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Mar 08 2013

Tropes Vs Women In Video Games: Pt. 1: Damsel In Distress

Here’s a 23-minute video, the first in a series, which of course can’t possibly exist because Anita Sarkeesian is a scammer who bilked people of money on Kickstarter then went to the Bahamas.

Dense, information-packed, well-researched, correct in all its particulars, and can’t possibly exist. My search engine hits for “Anita Sarkessian scam” tell me so.

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  1. 1
    Aliasalpha

    That’s the most insidiously cunning type of scam, the one that delivers exactly what it promised!

  2. 2
    doublereed

    I don’t understand why people could be against this. Going over tropes in media is like the NERDIEST THING EVER. It’s up there with arguing over whether Spiderman could beat Batman. Why would people be ANGRY about this?

    Although I do think it was weird that she included Sarah Kerrigan from Starcraft II WoL as a damsel in distress on the tumblr. Can a damsel in distress also be the Final Boss? I guess it’s just kind of a weird example of the trope, especially considering it sets up the sequel where Kerrigan is the main character.

  3. 3
    Gregory in Seattle

    @doublereed #2 – The thread for this video at Pharyngula talks about Kerrigan. The emerging consensus seems to be that she is and is not a DiD, as her humanity is seemingly being held captive by her alien nature. “Seemingly,” because it looks like she might have been a willing ally.

  4. 4
    Jason Thibeault

    My take on Kerrigan is that she was transformed by the Zerg, not that she was willing prior. The fact that at the end of Wings of Liberty she apparently (spoiler) is rescued by Rayner, nude and (mostly) human again, tells me that she’s certainly the damsel.

    However, I betcha anything she’ll show up in another tropes video as “hot and evil”. Probably alongside Battletoads’ Dark Queen.

  5. 5
    doublereed

    neat, thanks greg

  6. 6
    leftwingfox

    It’s fair to say that Kerrigan was damselled in the end of Wings of Liberty. On the whole, her character arc is pretty rich, and if we’re taking over her role instead of Rayner’s in Heart of the Swarm, we’re back to woman as subject again.

    Which is the problem with sexism: There’s nothing inherently wrong with an individual needing rescue from someone else from time to time. But by making this apply nearly exclusively to women, repeatedly and lazily, it taints even well-meaning instances.

  7. 7
    composer99

    leftwingfox:

    The material Blizzard has on their website for Heart of the Swarm suggests Kerrigan is indeed the protagonist of the game.

    Which is the problem with sexism: There’s nothing inherently wrong with an individual needing rescue from someone else from time to time. But by making this apply nearly exclusively to women, repeatedly and lazily, it taints even well-meaning instances.

    QFT

  8. 8
    Ouabache

    Wait… Starcraft has a plot?

  9. 9
    left0ver1under

    Aliasalpha (#1) –

    In the (small) minds of sexist imbeciles and rightwingnuts, it doesn’t matter that Ms. Sarkeesian did as promised. They’ll do at least one of these things, and probably others:

    (a) Pretend the videos don’t exist, and continue to say “fraud!” (see: the claim that Acorn still exists)

    (b) Call the videos “failures” because they “didn’t say enough”

    (c) Call the videos “failures” because they proved her point about sexism

    (d) Use the videos as even more excuse to attack and threaten her

    To me, sight of Sarkeesian’s first video makes me feel like I do when a music group releases a new CD or single (e.g. Rush’s “Clockwork Angels” in 2012). I know one is being made and will arrive eventually, but I don’t know when (usually because the release date gets pushed back).

  10. 10
    Argle Bargle

    Sarkeesian spent only a tiny fraction of the money she raised on videos. Most of the money she got went towards earrings. A guy on the internet told me so and there are never any lies told on the internet.

  11. 11
    Schala

    Sarkeesian spent only a tiny fraction of the money she raised on videos. Most of the money she got went towards earrings. A guy on the internet told me so and there are never any lies told on the internet.

    I have a decent videogame collection, all bought at once, and all bought new, it would have cost a few thousands, and it’s no doubt less than the pile of games in the video. But no one will tell me someone bought for 160k worth of videogames. I think there aren’t enough videogames for that, even. And it would take decades to play them all.

    It might also be better to go interview the videogame makers themselves, with that kind of budget. Go see Eidos (even if it’s been bought out, the teams still exist as developpers, with Square-Enix as publishers), Ubisoft, Square-Enix, Konami, Capcom, Tecmo, ask them the real questions.

    And I’ll say like The Amazing Atheist – locking commentary and rating is often a sign your argument cannot stand up to scrutiny. It becomes an edict, dogma, unquestionable.

