyond Good and Evil and Metroid. But if you look at the medium as a whole, we haven't made that much progress.

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 03/11/2013 at 05:00pm

"Calling out the choice of gender in Skyrim as evidence of good female characters in gaming doesn't quite work, I don't think."

Actually @Talky asked how we were moving things forward and my response was essentially I often times choose to play as females. Not saying Skyrim's way of portraying women is perfect, and I agree with the points you outline, I was talking about what things I choose to do.

Travis   Admin wrote on 03/11/2013 at 05:10pm

Gary, agreed all around. Blank slates are just that. Being able to change your character's gender doesn't portray women in any particular way, because you're the one portraying them. Especially in a game like Skyrim.

Gary_Butterfield wrote on 03/11/2013 at 05:11pm

But your choice is meaningless, right? Does it change what you do? How you play? What the game is about?

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 03/11/2013 at 05:16pm

@Gary_Butterfield: Not meaningless to me. But I could see for you why it could be. It actually changes how I think about the game.

But understand, that just because I play as a female in Skyrim doesn't mean I think sexism is dead or that video games have evolved beyond sexism, I do not. I am really just describing some of the choices I make in how I play games.

I can see where some would question that as an actual choice or if that even matters. All I can say, is that it matters to me.

Travis   Admin wrote on 03/11/2013 at 05:17pm

Another question would be, *should* it change what you do, necessarily? If your male character is a big sword and board warrior, and you make a female character be an alchemist wizard because sword and board isn't girly enough, isn't that kind of sexist in and of itself? That's an extreme example to make a point, by the way. I know choices can be a lot more nuanced than that.

Gary_Butterfield wrote on 03/11/2013 at 05:23pm

How does a girl stab a troll differently than a guy?

To me, a lot of the issue of gender in games boils down to genre in games. In episode 11, I think, she is going to talk about Men with Boobs, which is a huge deal. It'll be interesting to hear how Samus stands up to that.

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 03/11/2013 at 05:25pm

I am looking forward to that one too.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 03/12/2013 at 04:46am

@Travis - Okay, so I was going to go into this lengthy explanation of the nature of my sarcasm in that previous post, but really what it boils down to is that I haven't made my mind up about the outcome of the videos, as much as I've resolved myself for more of the same, just pointed at a different trope. I'm not expecting much else. Part of that, is because I spent most of the weekend watching near all of her previous videos, and now I'm about to jump into her graduate thesis, which I found on Scribd.com (and, yes, I actually paid for it). It all sounds the same.

@Gary_Butterfield - you mentioned earlier that exceptions don't mean much against trends, and, as a whole, the medium hasn't made much progress. Progress from what? Sexism? I'd have to ask for clarity on that. I see a bias toward men, but I don't see rampant sexism. And I'd have to ask, what is innately wrong with a bias toward men in games, especially if men are the dominant producers of that product? Is the industry anti-women? Of course not. For the longest time it's been a damn sausage fest, but it isn't discriminatory against women. You have to remember who started the industry. If a lot of women were really into computer programming in the 80's, things would probably be different.

Another point you made was that RPGs with optional gender selection, really just leads to playing as a man in a woman costume, but then you later ask the question "How does a girl stab a troll differently than a guy?" In role-playing games, you decide to do just that, play a role. As a man, you can't actually play a game as a woman, because you aren't a woman. You can try to understand, try to empathize, but your experience in a female role is always filtered through your experience as a real life male. But if a woman were to play that role, the experience would be different. Skyrim Mom is perfect example of this.

Travis   Admin wrote on 03/12/2013 at 12:43pm

"Is the industry anti-women? Of course not."

[citation needed]

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 03/12/2013 at 04:14pm

"as much as I've resolved myself for more of the same, just pointed at a different trope."

Totally, I think you nailed what the video series is about, which is why I am excited to see the rest of them.

