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Mar 08 2013

Damsel in Distress

Anita Sarkeesian has released the first of her series on sexist tropes in video games.

I notice that the comments on the youtube video are disabled. I wonder why?

No, I actually don’t.


Rebecca Watson points out something interesting. In all the noise surrounding Sarkeesian’s initial campaign to raise money (you don’t need that much cash to make youtube videos, it’s a biased project, Sarkeesian is a &$@##$&, etc.), a competing group tried to raise money to produce an alternative series of videos on male tropes in video games…which I think would be an excellent idea, actually. Men are also subject to sexist stereotypes in games.

Only one problem: The men behind the male tropes proposal seem to have absconded with the money, and even apparently photoshopped fake charitable donation receipts. Whoops.

330 comments

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  1. 1
    Brett McCoy

    I was never much of a video game player (more of the pen & paper D&D type), but never knew this was the basis of stuff like Donkey Kong and Zelda. I do remember a game called “Jill of the Jungle”, one of the few games back in the 90s that I remember with a main ass-kicking character who was female.

  2. 2
    Pteryxx

    I recall the arcade game “Kangaroo” where the main character’s a mother trying to save her joey.

  3. 3
    twosheds1

    Really well done. I wonder if the gorilla abducting the damsel wasn’t a thinly-veiled racist idea.

  4. 4
    Pteryxx

    twosheds: well it was racist in King Kong, the source material, so… probably, yeah.

  5. 5
    michaeld

    hehe go jill of the jungle! I saw this last night. Kept wanting to add something but then a minute later she’d bring up the point I had in mind.

  6. 6
    Roestigraben

    I’ve got to say, this is shaping up to be one of the best media critiques I’ve seen so far. The examples are well-picked, she’s super concise and to the point, while still including a ton of context information on the tropes, and the presentation and cutting are top notch. Good thing this program got its funding, and maybe the trolls will quiet down once they’ve seen the actual product.

  7. 7
    Pteryxx

    from the transcript:

    Traditionally the woman in distress is a family member or a love interest of the hero; princesses, wives, girlfriends and sisters are all commonly used to fill the role.

    Good. Point. Again, it’s not about rescuing/caring about any woman… it’s about their woman. Haven’t we been seeing this theme a lot in harassment and rape culture discussions lately?

  8. 8
    la tricoteuse

    twosheds1:

    Really well done. I wonder if the gorilla abducting the damsel wasn’t a thinly-veiled racist idea.

    Get your own youtube channel, twosheds.

    *gets coat, leaves quietly*

  9. 9
    sqlrob

    maybe the trolls will quiet down once they’ve seen the actual product.

    Given the furor over “Don’t do that guys”, you really think that’s going to happen?

  10. 10
    Gretchen

    Watched this last night, and I was really impressed by it. I like that she spends a significant chunk of time talking about the historical context of the damsel in distress trope, because it’s not like the video game industry invents these tropes; it just repeats them. Because video games tell stories, they rely on tropes just like all other media. And just like in all other media, the more tropey it is, the more tedious, unoriginal, and uncaptivating it is.

    I also really dug how much research has gone into this and how much actual video game footage was used. It’s one thing to talk about what happens in a game, but a lot more powerful when you can actually show it happening as you’re talking.

    Any Starcraft players want to comment on whether Kerrigan counts as an example of the damsel in distress trope?

  11. 11
    miles

    Watched it, then started going through my collection to find examples.

    My steam favorites, I’ve got like 30 games – Far Cry 3 and Psychonauts (both games I love) seem to be the only two clear-cut examples. Knights of the Old Republic is pretty debatable – even though the female of the three main characters (Bastila) gets abducted twice, I’d hardly call her a “damsel in distress” in either abduction case. Skyrim, I can’t think of any damsel in distress scenarios off the top of my head but the game is so damned big I’m sure there is one. Oh I see other sexist things in my favorites, just not the damsel in distress one.

    I go through my DS games… Scribblenauts is the only questionable one on the list (same case as skyrim – so many scenarios that there must be a damsel in distress in there somewhere), but the rest are pretty good examples of the trope.

    Wonder why that is…

  12. 12
    Holms

    I notice that the comments on the youtube video are disabled. I wonder why?

    Because she is STIFLING FREE SPEECH ESPECIALLY OF MEN OMG. It’s all part of her (and Watson’s, Benson’s, McCreight’s etc etc) Campaign to CASTRATE THE MANLY MAN AND CIVILISATION ALONG WITH HIM… and, uh, oh yeah she’s, I don’t know, a fragile airhead who just can’t take healthy, robust debate (read: calling her a slut).

    Obvious, really.

  13. 13
    brucegorton

    Gretchen

    First game: Yes – because actually being rescued isn’t necessary to prevent her being damsel-ed.

    Second game? Its weird.

    What I mean by that is she isn’t looking to be rescued and she has no real interest in her rescue. It will be interesting to see how they treat it in the expansion because the impression I had was she sort of came to like being the Queen of Blades.

  14. 14
    laurentweppe

    I notice that the comments on the youtube video are disabled. I wonder why?

    That’s because the cowardly female does not dare to openly chllenge the Manly Men of the Internet! [/sarcasm]
    .

    maybe the trolls will quiet down once they’ve seen the actual product.

    Browsed through a few game related sites: trolls watched the actual product, and are now saying different variations of “I’m smarter than this whore who asked for 150.000 dollars for her kickstarter who does not teach me anything and sucks and proves that she’s an idiot and a liar
    .
    Not that there’s nothing to say about the video itself: a lot of time is devoted to the Zelda series, but Zelda herself does not work as well as an archetypal damsel in distress because she’s been presented since the first episode’s backstory as a threat to the villain: making the plot less about the fair maiden who has to be recued by the Gallant Knight and more often than the villain targeting the maiden because he knows that he’s toast the very second she’s given enough room to flex her muscle.
    On the other hand, it’s not bad as a meta-argument, since a lot of people ignore the series backstory and treat the character as simply “the reward”, while, as Sarkeesia pointed out, Nintendo itself built part of their advertising on the expectation of the player (“Will Thou Get the Girl?” never mind that “the Girl” is the one who actually overpower the bad guy in the final fight)

  15. 15
    composer99

    Re: Starcraft’s Kerrigan as an example of the damsel in distress trope.

    I would say that Kerrigan would serve both to uphold and to subvert the trope. On balance she would subvert it more than uphold it, I suspect, especially once Heart of the Swarm comes out.

    In the original Starcraft, and especially with the Brood War expansion, Kerrigan was definitely not a damsel in distress. In the Zerg single-player campaign there is a mission where James Raynor tries to find/rescue her on Char, but she rejects his efforts. That is the closest that the first game comes to upholding the trope, and it is rejected. In Brood War there is no question that Kerrigan neither requires nor desires rescue, from either being a Zerg or from the machinations of the UED expeditionary force. Indeed, she is the primary architect of the UED’s defeat; one might go so far as to say that Mengsk, Raynor, and the Protoss all needed rescue by her.

    (Spoiler Alert for anyone who wants to play Wings of Liberty single-player c& hasn’t yet).

    On the one hand, the plot of Wings of Liberty does eventually turn out to involve trying to rescue Kerrigan (so to speak). That she is the primary villain of the campaign alters the trope but does not necessarily break it.

    On the other hand, Kerrigan is also not a passive damsel waiting to be saved from some external hostile menace. Insofar as she is being rescued, it is from the inner conflict imposed by her human-Zerg hybridization (hinted at in the final mission of the campaign). And, if the trailers for Heart of the Swarm (to be released early next week) are to be believed, she will be taking charge of her destiny, rather than (like the stereotypical damsel in distress) letting her rescuers do so.

    Indeed, it looks like Kerrigan will continue to whole-heartedly embrace the Zerg aspect of her identity while, perhaps, better integrating it with the human aspect (whereas before her humanity (as compared to, uh, Zergity? Zergness?) appears to have simply been suppressed by the transformation the Overmind effected on her).

  16. 16
    Roestigraben

    Given the furor over “Don’t do that guys”, you really think that’s going to happen?

    I’m certainly not holding my breath. But Anita proved them wrong in the best possible way, by showing that her documentation takes the medium seriously, while still being both profound and entertaining. This kind of quality should be able to turn at least some minds.

    Any Starcraft players want to comment on whether Kerrigan counts as an example of the damsel in distress trope?

    I’d say no overall, although the very end of the last game brought this aspect up briefly (and we’ll of course have to see how HotS turns out, where she’ll be back to center stage). I think the key reason is that she’s not being disempowered after her abduction – she rises far above the level of physical and psychic power which she had as a human, and it’s clear that she never loses her independent agency even when under the Overmind’s control like the rest of the Zerg. After its destruction, she’s of course completely free to further her power even more, and eventually ends up winning the Brood War conflict. And in WoL, it’s not like she’s being rescued for her own sake, but rather because the others realized they’ll need her to save their own skin against the hybrids. With those examples in the video, none of the damsels ever turn into any sort of threat because they don’t drive the plot in any way, they’re just literally out of the game. Kerrigan’s an antagonist and sometimes protagonist (due to the structure of the game), not someone who’s pushed around.

  17. 17
    Strewth

    Bruce Gorton – what about the angle that the queen of blades is powerful, independent and ‘monstrous’ and the hero is trying to return her to the weaker Kerrigan who once was his partner and love?

  18. 18
    Gregory in Seattle

    I would kind of like to see a “Dude in Distress” video game. Dude is an aggressive twit who keeps pissing off gangs/cartels/cabals of evil wizards and thus keeps getting kidnapped/imprisoned/turned to stone. His long-suffering girlfriend must then rescue him using her bad-ass fighting and puzzle solving skills. Bosses get more and more difficult as Dude tries to rescue himself, only to piss off a more powerful gang leader/drug boss/magus who moves him to a more secure location. At the end, when Dude tries to claim a victory kiss, the protagonist chews him up one side and down the other for being so stupid and helpless.

    Maybe I should try a Kickstart….

  19. 19
    blf

    I notice that the comments on the youtube video are disabled. I wonder why?

    Cooties. It’s always due to the cooties. Cooties prevent those icky girls from meaning No when they say “No”, or having constructive valid well-reasoned points, or being independent. It’s the cooties which drag, which force, honest well-intended hard-working men into committing rape or beating the females they are obliged (by the cooties) to protect.

  20. 20
    andyo

    maybe the trolls will quiet down once they’ve seen the actual product.

    Sorry to pile on to this comment, but can I buy a pass to your universe?

    I dare you to look at the comments section of any gaming website reporting on this. Even The Verge which was one of the more sophisticated tech blogs. I double-dare you.

  21. 21
    Kevin, 友好火猫 (Friendly Fire Cat)

    @Gregory:

    I’d play it.

  22. 22
    michaeld

    on Kerrigan.

    I think I would agree with calling her a damsel in distress. Though compared to lots of DiD (like princess peach) she’s more defined as a character by being a fallen hero like Picard/Locutus in BoBW then by being a DiD. (note I’ve only played SC1 and BW).

  23. 23
    imkindaokay

    Just in response to some of these comments:

    1) No, Donkey Kong’s source material was not King Kong.

    2) Peach and Zelda are not love interests of Mario and Link respectively, unless one intentionally looks past the innocent overtones.

    3) Especially concerning Zelda: Sheik (and the reasons for her capture are explained by laurentweppe)

    4) The portayal of Miyamoto in relation to sexism seems a bit unfair (and is especially unfair when you start adding in these accusations of subtle racism) when he came up with the idea of Samus which, at the time, was pretty revolutionary in terms of female heroism.

    5) There have also been a few games that star Peach as the main character, and in the SSB series Peach and Zelda (Zelda moreso, and Sheik moremoreso) are pretty powerful fighters.

    None of this to say is I don’t think there’s a problem with sexism in video games; there obviously is, but I personally would have placed more emphasis on modern games with Damsel in Distress tropes.

  24. 24
    Matrim

    I think Kerrigan still counts. Arguably when she became the Queen of Blades she was no longer Kerrigan as we knew her. She was “possessed” by the Swarm and became something else. The fact that she was powerful and rebuffed attempts at rescue are beside the point…in effect Kerrigan was the prisoner of the Queen of Blades until the end of Wings of Liberty.

  25. 25
    Matt Penfold

    None of this to say is I don’t think there’s a problem with sexism in video games; there obviously is, but I personally would have placed more emphasis on modern games with Damsel in Distress tropes.

    You are aware this is part one ?

  26. 26
    Matrim

    …when she was rescued by her macho main-squeeze and carried off nude in his arms. Almost forgot that part.

  27. 27
    Alverant

    “Traditionally the woman in distress is a family member or a love interest of the hero; princesses, wives, girlfriends and sisters are all commonly used to fill the role.”
    Isn’t that to add a sense of purpose for the character the same way a mother would try harder to rescue HER children instead of some random children? How is it really different from a squad leader fighting to save THEIR team or THEIR friends?

  28. 28
    imkindaokay

    You are aware this is part one ?

    Yeah, of course, and I think the next ones will be better (not that I think this was bad, for the most part I agree with it, but even the slightest blip in video game knowledge will give the more sexist gamers something to desperately cling onto and defend).

  29. 29
    andyo

    You are aware this is part one ?

    I don’t think xe saw the (whole?) video.

  30. 30
    la tricoteuse

    imkindaokay:

    Yeah, of course, and I think the next ones will be better (not that I think this was bad, for the most part I agree with it, but even the slightest blip in video game knowledge will give the more sexist gamers something to desperately cling onto and defend).

    But where was the blip? She mentioned that Peach had been the star of her own game, as well as appearing in SSB, but that she’d be talking about it later. So it wasn’t a blip at all.

    And I really must respectfully disagree that Peach isn’t portrayed as Mario’s love interest. It having innocent overtones does not negate this.

  31. 31
    Matrim

    @23 imkindaokay

    1. Miyamoto cites King Kong as one of several sources of the idea

    2. Oh come the hell on…

    3. You’ll note that laurentwppe also goes on to explain why it’s still an example due to most folks ignoring aspects of her character and seeing her only as the prize (or occasional Macguffin)

    4. I don’t think she ever said Miyamoto was sexist, but it is true that he is responsible for some of the proliferation of this trope. It was pertinent information.

    5. You’ll note that a character’s power or ability to kick ass isn’t relevant to the trope, what IS relevant is that these women are reduced to powerlessness and unable to free themselves despite their amazing abilities. This was explicitly stated in the video…you can’t have missed this but deliberately.

    And, as was pointed out, they ARE going to explore modern games in part two. Pay attention.

  32. 32
    glodson

    I really liked the video. That was excellently done. It addressed the issue well, explained it well, but didn’t demonize the games. She’s a fan, and I think it showed.

    I’m a fan of the Mario games, and Zelda games as well. The Mario games are bad about this. I know I don’t think critically of the plot because the plot is barely there in any Mario game. So it does shine through when one pauses how Peach is reduced to a “ball” for the game between Mario and Bowser.

    And I’m really happy she include The Wind Waker. My little girl loves that game, and Tetra is a great character. And right there at the end, the game strips Tetra of everything that makes her great. It was so depressing.

    One could say that these examples, Mario and Zelda, are more a response to tradition and lazy writing rather than an attempt to really objectify the characters. This might have some merit, but it doesn’t change the outcome. However, I think in part two, we’re going to see the woman being presented as a prize in a more overt manner.

    Hell, I’m thinking of a few examples.

    Also, I’m looking forward to when she talks about Metriod. A great and icon female character that is full on badass who gets reduced and disempowered by a male authority figure in Metriod: Other M. I refused to play the game based on that. And this was before I opened myself up to the overt sexism in our culture.

    None of this to say is I don’t think there’s a problem with sexism in video games; there obviously is, but I personally would have placed more emphasis on modern games with Damsel in Distress tropes.

    She said that Part 2 will deal with more modern games, and even games that try to flip the script.

    Isn’t that to add a sense of purpose for the character the same way a mother would try harder to rescue HER children instead of some random children? How is it really different from a squad leader fighting to save THEIR team or THEIR friends?

    The trope can be justified in some instances, but it still reduces a woman to a possession at times. Some modern games do a better job of either empowering the female character after the fact, or making the relationships more complex. It is a problem when the female character is nothing but a Macguffian for the male protagonist, a prize. His property, after a manner.

    Take Liara from Mass Effect. In the first game, she’s a damsel in distress. You rescue her, and she turns out to be a capable and strong character that grows. It helps that in Mass Effect, you can be either a man or a woman. There’s also Ashely Williams. She’s in distress when you first meet her, but she establishes how strong she is by fighting off attacking Geth and defending herself well.

    This is different than Peach gets taken, go get her while she waits for you. Having the closeness is nice, but the real problem is that the woman is reduced to the point where she has not part of the story other than being the goal.

  33. 33
    fabiojardim

    So far it’s good, but a bit…lackluster. It felt more like an episode of the Nostalgia Chick (who is consistently great) than a groundbreaking analysis of the problem. She also didn’t mention the influence of fairy tales and their strong role in entrenching anti-feminist tropes in the cultural landscape of stuff aimed for kids: if Snow White and Cinderella’s agency would peak at taking a snooze until a white guy came along to deliver her, it’s a direct predecessor to the first (and likely current) generation of games marketed at kids.

    Just…not seeing where the money went, yet. Still stuff that needs to be said.

  34. 34
    andyo

    Just…not seeing where the money went, yet.

    Those are $10000 platinum earrings, because women.

    Fabio, actually watch the video? Then read and realize this is part one of many. And also, the title (and thus the theme) of this one: “Damsel in Distress Part 1“.

  35. 35
    tbtabby

    The part about Dinosaur Planet really his home with me. Before playing the game, I was under the impression that I would be able to play as either Fox or Krystal throughout the adventure, and I was looking forward to seeing an interesting female protagonist kick ass with a magic staff, and what happens? I get to use her only in the prologue, where she immediately loses the staff, then ends up just throwing barrels at jellyfish and playing a stupid memory game before getting reduced to yet another damsel. And then seeing who Fox got as an ally instead of Krystal….URGH. She would get a more active role in future games, but never quite what I was hoping for. That’s why I’ve always been a supporter or Krystal being added to the Smash Bros. roster. It’s her chance to finally be the badass warrior princess she was meant to be, in a game where even traditional distressed damsels Peach and Zelda and throw down with the best of them. And I wasn’t alone, either: Out of all the female characters requested to be in Smash Bros. Brawl, Krystal was number one. And what did we get instead? Wolf. Another slightly modified version of Fox, right down to even having the same Final Smash. They could’ve given us an ass-kicking heroine, and instead they gave us another friggin’ clone character. Inexcusible.