  12. 12
    Schala

    An interesting thing to ask would be why have videogame makers made “for girls” games in such a stereotypical way (Barbie games), and why are gender-neutral games and genres considered masculine, when they’re not (no one has a monopoly on violence)?

    There are tons of different genres, some have become mostly obsolete over time. Many existed just because of technological limitations and have diminished or disappeared.

    Platform 2D side-scrolling games almost stopped existing, though Nintendo is milking it for all its worth with recycled “new and enhanced” versions of 20 years old games they themselves made.

    Beat ‘em up games are old-school too, they only require perspective, and not true 3D.

    Puzzles of various kinds, from the simple Tetris to the more complicated Myst and Siberia.

    Shoot’ em up games where your ship/vehicle/giant robot/super-powered person moves/flies around and shoots everything in a surreal game where everything (including your avatar) can shoot more than their volume in ammo within less than a second. It’s more of a kind of strategy game about reflexes and finding patterns in enemy attacks to find holes and ways out of being shot.

    Espionage games where you infiltrate, disable, steal, hack and where stealth is the word of the day. Such games are not meant to be games where you kill everything (you’re usually heavily penalized if not unable to do so outright).

    Race games where you compete in realistic (Gran Turismo) or funny-looking (Mario Kart) vehicles to beat your competition. Again either in realistic fashion (real physics), or in less realistic fashion (using items to throw at competitors, auto-catch-up), both ultimately for fun.

    Party games (Mario Party, Super Smash) where the goal is mostly to have fun, with winning a secondary concern.

    JRPGs (Final Fantasy, Star Ocean, Dragon Quest) where storytelling takes center stage, and in my experience, is pretty egalitarian as far as who can be a protagonist (even moreso recently with the abandonment of “girls are better healers” notion).

    ARPGs (Elder Scrolls) that are more open-world. I don’t know much else about them.

    and many more genres.

    Why is only The Sims attracting female gamers in significant numbers? Those game genres I listed are not masculine, many have no human protagonist at all (most shoot’em ups, tons of puzzles, most racing games). MMORPGs also tend to attract more male gamers, despite pretty open options about avatar looks and class and no true objective to the game (you can treat it as a social venue).

    Though I would warn against trusting unknown gamers in very popular games (WoW), or free-to-play games, they tend to attract the most immature (and physically young) trolls, a nuisance to be sure. LOTRO (Lord of The Rings Online) has less of them simply because the game is relatively unknown, for example.

    I personally play MMORPGs, I avoid “pick up groups” (parties of people you don’t know personally) like the plague, and only join and stay in guilds that seem mature enough. I also tend to largely go solo, and don’t mention I’m female, because it’s entirely irrelevant (even if I’m likely to pick a majority of female avatars to play with, most people don’t assume it means I am female myself). Trolls will pick any characteristic they can to troll, so it’s not exactly misogyny when they treat female gamers badly: They’ll treat male gamers just as badly, just use other terms against them. They’re trolls. That’s what they do.

  13. 13
    left0ver1under

    Schala is a moron, and willing to ignore facts to make a specious claim.

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/566429325/tropes-vs-women-in-video-games

    Sarkeesian asked for six thousand dollars to help fund her project. Instead she got six thousand donations totalling $160,000, far more than she asked for.

    Making the stupid assumption that she will misuse the money is a baseless accusation. Her track record is making informative and provocative videos, and if any money was left over from this project, she’s likely to put it towards making others.

    Also, with a larger budget than she anticipated, she may well have used it to do more extensive and expensive research than she initially planned. She may have bought old games off ebay, or spent it on the costs of contacting or visiting game makers past and present.

    Schala is obviously too lazy and arrogant (and possibly inept) to visit the Feminist Frequency site to know how willing Sarkeesian is to respond to and allow comments and email. Considering how in the past many of the “comments” on her youtube videos were insults or threats of rape and murder, preventing posts by scum like Schala or “the amazing atheist” becomes necessary.

    If “misuse” of the money were really such a concern, write to her, say how much you donated and ask for a statement of expenses, how she spent the money.

    What’s that? Schala didn’t donate anything? Then why is he whining about how the money was spent if it’s not his?

  14. 14
    Schala

    What’s that? Schala didn’t donate anything? Then why is he whining about how the money was spent if it’s not his?

    For someone who follows videogame stuff, it’s amazing how ignorant you can be about Schala, in one of the best ever made videogame. Plus my post clearly says I’m female.