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 03/12/2013 at 04:26pm

Cliffy B just posted some really awesome stuff about her first video and a bit of his thoughts behind it. Tossing it out because its relevant to our discussion.

http://dudehugespeaks.tumblr.com/post/45150472512/anonymous-internet-boy-taliban-tropes

Travis   Admin wrote on 03/12/2013 at 04:27pm

I had just come here to post that Jon, you beat me by, apparently, less than a minute.

Gary_Butterfield wrote on 03/12/2013 at 06:09pm

In regards to the man in a woman costume, my point is choosing a female character in Skyrim is not an example of women in games because it's not written as such. It's not a strong character presented by the product itself. It's your blank avatar having boobs while it goes and kills bears in 3 random houses.

I think in your first point, you're maybe explaining why things are the way they are (math/science interest weighed towards men, especially in the 80s and also culturally in Japan), but it's strange to me that you would ask what the problem is with that. If video games are to be taken seriously as a medium, as an art, they have represent people as a whole, not just a portion. A varied perspective is actually a GOOD thing and will make art thrive. Adding equitable female perspective doesn't take anything away from games. I think when you say that you suspect a backlash or a possible bias against men in games, it's based in the idea that there's only so much to go around. The reality, it's infinite for all intents and purposes. Games that are considered to be definitively male aren't going anywhere.

When I say we haven't made much progress, that's what I'm talking about. Towards a wider, more representative voice in the medium. The days of a whole art form being "for guys" or "for girls," are on the way out.

krcDeuce   Supporter wrote on 03/12/2013 at 08:00pm

Here's a point to think on: some men create female characters in choose-your-gender type games (Skryim is mentioned above, but I'll at World of Warcraft to the mix) because they want to objectify their own character. I've heard several men tell me that they choose to portray themselves as women online so that they get extra help (i.e. free loot or gold) from other real-life males that also want to objectify women. This goes to support the idea that choosing your own gender in a game is not a representation of that gender directly.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 03/17/2013 at 10:32pm

I'm posting these, because they are a fair rebuttal and opposing analysis of Anita Sarkeesian and her bodies of work.

Part 1 - http://youtu.be/p6gLmcS3-NI
Part 2 - http://youtu.be/LpFk5F-S_hI

Many valid points.

@Travis : citations for women actively working in and influencing the gaming industry:

http://www.mcvuk.com/news/read/the-top-100-uk-women-in-video-games/0112138
http://www.redorbit.com/news/technology/1112763014/video-game-industry-breaking-into-the-boys-club-011413/
http://www.giantbomb.com/kim-swift/3040-90039/
http://articles.latimes.com/2010/feb/07/business/la-fi-himi7-2010feb07 (especially her comments near the end of the article)

Are there male idiots and assholes in the industry that patronize and/or harass women? Obviously, and I think that presence will continue to dwindle. That doesn't mean that the industry as a whole is anti-women. Far from.

@Gary_Butterfield: "If video games are to be taken seriously as a medium, as an art, they have represent people as a whole, not just a portion."

I think I agree with your sentiment, but I disagree with this statement. I believe you are confusing production and art. Art is typically made by the artist as an expression of the artist. The minute art tries to be all-encompassing and tries instead to please people, that's when the artist is labelled a "sell-out" and the art ceases to become art and rather becomes a product. Now, having said that, some games can be art (works of creative expression), and some games can be products (items manufactured for the purpose of profit). A product can be aesthetically pleasant to look at, but that doesn't make it art. Video games don't need women in order to be sustainable as an art form. They don't even need women to be sustainable as a business. These points muddy the more important point, which is: We need each other, and inasmuch, we need to learn to coexist. However, it's also true that we don't always need each other.

Travis   Admin wrote on 03/18/2013 at 12:34am

@scrypt, not much to say except providing examples of successful women in gaming doesn't really mean anything. Nobody is saying women are currently unable to work in gaming, nobody is saying there aren't more women working in gaming now than before. Just because the murder rate has gone down in the country doesn't mean people aren't still getting killed.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 03/18/2013 at 02:16am

@Travis, just because people are getting killed in this country, doesn't mean that the country condones murder. I never said there wasn't hostility toward women in some corners of the games industry. I just don't think it's as pervasive as you think it is. Context is everything. Likewise, the issue of sexism in gaming requires context. I see very few instances of the games industry being anti-women. In fact, the examples I gave prove that point precisely. How does that "not really mean anything" in your eyes?