    There’s another Smash Bros. in the works for the Wii U and 3DS. Don’t blow it this time, Nintendo. Krystal deserves a chance to shine.

  36. 36
    flyingsquirrel27

    I found the video a bit boring. I don’t disagree with the video, but I feel like it is pointless. She’s told us all something we already know and the world already knows – this style of story telling sells well because it taps into male power fantasies. Marketing people know this, that’s why they use it. Objectifying women (or anyone) is bad – no doubt – but this video falls short in that it doesn’t really show a net negative effect. I certainly agree that objectifying women (or anyone) is bad and that lazy game devs could certainly up their game (please forgive the pun) in this area. However, the video fails to show how in the wider picture and context that these games do any actual harm to women. I don’t mean literal harm, I just mean that she seems to be inferring that because objectifying women is bad = harm being done, but that isn’t proven or effectively illustrated in the video. Maybe this is covered in video 2, I guess I’ll have to watch and find out.

  37. 37
    glodson

    Rebecca Watson points out something interesting. In all the noise surrounding Sarkeesian’s initial campaign to raise money (you don’t need that much cash to make youtube videos, it’s a biased project, Sarkeesian is a &$@##$&, etc.), a competing group tried to raise money to produce an alternative series of videos on male tropes in video games…which I think would be an excellent idea, actually. Men are also subject to sexist stereotypes in games.

    This would have been interesting, even if the idea was that such a video would devalue Sarkeesian’s work. Which is stupid, but it could have been interesting, and it could have shown a nice interplay in how these tropes can work together to produce a highly sexist culture.

    Too bad they were fraudulent jackasses.

  38. 38
    Gretchen

    Men are also subject to sexist stereotypes in games.

    Which is, incidentally, one of the topics to be discussed in Sarkeesian’s own series.

  39. 39
    fabiojardim

    @andio

    Yes, that was exactly what I meant. She totally embezzled the cash to go pretty herself up for alpha males, guyz! Thunderf00t 4eva!

    Never mind that I compared her to a great female Vlogger who I think makes the same points better. Or the “yet” in my sentence implying that I know there will be other installments. Which I hope bring better food for thought.

    Though I have to say her montages are quite good. Seeing one example is one thing. Seeing 10+ scenes of helpless female characters crying “Help meee!” in a row is brutal.

  40. 40
    laurentweppe

    Take Liara from Mass Effect

    I can’t stand Liara. I nicknamed “Liara chien fidèle”. During my first playthrough, I kept my Shepard answering her politely, until she started to become flirty and somehow obnoxious, after which I started to select the renegade style rebukes, but to no avail, she was in full “Oh, I know you’re not really angry with me it’s just the pressure” mode, to which, unfortunately, there was no option to answer “NO! No its not the pressure: you’re starting to creep me out and I’m never ridding elevator with you again!

    At first, I wondered if I had not by mistake given a “flirt” answer, until I realized that it was merely the game developers pushing the blue-skinned space babe as the main love interest by making her a doormat with a heavy case of first crush blindness and that I was supposed to fin this endearing and hot: Fuck you Bioware.

  41. 41
    andyo

    How do you justify your comment about where the money went, if it’s only the first of many videos, and you know it? Even if it were, say, 10 videos equivalent to this one, how would you justify your comment?

  42. 42
    glodson

    @ 40

    I missed that in my playthrough. It has been awhile since I played and I traded the games in after the third came out.

    But I can see that.

  43. 43
    Ingdigo Jump

    a game where the distressed damsel rescues herself and drives the captor to frustration? Portal series

  44. 44
    Ingdigo Jump

    also note you can do this trope without sexism but with added frustration and annoyance. See Buffy with Dawn where two females are fighting over the Dawn ball.

  45. 45
    Alverant

    “The trope can be justified in some instances, but it still reduces a woman to a possession at times.”
    Sometimes yes, but the problem comes when you equate being rescued with being a possession. Batman saves Robin, does Robin become a possession? Does a other saving children reduce the children to being a possession? What about a sister who has to save her brother? I’m just saying there are times when “Man saves woman” does not mean “Man owns woman”.

    I don’t play many games but I have noticed some sexism in some of them. For example in Star Trek Online the male characters standing around do it at attention or at least with a straight back. Female characters tend to shift weight from one foot to another causing their hips to jut out a little.

  46. 46
    glodson

    The point is that Robin can also save himself. He’s established his own independence. In the video, the examples from Zelda games can be good example at times. Zelda, in some of the games, has a purpose beyond being saved. This depends on the game.

    Just being a Damsel in Distress at a point doesn’t make a character an object. But when the women only exists for this purpose, she is just an object in that medium.

    Like you said, Man saves woman can just be a time when man saves woman. But when the woman has not story other than being saved by the man, this is where the problem comes up.

    It isn’t that a man saves a woman. It is that the woman only exists to be a prize, or goal, for the man. One is just a part of a story, which can tell the story of both the woman and the man. That’s good writing, interesting and can be useful. When it is reduce to “villain steals your woman, go get her” is where the problem as a sexist trope comes into play.

  47. 47
    michaeld

    Robin is probably closer to Elaine Marley who for as often she is kidnapped often escapes without her love interest/husbands help about half those times. But from the ending of part 1 I think we’ll probably get to hear a bit about her in part 2.

  48. 48
    fabiojardim

    @andyo,

    In the following manners:

    “Not seeing where the money went, yet. Maybe the next installments will feature interviews with sociologists and other experts who dig deeper into the issue.”

    or,

    “Not seeing where the money went, yet. Maybe she’s doing extra research and production as the series goes along and it just hasn’t shown up in the first video.”

    or even,

    “Not seeing where the money went, yet. Guess other Vloggers like Lindsay manage to do more with less, if it goes on like this.”

    I was also careful to make clear through “So far” and “yet” that it is a temporary opinion based on the material presented.

  49. 49
    otranreg

    There’s the full list of all video game DiDs her team has found:

    http://tropesversuswomen.tumblr.com/

    I see Hitman: Absolution made the list as well: the trope not only is present there, it’s used to drain down the shitter the whole universe established by the series.

  50. 50
    blulanturn

    I think you are severely overestimating the number of people who know, or even care, about the origins of these tropes. The average response to this series even from people who like investigating and picking apart stories and games has been bloody and vitriolic. Even getting someone to admit that most media is styled towards guys can be difficult to impossible.

    I don’t necessarily think it’s on her to show the harm it does to real people. She’s a media analyst, basically, and I expect her to do media analysis. I’d rather she left up the social and societal harm to people who do research in that field. Which, I’m sure there will be a sort of ‘what’s the point of all this’ come the end of the series.

    Editing. Editing, editing, editing. All those quick cuts and video drops and music? Days upon days of editing. Editing is 60-70% of a video’s workload. Even five minute videos require an hour of editing per minute. Those fancy logos and animations? Most designers can barely do one of those in a semester course specifically designed to teach interactive design. Those services and production values are expensive, and rightly so. A lot of money is needed to pay the artists and editors who she probably contracted for the videos. That, and food, gas, and other bills to make up for income lost while working on the series.

    As an aside, has anyone noticed that within the gaming community that even very feminist minded people are trying very very hard to distance themselves from Anita? I found the first video pretty dang good, and felt it did a nice background on the whole trope. Yet I’m seeing extremely critical breakdowns of almost everything to her editing, her pacing, and the expected minor quibbling over her character’s definitions. I even saw one person get upset that she went too in depth about the history of the subject! I expect disagreement and hope to see more discussion, but I can’t help but feel like certain people are trying very hard to find reasons to separate themselves from her. I don’t mind that people don’t agree with her on every point and that there’s going to be good arguments, it just smacks me of “oh I’m not one of those feminists.”

  51. 51
    michaeld

    Otranreg

    Sad part is they’re still lots they are missing….

  52. 52
    blulanturn

    … Ok it occurs to me I have no idea how to use the block quotes. Sorry if that makes my post more difficult to read. I quoted #36 and #33 respectively.

  53. 53
    Brandon

    The single dumbest female video game just has to be “armor” that looks like a metal bikini.

  54. 54
    Gregory in Seattle

    @Brandon #53 – Alas, the chain mail bikini is a much larger trope than just video games.

  55. 55
    David Hart

    As a lonely counterexample, anyone remember Balloon Kid? That was the only game I remember playing on the Gameboy to feature a female hero (I hope we as a culture are making the effort to retire the word ‘heroine’) … and the ‘damsel’ was her little brother. But that was just one game, as far as I know, not a long running franchise. Good fun though.
    I’m not sure why they didn’t make more.

    Then there was the Megaman series – surely if your hero is a robot, they can be non-gendered? Apparently not… At least he tended to be defeating a tyrant for the good of society in general, not just rescuing a robot damsel.

  56. 56
    vaiyt

    She’s told us all something we already know and the world already knows .

    Well that’s wonderful news. I suppose the reaction Anita got before even starting her project is just noise, then? What about the games themselves, shouldn’t we expect to see less games using damsels in distress as a cheap plot device, since everybody already knows it’s a problem?

  57. 57
    Malachite

    I look forward to “pineapple” being a trope.

  58. 58
    glodson

    @ 53

    It might be the dumbest, or the least justified, but I think the point was pervasiveness. The Damsel in Distress as an excuse plot is common, and where it can reenforce sexist notions on many levels.

    The test isn’t to look at individual games, but the medium as a whole. The Damsel in Distress is still a plot point, but not always the overriding story element. In and of itself, the trope is neutral. It is about how it is applied. It can be used to tell the story for the hero and the damsel. Sadly, it is most often realized in games as the prize for the hero, especially older games.

    I’m sure she’ll get to the trope Chainmail Bikini eventually. It plays a part on the whole underlying problem with many games: they are male power fantasies.

    I love games, but there’s elements of male power fantasies in many popular games. It is slowly improving, at times.

  59. 59
    throwaway

    As a lonely counterexample, anyone remember Balloon Kid?

    SO MUCH RAGE! That fucking whale level, could never pass halfway through the whale without dying.

    Though I remember the game fondly, interestingly enough I did have a twinge of disappointment or apprehension at my age (7 or 8?) when I found out that ‘BallOOn Kid’ was an icky girl. I think that says a lot about what my expectations were even as a child. That the default gender for ‘kid’ was male. That playing as a female character was contemptible, even if it was an 8-bit-barely-could-even-tell-anyway female. It’s kind of weird thinking back on those innocent (in the sense that I was not the source of them) misgivings, realizing what shit they were, and then trying to pick apart what it was that led me to believe the errant things I had believed at the time.

  60. 60
    Xaivius (Formerly Robpowell, Acolyte of His Majesty Lord Niel DeGrasse Tyson I)

    I REALLY enjoyed this video as a breakdown of issues. I think it might be good at some point to define privilege, as that concept is essentially required reading for any discussion on social dynamics and interactions with respect to power. Still, this just got added to my subscription list in Youtube. Looking forward to several dozen more videos!

    As an aside, I would have played the everliving piss out of a Twilight Princess remake as Zelda being a disenfranchised Queen trying to get her kingdom back.

  61. 61
    Chaos Engineer

    I found the video a bit boring. I don’t disagree with the video, but I feel like it is pointless. She’s told us all something we already know and the world already knows – this style of story telling sells well because it taps into male power fantasies. Marketing people know this, that’s why they use it.

    Yes, the video is at a basic Feminism 101 level. But remember that no one is born knowing Feminism 101; everybody’s got to be introduced to it at some point. And even if you know the basics, there might be some subtleties you’ve overlooked. I mean, I’d spotted the “chainmail bikini” type of sexism a long time ago, but I’d never really noticed, “If a named character’s only role in the story is to get kidnapped and rescued, then that character will almost always be female.”

    Objectifying women (or anyone) is bad – no doubt – but this video falls short in that it doesn’t really show a net negative effect.

    Wouldn’t you find that even more boring? “Objectifying people has a negative effect and is therefore bad” isn’t even Feminism 101, it’s more like “Remedial Not-Being-a-Sociopath”

    However, the video fails to show how in the wider picture and context that these games do any actual harm to women.

    I think you’re setting the bar too high. It’s not a matter of “This specific scene in this specific videogame caused this specific person to commit this specific sexist act and here’s taped footage to prove it.” It’s more like, “Scenes like this portray objectification as normal, and people can absorb that message subconsciously, without realizing it. The short-term cure is to consciously recognize what’s going on so that you can override these subconscious impulses. The long-term cure is to lobby for more balanced portrayals.”

  62. 62
    throwaway

    Malachite

    I look forward to “pineapple” being a trope.

    What does that mean?

  63. 63
    karpad

    #23 ImKindaOkay
    The portayal of Miyamoto in relation to sexism seems a bit unfair (and is especially unfair when you start adding in these accusations of subtle racism) when he came up with the idea of Samus which, at the time, was pretty revolutionary in terms of female heroism.

    Too bad he had nothing to do with it. Metroid was the product of Gunpei Yokoi, Satoru Okada, and Yoshio Sakamoto. Sakamoto has done art and story for metroid since the beginning. But he was also responsible for Other M, so maybe not the feminist icon one might expect for creating the first female video game hero. Holy shit, if you think Damselfication is bad for an object-goal character like Peach, imagine Damselfication of the player character.

  64. 64
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    If this first one is any indication, this will be a very good series. It’s professionally done – the color/design choices (I like the play of the shades of blue and pink), the editing, the writing, and so on have a clarity and cohesiveness, and I assume will remain consistent throughout the series. I’m often critical of YT videos because I think few people making them have any aesthetic sensibility,* but her aesthetic choices seem appropriate to the content and undistracting. It’s a perfect length, and I learned something about video games, a subject about which I’m ignorant. Well done.

    *About their YT videos, that is – they might well have in other areas and just not recognize this as an artistic medium. The problem is that sloppy, messy, disorganized videos distract and detract from their content.

  65. 65
    miller

    I for one was very impressed by the video. Even though it was fairly basic feminism, I learned a lot about the historical context. Watching the video made me very happy.

  66. 66
    Gretchen

    @59

    Though I remember the game fondly, interestingly enough I did have a twinge of disappointment or apprehension at my age (7 or 8?) when I found out that ‘BallOOn Kid’ was an icky girl. I think that says a lot about what my expectations were even as a child. That the default gender for ‘kid’ was male. That playing as a female character was contemptible, even if it was an 8-bit-barely-could-even-tell-anyway female.

    I remember my brothers refusing to play the valkyrie in Gauntlet, and not understanding why. After all, as a girl I played kung fu heroes, knight heroes, warrior heroes, prince heroes, pilot heroes, and even plumber heroes and they were all boys, so what gives?

    I don’t remember objecting to having to save princesses all of the time, so much as not being able to play one. Not even as a princess– I just wanted to play a girl, and, you know….do things. Anything.

  67. 67
    Xaivius (Formerly Robpowell, Acolyte of His Majesty Lord Niel DeGrasse Tyson I)

    @ Chaos Engineer 61: Welp, this made me finally look up the definition of Objectification (was working from context previously) and yeah, bad shit all around when applied to people (Yes, I’m really fucking dense. Was working from the philosophical context of objectification of concepts. I am a dumb)

    As an aside on the concept of gender and games, one of my favorite examples is Tidus from Final Fantasy X, who was denigrated as being “A whiny bitch.” He’s a young, pampered, superstar athlete that just got dropped into a world he has no fucking idea of. OF COURSE HE’S GOING TO WHINE. Men do that. We complain and pout and be irritating, tantrumy little bastards. But no, “MAN I PLAY CANNOT BE HUMAN! MUST BE UBERMENSCH WITH NO EMOTIONS (because emotions are for WOMEN!)”.

    Feh. Gimme more female storylines. I’m more interested in those anyway.

  68. 68
    Dennis Strubbe

    (english is not my first language, so excuse me for any errors)

    Just watched the whole vid.

    The most important aspect (and also the most fundamental flaw of her thesis) is, I believe, that she ascribes the belief that ‘because we see these ‘damsel in distress’ images, we are then come to the belief that women needs protection, shelter and our support. Such an analysis is completely wrong since the idea of protecting females is as old as humanity itself. You can easily infer that, on average, more guys would have saved girls in the arms of another man, simply because men have the more physical power.

    It is indeed correct to say that these damsel in distress don’t exist in a vacuum like she mentions in her vid. We, however, didn’t create it at random and forcefed the population.(she didn’t say this explicitly, but that is her case in a nutshell). No, it’s an extension of our evolutionary past. The reason why these images are so prevalent is because we recognise ourselves in it. It makes sense to save a women, but not the other way around. (otherwise, the man will come off as a pussy and the girl a bit manly which isn’t attractive at all). Videogames didn’t mold us on who we are, we molded the videogames! You can say that videogames are an extension of our nature. (there is a reason why a large chunk male protagonists are alpha and the females are sexy. There’s a reason why guys are motivated to save females they are attracted to (cues the trait of courage, power, boldness which females fancy).

    Interestingly, towards the end, she says she grow up with mario and zelda. Well, does she view herself as a weak, fragile being ?(but solely objective looking, females are indeed more fragile compared to men on an average level). She doesn’t, so clearly the cultus of mario and zelda didn’t do much. Likewise, transforming the characters in videogames won’t do much in changing the attitudes of people.

    If she honestly believes that by changing the characters roles of the games in which strong, independent (sexy ?) females saves the man and that this in turn will lead us to change our gender perceptions, than she is sadly immensely mistakes and it’s always the typical error that is being made by these post-modernists, feminists, cultural psychologists and sociologists.

    (she also makes the mistake that socialisation is somehow opposed to innateness of human beings This is also a widely held false idea mainly in the social sciences).

  69. 69
    SallyStrange

    Sociology denialism is a major problem, people. See Dennis Strubbe’s post.

  70. 70
    glodson

    I saw it, wish I hadn’t, still wondering why a female protagonist who saves a male needs to be sexy.

  71. 71
    la tricoteuse

    I like how he manages to argue that all this Shining A Light On And Discouraging Sexist Tropes stuff is pointless while managing to reveal that he has internalized every damn one of them.

  72. 72
    Uncle Ebeneezer

    This was a fantastic video. I haven’t really played video games since the original Nintendo came out, so this was a great summary of alot of the stuff that has come out since.

    Did that one game really say “will you save the girl, or play like one?” Wow…

  73. 73
    zibble

    @32

    One could say that these examples, Mario and Zelda, are more a response to tradition and lazy writing rather than an attempt to really objectify the characters. This might have some merit, but it doesn’t change the outcome.

    I feel like this is what people get really obtuse about. An absence of thought on social issues is not a politically neutral position, it actively defends the status quo.