    But hey, why not try to slander me by accusing me of being a guy. Only guys can be evil, only guys can disagree with me, therefore Schala is a guy. Logical!

    I didn’t donate a thing. I also have no taxable income, and I still care where my government spend their money. When someone claims to do thing X with some money, and they don’t, I call for better spent money.

    I also fault Nintendo for it with cheap first party games that have zero effort made to make them quality games – “just because they sell” (to ignorant parents of young children, with neither knowing videogames). Even if I don’t buy those Nintendo games. They put effort in their flagship games, but not their clones.

    Considering how in the past many of the “comments” on her youtube videos were insults or threats of rape and murder, preventing posts by scum like Schala or “the amazing atheist” becomes necessary.

    I don’t have or desire a youtube account. I would rather comment on a moderated forum or blog. I’m not a troll who throws insults or threats of rape or murder, I like actual discussion.

    Schala is a moron, and willing to ignore facts to make a specious claim.

    Resorting to insults? Nothing rational left?

  15. 15
    leftwingfox

    I don’t have or desire a youtube account. I would rather comment on a moderated forum or blog. I’m not a troll who throws insults or threats of rape or murder, I like actual discussion.

    Wait, but you also said

    And I’ll say like The Amazing Atheist – locking commentary and rating is often a sign your argument cannot stand up to scrutiny. It becomes an edict, dogma, unquestionable.

    You just made a generalization about something which does not apply to your experience. You prefer a moderated area rather than a free for all, but you see the loss of one unmoderated comment section which you do not participate in as a indication that she’s unable to defend her argument? *bluhg*

    And to answer your question, about “women’s games” the answer is sexism, marketing and cultural inertia.

    Computers grew out of a male dominated field, and game designers and developers made the games they wanted to play. Because they considered their viewpoints default, we get male-view games: male protagonist, female prize in the damsel. That’s enough of a shift to cause those marketing games to see them as a male dominated area and amplify the gendered messaging, and thus games were developed for default male audiences, and games for girls and women were considered a strange offshoots. It helped create a culture which excludes women. As gaming became more complex and reliant on understanding earlier, simpler iterations, the entry point became harder for women who had not grown up with video games to get into it as a hobby.

    Thanks to more women in the industry, and more men taking time to consider default assumptions, we are increasingly seeing games which don’t have the unexamined sexist assumptions baked in. Simple gender-neutral games (especially the “casual” gaming audience) has managed to reach out to that new market with simpler mechanics leading to more complex gaming opportunities.

    As you say, most of these games are not essentially gendered; but the trappings of them are. The more games out there with women as playable characters on similar journeys to the male characters, the more likely we are to see girls and women gaming in those traditionally male areas.

  16. 16
    Schala

    I would have liked to be able to comment about Anita’s video in a moderated area.

    Is that more clear?

    Selecting the most vile area and then closing off comment because its vile, is a bit of asking for the problem. Youtube is not necessary to post videos. They can be embedded in blogs easily. Probably forums too.

  17. 17
    Schala

    Women like me, who didn’t care one bit about who the protagonist or credit-for-winning presenter was, played games since nearly 30 years ago. Well, I’m 30, so I didn’t play since before I was 3, in 1985.

    I first played on Intellevision: Burger Time, Bump n Jump, Frogger, Night Stalker, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and also Baseball. The game and console was my father’s, and he used to play – I learned a lot watching him play. Now I still have the console, but it can’t be plugged to a cable-only TV (needs the antenna crap).

    All those games besides He-Man have non-human or unclearly-gendered protagonists (it’s really not clear wether the Chef in Burger Time is a guy or not – and its irrelevant). Most racing games don’t even show the driver (and Bump n Jump is more of an obstacle course with weirdly-shaped enemy cars). The Baseball players looked like fire hydrants when at the plate to bat, and like stick figures when running. Not exactly alienating – and note that I generally don’t watch any sport, don’t like any sport, and was only forced into Little Leagues when I was a kid, it seemed like a chore. It was the only 2 player game we had for the console (the AI you could beat 50-0 without really trying, at 5 years old).

    We got the old NES in 1987, and I was similarly not alienated, neither by the fact that games were what TV tropes now calls “Nintendo Hard”, or the fact that most protagonists might have looked male (vaguely, in that 8 bit way). I really wanted to play, I’d have played crap games if it was all that there was.

    I’m no casual gamer though. People who are “hooked” well into adulthood and, who play over 30 hours a week every week tend to be more of a hardcore crowd.

    Games aimed at the casual market, that are too casual or too superficial (all Barbie games), will repulse me.