Travis   Admin wrote on 03/18/2013 at 03:22am

The examples you gave prove that there are instances in which women haven't been discriminated against, nothing more. It doesn't prove that it isn't a problem. It proves that some women haven't had problems.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 03/18/2013 at 03:32am

Are you saying that there is evidence showing that most women in the games industry are discriminated against?

Travis   Admin wrote on 03/18/2013 at 03:38am

I haven't gone on as much of an information binge as you have so I can't answer that. In this particular instance I'm making no argument or claim at all. All I'm saying is that your evidence doesn't support your claim. A better example than the one I have earlier would be like if someone found 5 successful African Americans in the 60s and said "see, racism in the workplace isn't a problem." You're using purely anecdotal evidence. It's a kind of Hasty Generalization fallacy.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hasty_generalization

Travis   Admin wrote on 03/18/2013 at 03:45am

Or cherry picking. The two are closely related. I can't tell which this would more accurately fall under.

Travis   Admin wrote on 03/18/2013 at 03:49am

Also, just doing a google search for "sexism in the video game industry" have me this as the top result.

http://m.nbcnews.com/technology/ingame/women-use-twitter-expose-video-game-industry-sexism-1C7283842

So it would appear the problem is significant enough. The only way to answer your question about "most women" would be a significant survey of women in the industry that, if it has ever been done, is eluding my quick google skills. But further, even if that study was done, how many women are *not* in the industry because of sexism?

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 03/18/2013 at 04:22am

As I stated earlier with your analogy to murder, a reversal of accusations, stating that 5 African Americans were discriminated against in the past 5 years, does nothing to indicate that racism is a growing concern. You call my evidence anecdotal and faulty, yet praise Sarkeesian as being "mostly spot on" for providing mostly nothing more than her opinions, nonetheless, as a critic. The evidence that I provided, however, points to many successful women in the games industry. Not 5, 15 or 30, but over a hundred (I could find more, if you like. What would it take to satisfy you?), and no indication that number will do anything other than grow in the coming years. Showing that many women can, and do, succeed in the games industry gives credence to the argument that the games industry is not anti-women. Isn't it possible that the industry can be a realm of equal opportunity, and still have some issues with sexism at the same time? And, if those lingering issues are in fact shrinking (statistics seem to indicate they are. In the industry, women comprise 10% of the workforce, as consumers they are up to 40%), what good does it do to continually point the finger at the past, when the present and future are so much more promising?

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 03/18/2013 at 05:02am

"...how many women are *not* in the industry because of sexism?"

From what position? Women who left the industry because of sexism, or women who never entered the industry for fear of discrimination? I don't think the latter could be objectively quantified.

I liked Adam Sessler's response to the #1ReasonWhy:

http://youtu.be/Umj2dnACo64

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 03/18/2013 at 05:15am

Seems like this debate is kind of circular.

@scrypt You asked why we must look back, why not just look forward? History. Its important to look back to know where you are going. I don't care to debate that, but yeah, I care about history. I like looking back. Your right that the future looks bright though, no question. Then again, I am an optimist so its all bright skies :D

And, I don't know if we agree on games as art. Yeah money, sure. But they are art because they are like mashups of all different kinds of art. Video games are like art on art on art. Music, pictures, etc. Yeah money, but old art was often commissioned for money too. Doesn't change what it is. I am not trying to change your position.

At the end of the day I think this is a little bit more than "Someone is wrong on the Internet." What I mean by that is that with Anita Sarkeesian, I think I am more interested in why people need to rebut her in the way they do? Why is Anita Sarkeesian as a single person garnering the response she is? Because she is wrong on the Internet?

At the end of the day, I liked her videos. I don't think she is anything more than than someone that makes cool videos I like. But it seems some people are making her out to be more than just someone who made some videos they don't agree with.