    When you create art, especially for mass distribution, you are actively advocating a series of ideas. Just because you don’t realize what you’re saying doesn’t mean you’re not saying it. That’s why it’s so important to be critical and point these things out, because if the artist is genuinely not intending to say something sexist, then they’ll want to learn how to do a better job of it.

  74. 74
    throwaway

    The most important aspect (and also the most fundamental flaw of her thesis) is, I believe, that she ascribes the belief that ‘because we see these ‘damsel in distress’ images, we are then come to the belief that women needs protection, shelter and our support.

    No, that’s what your important straw-aspect is.

    Such an analysis is completely wrong since the idea of protecting females is as old as humanity itself.

    Naturalistic fallacy. Argument from Tradition. Take your pick. Regardless: is the idea of protecting ‘females’ a noble gesture or an enfeebling, disempowering one?

    You can easily infer that, on average, more guys would have saved girls in the arms of another man, simply because men have the more physical power.

    So, women as the basketball. Just as the video said. (Though you said ‘guys’ and ‘girls’ – English lesson – guys and gals, not guys and girls, if you must use that phrasing.)

    We, however, didn’t create it at random and forcefed the population.

    No, it wasn’t created at random. It’s a stereotypical approach to gender roles which endow one side with powers of choosing over the other gender. Of course it’s not perpetuated for any other reason than it’s just natural and there is really no backlash against anyone who speaks out against it…

    (she didn’t say this explicitly, but that is her case in a nutshell).

    So, can we talk about the actual video and not your bogus male intuition about what a woman was really saying? Because so far you’re batting .000 champ.

    Not really worth fisking.

  75. 75
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    Notice how Dennis assumes that the people playing the games are male?

  76. 76
    glodson

    When you create art, especially for mass distribution, you are actively advocating a series of ideas. Just because you don’t realize what you’re saying doesn’t mean you’re not saying it. That’s why it’s so important to be critical and point these things out, because if the artist is genuinely not intending to say something sexist, then they’ll want to learn how to do a better job of it.

    Exactly.

    And I think we are seeing some improvement in this. Many games are offering options to select the gender of your character, which helps. More women are getting into the industry, which helps. And companies see an increase in women who play games, so there’s a chance to see improvements due to the need to bring in women players for profit.

    Sadly, that doesn’t address the fact that many of these tropes, especially when they play out in a sexist manner, are a reflection of our larger culture as a whole.

    Some look at it as the simplistic “she said this was sexist so it must be bad.” But that isn’t what I got from this. I got how it reflects back on shared notions of women, which may just be unfortunate implications due to the thoughtlessness of the creators.

    I see what she says about Mario and Zelda. My daughter still loves those and we’ll still play those games. I noticed the Tetra thing myself years ago, so I can address that with her as she gets older. And the same with Mario.

    I know that part 2 for Damsels will include worse examples, examples that will be more exploitative, like the Double Dragon example.

  77. 77
    zibble

    @66 Gretchen

    I remember my brothers refusing to play the valkyrie in Gauntlet, and not understanding why. After all, as a girl I played kung fu heroes, knight heroes, warrior heroes, prince heroes, pilot heroes, and even plumber heroes and they were all boys, so what gives?

    I still feel this, it’s really ingrained. Even as a super-queer militant trans-ally feminist, it’s hard for me to shake. I can play as men with impossible muscles, men of different races, men from different planets, men with magic powers, men with completely different personalities and opinions, men that are straight, men with whom I have nothing at all in common outside genitalia. But playing a woman always feels like a hurdle.

    I should probably just make a point of playing a woman more often.

  78. 78
    Gretchen

    Notice how Dennis assumes that the people playing the games are male?

    Male, straight, and actively repulsed by scenarios depicting men and women that don’t show the latter as existing for the former.

  79. 79
    zibble

    @76 glodson

    And I think we are seeing some improvement in this. Many games are offering options to select the gender of your character, which helps. More women are getting into the industry, which helps. And companies see an increase in women who play games, so there’s a chance to see improvements due to the need to bring in women players for profit.

    It does seem like things are getting a lot better in the American game industry. Unfortunately, so much of the industry is led by Japan, which is still such an absurdly sexist country for a 21st century industrial superpower.

    You mentioned Tetra in another post, I really remember being disappointed in her arc before I was even introduced to feminist ideas. The trope of “badass woman becomes housewife” seems to be getting MORE prevalent in Japanese media. Even as American media improves, Japanese media will still be pushing extremely sexist ideas, especially on to the sort of people who turn to video games and anime because of how alienated they feel from American culture (like I was as a kid).

  80. 80
    glodson

    Zibble, I’m still learning about feminism myself, and noticing problems I hadn’t picked up on before.

    And the whole Tetra thing hit me hard as well, years ago. it was blatant. Hell, the treatment of Samus Aran in Metroid: Other M was another punch to the face.

    I think that even the games coming out of Japan are getting better. Part of it is an expanded audience, even thinking about Western Markets.

    Some of it is that the need for better narratives lead to better fleshed out characters. However, I need to note that while it is improving, it might also be a function that the sexism realized in games couldn’t get much worse either.

  81. 81
    Pteryxx

    I can play as men with impossible muscles, men of different races, men from different planets, men with magic powers, men with completely different personalities and opinions, men that are straight, men with whom I have nothing at all in common outside genitalia. But playing a woman always feels like a hurdle.

    For what it’s worth, that pretty much matches what we’re given in the genre (and fiction) as a whole. Characters in general can be magic, alien, have completely different personalities, be animated furniture, whatever, as long as they’re male – female characters tend to not just be the (often lone) exception, but obviously and consciously the exception. I think the very concept of female characters being a special and immutable case of Otherness also gets internalized.

  82. 82
    Enopoletus Harding

    I notice the ratings are disabled as well. I wonder why. Cannot the power of the Horde overwhelm that of the misogynists? My solution to poor ratings is to set up dummy accounts to upvote my videos if they are disliked.

  83. 83
    Gretchen

    Zibble and glodson, you might enjoy a show on Youtube called Metadating. It’s not about sexism in video games per se, but it is about romantic male-female relationships, and they play and talk about two Japanese dating simulators (among other games). Good discussion on video game narratives by two game designers and one shoutcaster, and pretty damn funny as well.

  84. 84
    vaiyt

    No, it’s an extension of our evolutionary past.

    *points and laughs*

  85. 85
    laurentweppe

    still wondering why a female protagonist who saves a male needs to be sexy.

    It gets even worst than that when you realize that to be “sexy” a female protagonist as to be frail and tiny. Every female protagonist, no matter how inhumanly strong she is, is supposed to conform to the “canons” of beauty, which means that she must always somehow look like a frail flower in need of protection.
    This is supposed to be a strong protagonist: look at her arms: Look at her arms for fuck’s sake: these twigs are so thin that it looks like the bones are about to start protruding. It’s like if the people in charge of the character design had never met any woman with actual muscle on her limbs.

    And speaking of making women tiny, what may be the worst offender is none other than the dreaded Other M: before this game, Samus Aran was described as being a six feet three tall, two hundreds pounds heavy outside of her power-armor.

    Look at what they did

    Samus Aran, Destroyer of Worlds and Galactic Grim Reaper extraordinaire cannot be shown towering over a male Space Marine, God no, that would made the audience feel insecure and we can’t have that, let’s retcon the canon and turn the protagonist into a tiny blonde lady.

    Fuck-That-Shit

  86. 86
    vaiyt

    @85, your links are borked.

  87. 87
  88. 88
    freak

    David Hart: I never played it, but Fortified Zone for GB was supposed to have male and female player characters; 2 player simultaneous used both.

    Legend of the Ghost Lion (NES) had a female PC, but it was at the tail end of the NES’s life.

    It might be interesting to compare Final Fantasy Adventure (GB) and its remake Sword of Mana (GBC); the latter had an option to play as the boy or girl (their plots crossed a few times). The girl got kidnapped a few times; IIRC, if you played as the boy, you’d rescue her, if you played as the girl, you escaped on your own.

  89. 89
    glodson

    Looking at much of this, even the bigger offenders, I think it comes down to laziness. I’m imaging that many detractors think the idea is the creators are intently trying to be sexist. I doubt that. They aren’t thinking about how their design choices reenforce ideas. They aren’t giving a thought about it.

    They need a plot. Taking someone close to the main character is a fast reason to explain why the player needs to do this in the first place. The main character is often male, to appeal to the core audience. And women are seen as weaker, which is more a function of our cultural perception.

    And so we get games to feed into that.

    In the comments here, I’ve mentioned Metroid: Other M has being an example of sexism creeping in and ruining a character. laurentweppe at comment 85 noted the same thing, with the added touch of how this characterization even changed how Samus was to appear for an aesthetic purpose.

    I don’t think the creators of the game we setting out to gut Samus’ character. They just didn’t think deeply about their choices in her design, or how she played out in the game. For those who never played the game, let me explain. Samus is a badass bounty hunter. She’s kicked ass on so many planets, and kicked said asses so hard that the planets exploded. If her galaxy still has planets, that’s because Samus hasn’t found all of them yet. She was cool, she was interesting.

    For some reason, we had to find all her powers in the game. She never seemed to hold onto them. Okay. I’m sure someone could come up with a contrivance for why that should be.

    Well, in Other M, they came up with one. Samus had her powers in her power armor. But she had them locked as she was working with the space government. Okay… makes a bit of sense. She could only unlock them when authorized. Okay… contrived, but whatever. The guy, Adam, had a really fucked up way of letting her use her own powers. Yea, it was a guy. One part that is notable is the game forces you to traverse lava pools and the like when Samus already has an ability to negate this hazard in her suit which she cannot use because Adam won’t let her yet.

    That’s a major reason I hate that game. Here’s breif video on Other M.

    And then there’s this. It is a brief video on how lazy design can produce horrible things. It isn’t about sexism as much as it is about racism, but…. well, there’s a bit of horrible sexism in there in the form of causal violence against women. And that’s not even the worst part.

    @ Gretchen: cool! Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll check it out.

  90. 90
    frog

    Perhaps a solution to guys not wanting to play female characters is to power up the female characters to be more effective than the male characters.

    It doesn’t even have to be that she’s stronger or kick-butt-ier. These are fantasy-genre games. Have situations where being smaller allows a female character to slip through some advantageous shortcut or find some useful item a bigger person couldn’t get to. Have situations where magic is more useful than muscle, and give an option to play a female character who has lots of magical ability.

    A friend of mine created an RPG where the stats worked out that if you chose to play a female character, you took a huge deduction to your strength, but got small bonuses in several other ways. Depending on exactly what you rolled for stats, it often improved the min/max situation to play a female character. We often had male players choose to play female characters for exactly that reason.

  91. 91
    glodson

    @ laurentweppe

    Oh, goddamnit. Final Fantasy….

  92. 92
    zibble

    @80 glodson

    Some of it is that the need for better narratives lead to better fleshed out characters.

    Certainly in some cases. But I think it also leads to fleshing out of sexist ideas that before weren’t as prominent. Tetra being a prime example.

    I think as the social context around games changes, the implications of the works will change. Like how Olive Oyl was made as a conduit for sexist jokes, but now she just seems like a funny, unique character, rather than a statement on women in general. The more fleshed out the character and the more fleshed out the world around the character, the more those sexist ideas become permanent (that’s one reason why sophisticated artists tend to allow ambiguity, putting a distance between them and their creations, and sharing ownership of the work with the viewer).

    @83 Gretchen

    Thanks! I’ll check it out.

  93. 93
    zibble

    @85 laurentweppe

    This is a very asian thing, though it’s obviously creeped into our culture. I remember seeing Playboys in the 90s, and the female ideal then seemed to be mature women, large breasts, confident, with prominent pubic bushes. Now it’s young girls, seriously pushing against the age of consent if not going straight past it, shaved as clean as possible. Always sexist, but at least it once wasn’t so infantilizing and pedophilic.

    And this is just the cultural run-off. Japan seriously skirts the line on mainstream normalization of outright pedophilia. Girls throughout industrialized east asia feel compelled not just to photoshop all pictures of themselves into doll-like ultra-cute abominations, but to even pursue extensive plastic surgery to “photoshop” their real-life body. I think either Gretchen or Ophelia had an article about how 1 in 5 women in South Korea get eye-widening surgeries, and slightly less prevalent jaw thinning operations.

  94. 94
    freak

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/03/08/damsel-in-distress/comment-page-1/#comment-575373

    Fortified Zone was supposed to be something like that: The woman could only use the lighter (lightest?) weapon(s), but could jump.

  95. 95
    michaeld

    @frog

    They’ve been doing that for years.

  96. 96
    rpjohnston

    As a fan of jrpg’s I was a bit disappointed that she didn’t mention any in this video. I’ll definitely stay tuned for the next one though. The Damsel in Distress trope is very popular in that genre as well, since the VAST majority of jrpg’s feature a male protagonist and female co-lead. Even ones with a relatively strong female co-lead (Final Fantasy 10 for instance) often have this at at least some point, often for a sham marriage (Final Fantasy 10 again). Even most of my favorites (Grandia 1; Lunar Silver Star) rely on this trope.

    Has anyone played Wild Arms 3? This is one of the few jrpg’s I know of with a strong female protagonist (NOT co-lead). What other games does anyone know?

  97. 97
    Dennis Strubbe

    (is this how quoting works ?)

    @sally strange: I’m certainly not a sociology denialist. Honestly, i’m not really sure what that means, but there are plenty of theories in the field of sociology that I take highly of. It’s that WITHIN sociology, you have the tendency to asribe ‘roles’ to people and ‘roles’ constitute the aggregate expected behaviors for said role. There is nothing wrong which such a working model, but I always keep in mind that these roles always have a biological underpinning (it has to be, cause humans are involved :p)

    The observation of feminist frequency that females are represented as weak creatures that needs the help of men is certainly true and that I also vouch for. I used to sigh at games where we needed to ‘save another girl and save the world with it’ etc. I could say it was a pretty standard practice and maybe still is.
    Like someone else mentioned here, this really might tap into the males fantasy (saving a girl, she’s happy and may reward you with you know what, you come off as the alpha male, etc etc).
    Another reason why many developers chose the ‘damsell in distress’ scenario was probably because it worked very well for some games and they simply copy it over and over.(why change a winning formula ?). Your character in the videogame needs a motivation, so most of the time it was either saving a girl, saving the world or both. An easy cheap story that works well, it is satisfying enough and it suits the male fantasy. In this sense, I have no idea why people should have problem with this. Honestly, who gives a flying phuck ?

    Apparently, feminist frequency gives a flying phuck. Why ? Cause she believes IT (videogames) influences our perception of women.

    I believe it’s really the other way around:

    - we already view the females as the weaker sex (which is true since men have more muslces and consequently more strength. Added note: ‘weak’ isn’t a pejorative, it’s simply a state of fact/observation).
    - we construct videogames congruent with our nature
    - females are depicted as weak and needs our support.

  98. 98
    glodson

    @ 96

    She might touch on some of them in the next video. These she’s looking at, namely the two big she covered plus most of the ones with a brief mention, focused on saving the damsel as the only real plot point. Zelda started out like that, then it expanded the plot while still making Zelda a damsel at points rather than the sole focus of completing the quest.

    Most RPG’s I can think of often have a damsel at a point, but usually have a larger story. Plus there’s a chance for the damsel to be empowered or otherwise fleshed out, which helps take some of the sting away.

    As for RPG’s featuring a female lead: I cannot think of one. Maybe one could consider Final Fantasy 6 to be a such, as Terra and Celes both take the lead in driving the overall story. But they are a part of an ensemble cast, and both are damsels in the story at various points, despite both being pretty strong characters. Very few of the male characters are put in the same position in the same game.

    Hell, thinking about it, RPG’s and sexist tropes have an odd relationship. Maybe I should go back and look at a few of them. I love RPG’s, and they get a bit of help by often letting a player pick the gender of the main character. But even in that, there’s times when the tropes play out in quite a sexist manner.

    Off the top of my head, I can think of several examples where otherwise strong female characters require outside help. Male characters tend to need this intervention less.

  99. 99
    Xaivius (Formerly Robpowell, Acolyte of His Majesty Lord Niel DeGrasse Tyson I)

    @ rpjohnston 96: Well, Suikoden 3 had Chris as a choosable primary character. That’s all I’ve got off the top of my head. Valkyrie Profile, maybe?

  100. 100
    Dennis Strubbe

    @ rpjohnston:

    I’m a big fan of final fantasy myself.
    The big difference between the games feminist frequency showed and final fantasy is that the latter has always active female characters (in ff10 = lulu, rikku). Yuna was the ‘damsell’, but she also was the fighter troughout the whole game.

    In the games that fem freq showed, it was solely one or more male protagonists and one damsel in distress.

  101. 101
    Dennis Strubbe

    *Notice how Dennis assumes that the people playing the games are male?*

    The vast majority are males. Look at any top 10 games or even top 100. Every game in the top are mostly played by males.

    If you are a ceo/mareketeer and you want to design a popular game, you better do it for the 18-30 years old male population cause these types will buy the games.

  102. 102
    SallyStrange

    Of course you’re a sociology denialist, Dennis. You reject, without compelling evidence, many of the conclusions that social scientists have reached over the years. You also strawman some of those conclusions. Classic behavior of a denialist. If the label discomfits you, then good, it should. Because being a sociology denialist is not a good thing to be.

  103. 103
    Gretchen

    Dennis Strube said:

    Apparently, feminist frequency gives a flying phuck. Why ? Cause she believes IT (videogames) influences our perception of women.

    I believe it’s really the other way around.

    1. Why on earth can’t it be both? Video games are both a reflection of and an influence on human nature? That seems most likely to me.

    2. I didn’t hear Sarkeesian making claims one way or another in that regard. I heard her saying “Here are some examples of a sexist trope in video games.” You appear to be the one making assertions for her that these tropes make people think in a certain way in order to argue against it.

    3. Every time you say “our,” you seem to be talking about men exclusively. No, you seem to be talking about you exclusively. People in general do not view women as weak and in need of help. People in general do not think that women saving men, or saving anyone, is “unattractive.” People in general do not think a man is a “wussy” if he needs saving. Some people think those things– such as yourself. Others disagree.

    Stop presenting your own prejudices as universal fact. Stop assuming that everyone wants the same things you do. If the video didn’t make it clear to you that this is not the case, one hundred posts in this thread sure should.

  104. 104
    SallyStrange

    Also, Dennis’ assertion that women are “fragile”–or, at least, more fragile than men, on average–is an outright rejection of the conclusions that biologists who study human physiology have reached. So, Dennis knows better than social scientists and biologists too! Has anybody alerted the Nobel committee of your groundbreaking work, Dennis?