    I’m very similar to Dexter’s sister (from the show of the same name on TV), Debrah. Besides less emotional outbursts (I tend to be very reserved and introspective, and introverted, not her by a long shot). She’s “one of the guys”, is serious about what she does, and has about the same level of vanity expected in men (very low) regarding clothing and general appearance. This is where we’re very similar. You won’t see either of us in a spa. Waste of time, we would say.

    I would think were it not for expectations to be fashionistas and that “eww, guy toys!”, more women would be like me, what would be perceived as tomboys, well into adulthood, and with a “Screw what other people think, I love my hobby” attitude.

    Being a trans woman sure helped me there.

  18. 18
    cee

    oh, eyeroll. because you’re absolutely prevented from discussing the video because comments are deactivated on youtube. Not sure exactly what it is you call discussing it here, but i’m sure you’ll have a ready answer.

  19. 19
    MatthewLaboratory

    So, exactly which part of this video cost $160,000.00 to make?

  20. 20
    Sassafras

    Matthew, it was to purchase a swimming pool’s worth of sexist gamer’s tears.

  21. 21
    Jason Thibeault

    The earrings. They’re made of solid platinum.

  22. 22
    chaos-engineer

    So, exactly which part of this video cost $160,000.00 to make?

    No part of it cost $160,000 to make. $160,000 is the budget for the whole project. Per Kickstarter, the first $26,000 is being used to produce 12 videos plus a classroom curriculum. The other $134,000 was an unexpected windfall – I don’t think it’s been fully allocated yet, but I know that some of it went to enhance the “Feminist Frequency” website.

    Spending the whole $160,000 on part of one video would show abysmal project management skills, but there’s no evidence that happened here.

    If you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to ask! After all, it’s the only way you’ll ever learn anything.

  23. 23
    Kingjing

    Not sure if anybody mentioned this already, but she did get a couple of facts wrong, specifically about Miyamoto and the creation of the Donkey Kong franchise. It wasn’t originally intended to be a Popeye game, but was “inspired” by the Popeye characters. (Google “Miyamoto, Radar Scope” for more details.)

    Her video is still very good despite this, and I couldn’t really find anything “offensive” about it. Especially the points about Zelda. The fact that she was badass only while essentially pretending to be male (or at least when she was performing outside societal gender norms of womanhood), and as soon as she put on a dress, she got kidnapped. Like, immediately. Lame.

  24. 24
    Jason Thibeault

    Kingjing: as far as I can tell, the Miyamoto Popeye connection is true and valid, according to an interview Miyamoto himself gave: http://www.officialnintendomagazine.co.uk/13484/donkey-kong-was-originally-a-popeye-game/

  25. 25
    A Hermit

    This is cool:

    Father hacks ‘Donkey Kong’ for daughter, makes Pauline the heroine

    When Mike Mika saw the disappointment on his daughter’s face when she realized Pauline wasn’t a playable character in Donkey Kong, he felt a call to action. Thankfully Mika happens to be a competent developer, and after a few late-night hours spent hacking the NES version of Nintendo’s classic, he accomplished the role reversal his daughter had wished for. Mario was now under Donkey Kong’s control, and Pauline was tasked with rescuing the plumber in distress.

  26. 26
    Joe Bob

    As much attention as this video is getting in feminist and gamer spheres, I have to say it certainly does ring hollow.

    The very first point she brings up is Dinosaur Planet, a game which never game out. Because no one has ever seen nor will ever see the final version of this product, I don’t think it’s fair to assume the original Krystal would be a idealized feminist female character as Anita seems to think she would’ve been. I have my doubts that if the game had been released that Anita would find much positive to say about it because it likely would’ve contained sexist content. Making it sound as if this game would’ve been a gem of female representation without knowing is pretty blatantly dishonest.

    She then goes into this small history of the trope she’s looking into, which heavily predates gaming, and though I’m skipping ahead of myself I’d like to say that this history undermines one of her central points, that games with Damsels create an environment for sexist ideas to reach large numbers of people and become cultural staples. Showing us how far ingrained this is in our culture certainly doesn’t make me want to remove this trope from video games, it makes me want to look at the real life gender roles that caused them. In short, tropes don’t define culture, culture defines tropes.