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 03/18/2013 at 05:31am

What I mean by circular is that we seem to be coming back and repeating ourselves. Because I know I sure did :D

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 03/18/2013 at 05:54am

@jdodson, I appreciate the simplicity of your perspective. It's refreshing.

With Anita, what it boils down to is "What is she really about?" She implies one thing, then says another. I personally feel like she contradicts herself, and her intention seems less than altruistic. She is getting a lot of media attention now, and more people will listen to her because of it. Some will look at it the way you have, as a simple message of awareness, and go about their day, because those people, like you and many others on this forum, have a good heart. Others will stir the pot, throwing around misleading, uninformed questions like "Worldwide, 3 billion hours a week are spent playing video games; do we really want misogynists in control of the message?" (http://www.forbes.com/sites/jordanshapiro/2012/11/29/1reasonwhy-you-should-be-worried-about-gender-equality-in-the-game-industry/ )

Then you have people like me, who are a little jaded and more skeptical - who have been burned too often by people claiming to have good intentions, but in the end lied or manipulated to maintain control - these people pick up on subtle inconsistencies, and their ears perk up, and start to ask questions like "What do you really mean?" or "How does your position on X line up with your position on Y?" Because it's in the congruity of the meaning, and the resulting fruit of that position, that can win or lose the skeptics respect. Yes, I'm talking about integrity, something I am as guilty of betraying as I am a victim of betrayal. I don't expect people to be perfect, but I like to know what they are really trying to say when they speak, especially when speaking from a soapbox. It's really easy to create "truth" out of thin air, and it doesn't take much for people to believe that truth.

Travis   Admin wrote on 03/18/2013 at 01:23pm

@scrypt, you're talking about two different things entirely when you say "You call my evidence anecdotal and faulty, yet praise Sarkeesian as being "mostly spot on" for providing mostly nothing more than her opinions." I can agree with opinions that are just opinions, right? If someone said "I really like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and Eric Clapton" I could say "You're mostly spot on, except for Eric Clapton" right?

Anyway, I'm bowing out of this. I don't want to keep repeating myself and it seems that you want to win this far more than I do. It was fun when we were having a discussion, but It's not really fun anymore. Enjoy.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 03/18/2013 at 04:29pm

I'm not trying to "win" anything, just trying to define what you asked me to define, but, whatever. You say my argument is invalid because I'm cherry-picking facts, but you agree with Sarkeesian, who also cherry-picked facts. I'm hearing you say that I can't argue that the games industry, for the most part, is accepting of women, but Sarkeesian can argue that the games industry is predominantly misogynistic.

Travis   Admin wrote on 03/18/2013 at 06:07pm

Ah, there's where you misunderstand. The video was about tropes in video games. I said she was mostly spot on with her discussion about tropes in video games. The scope of this video didn't really extend into the industry and who works in it, or whether women can be successful. The discussion in these comments has gotten too big, and far off-scope, so it's a bit difficult to follow all the different threads of it.

Again, I'm not engaging further, just clearing up what I said before.

Gary_Butterfield wrote on 03/18/2013 at 06:48pm

The one thing I'm still unclear on is this bias against men you say she might instigate. What would that look like?

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 03/19/2013 at 02:08am

@scrypt: I totally hear you and that makes sense, thanks for the explanation. Being married to a Feminist myself, I am inclined to be a bit more OK with them as a whole, but it wasn't always so :D

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 03/19/2013 at 02:10am

I was also part of a Feminist group some friends of mine started at University and nothing says "other side of the fence" than being a Feminist at a religious University :D heh.

Travis   Admin wrote on 03/20/2013 at 04:39pm

I just posted that before looking at the comments. Very interesting read, and I've been looking forward to that game for a while.

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 03/20/2013 at 04:46pm

Yeah, it is interesting. I think its cool they found a publisher for the game. I also saw this this morning.

http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2013-03-20-mass-effect-3-writer-talks-of-industry-resistance-to-creating-diverse-female-characters

Its interesting because in both cases they could actually accomplish their goals, which is good. Doesn't mean the road is easy, because its not.

