Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games: Damsel In Distress, part 3

Hey look, it’s that video series that never existed because Anita Sarkeesian took the money and ran! Funny that it keeps existing, despite the trolls’ narratives.

If you want to play a game where the Princess rescues herself, there’s always Zelda Starring Zelda. And various other rom hacks. Sad that you need to hack the existing media to give an underrepresented demographic them-shaped heroes — and sadder that the responses to such efforts are not always positive. Some demographics really, REALLY hate it when their representation in a medium goes from 99% to 98%, and they can get pretty damned vicious about it. (See some of the earliest comments on the Pauline Donkey Kong rom hack Youtube video, for instance.)

Check out Feminist Frequency for more of Anita Sarkeesian’s videos, and her Tumblr for other assorted gaming and feminist goodness.


  1. trinioler says

    Heh, a friend wants to claim that there are lots* of games starring women now.

    I went through my steam library, and used the following classification system:
    If it has a guy as the protagonist, with no option to to change to a woman without unlocking(like super meat boy), it counts in the male category.
    If a game has the option to switch, it counts as both/neither.
    If the gender of the protagonist cannot be determined(say, spaceship or racing games), it counts as both/neither.
    If a woman is the protagonist, it counts in the female category.
    Games with a gender-mixed team count as both/neither.

    117 total games.
    55 games starrring men
    7 games starring women
    55 games in both/neither.

    *He wanted to list 25 games, and I had to keep arguing it has to be compared to the total number of games made, not just a raw number without context.

  2. says

    trinoler – I actually count games that count both men and women as equals as female friendly too. Because Mass Effect did it well and Dragon Age did it well in context of the “society” where the game was set in. Femshepard had a large enough following that Bioware made her look official and honestly I liked her more than the male version (Ah Garrus…. Sigh…. I mean… Manly Things!)

    You know what I want to see?

    Good Female Villains.

  3. says

    I liked this episode a lot, particularly as she described how simply gender-swapping one damsel for another doesn’t actually make a work any less sexist.

    I know that she was on a deadline, but I wish she could have included Ellie from Last of Us as an example of a strong, capable female character, even if most of the game was not centered on her play segments.

  4. Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion says

    Squee for Mass Effect! … uh, yes. Good female villains would be nice, rather than just the sexy sidekick of a male villain, or a vengeful woman who isn’t beautiful so she’s EVIL, or some kind of succubus that the protagonist defeats by seducing… Someone powerful in their own right who isn’t necessarily gorgeous, just damn good at their job, and that job happens to be being a complete arsehole to somebody. Also with a personality that isn’t just “woman”. You know, like all the half-decent male comic/game villains.

  5. trinioler says

    Hydrophobia: Prophecy
    Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
    The Longest Journey
    Mirror’s Edge
    Portal 2

    Whoops, looks like I miscounted, 8.

    Jason, I will send you a PM on facebook(we’re facebook friends already) with my steam id. :)

  6. Atras says

    There’s also “The Wand of Gamelon” but that game sucks. Of course to you guys things like gameplay, story, graphics, and all of the other things that are actually important in a video game don’t matter, just that the protagonist is a girl. I bet you’d hail the Atari ET game as one of the best games of all time if ET was female.

  7. Atras says

    Because you’re focusing on that to the exclusion of everything else. I don’t care if the character I’m playing as is a man, woman, hermaphrodite, alien, robot, or an animated walking blob of cat puke, all that matters is that the game is enjoyable.

  8. keithm says

    Someone powerful in their own right who isn’t necessarily gorgeous, just damn good at their job, and that job happens to be being a complete arsehole to somebody. Also with a personality that isn’t just “woman”.

    Mass Effect: Aria T’loak, boss of Omega in game 2 (and star of a DLC for game 3). Although her villainy is put to use in helping the player, she’s no hero. A very anti-hero, at best. For clearcut villainy, in the “Citadel” DLC, the mastermind behind the whole thing turns out to be a woman, not counting her partner, the SPOILER (as that character depends on which sex Shepard is being played as).


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