    Nextly, she talks about Peach, and during her whole segment on her I was left with an unsatisfied thirst for a point. “Anita,” I thought to myself “I know that Peach is a staple of the damsel in distress trope, and I know you think this is bad. But who doesn’t know this? That kidnapping near exclusively women is bad and that Peach is kidnapped to the point it’s almost a running gag? Is there anything I couldn’t find on Tvtropes or Wikipedia that you want to say about Peach?” Sadly, no, there isn’t. She just lists the times Peach has been kidnapped, neglecting any of the times she’s been featured in a strong role (only main series games matter) except for Super Mario World 2. Anita says Peach is in this game as an accident, and I have to say that’s one coincidental accident. They accidently put the character in the game, coded her moveset, named her Peach, and made her selectable? Dang, I wish all my accidents were this cool.

    When she goes into the ball thing, she includes a cutscene from a game in which Peach is playing basketball and other sports at an equal level to the male characters. It’s a cute joke, but I would think if you’re trying to keep Peach looking like a one sided character only good for kidnapping and rescue, you wouldn’t want to bring light on a game where she’s competent.

    Then she goes into Zelda, stamping on the lore and my heart in process. Zelda gets kidnapped as soon as she stops being in disguise? Wow, it’s almost like Ganondorf wasn’t looking for a Sheikah boy but a Hyrulean princess! What, you mean Zelda’s father wants his daughter, a person of amazing magical abilities and the key to the destruction of the world to not be an unprotected pirate when she’s so immensely valuable to him and his kingdom and thus asks her to stay where she’s more likely to be safe? And that this also happens once she’s revealed to be a princess, because no one would care if a simple pirate was adventuring, but the only heir to throne is an entirely different matter? I mean, come on, it’s simple common sense that she’s in more danger as a princess, because Gannondorf will know where she is.

    The fact that she shakes of all of Zelda’s combat roles in the games as “nice but not nice enough” and barely even admits that Zelda is playable in Spirit Tracks and Link would be literally helpless without her makes me feel like she’s trying to paint a bleaker picture then is reasonable here.

    I believe she next makes a point that all male characters who get captured just figure it out and bust out the old fashioned way. I would suggest, if I ever met her, that Anita Sarkeesian she next time not picture characters that fly directly in the face of her own logic. Both Snake and Link have been captured and helpless to escape on their own (Snake more than once.). Incidentally, both have been saved by women in these situations. Link by Midna, and Snake by The Boss. In MGS II, actually, Raiden must be rescued by Olga, and for awhile he is forced to deal with having no gear (or clothing). Fox is the only one that I can’t recall being helpless, so I guess 1/3 ain’t bad.

    She briefly puts up Palutena as an example of a woman captured, which is silly because all the male characters in the first game are captured as well, and Palutena is actually the one who frees pit from his own capture. In the second game she’s never captured, and in the third she must assist Viridi and Dark Pit to rescue Pit himself.

    There’s a segment with a long list of retro games that have DiDs in them, which says nothing but “Look at this happening!” I could start listing games where men are captured, like God of War: Betrayal, Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, Pokemon DPP, but what would that do? Just listing examples out of context does absolutely nothing for anyone, at least not anyone who thinks about it.

    My last rant is how I could use every example to make these games seem sexist against men. I’ll take the original Super Mario Bros. as a brief example. Mario is nobody, at least to us. He exists solely to find this woman, and his own wellbeing is of no consequence to him or anyone else, for that matter. He’s only shown as heroic when he succeeds at saving the woman, and note she’s not the only person he saves. He also saves five male Toads, not a single one of which is the “goal”. He’s not a “prize”. In other words, he’s worthless, expendable, just plain annoying and in the way. Why? Primarily because he’s male. Let’s face it, Peach in this game is more valuable than the entire male population of Mushroom Kingdom. That’s kind of saying something, isn’t it?

    So yeah, this topic has been covered far better without simply being a list by both male and female gender rights activists, and so I feel the Anita is getting for more credit than she deserves simply because she made something. This video might actually be worth something in any field if any person couldn’t whip it up in moments with a quick TvTropes visit. 160,000 dollars was given for research on this, and her fans seem to have done most of it through a Damsel in Distress list she put on tumblr. I really hope part 2 and the rest of the series is much, much better than this, because this is bland and lacking in content.

  27. 27
    Chaos Engineer

    I think you’re misunderstanding the project goals. It’s not to show that every single video game uses every single sexist trope, or even to estimate the percentage of games that use sexist tropes. It’s just to illustrate common sexist tropes that have been imported from the wider culture into a large number of video games, and to explain what’s sexist about them.

    I’m not sure if you picked it up from the video, but the problem with the “Damsel in Distress” trope is that it tends to portray the damsels as having no personal goals or motivations beyond, “yell for help until someone rescues me”. They could easily be replaced with an valuable inanimate object, like the Holy Grail or the Maltese Falcon. In other words, they’ve literally been “objectified”. (The rescuer, on the other hand, always has goals and motivations. They might be paper-thin, but they’re still there.)