  105. 105
    watry

    Dennis Strubbe @101:

    Regardless of which way it goes, I bet you can see that the DiD trope still reinforces those notions.Thing is, I can’t tell if you think that the notion of ‘women are weaker and must be protected’ is harmful.

  106. 106
    glodson

    In this sense, I have no idea why people should have problem with this. Honestly, who gives a flying phuck ?

    I wrote the bit about male power fantasy, at least I was one of those.

    I give more than a flying fuck.

    Look, if I didn’t think it mattered, I wouldn’t care. But games are art. Art both reflects reality and effects reality. It is a feedback loop. Stereotypes sustain themselves because of their portrayals which effects how people respond to other people. When we popularize an idea that women are weak and need protection, we are teaching that women are weak and need protection. This idea sticks around and it creates people, men and women, who buy into it on a level.

    So this idea is sustained. Only by talking about it can it be changed.

    This isn’t saying that there’s anything inherently wrong with the trope. My issue with it is when the trope plays out directly in line with the male power fantasy trip, and reduces the woman character to an object. A damsel in distress can be a good way to flesh out the bad guy, the hero and the damsel. She need not just be there to be rescued. She can be shown to be active in her own rescue, for example. Or rescue early on and provide much needed help, or even take over as a protagonist in her own right, or a dozen other ideas that can stem from this.

    But to just say it is how we see women is not thinking this through. Our culture might see women in this vein, but it only changes if we talk about it. If we address it, it can change. It can add layers to the story.

    We can take the cliche of Damsel in Distress and turn it into a good piece of story by addressing this, which will benefit us with better stories, better women characters in pop culture, and maybe a better perception of women in our general culture as well.

    Or we can ignore this lazy writing that leads to excuse plots which reduces the role of women as objects for the hero to win, leading to a bad message for the boys and girls playing the game.

  107. 107
    watry

    Whoops, that should have been @97

  108. 108
    SallyStrange

    And of course, it is one of the mechanisms that social scientists have identified – media and cultural tropes influencing our views of men and women – that has led Dennis to his erroneous conclusion about the fragility of women. So Dennis’ rejection of the existence of such a mechanism not only amusingly stupid, it’s also ironic, as La Tricoteuse pointed out in #71.

  109. 109
    glodson

    @robpowell

    I think Valkyrie Profile counts.

    I forgot about those games. Good games. Been far too long.

  110. 110
    freak

    glodson: _Legend of the Ghost Lion_ (NES) It appeared at the tail end of the NES lifecycle, and I never played it.

    There’s also Alys (sp?) from Phantasy Star (SMS).

  111. 111
    glodson

    @110

    Do you think we can even crack double digits with RPG’s that feature female main characters? I mean, as the true lead, not just female characters who apart of the party.

    My confidence is not high. Hell, even now, a straight up female lead character is still a bit of a novelty. There seem to be more now, but the overwhelming majority of lead characters are male. Probably by quite a large margin. That’s even with many games allowing for us to chose our gender.

  112. 112
    Great American Satan

    Gregory@18-
    That is the plot of Lola Rennt, aka Run Lola Run.
    It’s a great movie, and pretty much plays like a video game.

  113. 113
    Dennis Strubbe

    *No, that’s what your important straw-aspect is.*

    No it isn’t. This is what fem freq explicitly stated. This is her whole basis of her analysis. How videogames depict women influences our perception of women.

    *Naturalistic fallacy. Argument from Tradition. Take your pick. Regardless: is the idea of protecting ‘females’ a noble gesture or an enfeebling, disempowering one?*

    It’s not naturalistic fallacy since I don’t claim it SHOULD be that way. Same applies for tradition.
    I don’t care whether protecting females is a noble gesture or an enfeebling one (ignoring aside the simple dichotomy for the moment). Im just saying it IS. It happens. It is how it is.
    I’m not saying it should be this way, I’m not making a political standpoint. I’m just trying to explain the phenomena. And from my viewpoint, I really don’t think her ideas would work.
    She said towards the end: let’s create games that make the female the protagonist. (they already exist mind you, albeit less. Cfr metroid, tomb raider etc. These btw all look very sexy. Fem frequency didn’t object to that :/)
    In her outline of her vision, she only mentioned ‘female protagonists that take the lead’. She didn’t mention: female protagonists that save the male.
    I think she didn’t mentioned that cause maybe she was aware that it won’t work.
    You have to understand that as a player, you want some connection with the character (in an adventure game). Males will typically connect with a male character. It simply won’t fit the average males desire to play as a female to save a male. But don’t get me wrong, if you wanna experiment with it, be my guest. But gamingbusiness is about big money. You want sell games. You want to give what gamers want. I suspect that gender reverse roles games won’t sell as good as your default gender role games.

    *So, women as the basketball.*

    This is a value laden interpretation of the fact that males are stronger and more likely to physically save a girl.
    *It’s a stereotypical approach to gender roles which endow one side with powers of choosing over the other gender.*

    Yes, it’s ‘stereotypical (stereotypic = bad ??) and there’s a reason for it. The underlying reason has it roots in biology.
    *So, can we talk about the actual video and not your bogus male intuition about what a woman was really saying?*

    I don’t know what your interpretation was, but the message she wanted to send is:
    - Look at how videogames depict women, all weak and stuff
    - This in turn influences how males look at women

  114. 114
    SallyStrange

    *Notice how Dennis assumes that the people playing the games are male?*

    The vast majority are males

    Actually it’s about 60% male and 40% female right now.

    And in online gaming, women outnumber men by a slight margin.

    See? This is what happens when you reject, without compelling evidence, many of the major conclusions of the scientists who study the field about which you are opining.

  115. 115
    rpjohnston

    Glodson @ 98: A lot of the games that allow one to pick the character’s gender are western RPG’s, which I’m not as familiar with. Among jrpg’s there aren’t many that I can think of…Legend of Mana for the ps1 comes to mind. The character’s gender is immaterial in that one; all interactions are genderless…though the plot is essentially mostly disconnected episodes and lacks a real coherent plotline from what I can recall.

    Robpowell @ 99: Ah, I’ve played Suikoden 1 and gotten through most of 2 but didn’t finish it…hearing that, I think I might restart that series again. I actually loved the two that I played but had to stop because they were m,y grandma’s games and I was only visiting for a couple weeks.

  116. 116
    Dennis Strubbe

    *conclusion about the fragility of women.*

    I don’t need the media to inform me of this fact. This is a fact in physiology. This is how almost all people experience/ see all day.
    Men have more muscles. Men have more strength. Men’s body is more solid (as evidences by the fact that you can easily push a women away relative than a man). These are obvious isn’t it ?

    We depict in games what we already know. Not the other way around.

  117. 117
    jetboy

    She makes an excellent series of points. I can’t wait to see what she has to say about fighting games…I love Street Fighter, Tekken, Soul Calibur, DOA, etc…but the sexism makes some of the games simply unplayable. Concerning the tropes of the early games, during the opening scenes I was always like, “yeah, yeah, whatever, let’s get to the killin’.” Later on, I was a huge fan of Super Castlevania IV and Legacy of Kain. Dudes, to be sure, but only (to me, at the time) in an abstract kind of way. When I started playing table-top RPGs, I used to love exploring the idea of playing female characters. But there was always one or two guys playing who used to whine that I “wasn’t playing girls right.” Because they weren’t a)submissive b)sexualized or c) willing to be the damsel in distress. “They’re always aggressive and confident!” Um – yeah. A sorcerer must be strong-willed and deeply intelligent, a ninja must be capable and resourceful, a cleric tough and devoted, a warrior skilled in battle and passionate about the cause, and a psionic just a little unhinged. I caught a lot of hell for it, but usually the DMs were intelligent enough to roll with it and have a good time.
    I played World of Warcraft for a long time. I found warriors to be my preferred class – and on both sides, my female warriors NEVER received guild, group or raid invites. They had to farm constantly just to get good money for decent gear off the AH, or go to the arenas. The male characters – I can’t keep them out of a guild. I’ve pretty much stopped playing; I like my female Dwarf and Troll warriors, but I can’t keep them in decent gear. My male Orc and Draenei warriors can’t move for all the spammed requests. It’s gotten to the point where it’s boring to play anything, anywhere. I hope this can be fixed, and I salute Anita’s work. I wish I could do more.

  118. 118
    SallyStrange

    This is a value laden interpretation of the fact that males are stronger and more likely to physically save a girl.

    This is cultural tropes–sexist tropes in this case–talking, not science. It’s true that men are taller and larger and have more upper body strength than women, on average. It’s also true that, on average, women have higher pain tolerance, better long-distance endurance, and better lower body strength.

    Your contention is that these biological facts lead to a complex sociological phenomenon, nameles, “males” saving “girls” (from what exactly? Runaway trains? Tigers? Other men?). Please present evidence that a.) this even happens–a good first step would be to define what peril these “girls” are being saved from and b.) that there is a causal connection between this phenomenon and the slight difference in the peak of the bell curve distribution between men and women in terms of strength.

  119. 119
    glodson

    @114

    And I see those figures balancing out as we move forward. I brought my wife into the game world. My daughter is learning to play games through us.

    As such, we’ll see games consumed by men and women at about the same rates in the future. This is a good thing, which means more games. And it also means that developers have a monetary reason to look to include women in the games.

    This doesn’t mean the games will be less sexist. That won’t change unless we examine the problem in games, and our larger culture, concerning the fictional depiction of women. Which a certain person here seems to be ignoring…

  120. 120
    Dennis Strubbe

    @sally strange: your numbers are a bit misleady. You are equating games like ‘grand theft auto’, ‘medal of honor’, ‘final fantasy’, ‘halo’, ‘gears of war’, ‘forza motorsport’, ‘diablo’, ‘skyrim’ etc to gimmicky games like angry birds, minesweeper and other meager crap.

    Or to put it a bit differently: the games that fem freq talks about are mostly played by males. These are the high selling games in arcades/consoles.

    Females are more represented in tablets/online flash games etc.

    In a social study like you have posted, they are all ‘games’, but there are many distinctions to be made.
    The games i’m talking about (and what fem freq have showed) are all popular console games.

  121. 121
    SallyStrange

    *conclusion about the fragility of women.*

    I don’t need the media to inform me of this fact. This is a fact in physiology. This is how almost all people experience/ see all day.
    Men have more muscles. Men have more strength. Men’s body is more solid (as evidences by the fact that you can easily push a women away relative than a man). These are obvious isn’t it ?

    Women have had strong selective pressure to be not fragile. They give birth to babies. This is extremely physically taxing and requires an enormous amount of strength. It’s just that your definition of “strength” and “fragility” has been culturally influenced in a sexist way, so that you literally cannot perceive that there are other types of strength besides the ability to benchpress a saber-toothed tiger.

    Also, how often do you go around pushing women away? What about men?

  122. 122
    glodson

    @rpjohnston

    Yea, and if we consider games where the gender of your main character doesn’t matter to the other characters, then the games in which you can pick your gender does nothing for strong women in games.

    Only a few, and they are mostly western made rpgs, have a possible effect from gender selection. The first two Fallout games change a little in terms of how certain characters react to a character, the Mass Effect games, the first Dragon Age game…. and I’m running out of games like that.

    Many of the others… the effect of selecting one’s gender is cosmetic.

  123. 123
    Great American Satan

    That observation on my last point was courtesy of my partner, who has some inside experience on video games as well. He worked at a game company that was making a crappy FPS and sucking on every level. Anyhow, it revolves around one character who has a commando team, and some cold war plot who cares etc.

    When the company was designing the team, somebody made a female character for it. But when she was implemented, dudes said “her butt looks too big.” There was a notion that it was from using the same animation rig as the male characters and that it could be fixed by making a different rig, but that was deemed to be too much effort, so the team went back to being a sausage fest.

    Amusingly, when the desiccated remains of this project were shit out onto the public years later, the whole rest of the team was killed off in an early animation, presumably because their AI screwed the game up and it was “too much effort” to try to fix it.

  124. 124
    SallyStrange

    @sally strange: your numbers are a bit misleady. You are equating games like ‘grand theft auto’, ‘medal of honor’, ‘final fantasy’, ‘halo’, ‘gears of war’, ‘forza motorsport’, ‘diablo’, ‘skyrim’ etc to gimmicky games like angry birds, minesweeper and other meager crap.

    It’s not really news that people who are heavily influenced by their culture’s sexism view games that women are likely to play as not “really real” games, but thanks for being the object lesson here.

    Or to put it a bit differently: the games that fem freq talks about are mostly played by males. These are the high selling games in arcades/consoles.

    Females are more represented in tablets/online flash games etc.

    Yes, I believe that is what I said. I accept your apology for being wrong about the gender breakdown of gamers.

  125. 125
    SallyStrange

    Whoops, fixing my mistake:

    @sally strange: your numbers are a bit misleady. You are equating games like ‘grand theft auto’, ‘medal of honor’, ‘final fantasy’, ‘halo’, ‘gears of war’, ‘forza motorsport’, ‘diablo’, ‘skyrim’ etc to gimmicky games like angry birds, minesweeper and other meager crap.

    It’s not really news that people who are heavily influenced by their culture’s sexism view games that women are likely to play as not “really real” games, but thanks for being the object lesson here.

    Or to put it a bit differently: the games that fem freq talks about are mostly played by males. These are the high selling games in arcades/consoles.

    Females are more represented in tablets/online flash games etc.

    Yes, I believe that is what I said. I accept your apology for being wrong about the gender breakdown of gamers.

  126. 126
    freak

    @115: Among JRPGs that let you pick the main character’s gender, do you count Dragon Quest IV?

    For those who haven’t played it:
    The game is divided into five sections.
    You pick whether the hero is male or female (either at the very beginning or at the start of Chapter V).
    The first four chapters are played through various side characters.
    In Chapter V (and I think half to 3/4 of the game is in Chapter V), you finally get control of the main character. As you go through it, the characters from Chapters I-IV gradually rejoin you.

    It’s mostly irrelevant whether you choose male or female, except that there are a few pieces of equipment that are female only.

  127. 127
    Dennis Strubbe

    *It’s true that men are taller and larger and have more upper body strength than women, on average. It’s also true that, on average, women have higher pain tolerance, better long-distance endurance, and better lower body strength.*

    I actually would like to see evidence on these: females more lower body strength and better long distance running ??? I find that really hard to believe.

    *Your contention is that these biological facts lead to a complex sociological phenomenon, nameles, “males” saving “girls”*

    That was just one particular hypothesis of mine. I also have mentioned that guys would go on to save girls to show off their boldness, power, courageousness etc.

    I can think of other plausible outcomes like: females don’t generally save the day cause they don’t have the physical power to do so. So the males inclination to save the damsell might be a byproduct instead of an adaptation of the males intra-sexual competition which led to his brute force.

    Or it might be that females don’t engage in heroic adventures snce they will get physically hurt which will make them less attractive (sweating, scars, muscly body).

    Mind you that these are just hypothesis, one of them may be true, neither or a max of above.

  128. 128
    Rip Steakface

    Count me in with the massive hate for Other M. Not only did that game suck mechanically (it’s a Metroid game without exploration – that’s like chess without pawns), but the story and characterization made me want to personally punch the writers, for reasons already mentioned.

    Again, Samus was a towering, super-strong blonde superheroine that would never show any fear or reliance on others. She would voluntarily go onto planets alone, and wouldn’t leave until she killed whatever was plaguing it (usually Space Pirates – and usually resulting in the planet blowing up. She has blown up Zebes, Dark Aether, Phaaze, SR388 and half of Tallon IV). Then, in Other M, all of sudden she’s a foot shorter, breaks down at the sight of an enemy she’s already killed four times, and relies on her former commander, Adam, to the point where she won’t turn on her goddamn Varia Suit (to protect against extreme heat) without his permission. A defensive goddamn upgrade!

  129. 129
    Dennis Strubbe

    *It’s not really news that people who are heavily influenced by their culture’s sexism view games that women are likely to play as not “really real” games, but thanks for being the object lesson here.*

    I don’t care who plays the game, ‘angry birds’ are not the same as ‘call of duty’.

    The first one is a simple pick up and play flash game playable on the simplest computers, the other one takes years of development, developed by dozens of people, highly complex game, highly expensive to invest in and the return income is immense.
    It’s not incorrect to call these both games but it is certainly misleading. Most females won’t play call of duty, a higher number of females will play simple flash games.

    Fem frequency talks about the more complex games as developed on arcades and console systems. Not on tablets or flash game websites.

  130. 130
    evilisgood

    glodson @32,

    Don’t forget Tali. She starts out in a mess of trouble, with Fist’s thugs trying to murder her in the alleyway. Over the course of the games, though, she becomes one of the most valuable and interesting characters in the series. If Shepard is fighting synthetics, there is no one better to bring on the squad than Tali.

    Liara is problematic, but if Shepard is a Sentinel, Liara’s Singularity ability comes in handy when combined with Shepard’s Warp attack. If I can look past Alenko’s personality flaws because he’s useful in battle (and Williams as well), I can do the same for Liara.

  131. 131
    glodson

    I can think of other plausible outcomes like: females don’t generally save the day cause they don’t have the physical power to do so. So the males inclination to save the damsell might be a byproduct instead of an adaptation of the males intra-sexual competition which led to his brute force.

    Or it might be that females don’t engage in heroic adventures snce they will get physically hurt which will make them less attractive (sweating, scars, muscly body).

    Mind you that these are just hypothesis, one of them may be true, neither or a max of above.

    I love it when people come in here and take a crap on the carpet to proudly show off to everyone.

    This is fiction! We are talking about character actions in speculative fiction! There are women police officers, paramedics, soldiers, firefighters, fighters and so on.

    There are women willing to face danger for a number of reasons without a care for their looks or scars. Just as there are men who would avoid said dangers to just to maintain their looks.

    And you know why some women do value their looks? Because of our culture. And some women reject these ideas.

    Finally, people like to protect those around them. As I’ve tried to explain, at the heart of the Damsel in Distress trope, the trope itself is neutral. It isn’t necessarily sexist in and of itself. But it is in how the trope is realized. When done badly or recklessly, the damsel is nothing but an object. That is a problem.

    It plays into our already sexist culture.

    Now, provide some evidence for your “hypothesis” that “females don’t engage in heroic adventures snce they will get physically hurt which will make them less attractive (sweating, scars, muscly body).”

  132. 132
    glodson

    evilisgood: I forgot about Tali… That’s what I get for not playing the games in close to over a year.