I am glad these kinds of things are coming up, I think its because with Anita's video it is now "ok" to talk about this stuff. Its just like, now that the issue is in the public eye, the discussion can continue.

Travis   Admin wrote on 03/20/2013 at 05:36pm

Yes, exactly. I mean, since the video nearly every gaming news site has talked about this to some degree, we're seeing sprite swaps where the female character is going after the "Gentleman in distress," and at least some people are thinking about video games differently. I know I am.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 03/23/2013 at 08:03pm

@Gary_Butterfield, in response to what biases against men might look like, and why I fear them, I have this link and a quick comment:

http://www.theverge.com/2013/3/21/4132752/thug-mentality-how-two-dick-jokes-exploded-into-ddos-and-death-threats

With great power comes great responsibility.

It's easy for me to see certain "victims" abusing the power that comes with trying to balance the playing field. It's the proverbial noobtube attack. In such situations, a woman can make a claim against a man, and the man takes a backseat to the accusations, regardless of context. In such situations, the man is guilty until proven innocent. By the the time the smoke clears, it's often too late.

Gary_Butterfield wrote on 03/26/2013 at 04:29pm

I wonder why it's so easy for you to see that. What would be the motivation on her part? Revenge? Malice? What world do you live in? Why do you focus on her rather than the companies behaving inappropriately or the death threats she's receiving containing racial slurs? You can't "get someone fired." A company can over react but she doesn't have firing/hiring power for that tech company. I read her initial blog and found nothing wrong with it. It's a semi professional event. It's fine to call out people acting unprofessionally.

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 03/26/2013 at 06:55pm

@scrypt: Just read that article this morning, its interesting.

I think your "guilty until proven innocent" is a very good point, one both sides need to consider. For instance, if we want to live in a world where we are innocent until proven guilty, lets apply that reasoning broadly, because its a thing I tend to agree with.

For instance, in gaming right, as a dude no one questions my "video game street cred." But as a woman, Anita Sarkeesian is questioned about hers. Honestly, whats the difference? I have pictures of myself playing video games same as her. Really, its just our word that we love video games. And its not just Anita, many other women "video game pundits" get that too. Ive checked myself more than a few times myself for doing it because I haven't entirely erased my sexist attitudes and I am married to a Feminist :D

Personally id like cooler heads to prevail as well, but there is so much hurt and anger on both sides of the argument that it looks like a hard sell. I wish dudes would stop with the stupid adolescent sex jokes personally because as a dude I don't like them at work. Imagine calling that out to a group of dude programmers? I have, it sucks and they don't stop and just razzed me. I tried being funny, being nice and being serious. Didn't stop. In the end, I am lucky to be working at a gig where that sort of thing isn't in the culture.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 03/27/2013 at 03:35am

@Gary_Butterfield: I live in world where men can find themselves tip-toeing around women, because they don't want to accidentally say the wrong thing and lose their job, or possibly even go to jail for it. I live in a world where a woman can claim domestic violence, get a restraining order against a man without that man's knowledge, and that man be arrested for crossing some line he didn't even know existed. A world where standards in a work environment are deliberately lowered, to allow women to qualify to do the same jobs that men are doing, for the sake of "equality." These things scare me, not because I personally have anything to fear, but because, on the face of it, our society is more concerned with the needs of "me" rather than the needs of "you." I'm pretty sure it's the same world you live in, you just might not be aware of what's going on. And, yes, you very much can get someone fired, maybe not directly, but you can set the wheels in motion. Cause and effect. Words are very powerful things.

There is no real black and white about sexism. It's often a matter of context. The point of no return could be anywhere, depending on whose company you find yourself in. What that person should have done was turned around, spoken to those two men directly, and expressed her issue with them, rather than snap a photo and post a twitter feed about it, and then proudly proclaim that her actions helped to save the future of programming. I wonder if you read this link as well, and what you thought of these responses:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5398681

Those men should have been confronted, but not demonized and publicly humiliated in a digital ambush. There is a better way. A more excellent way, if you will.

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