    Now, this kind of objectification isn’t necessarily bad. Not all characters can be fully developed, and if you’re writing a “defeat the terrorists and rescue the civilians” game then there’s no need to create a unique personality for each civilian, or to show how they’re secretly working to undermine the terrorists and make your mission easier. But it seems kind of odd to go to the trouble of naming an individual character, creating unique artwork for them, writing them as central to a key plot point, and then deciding that your work is done. If characters that get this lazy treatment are almost always female, then that suggests that there’s a sexism problem.

    I’m a little puzzled as to why you think Mario is “worthless”. He’s the Reluctant Hero, a blue-collar everyman who’s forced into a situation where he has to single-handedly defend his country against overwhelming odds. Go Wolverines!

    Anyway, I thought the video was pretty good, but I agree that there’s room for improvement. Have you thought about doing a video series that does a better job of discussing sexism in video games? I kicked in $10 to Anita Sarkessian’s project (after viewing some of her earlier work), so I suppose I can donate $10 to your project if you convince me it’s worth it.

  28. 28
    Schala

    I’m not sure if you picked it up from the video, but the problem with the “Damsel in Distress” trope is that it tends to portray the damsels as having no personal goals or motivations beyond, “yell for help until someone rescues me”.

    You just resumed Twilight in your last sentence.

    And why passive roles in videogames can’t amount to much. If there is nothing to “do”, then there is simply no game.

  29. 29
    Schala

    I’m a little puzzled as to why you think Mario is “worthless”. He’s the Reluctant Hero, a blue-collar everyman who’s forced into a situation where he has to single-handedly defend his country against overwhelming odds.

    Unless I missed a game where Mario actually…talks, his character is about as developed as Peach: not at all.

  30. 30
    Chaos Engineer

    Mario doesn’t talk, but neither did Charlie Chaplin. We can figure out a lot about him by watching what he does: He always moves forwards, and he conquers towers, defeating the enemies around them and then raising his banner. The crucial line of dialog “Thank you Mario! But our Princess is in another castle!” reveals some of the backstory; he’s recapturing territory that was taken over by a foreign invader. He’s dressed like a plumber and carries no weapons except his workboots, which gives us hints of his role before the invasion: He’s not a trained warrior; he’s an ordinary joe who’s been pushed to his limits and has decided to fight back.

    This is shallow characterization by modern standards, but it was really something back in the 1980′s when you had to fit everything into 64K. Compare it to, say, Pac-Man or Frogger or Space Invaders.

  31. 31
  32. 32
    Schala

    This is shallow characterization by modern standards, but it was really something back in the 1980′s when you had to fit everything into 64K. Compare it to, say, Pac-Man or Frogger or Space Invaders.

    You name 3 4 bit-era games and compare it to a 8 bit-era game saying it had the same limitations?

    2nd generation consoles and arcade games based on it, were seriously less free. 16 colors won’t let you go far.

    3rd generation consoles (NES and Master System) had more color (256 instead of 16) and could actually display text and have characters interact and look like characters (although not defined one bit), not misplaced pixels.

    3rd generation console was the bed for Ultima and Final Fantasy series. They could never have seen the light of day in the 4 bit-era.

    Most games on NES didn’t have a story, or it was all in the booklet. As such, most characters were undeveloped.

    Ninja Gaiden had cutscenes and text, explaining what the heck you were doing and at least part of what was going on. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link had NPCs in villages you could talk to to learn about the world and where to go. Final Fantasy 1 and 2 had NPCs for about the same.

    The last two didn’t develop the main characters (and you can’t see your own dialogue), Ninja Gaiden slightly developed Ryu Hayabusa.

    Being defined by what you do is about as shallow as it goes. Maybe they’ll be remembered for what they do, but nobody will be able to tell you something about the character that the character didn’t physically do in the game.

    Final Fantasy IV (2 US) and Final Fantasy VI (3 US) on SNES actually had characters showing their own dialogue and having their own personality, even interior monologue. They’re also much more interesting and memorable because of this. You remember who they are, not their CV.

    Opposed this you have the protagonist(s) in Contra Hard Corps, also on SNES. No talk, no text, no real hint of what to do or why you’re there. And you won’t even know the protagonist(s) name(s) unless you read the booklet.

    It really varies by game. Some games consider backstory and characters important, others consider them mostly fungible, and Anonymous Mr X or Mrs X is enough already. It doesn’t apply only to damsels in distress.