  133. 133
    Dennis Strubbe

    *Women have had strong selective pressure to be not fragile. They give birth to babies. This is extremely physically taxing and requires an enormous amount of strength. It’s just that your definition of “strength” and “fragility” has been culturally influenced in a sexist way, so that you literally cannot perceive that there are other types of strength besides the ability to benchpress a saber-toothed tiger.*

    indexes of strength: weightlifting, amount of type 2 muscle fibers, arm wrestling, pulling, pushing, sprinting.

    In all these domains, men trumps women.

    ‘baby-pushing’ is not on my index measurement, but it’s a bit unfair obviously :p

  134. 134
    John Morales

    [meta]

    Dennis Strubbe:

    Or it might be that females don’t engage in heroic adventures snce they will get physically hurt which will make them less attractive (sweating, scars, muscly body).

    <snicker>

    Probably not demure, either.

    (You reveal yourself, transparently as a window-pane)

  135. 135
    SallyStrange

    I actually would like to see evidence on these: females more lower body strength and better long distance running ??? I find that really hard to believe.

    Why would that be hard to believe? It would not be hard to believe if you were looking to facts rather than sexist prejudices to inform your assumptions about the physical capabilities of men and women. When NASA first began testing people to become the first astronauts, they consistently found that women were better able to handle high-Gs without passing out and to remain oriented in zero gravity. In other words, women were, on average, superior candidates for being astronauts, as well as fighter pilots.

    Here are two sources on women’s capacity for endurance and stamina. Note that the research is not conclusive, but suggests that in extreme long-distance running, women are better suited than men for those physical demands. Men outstrip women at sprinting, though.

    http://faculty.washington.edu/crowther/Misc/RBC/gender.shtml

    http://running.competitor.com/2011/05/injury-prevention/running-doc-are-women-more-suited-for-endurance-than-men_28063

    Also, I must correct myself: women and men’s lower body strength is about equally matched. http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/human-biology/men-vs-women-upper-body-strength.htm

    Also note that the differences between men and women’s athletic achievements have been narrowing over the years, as more sports have opened up to women and the taboo against women getting sweaty and developing muscles fades. I worked for a woman who recounted, in high school, being told to avoid playing sports because it might give her visible biceps and that would be unattractive to men.

    Observe that I base my opinions about the relative abilities of women and men on facts and research, whereas you, by your own admission, are basically making shit up.

    Provide evidence for your opinions if you want to be taken seriously. “That’s just a hypothesis of mine” is not evidence. The more you talk, the stupider you look. I suggest you either stop talking or stop relying on your unexamined sexist assumptions as the basis for your opinions and start looking at the actual facts.

  136. 136
    Dennis Strubbe

    *There are women police officers, paramedics, soldiers, firefighters, fighters and so on.*

    Ofcourse, I would suprised if there weren’t any. I’m talking on a population average level.
    Also, don’t forget that females requirements to pass these physical tests are lower than males (i’m only aware of this fact in the domain of soldiers).

    I’m also sure that males are ‘naturally’ more prevalent then females in all these fields, except maybe for paramedics. But I don’t know this history of affirmative action in these fields, so women might have increased there numbers thx to these political pushes.

    *There are women willing to face danger for a number of reasons without a care for their looks or scars. Just as there are men who would avoid said dangers to just to maintain their looks.*

    No doubt.

    *Because of our culture.*

    No amount of mass media will every fancy the male an obese hooked nose girl with hair on her armpit. This is a sad given for obese hooked nose feales with hair on their armpit, but alas, that’s life son.

  137. 137
    alwayscurious

    You have to understand that as a player, you want some connection with the character (in an adventure game). Males will typically connect with a male character.

    You’re perfectly right: Players do want to make a connection with the character they are role playing. BUT GENDER IS ONLY ONE ASPECT FOR BUILDING THAT CONNECTION! And in many of the major RPG’s at the moment, it is an entirely cosmetic choice as far as game mechanics go. So your obsessed thinking that males only really want to play male characters is both shallow and betraying deeper issues that you are struggling with. Never worry, you are not alone–there are plenty of people struggling through this same phenomenon.

    Besides, if I were a smart CEO of a gaming company and saw the 18-30 male gaming community was heavily saturated…I would consider creating a game for a different audience. There are more kids 30 than males 18-30 in this world. All of whom would willingly play games, if given the right one. All it takes is a change of perception and a little more market research.

  138. 138
    SallyStrange

    Funny how Dennis mentions women not wanting to get scars or whatever because it would make them unattractive. It is only in the past 30 years or so that women have had a tiny bit of cultural space in which to not be concerned with being attractive. The story I recounted about my former boss, who was strongly pressured in high school to avoid being strong or even having the appearance of being strong is one example of that. Yet Dennis would have us believe, on the strength of his slapdash hypothesizing, that this cultural pressure is not a thing. That sociologists are wrong about culture influencing our choices and our estimation of our own abilities. That it’s biology was telling my boss to avoid getting strong and having visibly prominent bicep muscles. Dennis, if it’s biology telling us these things, why is it necessary for other people to tell us them, and then punish us if we don’t behave accordingly?

    (Prediction: Dennis will evince denial about the concept of social costs coming into play if women or men depart from assigned gender roles.)

  139. 139
    Dennis Strubbe

    *Here are two sources on women’s capacity for endurance and stamina. *

    Can you explain how come male long distance runners outperform female long distance runners ???

  140. 140
    Dennis Strubbe

    *The story I recounted about my former boss, who was strongly pressured in high school to avoid being strong or even having the appearance of being strong is one example of that.*

    casus argument.

    /care

  141. 141
    SallyStrange

    No amount of mass media will every fancy the male an obese hooked nose girl with hair on her armpit. This is a sad given for obese hooked nose feales with hair on their armpit, but alas, that’s life son.

    I think you’re getting a tad overemotional. You should take some time out to calm down. Maybe think about why it matters so much to you that ugly fat chicks don’t get laid.

  142. 142
    throwaway

    It’s not naturalistic fallacy since I don’t claim it SHOULD be that way.

    I really have no patience for fucking liars. You can’t try to say there is nothing wrong with the trope because in nature men are stronger than women (and I guess that makes women more prone to being abducted by Martians or something) and then deny that you’re not committing to an is-ought. You’re either just trolling or very stupid.

  143. 143
    Dennis Strubbe

    Anyway folks, I’m out to bed (12 pm here in belgium), so good evening to you all.

  144. 144
    evilisgood

    Dennis,

    I give a fuck because I’m a gamer, and a woman, and I’m tired of playing male power fantasies.

  145. 145
    glodson

    I’m also sure that males are ‘naturally’ more prevalent then females in all these fields, except maybe for paramedics. But I don’t know this history of affirmative action in these fields, so women might have increased there numbers thx to these political pushes.

    Or…. our culture has set a precedent in which women are not expected to join in and find active roadblocks barring their attempts to punch through the glass ceiling. Maybe we seem more women now because it is become normalized for women to seek out other fields than that is “traditional.”

    Now prove what you said. How are “males are ‘naturally’ more prevalent then females in all these fields, except maybe for paramedics?” And what is it about paramedics that make females more apt?

    Finally, you are ignoring my point in that women can be the solider, the sword wielding warrior, the competent wizard, the cunning rogue as easily as any man in a story. Which is what I’m getting at.

    We can demand that our games empower women as they do men, and make for better stories, more inclusive stories, and expand the audience while having a positive affect on how our culture sees women.

    Or we can ignore this to let the crappy and sexist attitudes to continue infect us all.

  146. 146
    SallyStrange

    Can you explain how come male long distance runners outperform female long distance runners ???

    1. Women have only been allowed to compete in marathons since the late 70s and early 80s. The first women to participate in the Boston marathon in the early 80s were actually physically attacked by judges who attempted to drag them off the race course. Perhaps in a decade or two, after the training infrastructure is in place and more resources, coaches, and programs are available to would-be women marathoners, you will begin to see more women outperforming men in marathons. Or perhaps not. Either way, women have been deliberately excluded from participating for centuries, going all the way back to ancient Greece, so we don’t really have an accurate basis for comparison, do we?

    2. If you had read the links, you would realize that the distances at which women outperform men are even longer than 26 miles, the typical length of a marathon.

    Idiot.

  147. 147
    SallyStrange

    Isn’t it funny how overemotional some men get when faced with the prospect that men may not be, on average, superior to women in EVERY way?

  148. 148
    SallyStrange

    I bet Dennis is Flemish. I’m tempted to make some Flemish jokes that I learned from my Walloon friends, but I shall refrain.

  149. 149
    glodson

    Isn’t it funny how overemotional some men get when faced with the prospect that men may not be, on average, superior to women in EVERY way?

    I don’t get this.

    Who cares? Individual men and women will vary. I don’t care if one peaks higher, or has a higher average. I’m only interested in what an individual can do, as that’s important if I have a task in mind.

    If we were all equal, our differences based on what sexes can potentially do wouldn’t matter in light of what then individual can do. It doesn’t matter if men tend to have higher upper body strength if you are a guy who doesn’t work out. A woman who does work out her upper body can easily be stronger.

    Why anyone would fucking care is beyond me. I just think everyone should get a fair shot, in terms of the law and in terms of social dynamics.

    But what do I know? I’m just a novice feminist.

  150. 150
    irisvanderpluym

    @SallyStrange 147:

    Isn’t it funny how overemotional some men get when faced with the prospect that men may not be, on average, superior to women in EVERY way?

    If by funny you mean hilariously revealing, then yep. D00ds like Dennis here seem very invested in ‘splaining what are the Really Important aspects of both game characters and humans in real life. And these are — surprisingly — stereotypical masculine and feminine characteristics! Yes, all men are stronger than all women, see, and overlapping bell curves do not exist with respect to the all-important, defining measure of… upper body strength.

    Also: sweaty women aren’t sexy? OMFG LMAO.

  151. 151
    throwaway

    Argumentum ad beefiness… The goto argument for denizens of 4chan whenever male dominance and superiority must be argued.

  152. 152
    michaelbusch

    @Dennis Strubbe:

    That’s what Google is for. From the link below: “Female lower body absolute strength is only 20% to 35% lower than that of males. For lower body strength, the gender differences disappear when expressed relative to lean body mass.” The same article also notices sociological differences: the women in the some of the study cohorts got less exercise overall than the men, and less upper-body exercise as a fraction of total exercise. So you’re comparing two cohorts with both biological and environmental differences, and lower body strength is still equivalent between them. Disentangling the effects of the differences is harder, but if there is a gender-based difference in lower-body relative strength, it is slightly in favor of women.

    But that is largely irrelevant. Everything is a distribution function: some women are physically stronger/taller/faster than most men, and some men are physically weaker/shorter/slower than most women. Some of my female cousins are stronger and taller than I am, and in a fight I would stand behind them (especially since one of them has been doing SWAT rotations lately). And physical strength is far from the only thing that matters for daring acts of heroism in any case.

    We know that stereotypes in media are assimilated and influence our perceptions. So we must carefully reject stereotypes that artificially constrain what people can do.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=EyZsohz8DmsC&pg=PA178&lpg=PA178&dq=lower+body+strength+by+gender&source=bl&ots=FTHbZAFnvw&sig=ozX1UaNnIJ3jegl0Q6fj3Hhrh7Q&hl=en&sa=X&ei=hno6UYOYM4W6yAGYx4DoAQ&ved=0CEQQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=lower%20body%20strength%20by%20gender&f=false

  153. 153
    vaiyt

    Why are we arguing about body strength with Dennis anyway? His argument is that the median distribution of upper body strength determines a cultural immutable of women being seen as fragile and devoid of agency. That’s as bullshit-y as it gets.

  154. 154
    SallyStrange

    Thanks vaiyt. You keep it real.

  155. 155
    michaelbusch

    I’m trying to think of video game characters that avert the damsel-in-distress trope as much as possible. So far, all I have is Chell from Portal, but I am not a serious gamer. Any other good examples?

  156. 156
    vaiyt

    I can think of other plausible outcomes like: females don’t generally save the day cause they don’t have the physical power to do so.

    Even in a shooter? Even in a world where people can become superhuman? Even when the characters aren’t even human at all? Even when magic can supply power? Even when saving the day has fuck all to do with upper body strength?

    Your failure of imagination isn’t a failure of women.

  157. 157
    WharGarbl

    @SallyStrange
    #124

    It’s not really news that people who are heavily influenced by their culture’s sexism view games that women are likely to play as not “really real” games, but thanks for being the object lesson here.

    The pattern I noticed is that big-budget games tend toward male audience, while low budget games tend toward female audience.

  158. 158
    WharGarbl

    @michaelbusch
    #155
    Other Valve game tend toward this (although they don’t have a lot of game under their belt).
    As you stated, Chell from Portal 2.
    Alyx Vance from Half-Life 2, while you don’t play as her, is a fairly strong female lead. Yes, she do serve some damsel in distress role, but at the same time she saved your butts a plenty.

    For other games:
    Beyond Good and Evil is pretty good.
    So is Mirror’s Edge, but I would advice against it if you’re prone to motion sickness.
    Skyrim let’s you be a female characters, so maybe that. There’s also the Mass Effect theory (you can choose to play female. Female NPC in games are fairly realistic beside the fact that a lot of them are aliens).

  159. 159
    Chie Satonaka

    ‘baby-pushing’ is not on my index measurement

    Convenient!

    Regarding your discussion of what constitutes a “real video game,” you have no idea what a pathetic cliche ridden pile of dreck you’ve spouted. It’s the same shit every time this topic comes up. Actually, it’s the same shit as your quote above. Shift the goalposts until you “prove” your point.

    I grew up in the 80′s and have been a gamer since my father first hoisted me up to the Centipede machine and let me run the gun control. Is Centipede a “real” video game? Is Duck Hunt? Because those are the kind of games that arcades had back then. Are all the guys who hung out at those arcades merely “casual gamers?” The age of the console that you cite, particularly the age of cinematic games like Skyrim, Mass Effect, etc is not very old. When assholes like you snidely assert that only people who play Call of Duty are “real” gamers, you’re also claiming that several decades of boys and men who played arcade games and early console fare were never “real” gamers, either.

  160. 160
    WharGarbl

    @michaelbusch
    #155
    Forgot one more, or at least potentially one more.
    The upcoming StarCraft 2:Heart of the Swarm has a female protagonist.
    You don’t get more powerful than being the Queen of Blade, capable of commanding an entire race of Zergs and crush battleships with her mind alone.

  161. 161
    omnicrom

    With regards to the video: Honestly it’s nothing I haven’t seen before. It’s well done and well executed, but I think Sarkeesian digs into Miyamoto a little too much. The rest though? Completely correct

    With regards to Other M: Ugh. Other M is a garbage game. I’m not sure how Adam went from a commander Samus didn’t mind working under for being even-handed and intelligent to a surrogate father figure. I’m not sure why Samus who has never shown reservation with leaping into battle with her mortal nemesis when the opportunity presents would suddenly cower in fear instead of charging her Power Beam. I am however sure that having the powers and not using them is a far worse excuse than just randomly losing them between games.

    With regards to JRPGs: I think that Super Robot Wars despite being Japanese only and largely a celebration of giant robot history does a good job with female protagonists. You have a good number of female characters and female protagonists and they’re usually well characterized and always competent. The Super Robot Wars Alpha games even say that the official main character out of the possible choices is always Kusuha, the female Super Robot pilot. The games take the time to go in depth into Kusuha’s relationships and in terms of story and gameplay she’s an expert pilot of her ancient Chinese Dragon Robot. Super Robot Wars still has the usual issues of the genre in terms of unnecessary fanservice but it’s still quite even-handed in the capabilities of women pilots and often even excises some of the sexism from the anime series they adapt.

    With regards to Dennis I’m not sure why a society that’s no longer in the bronze age should give a crap about the physical capabilities of men compared with women. I’m also sure that anyone who thinks we need to give a crap about the capabilities of men compared with women doesn’t have anything worthwhile to say.

  162. 162
    Amphiox

    1. A small question for Dennis: Why do you think that, historically, whenever things have REALLY tough, physically, starvation, plague, drought type tough, like Donner Party-tough, in nearly all known cases, 90%+ of the survivors have been female, while 90%+ of the males are the ones who keel over dead first?

    2. A fair number of videogame characters aren’t human, so why should human physical capability distributions have to apply? What is upper body strength like in Hylians? (Based on appearance, both genders have pretty slender arms….)

    3. Regarding the period in Starcraft’s storyline where the players are trying to “rescue” Kerrigan against her will, I think another class of sexist trope applies better than DiD.

    4. In the Legend of Zelda series there seems to be a rough trend for Zelda to get more and more agency as the games progress. As a fan of the series I am hoping to see one day a Zelda game where the player can choose Zelda as the primary PC.

    5. Even Portal uses the DiD trope in a somewhat meta way. In this case it is the male player who is trying to save Chell.

    6. Consider some of the most compelling female game characters, such as Samus (in the first Metroid games), FemShep, and Chell. One interesting thing that they all share in common is that their gender has little to no impact on the storyline. You don’t even know that Samus is female until after you beat the first game. Female Shephard has almost the exact same lines and dialog and gameplay as Male Shephard, outside of the romance plotlines (which are optional). Chell’s gender is incidental to the plot of the Portal games.

  163. 163
    WharGarbl

    @Amphiox
    #162

    Regarding the period in Starcraft’s storyline where the players are trying to “rescue” Kerrigan against her will, I think another class of sexist trope applies better than DiD.

    Um… which part are you talking about? If you’re talking the part where Kerrigan is the Queen of the Blade… there’s isn’t exactly much choices there, it’s either:
    A. Let Kerrigan wipe out all non-Zerg lifeform in the galaxy.
    B. Kill her.
    C. Try to stop her without killing her.

    Even Portal uses the DiD trope in a somewhat meta way. In this case it is the male player who is trying to save Chell.

    I think you’re stretching the argument for DiD in videogame a bit too far.

  164. 164
    throwaway

    When assholes like you snidely assert that only people who play Call of Duty are “real” gamers, you’re also claiming that several decades of boys and men who played arcade games and early console fare were never “real” gamers, either.

    This was when I realized they were probably trolling. CoD is an example of everything wrong with gaming today. AAA titles that are rehashes of rehashes. CoD is technically polished, but as a game it is horribly lacking in engaging content and originality. The CoD series has been, in my opinion, the gaming equivalent of carnival/fair games. It’s popularity is akin to famous for being famous. So not a very strong move if Dennis was serious. Double-facepalm-worthy if he was.

  165. 165
    Malachite

    Here’s an explanation for the pineapple reference.

  166. 166
    michaelbusch

    Thanks for the other examples!

    One thing I wonder, though: are cases where a character’s gender can be swapped at will less effective at demolishing the stereotypes than cases where a character is a clearly-defined individual who just happens to be female (e.g. Chell in both Portals and Samus in the earlier Metroids) ?