  33. 33
    Kilian Hekhuis

    @Schala: 4-bit era? There is an “8-bit era”, but the “era” before that isn’t called 4-bit, since they also had 8-bit CPUs.

  34. 34
    Schala

    They might have had 8 bit CPUs, but it sure was limited to 16 colors in “blocks” of pixels about 16 times larger (thus less defined) than NES.

    That’s consistent with 4 bit data (16 possibilities) as opposed to 8 bit data (256 possibilities) and 16 bit data (65536 possibilities).

    Now with over 1000 bits (PS3 is 512 bits, but soon PS4 comes), it doesn’t make that much of a difference between PS3 and PS4, but it will still be visible. Polygon count will be much higher, enough to notice. I can easily notice the jump between PS1, PS2, PS3 on Final Fantasy titles (who make cutting-edge graphics) except maybe in CGI cutscenes where the distinction is lesser (it’s all near-reality level).

  35. 35
    Jason Thibeault

    The PS3 is a 64-bit machine. The Cell processor only does 64 bit addressing. The memory bus is 128 bits. And the color depth is 36 bits at maximum — that’s also known as “truecolor” because every color distinguishable by the human eye in HDMI (plus some that’s not normally distinguishable by the human eye) is covered

    I strongly suspect you’re conflating marketing numbers with the actual bit depths of various components. Your comment at 34 confuses a lot of different factors, and quite frankly, betrays a lack of comprehension of the actual ways “bits” are used to describe machines.

  36. 36
    Schala

    Oh yes, PS1 was 32 bits, PS2 was 128 bits, and PS3 was 512 bits.

    And we went from graphics being a significant but not great part of the data size, to it being THE part, with coding being nothing in size of data, even if its 100k+ lines of code. And that’s why we had to go from small 1-2 MB cartridge on SNES (for big games) to dual-layer Blu-Ray (over 15 GB) in less than 2 decades, graphics and the amount of data they take.

  37. 37
    Jason Thibeault

    The PS2′s “128-bit Emotion Engine” CPU was actually 64 bits. Read this and tell me why I say this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotion_Engine

  38. 38
    Schala

    The PS3 is a 64-bit machine. The Cell processor only does 64 bit addressing. The memory bus is 128 bits. And the color depth is 36 bits at maximum — that’s also known as “truecolor” because every color distinguishable by the human eye in HDMI (plus some that’s not normally distinguishable by the human eye) is covered

    So now its not about data size, then what makes new games not only harder and faster to render, but also way way larger in size, if it’s all 64 bits? Shouldn’t data size cap at some point (at whatever the CPU can handle per instruction)?

  39. 39
    Schala

    And about the 2nd generation of console, it had a 8 bit CPU, but was only able to handle 4-bit data, right? Or they’d have actually had more colors, until they hit true-color level (I imagine around PS2), no?

    I hear CPUs can handle up to 512 bit of data, but if has to be chopped into smaller parts, so its like 8×64 bits. And no known system handles 1×512.

    Yet much of that wouldn’t be color…so what would it be? Shading? Texture?

  40. 40
    Jason Thibeault

    A) Higher-polygon count models, b) higher-resolution textures, c) post-processing effects like filters or HDR lighting. The more gloss you put on a frame before putting it on the screen, and the more math you need to do to render that frame, the faster processor and more video memory you’ll need to use to “keep up” with the defined 30 (or 60 or whatever) frames a second.

    The bit depth only says how much memory addressing can be used — because you’re doing memory-intensive operations. With a 32 bit processor, with each operation, you can only address up to 4 gigs of memory. When computer memory started to surpass that, we made the jump to 64 bit processors, which don’t actually affect processor speeds. With a 64-bit processor, you can address up to 16 exabytes. (An exabyte is 2 to the power of 64, or 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 bytes.)

  41. 41
    Jason Thibeault

    Meanwhile, the color is going to be probably 16-bit color for the 16-bit era of systems. That means 65536 possible colors. 24 bit color depth is in the millions (and THAT’S truecolor — correcting my earlier statement). 30/36/48 bit depths are part of the HDMI 1.3 specification and are called Deep Color. They actually define more colors, in the billions, than most commercial displays can show.

  42. 42
    Kilian Hekhuis

    “And about the 2nd generation of console, it had a 8 bit CPU, but was only able to handle 4-bit data, right?”

    Very wrong. You seem very confused. Do you have any actual knowledge on computers, CPUs, the width of memory buses, maximum addressable memory and so on? I very much doubt it.

    “Or they’d have actually had more colors, until they hit true-color level (I imagine around PS2), no?”

    The number of colours have nothing to do with the number of bits the CPU can handle. Besides, from the NES and on, graphics processing was offloaded to graphic processors, like the NES’ PPU.

    “I hear CPUs can handle up to 512 bit of data, but if has to be chopped into smaller parts, so its like 8×64 bits. And no known system handles 1×512.”

    Modern CPUs can handle 64 bit of data for regular integer computations (hence they are called 64-bit CPUs), but typically larger amounts when processing floating point numbers and when performing SIMD and related instructions.

    Yet much of that wouldn’t be color…so what would it be? Shading? Texture?

  43. 43
    Kilian Hekhuis

    “The bit depth only says how much memory addressing can be used”

    Not entirely acurate. An X-bit CPU typically has registers the size of X, which needn’t be directly related to the size of the addressable memory. E.g. the 8086 was a 16-bit CPU, but could address slightly more than 1MiB of memory. And the older 8-bit era CPUs could typically address more than 256 bytes. 32-bit x86 CPUs have been able to address more than 4GiB for quite some while, and 64-bit x86 CPUs actually have an address space much less than an exabyte.

    Sorry for being pedantic :)

  44. 44
    Jason Thibeault

    Kilian: I was oversimplifying, so your pedantry is most welcome. :)

  45. 45
    Schala

    How long til we get the equivalent of Eureka’s Matrix-like software from season 5 (in graphics quality, and its pretty realist)? Even with the bugs and glitches.

  46. 46
    MKandefer

    Schala, as a backer I have some insight into the project updates that you don’t have, so let me attempt to answer your questions.

    I have a decent videogame collection, all bought at once, and all bought new, it would have cost a few thousands, and it’s no doubt less than the pile of games in the video. But no one will tell me someone bought for 160k worth of videogames. I think there aren’t enough videogames for that, even. And it would take decades to play them all.

    Anita is doing 12+ videos each dealing with different tropes that concern feminism. She has bought more than video games with her funds,such as better equipment for recording sound, video, and video games. She has taken on additional staff, such as the person who made Buffy vs. Edward. From my understanding she is treating this more like a full-time project now that she is making it 12+ videos long and is developing a curriculum for educators.

    It might also be better to go interview the videogame makers themselves, with that kind of budget. Go see Eidos (even if it’s been bought out, the teams still exist as developpers, with Square-Enix as publishers), Ubisoft, Square-Enix, Konami, Capcom, Tecmo, ask them the real questions.

    This is an excellent suggestion that as a backer I can make, but I understand this wasn’t among her original project goals, so I don’t expect it. Her focus is very much on discussing the tropes in video games, and their potential harm.

    And I’ll say like The Amazing Atheist – locking commentary and rating is often a sign your argument cannot stand up to scrutiny. It becomes an edict, dogma, unquestionable.

    It can also be a sign that you don’t want to deal with the abuse that comes with it. I do think this is her position as in her message to backers she said the comments are disabled for obvious reasons. I don’t think she means they are disabled to prevent criticism, but disabled to hide the vitriol she often receives. She has encouraged backers to share the work, and not disable comments when they do, so I don’t think she has an agenda to silence criticism, she just doesn’t want the vitriol on her youtube page.

    BTW, love the name. She was one of my favorite characters and had awesome theme music…. but unfortunately she was not playable in the original, and only sort of playable in the sequel.

  47. 47
    Schala

    BTW, love the name. She was one of my favorite characters and had awesome theme music…. but unfortunately she was not playable in the original, and only sort of playable in the sequel.

    You mean, you didn’t like playing a very petite blonde thief with a thick Australian-accent?

    I took my legal name from her. Schala is the English form of Sara in Japanese. Because the Japanese have no l in pronounciation (Romaji I guess), so translators have to guess.

    I’m not a backer of hers, but I hope it ends up being something good. I’m all for better and less sexist representations in videogames.

    Square is doing their part, we’ll have catboys to go with the catgirls (Miq’ote race in FF14:ARR), and while some female characters are wearing pretty sexy and revealing clothing, you can also dress your male character in armor that makes him look like he’s a pole dancer, or a pro fetishist (subligar, harness)

    http://fc01.deviantart.net/fs71/f/2010/268/9/e/harness_and_subligar_by_d3afn3ss1337-d2zh8v8.png.

  1. 48
    Father hacks Donkey Kong rom so daughter can be Pauline » Lousy Canuck

    [...] only in a society that prescribes strongly-defined gender roles would the default hero be a man and the default “damsel” be a woman. And yet, in an alternate universe where this was released instead of the one with Mario [...]

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