    @Amphiox: “Even Portal uses the DiD trope in a somewhat meta way. In this case it is the male player who is trying to save Chell.”

    I am confused. I played Portal. My wife played Portal. We both were playing the part of Chell trying to work her way out of the testing facility. Chell’s character is an unrelenting determinator, not stopped by neurotoxin or machine-gun turrets or hundred-meter walls. How does damsel-in-distress come into this?

  167. 167
    SallyStrange

    I never used to play video games, but then I got this fancy-schmancy smartphone. Then I saw this vampire game and decided to try it out. Dark Legends. It’s free. Now I’m addicted. From what I can tell, the players are evenly split between men and women – assuming the breakdown of chosen avatar genders mirrors actual genders.

    Does that mean I’m a gamer now? I’m a level 31 vampire. I’ve killed thousands of humans, zombies, werewolves, and other creatures. It’s pretty fun. But I never had a gaming console and probably won’t for a while, though at some point, when I start earning more money, I think I probably will buy either a Wii or a Kinect. I kinda dig killing things in games – who knew? When I was younger, I thought of it as a guy thing, and not something I was sufficiently interested in to expend the mental energy to overcome the stereotype.

  168. 168
    WharGarbl

    @michaelbusch
    #166

    I am confused. I played Portal. My wife played Portal. We both were playing the part of Chell trying to work her way out of the testing facility. Chell’s character is an unrelenting determinator, not stopped by neurotoxin or machine-gun turrets or hundred-meter walls. How does damsel-in-distress come into this?

    I can now sort of understand what Amphiox mean. Portal is a game where you’re entire goal is to essentially save yourself. So in a way, since you’re in distress, you are that damsel in distress.
    As Tvtropes would say, tropes are not bad.

  169. 169
    Chie Satonaka

    This was when I realized they were probably trolling. CoD is an example of everything wrong with gaming today. AAA titles that are rehashes of rehashes. CoD is technically polished, but as a game it is horribly lacking in engaging content and originality. The CoD series has been, in my opinion, the gaming equivalent of carnival/fair games. It’s popularity is akin to famous for being famous. So not a very strong move if Dennis was serious. Double-facepalm-worthy if he was.

    I’ve noticed that the average age range of doods making this claim tends to be 20 or so. They simply weren’t around for the arcade days, and on top of that, they have the arrogance of believing that their extremely limited worldview is the most accurate. I played Qbert and Burger Time on Colecovision (my first console). Shit, I played graphics-free text based RPGs that were basically “choose your own adventure” on MS-DOS. And I’ve had little 18 year old gamer doods expressing SHOCK that I’m a female gamer for the past twenty years! I’m beyond over it.

  170. 170
    WharGarbl

    @SallyStrange
    #167

    Does that mean I’m a gamer now?

    Yes.

    I kinda dig killing things in games – who knew?

    How do you like to do the killing of things (I mean like FPS, RTS, simulation, etc)?
    Personally, I pretty much oscillate between world-building and killing stuffs.
    Which, in a way, is why I love Dwarf Fortress.
    On one hand, I get to build a giant, self-sustained fortress of a hundred dwaves (my computer can’t handle more than that).
    On the other hand, I get to turn dozens of goblins into little-itsy-bitsy pieces by throwing a cart full of daggers at them (or cut green glass gems, or obsidian mugs, or just random pieces of cloth lying around).
    Or just watch my legendary hammerdwarf play golf with them.
    Hey, it even has fan-services, in terms of completely naked dwarves (male and female)!

  171. 171
    michaelbusch

    >>So in a way, since you’re in distress, you are that damsel in distress.<<

    But that removes the whole concept of the damsel-in-distress, doesn't it?

  172. 172
    michaeld

    Somewhat off topic but I can’t say I’ve ever found Samus or Chell very compelling. I frankly get a little annoyed how often they get brought up cause really there isn’t much character to them. They’re quiet shells who are defined by going through the game they’re put in. They don’t have a voice, a personality, any likes or dislikes, dreams, ambitions, and to me characters like this barely deserve the label (male characters as well I’m looking at you Gordon Freeman). Video game characters and female characters in them can be so much more then just a lifeless shell that so many older games relied on.

  173. 173
    miles

    Anybody ever play Mount and Blade? I’d be interested to hear Sarkeesian’s take on that one – sexism is baked right into the game.

    The world is very patriarchal and when you make your character it specifically says “if you want a bigger challenge, play a woman”. There are no female rulers so far as I’ve seen, and female NPCs aren’t particularly politically active (unless you court and marry one – then they give you all sorts of handy advice).

    Playing a woman, your stats and skills are the same, but all those lords and kings and whatnot just don’t take you seriously, and when you go recruiting fewer people want to follow you. You have to work twice as hard to get the same respect (and respect is a VERY important thing in this game). Apparently getting married playing as a female is difficult too, since it’s obvious you aren’t the homebody type…

  174. 174
    John Morales

    [meta]

    SallyStrange:

    Does that mean I’m a gamer now? I’m a level 31 vampire.

    :)

    It does indeed.

  175. 175
    Ingdigo Jump

    Infamous 2 adverts the trope. Other female characters have super powers and there’s no romantic slant. The romance slot is taken up by a Simon Pegg/Nick Greatest bromance

    Portal adverts it hard

  176. 176
    Utakata

    Anyway folks, I’m out to bed (12 pm here in belgium), so good evening to you all.

    Ignorant troll runs the fuck off after making sexist remarks. News at 6.

  177. 177
    Ingdigo Jump

    actually Portal 2 does have a variant on the DiD…but subverts it hilariously.

  178. 178
    rpjohnston

    freak @ 126: “Among JRPGs that let you pick the main character’s gender, do you count Dragon Quest IV?”

    I haven’t played it but based on your description, I’d say no. If the character’s gender is simply cosmetic to the plot or other character’s dialogue (not counting pronoun changes or very minor reaction changes) then the character is effectively nongendered. Which isn’t to say it’s a bad thing; but I agree with glodson @122 – it’s not really a strong FEMALE character.

    michaelbush @ 166: “One thing I wonder, though: are cases where a character’s gender can be swapped at will less effective at demolishing the stereotypes than cases where a character is a clearly-defined individual who just happens to be female (e.g. Chell in both Portals and Samus in the earlier Metroids) ?” I think so. A story engages me much more when the character is more defined – the more a character is essentially a painted manequin, the less engaging story can be wrote. I mentioned Wild Arms 3 earlier – I think it’s a good example of a game (and a jrpg!) that has a strong female protagonist with lots of character development that doesn’t involve getting kidnapped, or being the love interest of one of the other characters (and also completely avoids the unnecessary fanservice, at least for Virginia. I can’t remember what the leader of the goldfish poop gang was wearing).

    Thenm again, I have not played Portal so I cannot judge it.

  179. 179
    Ingdigo Jump

    ah wait remembered one! Ps2 game Primal had inverse. Female ,protagonist trying to save boyfriend from god of chaos.

  180. 180
    Amphiox

    I think you’re stretching the argument for DiD in videogame a bit too far.

    I don’t think so.

    Because that particular dynamic, of breaking the fourth wall, and separating the player from the PC, has in fact been used before.

    In the game Heavenly Sword (another one with a female protagonist, though there is a second female character whom the heroine must save from trouble in one of the levels) the eponymous sword having a will of its own, and being capable of controlling its wielder, compelling that person to kill and fight, until finally the wielder’s own soul is spent and he or she dies from the sword’s curse, is a repeated plot point.

    Then at the climactic moment, the curse comes to fruition and the heroine starts to die. There follows a cut-scene where the heroine implores the sword to give her just a little bit more life so she can return to the world of the living and fight the last battle against the evil overlord. The camera is set up so that the player sees the scene from the sword’s perspective. It is as if the game character is talking to the player, begging the player to let her keep fighting.

    And then the player realizes that for the entire game his or her role has not been that of the heroine, but that of the cursed spirit of the sword. The entity that has been controlling the PC all this time, commanding her to fight and kill.

    This is just one example of this sort of meta fourth wall breaking. And though it is less overt in Portal, there are aspects of it in that game too.

  181. 181
    Chie Satonaka

    ah wait remembered one! Ps2 game Primal had inverse. Female ,protagonist trying to save boyfriend from god of chaos.

    I have that game! Hudson Leick (Callisto on Xena) did the voice. Fighting but also lots of puzzle solving to move forward. That part reminded me of Myst a bit.

  182. 182
    QueQuoi

    Jetboy, don’t know if you are still on, but if you ever wanted bring your Troll Warrior over to Fenris, there’s an invite for you. Not a huge guild, but run by a woman, and none of us take any bullshit.

  183. 183
    laurentweppe

    Perhaps a solution to guys not wanting to play female characters is to power up the female characters to be more effective than the male characters.

    They did it in the fire emblem series: women tend to have slightly lower strenght and defense, but higher skill (the stat which decides whether a strike will connect or no) and speed (which decides the chances of dodging an attack and the number of strikes allowed during a turn)n which led to the Iron Law of Fire Emblem: If she’s a brunette with a sword, get away from her path

    ***

    Do you think we can even crack double digits with RPG’s that feature female main characters? I mean, as the true lead, not just female characters who apart of the party.

    Phantasy Star, Final Fantasy VI, Final Fantasy XIII, Xenosaga, Okami, Guardian Legend, Monsterworld IV, La Pucelle Tactics, Yggdra Union, Order of Ecclesia, Parasite Eve

    You can, but they’re still a minority

    ***

    The vast majority are males. Look at any top 10 games or even top 100. Every game in the top are mostly played by males.

    Actually it’s about 60% male and 40% female right now.

    Your numbers are outdated : It’s actually 47% now
    Somehow, I can’t shake the feeling that pheomenums like the “Fake Geek Girld” panic are caused by the frathouse realizing that it’s not going to be the seen as the sole owners of the estate for much longer.

    @sally strange: your numbers are a bit misleady. You are equating games like ‘grand theft auto’, ‘medal of honor’, ‘final fantasy’, ‘halo’, ‘gears of war’, ‘forza motorsport’, ‘diablo’, ‘skyrim’ etc to gimmicky games like angry birds, minesweeper and other meager crap.

    Oh, yeah, girls don’t play Real Games made by and for Manly Men.
    Would You Kindly go masturbating somewhere where we don’t have to watch you jerking off the keyboard?

    ***

    Only a few, and they are mostly western made rpgs, have a possible effect from gender selection. [...] the Mass Effect games, the first Dragon Age game…. and I’m running out of games like that.

    The Mass Effect and Dragon Age series are much closer stylisticly to JRPGs: exploration is secondary, customization limited, a detailed story constrain the way one plays, etc…
    Also,
    1) In Bioware games the choice of gender only affect some of the romance options
    2) One does not choose the main character’s gender in Mass Effect. One is either tasteful and go for the voiced by Jennifer Hale FemShep, or one is devoid of taste and go for that other dude.

    ***

    Then, in Other M, all of sudden she’s a foot shorter, breaks down at the sight of an enemy she’s already killed four times, and relies on her former commander, Adam, to the point where she won’t turn on her goddamn Varia Suit (to protect against extreme heat) without his permission. A defensive goddamn upgrade!

    I think that at some point, Nintendo and Squeenix should have switched plots between Other M and the Tomb Raider reboot. One criticism the later game as gathered now that it’s released is the disconnect between the wet-behind-the-ear, not yet accustomed to killing and exploring protagonist jumping from a complete wreck in cutscenes to an invincible embodiement of righteous wrath in the playable portions of the game.

    Other M has exactly the inverse problem: I would not have had any problem picturing Samus at the beginning of her career -Young, raised-by-aliens to the point of acculturation, still working on her personal issues- developing a codependant relationship with her commanding officer, but they had to put Other M after Super Metroid

  184. 184
    frog

    Jesus fucking christ. WhenSkyrim came out, half of my female friends said, “I’ll see you in a couple of weeks–gonna be playing.”

    (The other half don’thave an appropriate console.)

    I hope all those female athletes–you know, the ones who get all sweaty and injured–are aware that Belgian sexists disapprove. That’s ever so much more intimidating than another woman bearing down on them with a lacrosse stick, or driving hard for the basket. *eyeroll*

    Anyone who wants to see what female marathoners can do should look up the stats for the 2011NYC marathon, easily found via google (they didn’t run in 2012 because of hurricane Sandy). The most obvious pattern is that the top female finishers beat 99% of the men (I think the #1 woman was #18 overall, in a field of 40,000).

    (I am not googling because I’m posting from a Nook, not a real computer.)

    One-third of the women beat 50% of the men. I don’t consider 1/3 a trivial fraction. These are not weird outliers jammed in the tail of the bell curve.

  185. 185
    Gretchen

    Not to mention that…..well…..guys who are gamers? Don’t have such a reputation for being athletes. I mean, I know Chris Kluwe plays WoW and all, but I don’t think he’s exactly characteristic. Video games are more a form of wish fulfillment in that regard.

    So the question is– why is it only wish fulfillment for men?

  186. 186
    freak

    @Amphiox:

    There was a game for the CD-I (Zelda’s Adventure, IIRC), with Zelda as the PC, but it was apparently very poorly made.

  187. 187
    vaiyt

    CoD is technically polished,

    Only in the visuals/production values sense.

  188. 188
    pryopizm

    Really well done. I wonder if the gorilla abducting the damsel wasn’t a thinly-veiled racist idea.

    In King Kong, I think it’s practically a definite. In Donkey Kong, I doubt it. I imagine Miyamoto was just copying that concept straight from the film without thought toward the subtext.

    This is strictly a guess, but I would think that the Japanese may be such an insular culture that they don’t really work about the black man coming to take their women.

  189. 189
    vaiyt

    You know what time is it?

    It’s Bizarro time!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=zxVtLGJFaVk

    “Women being considered delicate flowers with no agency at all means they’re more valued than men! Watch as I spend seven minutes mistaking paternalistic coddling for privilege! What about the menz?”

  190. 190
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    @Sally, I looked up Dark Legends since you mentioned it, and was immediately put off because it says MMO. Is there a single player mode? Do you have to interact with other gamers? I am *so* not interested in all the harassment you hear about in multiplayer games. Let me have a party or a character of my own and I’ll play the computer.

    My first computer game was Pong, back when you had to have a mainframe to do it and they let me play at Dad’s work open day. I played Adventure before Zork existed, coded up Hunt the Wumpus, and played Space Invaders & Asteroids & Frogger when they first came out. And I still have a fondness for the rogue-likes. I like Spiderweb software with their ridiculous retro graphics and turn based combat and complicated stories. I also play some facebook games, mostly match-3 and this one farming one that isn’t Farmville :) So you see, I’m clearly not a Real Gamer™.

  191. 191
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    Oh, BTW, if you do happen to like an old school D&D style RPG with antique graphics, let me plug Spiderweb. Some games have a gender constraint on the character (Avadon has male warrior & ninja/spy; female mage & shaman), but the NPCs seem to be pretty arbitrarily assigned to either gender – you’re quite likely to run into female patrol captains and blacksmiths and village chiefs. The Avernum games you assembled a party of 4, from 3 races & many classes, no gender constraint.

  192. 192
    A. Noyd

    pryopizm (#188)

    This is strictly a guess, but I would think that the Japanese may be such an insular culture that they don’t really work about the black man coming to take their women.

    Japan absolutely had fears of dark skinned “savages”—Taiwanese aborigines and Melanesians and, later, African American soldiers on their way to Vietnam—sullying the racial purity of their women. Not only were they a closed island nation of xenophobes, but they opened up into a world of race-based global conquest and colonialism. They had to subjugate or be subjugated, and social Darwinism played a huge role in the justifications they constructed for that endeavor. There may not be nearly as many overt anti-black racists in the younger generations, but that earlier racist legacy isn’t something they can shrug off just by wishing (any more than Americans can pretend we’re living in a post-racial paradise because we elected Obama).

  193. 193
    PZ Myers

    I can think of other plausible outcomes like: females don’t generally save the day cause they don’t have the physical power to do so. So the males inclination to save the damsell might be a byproduct instead of an adaptation of the males intra-sexual competition which led to his brute force.

    This is an example of one of those fallacious fundamental assumptions: that the slight advantage more testosterone gives to muscle mass translates into better ‘rescuing’ and ‘sexual competitiveness’.

    I guarantee you that if you look at most cultures, you’ll find that while physical strength may be admired, it isn’t the primary attribute anyone looks at when selecting a mate; you’ll also find that the circumstances in which your survival is enhanced by an ability to lift large weights, wrestle alligators, or defeat bad guys in hand-to-hand combat are really, really rare.

    Human beings don’t do that so much any more. Better courtship skills involve dancing, conversation, and shared interests (which can be about throwing balls harder and farther, but rarely is) in any of the huge wealth of possibilities modern culture allows. Humans can acquire greater status by having better poetry skills, for instance. Or by being really good at video games — which, you’ll notice, have virtually no strength requirement at all.

    So why should physical power be such an overwhelming component of video game simulations?

  194. 194
    laurentweppe

    There was a game for the CD-I (Zelda’s Adventure, IIRC)

    There was no Zelda game on the CD-I
    There never was any CD-I
    No Sonic games were released on home consoles between Sonic Adventure 2 and Sonic Colors.
    No prequel to Dune was ever written
    We’ve always been at War with Eastasia

    ***

    Oh, BTW, if you do happen to like an old school D&D style RPG with antique graphics, let me plug Spiderweb

    The Spiderweb team also gave us Erika Redmark. Sure, she’s not the protagonist per se,but come one: she’s a century old archmage who works out by summonng demons and beating them into submission. After a loosing a political struggle against another archmage who despite having made himself pretty much unkillable through the use of magicl augmentations still feared her, she got exiled in a cold, dark, subterran hell with a curse that made sunlight deadly placed on her, because that was pretty much the only way to stop her from teleporting back to the surface.
    So what did she do once prisonner for life kilometers bellow the surface? Why, she pretty much singlehandedly built a civilization here: cultivating a natural glowing moss which she put on every wall of the cave network so that people exiled to the same place could see where they were going, teleporting surface plants and maginetically modifying them to use volcanic heat instead of sunlight as the basis of photosynthesis, so they could be used as cultivated foodstuff or sources of wood by her fellow exiles could survive. And then she used said civilization as a tool for revenge against the very empire which had exiled her.

    ***

    Japan absolutely had fears of dark skinned “savages”—Taiwanese aborigines and Melanesians and, later, African American soldiers on their way to Vietnam—sullying the racial purity of their women.

    There’s also the classical “fair skin = High social status” and “dark skin = lowborn peasant” who of course were not allowed to “sully” the purity of the noble houses bloodlines which endures to this day -and not only in Japan: the porcelain dolls fetish is still alive and well in Europe

  195. 195
    glodson

    So why should physical power be such an overwhelming component of video game simulations?

    Because it justifies the need to maintain the status quo and not look too deeply at our culture which can be realized through a popular medium like video games, even though the entire idea is flawed on a number of levels.

    Maybe it is just me, but I have come to think of games as a great way to explore other worlds, including that in which the character lives. Meaning I would like to see games where being a woman is crucial to the main character, and not incidental. Or have a character struggling with their sexuality, or even gender identity.

    And it can be done in the backdrop of blowing up large robots on the moon, which is a plus. But some don’t want to include interesting ideas into the game that might be fun to explore. The assholes.

  196. 196
    SallyStrange

    @Sally, I looked up Dark Legends since you mentioned it, and was immediately put off because it says MMO. Is there a single player mode? Do you have to interact with other gamers? I am *so* not interested in all the harassment you hear about in multiplayer games. Let me have a party or a character of my own and I’ll play the computer.

    You know, that really doesn’t happen. At least, it hasn’t happened to me. I don’t avoid the other players entirely, but you definitely could if you wanted to. The gaming has two parts: killing monsters and humans, and battling other players. For the battling other players, obviously that requires interacting with other players. For the killing monsters, you can choose to do it alone or with other people. It’s easier with other people helping, but you get more rewards when you play alone. I’ve played with other people and folks don’t generally talk too much, they just get down with the business of killing werewolves and drinking their blood and whatnot. However, there are some social areas where avatars just congregate and people do talk more there. But I’ve not really seen any rudeness or harassment. The closest I’ve ever come is turning down a friend request from someone with the username “XxChrisBrownxxX”.

  197. 197
    SallyStrange

    Also, the online Doctor Who game, which is all puzzle games, is a MMO as well, and people are mostly nice to each other.

  198. 198
    Amphiox

    There was a game for the CD-I (Zelda’s Adventure, IIRC), with Zelda as the PC

    Aauugh! You talked about the abomination that was the CD-I Zelda “game”.

    Unclean! Unclean! Holy water! Holy water!!!!

  199. 199
    Amphiox

    Another example of a developer trying to take advantage of the DiD trope by trying to make the gamer himself (targeting male gamers) feel like the one rescuing the main female PC is the latest Tomb Raider. And in this case the developers flat out stated it explicitly when they were asked, saying they designed the game with the aim of making the player want to “protect” Lara, as opposed to seeing themselves as Lara Croft.

  200. 200
    ck

    ah wait remembered one! Ps2 game Primal had inverse. Female ,protagonist trying to save boyfriend from god of chaos.

    Beyond Good & Evil inverts it, too. About a third of the way through the game, the protagonist, Jade, ends up with her father-figure, Pey’j, kidnapped, and you spend the rest of the game trying to get him back. As a nice bonus, Jade actually has something resembling a personality.
    Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time avoided this trope, too, despite hitting a few others on the way. Farah was a decent character who could generally hold her own. The next two games fared much worse. Warrior Within featured a woman in a metal thong (extrapolate from that what you will), and The Two Thrones had Farah kidnapped part way through the game, despite the fact she was portrayed as even more bad-ass than her prior appearance.

  201. 201
    Amphiox

    One RPG I remember that had a real gameplay difference based on gender was Arcanum.

    A female PC had a -1 strength penalty and a +1 constitution bonus on top of the base stats compared to a male.

    And several sidequests had different possible solutions dependent on the PC’s gender. (Though in one of them the “good” option for a female PC meant engaging in prostitution.)

  202. 202
    Azuma Hazuki

    @Laurent

    Just that you know from Monster World 4 and the Phantasy Star series gets you a big hug from me :) Aeris must have been pretty surprised to see Nei and Alys Brangwyn, huh? Like “Crap, I thought I was the first one to do this.”

    Regarding Samus, she actually was one of the reasons I came to like tall, strong women (and this from someone who’s already 6′). Even more amazing is how, leaving Other M aside, Samus is still not only relatively sane but actually seems emotionally healthy despite all the horrible things she’s been through and faced down. Other M, in my opinion, badly misread the tone and meaning of her feelings for the Metroid hatchling, as well as her feelings about Adam. Yes, Fusion came after Other M canonically, but her dialog concerning Adam in Fusion did not paint her as someone in need of a father figure. Especially not one who refuses to let her turn on the damn Barrier Suit in a lava corridor. Eesh.

    This is a bit old-school, but does anyone remember Final Fantasy 6, likely as FF3? It could be argued that this is one of the most feminist games of the series, partly because it drew no attention to the fact; Celes and Terra were simply there, your heavy magic users who, I couldn’t help but notice, could wear all the big grunty armor and giant swords characters like Edgar can. Celes did have a few weird moments with Locke, but she and Terra always struck me as very strong people. Terra’s growth was amazing to watch too; her refusal to join you in the second half until you killed Humbaba wasn’t out of fear, it was because she wanted to make sure the children of Mobliz were protected no matter what, because she had come to understand the ties that bind people after a lifetime of isolation and exploitation.

    It also helps that she can one-hit-KO the final boss if you know what you’re doing :)

  203. 203
    Legion

    I do not think the damsel in distress in video games has any intent on being sexist (although it may be perceived as such, and/or be the result of it). It seems to me it is an unfortunate combination of circumstances:
    1) Video game creators are lazy story tellers.
    2) The target audience is mostly male. It is easier to relate to the playable character if it has the same gender.
    3) The playable character by definition has to be empowered, while the object of the game should not. There is no fun in playing if the cpu wins the game for you.
    4) Males are usually interested in females, not in other males. Therefore, the object in a game, if it is a person, usually is female.

    I guess the question I have is, would it be the other way around if females were the target audience?

  204. 204
    clastum3

    Is PZ #193 saying then that this difference in muscle mass is non-adaptive?

    The arguments in his penultimate para. seem to be straying in the direction of evo-psychology. It’s only evo-psychology, derided as it is round here, in combination with sexual selection, that offers a half-way plausible explanation of traits like poetry and the love of it. It’s true plausibility is a long way from proof, but in the absence of alternative explanations an a priori rejection of it seems dogmatic.

  205. 205
    la tricoteuse

    Legion (and everyone else who ever makes this argument):

    It isn’t about imagining developers (etc) sitting down and thinking “I am going to make a sexist character! Because I loves me some sexism! Stupid women! Muahahahahaha”

    It’s that they are perpetuating existing, persistent and pervasive tropes which reflect and reinforce perceptions of women in the gaming community and wider world. It doesn’t matter if they’re doing it on purpose, out of laziness, or to please their audience. It is that they are doing it and the impact it has.

    Also I’m a woman, a person who is female (adj), not a female (n).

  206. 206
    vaiyt

    @Legion:

    I do not think the damsel in distress in video games has any intent on being sexist

    Intent isn’t magic.

  207. 207
    vaiyt

    @clastum3:

    The real question is not whether it has been adaptive or not during some nebulous non-time at the dawn of man, but whether we, today, should give a fuck.

  208. 208
    vaiyt

    speaking of which, apologies to the Horde for the non-gender-neutral term. Those pesky English idioms.

  209. 209
    flyingsquirrel27

    @205 la tricoteuse states: “It’s that they are perpetuating existing, persistent and pervasive tropes which reflect and reinforce perceptions of women in the gaming community and wider world. It doesn’t matter if they’re doing it on purpose, out of laziness, or to please their audience. It is that they are doing it and the impact it has.”

    As I said above (#36); does it have the effect you are claiming? I’ve been playing games my whole life and I do not have those perceptions. I’m not standing up for the tired damsel in distress story-telling because it is boring and one dimensional, but it must be profitable. The facts of the matter are the set of circumstances as Legion stated @203 and until you can show some actual, meaningful negative effect that outweighs profit margins I don’t see things changing. That’s why I feel the focus of this video is all wrong. It assumes an outcome without proving it and then thinks that that will change a profitable industry.

    It’s like the similar arguments about violence in video games. If you are pre-disposed to being violent maybe a violent video game will prime that violence; If one is pre-disposed to being a sexist jerk than these games will reinforce that for them. But not for everyone else.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m a bored by all the hyper-masculine crap in games too (this trope being one of many) and I don’t buy it, thereby voting with my wallet. But it won’t stop until it is either unprofitable or there is enough public demand for change. I don’t think that public demand can be created without some proof of harm.

    Also. Intent matters. It may not be everything but it does matter.

    Lastly, I do think the video unfairly targets Mario. In the early days they relied on the wafer-thin plot device due to it’s accessibility and familiarity with it within their audience and the difficulty of trying something more elaborate. However, the story is just pretext for the gaming experience and due to the success of the games became ingrained into a tradition.

  210. 210
    la tricoteuse

    flyingsquirrel: All you really need to do is ask yourself (or women in your life) “are these attitudes prevalent in society as a whole?” (yes) followed by “are these attitudes mirrored in these games?” (yes) and then “does exposure to these attitudes presented in this way reinforce them?” (yes)

    If your problem is that you think one of these yesses is a no, which one(s) and why?

  211. 211
    flyingsquirrel27

    @la tricoteuse. I would have to answer you this way. There are certainly parts of society where the answer is “yes” to all of your questions. Personally, in the company I keep, the answer would be no.

    I reject the narrow attitudes that are perpetuated by this trope (and others like it). So my attitudes are not mirrored and reinforced by them. Now, for some young, dumb, kid who doesn’t know crap about the world, then it certainly could be.

    I’m not saying these tropes are good, and I don’t think anyone should be objectified. All I’m saying is that without putting on facts to fight the profit motive it’s all just shouting at the wind. I’m really speaking from a strategic standpoint. I, personally, don’t require a whole lot of convincing, but it would be nice to have actual data to fall back on. And real, provable, data will be needed to convince others.

  212. 212
    Amphiox

    This is a bit old-school, but does anyone remember Final Fantasy 6, likely as FF3? It could be argued that this is one of the most feminist games of the series, partly because it drew no attention to the fact; Celes and Terra were simply there, your heavy magic users who, I couldn’t help but notice, could wear all the big grunty armor and giant swords characters like Edgar can. Celes did have a few weird moments with Locke, but she and Terra always struck me as very strong people. Terra’s growth was amazing to watch too; her refusal to join you in the second half until you killed Humbaba wasn’t out of fear, it was because she wanted to make sure the children of Mobliz were protected no matter what, because she had come to understand the ties that bind people after a lifetime of isolation and exploitation.

    FF6 is in my opinion the best of all the Final Fantasies. One should note that Terra is the viewpoint/lead character for the first part and Celes is the viewpoint/lead character for the second. Even most of the minor background and backstory female characters like Daryl and the Soldier’s Girlfriend in Cyan’s storyline were strong and independent figures. And Relm had the highest magic stat of any character in the entire game.

    The game did use the DiD trope several times in minor plot points, but usually subverted the hell out of it. Early on you control Locke thinking he has to rescue Terra, but he does not get to her until after she has essentially extricated herself on her own and the worst of the danger is passed. Later Locke rescues Celes in their first meeting, but only by complete accident, as he did not even know she was there until he more or less walked in on her. And later on the party goes to rescue Relm from a burning building, only to get everyone trapped, and require rescuing of the entire party by an NPC.

    And of course they also present in Locke the counterpart trope to the DiD, that of the Chronic Hero Syndrome. Locke is a male character who feels compelled to rescue just about every female character he bumps into, even if he knows nothing about them at all, and we are shown in the backstory that it is caused by a severe emotional trauma and is psychologically crippling for him.

  213. 213
    Jake Hamby

    @michaeld:

    Robin is probably closer to Elaine Marley who for as often she is kidnapped often escapes without her love interest/husbands help about half those times. But from the ending of part 1 I think we’ll probably get to hear a bit about her in part 2.

    I’m really looking forward to hearing what Sarkeesian has to say about the Monkey Island games. I was a big fan of the first two games, and have purchased various remakes, including on Steam and PS3, and both games seemed to make a conscious effort towards diversity in the secondary characters (e.g. the Sword Master in the first game was a woman of color and the game didn’t take any special note of it) as well as in the relationship between Guybrush and Elaine being somewhat egalitarian.

    But starting in the third game, after Guybrush actually “gets the girl”, it seemed to start relying heavily on old 1950′s sitcom gender stereotypes. Elaine is turned into a gold statue at the beginning of the game and Guybrush’s usual bumbling behavior gets counterbalanced with tired “nagging wife” tropes on the rare occasions when Elaine is allowed to have a role in the story. I lost interest in the series at that point, when they turned a relationship between two funny and independent characters with anachronistically modern worldviews into every sitcom married couple cliché ever.

    @Alithea

    My first computer game was Pong, back when you had to have a mainframe to do it and they let me play at Dad’s work open day. I played Adventure before Zork existed, coded up Hunt the Wumpus, and played Space Invaders & Asteroids & Frogger when they first came out. And I still have a fondness for the rogue-likes. I like Spiderweb software with their ridiculous retro graphics and turn based combat and complicated stories.

    I just realized that the Infocom games (and text adventures in general), due to the nature of the medium as well as the through the choices of their creators, have to be some of the most completely gender-neutral and non-gendered computer games ever. Perhaps it’s a quirk of English that the second-person pronouns are gender neutral, because I’m racking my brain trying to think of places in for example the Zork series or Adventure where your player’s gender is ever mentioned. It is in some of the other Infocom games when your character’s gender is relevant to the story, but not otherwise. There was that attempt at an adult-themed game, Leather Goddesses of Phobos, where you have to choose your character’s gender at the beginning of the game (by walking into either the men’s room or the ladies’ room), after which point everything plays out in the stereotypical heteronormative fashion. Sort of the “Leisure Suit Larry” of text adventures.

  214. 214
    Owlglass

    Only saw the video now. I think she mounted the horse from the wrong end. The reason for the sexist tropes is not Miyamoto and those who were inspired by him, but the Monomyth which permeates western culture’s storytelling, especially adventure stories. She mentions examples, but presents this as an afterthought, when in fact, its the other way around. Adventure games are built on classic adventure stories, thus on the monomyth. Another notable influence especially for the bulk of fantasy adventure stories is Dungeons & Dragons which is heavily influenced by often very sexist pulp novels.

    Commercial realities, risk averse structures, male oriented target audiences as well as the desire to lend video games some tradition may be factors for the design choices. Another one is the way the medium works or worked at the time. It used to be ill-equipped to feature personalities and complex relationships, but it still had to feature some emotional/human component. Modern video games in genres that allow it feature more complex relationships, including homosexual ones, but enough bad examples can be found as well.

    And then there is the anti-thesis as well, the Action Girl, where the sexism is then (potentially) about staging of the female body. It is though a tad more difficult, as body aesthetics play a role with male characters as well.

  215. 215
    Daniel Edström

    As a long term hetero male über gamer (20+ years), all I can say is that I friggin loved this first video. It brings up alot of things that over time started to dawn and eventually annoy me. I hope she keeps it coming. I’m especially looking forward to the “unrealistic fantasy armor” episode (my biggest pet peeve in gaming!!!).

  216. 216
    la tricoteuse

    flyingsquirrel:

    @la tricoteuse. I would have to answer you this way. There are certainly parts of society where the answer is “yes” to all of your questions. Personally, in the company I keep, the answer would be no.

    Well, you’ll have to forgive me for the snark, but in magical fluffy cotton candy land where we all get to live only being affected by the company we choose to keep, that would be just dandy. The company I choose to keep doesn’t pull that shit, either, or I wouldn’t choose to keep that company. However, in the real world where stuff actually happens, I have to live among people whose company I do not choose, but whose attitudes I (and other women) still have to deal with on a daily basis, be they bosses, colleagues, lawmakers, people who say shitty things on the street/tube/bus/etc, the people who decide what kind of entertainment we have to choose from, whatever. We don’t get to live in bubbles where only the people we really like have the power to affect our lives. Shit is pervasive.

  217. 217
    Owlglass

    215, Daniel Edström
    “unrealistic fantasy armor”

    Yeh, that will be a good pick. Reminds of a College Humor Episode:
    Female Armor Sucks

  218. 218
    laurentweppe

    does anyone remember Final Fantasy 6, likely as FF3? [...] Terra’s growth was amazing to watch

    The thing is, I’ve never liked Terra. She’s like a twisted mix between Bella Swan and Doctor Manhattan: a quasi-omnipotent demi-goddess with so many neuroses that she spends two thirds of the game either passively following the lead of the other characters or prostrate in a corner, petrified by her personal issues.

    I mean, it’s not like she’s a badly written character: there are believable reasons why she behave like she does, but it makes her hardly likable. Some people react to this character by going all “Awwwwww, look at the horrible life she’s had, don’t you want to hug her?” While personally, i made me want to shake her while shouting “ You are stronger than the clown! So go fucking kill him!” which she eventually does, at the end of the game, after said clown has successfully wiped out most of the biosphere.

  219. 219
    freak

    @jakehamby:

    Of Infocom:
    HHGG, Shogun, and Sherlock, being literary adaptations, had forced protagonist identities.

    LGOP and Moonmist allowed the player to choose gender. Most other Infocom games lacked much NPC interaction, so it was easy to make the PC an AFGNCAAP (ageless faceless gender-neutral culturally ambiguous adventure person).

    Minor thing: in the game _Witness_, there’s an offscreen character named Terry who is deliberately of ambiguous gender. The hintbook points this out.

    Text adventures can be sexist; see Interstate Zero or The PK Girl.

  220. 220
    vaiyt

    I mean, it’s not like she’s a badly written character: there are believable reasons why she behave like she does, but it makes her hardly likable. Some people react to this character by going all “Awwwwww, look at the horrible life she’s had, don’t you want to hug her?” While personally, i made me want to shake her while shouting “ You are stronger than the clown! So go fucking kill him!” which she eventually does, at the end of the game, after said clown has successfully wiped out most of the biosphere.

    That’s a bit harsh on a character who has lived most of her life in what amounts to Hell’s abusive relationship with said clown. Terra is a psychological wreck, but in her place who wouldn’t be?

    Mind that, when Kefka decides to try and control Celes instead, she promptly stabs him in the gut.

  221. 221
    Dennis Strubbe

    *This is an example of one of those fallacious fundamental assumptions: that the slight advantage more testosterone gives to muscle mass translates into better ‘rescuing’ and ‘sexual competitiveness’.

    I guarantee you that if you look at most cultures, you’ll find that while physical strength may be admired, it isn’t the primary attribute anyone looks at when selecting a mate; you’ll also find that the circumstances in which your survival is enhanced by an ability to lift large weights, wrestle alligators, or defeat bad guys in hand-to-hand combat are really, really rare.

    Human beings don’t do that so much any more. Better courtship skills involve dancing, conversation, and shared interests (which can be about throwing balls harder and farther, but rarely is) in any of the huge wealth of possibilities modern culture allows. Humans can acquire greater status by having better poetry skills, for instance. Or by being really good at video games — which, you’ll notice, have virtually no strength requirement at all.

    So why should physical power be such an overwhelming component of video game simulations?*

    I’m not claiming that physical strength is the primary selection that females uses, but it is not not factor that you can dismiss as you are suggesting. A key attribute of a handsome man is his height, jaw line and body composition. These men will select, on average, more high quality females then their lesser counterparts. Again, i’m not saying these are his most important attributes to attract a high quality lady, I believe that would be his big wallet :p.

    Nevertheless, when all things being equal, females will select the more masculine guy (strong jawline, muscly) over his lesser counterparts, you will understand why many males will try to emulate those guys (mainly trough bodybuilding) and why they look up to them. This in turn should not be surprising that most hero male characters depict the more alpha male look.

    An alpha look indeed isn’t really needed to function in our society, but that doesn’t mean those attributes are superfluous. It sure does help to attract the sexy ladies when you look sexy (aka masculine) to females. (look at male models/chippendales as the ideal male prototype for females sexual desires)

  222. 222
    Dennis Strubbe

    *I really have no patience for fucking liars. You can’t try to say there is nothing wrong with the trope because in nature men are stronger than women (and I guess that makes women more prone to being abducted by Martians or something) and then deny that you’re not committing to an is-ought. You’re either just trolling or very stupid.*

    I’m not saying that these tropes are wrong because they are an extension of our nature. 1)These tropes EXIST because of our nature and 2) I don’t have a problem with these tropes for other reasons*

    * those reasons are that I believe the tropes are innocent and not so pernicious as fem frequency suggests

  223. 223
    la tricoteuse

    Could that be because you lose nothing as a result of these tropes? Hm.

  224. 224
    Dennis Strubbe

    *Yes, all men are stronger than all women, see, and overlapping bell curves do not exist with respect to the all-important, defining measure of… upper body strength.*

    No, not all men are stronger than all women. I’ve always stated that the differences are on average. The bell curves overlap, but the physical strength differences (both upperbody and lower body) are overwhelming enough.

  225. 225
    Dennis Strubbe

    *“Female lower body absolute strength is only 20% to 35% lower than that of males. For lower body strength, the gender differences disappear when expressed relative to lean body mass.”*

    Lol, who gives a chit about relative strength right :D
    An ant has relatively more strenghth than an human since it can carry 6 times his weight, but I can squash them with my pinky finger.

  226. 226
    Dennis Strubbe

    *Could that be because you lose nothing as a result of these tropes? Hm.*

    No, since I believe I would also lose nothing when the sex roles are reversed.

    It is hard to imagine such a videogame tough. I would consider that weird. No more, no less.
    Not sure if these reverse sex roles videogames would sell lower than the default sex roles games, but if they do, then the criticism of fem frequency would be rightfully so ignored by people who invested money in these games.

  227. 227
    la tricoteuse

    No, since I believe I would also lose nothing when the sex roles are reversed.

    On what basis?

    It is hard to imagine such a videogame tough. I would consider that weird. No more, no less.

    Ask yourself why.

  228. 228
    Feline

    Dennis Strubbe @ 221:

    A key attribute of a handsome man is his height, jaw line and body composition.

    You don’t actually know any real women, do you?

  229. 229
    Dennis Strubbe

    *Jesus fucking christ. WhenSkyrim came out, half of my female friends said, “I’ll see you in a couple of weeks–gonna be playing.”

    (The other half don’thave an appropriate console.)

    I hope all those female athletes–you know, the ones who get all sweaty and injured–are aware that Belgian sexists disapprove. That’s ever so much more intimidating than another woman bearing down on them with a lacrosse stick, or driving hard for the basket. *eyeroll*

    Anyone who wants to see what female marathoners can do should look up the stats for the 2011NYC marathon, easily found via google (they didn’t run in 2012 because of hurricane Sandy). The most obvious pattern is that the top female finishers beat 99% of the men (I think the #1 woman was #18 overall, in a field of 40,000).

    (I am not googling because I’m posting from a Nook, not a real computer.)

    One-third of the women beat 50% of the men. I don’t consider 1/3 a trivial fraction. These are not weird outliers jammed in the tail of the bell curve.*

    Half of your female gamers are probably not attractive (because they are gamers) so their opinions don’t really count + it’s an anecdotal argument.

    Ofcourse a top female will run faster than 99% of the male population, but a top female has never won against a top male and also never will (maybe unless she injects steroids in her body, which are male hormones, so that’s not really an argument for your case). There is a reason why there is a sex segregation in sports(this is because top males always outperform females. Imagine a boxing round against a random male and female. Would you bet on the female ? Your ass would be broke in 5 seconds, that’s the amount of time the man needs to ko a female)

  230. 230
    Rey Fox

    Dennis, please blockquote. Like this:

    <blockquote> the stuff that’s quoted<blockquote>

    It’s hard enough reading your cluelessness without having to squint to figure out where to actually start.

  231. 231
    Rey Fox

    Dammit, one little error:

    <blockquote> the stuff that’s quoted</blockquote>

  232. 232
    Dennis Strubbe

    *You don’t actually know any real women, do you?*

    Altough it might be true that batman’s hulk like body is more of a male fantasy than female’s fantasy, I believe it is false since the chippendales physique are muscly, higher than average and have the strong jawline. Same applies for males bodies.

    Ofcourse guys would love to have those attributes because they understand it will attract the high quality females.

    Your link is interesting however because it shows that BOTH males and females will consume media that conveys the ideal sexy male and female.

    If the magazine (and other media) shows an ideal male, females will look at it because they are attracted to and males will look at it because it will inform them what is considered ideal. (this is why Ronaldo, the famous soccerplayer, is such a popular subject to talk about between guys).

    Similarly, a sexy female in a magazine (and other media) will inform girls what guys think is the ideal look and guys will look at it cause they are sexy.

    I remember a case in belgium where the sales of a magazine was 30% dropped when the magazine CEO decided to show a fat women on it’s cover magazine. And the most important part: majority of the magazine’s reader were women! This is not surprising IF you consider that females also have a good idea on what is perceived as sexy and what not and that they don’t benefit from a magzine if they protray an unattractive woman on it’s cover. The magazine was called ‘libelle’ btw.

  233. 233
    Dennis Strubbe

    Dennis, please blockquote. Like this:

    Testing.

  234. 234
    vaiyt

    Altough it might be true that batman’s hulk like body is more of a male fantasy than female’s fantasy, I believe it is false since the chippendales physique are muscly, higher than average and have the strong jawline. the opinions of a woman on their own tastes don’t matter, so I’ll explain to them what they think.

  235. 235
    Dennis Strubbe

    Finally, you are ignoring my point in that women can be the solider, the sword wielding warrior, the competent wizard, the cunning rogue as easily as any man in a story. Which is what I’m getting at.

    In a factive story, I totally agree, in a factive story men and women can be anything. But on the same hand, a good proportion of our fictive stories are an extension of our own beliefs.

    It’s not hard to understand why most fictive stories would have a male soldier instead of a female since there are more male soldiers in real life.

    I, personally, would consider it a weird fictive story indeed if the protoganist was a female soldier. Weird as in, the sex of the protaginist would certainly stick in my mind, it is the unexpected in the story.

    I would not consider it ‘weird’ if the female was a wizard, but the story would feel a bit awkward if the female wizard saved the male.

    I’m talking about my own feelings here, but I imagine/assume it extrapolates to my male counterparts.

  236. 236
    Dennis Strubbe

    the opinions of a woman on their own tastes don’t matter, so I’ll explain to them what they think.

    I didn’t really read a female opinion, since there wasn’t any questionnaire that asked for it and where N was 1000+ females and the sampling was randmly selected. All I got was a comic.

    Since I got a comic, I would counter argue with the phenomena of male models and chippendales. These are considered as sexy by women and they have predominantly a strong jawline, a tall body and a musculatory body. (not sure, but I reckon male prostitues all have those same characteristics).

    I also infer what men are attracted to simply by observing on what type of females they look at. (pornstars, female models, prostitutes)

  237. 237
    Dennis Strubbe

    post 235 factive = fictive.

  238. 238
    Dennis Strubbe

    post 235 factive story = fictive story.

  239. 239
    Myoo

    I’m talking about my own feelings here, but I imagine/assume it extrapolates to my male counterparts.

    You assume wrong.

  240. 240
    Dennis Strubbe

    You assume wrong.

    Riveting and thoughtprovoking counter arguments.

  241. 241
    michaelbusch

    @Dennis Strubbe: “Lol, who gives a chit about relative strength right”

    It’s the relevant metric when it comes to moving your own body around. And, as has been said repeatedly, this all is irrelevant.

    Please stop pushing nonsense.

  242. 242
    vaiyt

    Until you bring something substantive to the table, Dennis, all you have is bluster with no significance.

    Your cultural universals are anything but, your personal opinions cannot be extrapolated as a general trend, and your just-so stories about humanity’s past say nothing about the here and now.

    You also make a fundamental error of holding the status quo as an immutable – as if we human beings have no history, no brain plasticity and no capacity to change cultural attitudes. “It’s just how it is” has never been sufficient reason to leave it as it is.
    There were times, some of them not long ago, where people thought that women had no natural aptitude for sports, science, politics, law enforcement, writing (and the list goes on)… it was “just how things are”, and the defenders of the status quo deluded themselves, as you do now, by thinking their current state of affairs was natural law.
    By all means keep droning on about how upper body strength and lantern jaws means women cannot have agency in fiction. Just don’t expect to be taken seriously.

  243. 243
    Dennis Strubbe

    It’s the relevant metric when it comes to moving your own body around. And, as has been said repeatedly, this all is irrelevant.

    But we aren’t talking about moving your own body around, we are talking about who is stronger.

    You can say that females are equally strong than males IF you control for their lack of muscle, but that’s missing the whole point isn’t it when I claim that males are generally stronger than females. There is a reason why combat sports are all sex segregated :D

    The physical power is so prevalent in our society and other societies, it makes sense that it translates to our media. Games represent what we already perceive in the real world: stronger males and weak females. Ofcourse there is more variation in the real world than what the games presents us, but developers aren’t obliged to depict the real world are they ?

  244. 244
    Dennis Strubbe

    There were times, some of them not long ago, where people thought that women had no natural aptitude for sports, science, politics, law enforcement, writing (and the list goes on)… it was “just how things are”, and the defenders of the status quo deluded themselves, as you do now, by thinking their current state of affairs was natural law.

    They are still true in some sense, but the differences are relative. Men are more into sports, science, politics, law enforcement etc (not sure about writing). There is a clear-cut sex segregation. These are still ‘natural laws’. Ofcourse, that doesn’t mean you can’t bend them. You can push women in these domains, you can invent affirmative actions, create a female-friendly environment, etc and this can change the sex ratio. This doesn’t mean the natural law is wrong, but that people constructed structures that bent the state of affairs.

    Relating all of these to the OP: as long as males are physically stronger than females (thus females as the weaker sex), this ‘cultural attitude’ won’t change.

    Can we change this ? Hard to do. We have to inject boys with female hormones and females with male hormones……oh wait, this is evidence for my position again :D

  245. 245
    michaelbusch

    @Dennis Strubbe:

    >>The physical power is so prevalent in our society and other societies, it makes sense that it translates to our media. Games represent what we already perceive in the real world: stronger males and weak females. <<

    Again, we have explained may times over that that is nonsense.

    But since you don't seem to be getting it:

    Physical strength is not a single variable. If you want to pick up a big rock, what's relevant is the total amount of force from your upper-body muscles. If you want to run a marathon, what's relevant is the relative strength of your low-body muscles – that determines how fast you run, how much endurance you have, and how good you lungs and heart are at supplying oxygen. You are taking one narrow definition of strength and making a completely incorrect and irrelevant generalization.

    And, again, physical strength is only one contribution to how well someone does in a hand-to-hand fight. And, also again, how well you do in hand-to-hand combat is only one contribution to acts of heroism.

    No, game developers aren't obliged to depict the real world. But when they promote inaccurate and harmful stereotypes, it is necessary to recognize the problem and call them on it.

  246. 246
    Dennis Strubbe

    If you want to pick up a big rock, what’s relevant is the total amount of force from your upper-body muscles.

    Not just upperbody, but i get your point

    If you want to run a marathon, what’s relevant is the relative strength of your low-body muscles

    Yes, but the claim is the difference in males and females. Males are better in marathon running than females. This is because their body is more suited than that of females to perform better at marathons. Not claiming that females can’t run marathons, only that males are better in it.

    You are taking one narrow definition of strength and making a completely incorrect and irrelevant generalization.

    Not really, since we are discussing about how videogame heroes and how females are depicted.
    Heroes need to swing their swords, jump high, run fast, fight against another male villain etc. In all these behaviors, males generally outperform females.

    physical strength is only one contribution to how well someone does in a hand-to-hand fight

    Yes, one, but don’t say ‘only’, since it’s the biggest contributor :p Look at the weight divisions in fighting sports.

    how well you do in hand-to-hand combat is only one contribution to acts of heroism.

    Correct, but the images that fem frequency showed the male protagonists had to use their physical power to save a female.

  247. 247
    throwaway

    Here Dennis, a simple question for you.

    Men of African descent are more physically capable on average than men of European descent. Why aren’t the heroes in the games predominately of African decent?

  248. 248
    michaelbusch

    Dennis continues be nonsensical:

    This is because their body is more suited than that of females to perform better at marathons.

    No, as has been explained.

    Yes, one, but don’t say ‘only’, since it’s the biggest contributor :p Look at the weight divisions in fighting sports.

    Irrelevant. Real fights aren’t two people in a ring, as my karate and aikido instructors always reminded me. Height and strength (and relative strength of different muscle groups) do matter, but so do speed, timing, leverage, flexibility, any weapons, and the entire environment in which the fight is taking place.

    In all these behaviors, males generally outperform females.

    No. Ability to accurately shoot a handgun does not depend on body mass, just to take one example (unless you are considering something with absurdly high recoil).

    Correct, but the images that fem frequency showed the male protagonists had to use their physical power to save a female.

    Which was part of the point – that is not the only way stories can be written, and that sort of plot and the the tropes associated with it are far too common.

    Please either stop the nonsense, or take it elsewhere.

  249. 249
    Dennis Strubbe

    Men of African descent are more physically capable on average than men of European descent. Why aren’t the heroes in the games predominately of African decent?

    Because most videogame players are white.

    Videogame developers also want to develop characters gamers can recognise themselveves in it.

    Your question would certainly blow my thesis away if gamer developers only cared about which population are the physically strongest.

    But you are correct here and game developers are making a huge factual error! I hope the black community gather their forces and protests to this phenomena! lol not srs

  250. 250
    Dennis Strubbe

    No. Ability to accurately shoot a handgun does not depend on body mass, just to take one example (unless you are considering something with absurdly high recoil).

    Show me a videogame that fem frequency showed us where the male protagonist only had to use a handgun to shoot accurately in order to save a girl.

  251. 251
    Dennis Strubbe

    Height and strength (and relative strength of different muscle groups) do matter, but so do speed, timing, leverage, flexibility, any weapons, and the entire environment in which the fight is taking place.

    Randomly select a male and female in a population. Let them fight eachother. Men will generally beat women. If you think otherwise, then lol. Just lol.

  252. 252
    michaelbusch

    Show me a videogame that fem frequency showed us where the male protagonist only had to use a handgun to shoot accurately in order to save a girl.

    As I said, that was just one example. You continue to completely miss the point.

    Randomly select a male and female in a population. Let them fight eachother. Men will generally beat women. If you think otherwise, then lol. Just lol.

    Your statement is meaningless. “Let them fight each other” _how_ ? Again, real fights aren’t two people in a ring.

  253. 253
    SallyStrange

    They are still true in some sense, but the differences are relative. Men are more into sports, science, politics, law enforcement etc (not sure about writing). There is a clear-cut sex segregation. These are still ‘natural laws’. Ofcourse, that doesn’t mean you can’t bend them. You can push women in these domains

    Push women? Who is pushing women? Again with this weird protectionism, kind of like Lee Coye, who was so concerned with the fragile women who were being pushed to somehow serve against their will on the front lines of combat. Like, women have no true desire to participate in sports, science politics, law enforcement – and the proof of this is that they aren’t doing that. Again the question is the same: if women are so “naturally” uninterested in such things, if “you” (you being male, I suppose) have to “push” them into it, then why have men been pushing women OUT of sports, politics, etc.? If women are naturally uninterested in running marathons, why did men make rules forbidding women from running marathons? And why did men feel the need to physically attack women in a futile attempt to prevent them from running marathons once women did start doing it?

    Dennis, face it: you don’t make any sense, and the reason you don’t make any sense is because you’re trying to justify a series of illogical premises which are actually not your original observations, but trite repetitions of the very sexist tropes that kicked off the discussion via that video in the OP. If sociologists were wrong about how our culture influences us to hold beliefs, even false one, via conditioning and implicit bias and all those other concepts you claim to know better than social scientists about, you wouldn’t be here spouting this nonsense.

  254. 254
    SallyStrange
    Men of African descent are more physically capable on average than men of European descent. Why aren’t the heroes in the games predominately of African decent?

    Because most videogame players are white.

    LOL, he sounds just like Shermer.

    “Why aren’t there more women?”

    “Because it’s a guy thing.”

    —————

    “Why aren’t there more black people?”

    “Because it’s a white thing.”

    “Oh, you mean there are more white people because there are more white people?”

    “Yes.”

    “Golly, thanks Mr. Smarty-Pants Skeptic. It’s a good thing you came along to explain these difficult concepts.”

  255. 255
    SallyStrange

    Randomly select a male and female in a population. Let them fight eachother. Men will generally beat women. If you think otherwise, then lol. Just lol.

    What’s the average width of the Hudson River? Let’s say it’s 68 feet. Okay, we’re standing here on the bank of the Hudson river and we need to get across. Let’s build a bridge with same width as the average width of the Hudson River. If you think you need to know the specific width of the river at the specific point at which you are attempting to build a bridge, LOL. Just LOL.

    In other news, Dennis is really insecure. Dennis, the fact that you share some physical characteristics with a demographic grouping that is statistically likely to be slightly larger and stronger than another demographic grouping doesn’t mean that you, personally, share those characteristics of being large and strong and definitely being able to beat up a woman in a fight. If it’s really important to you that you be able to beat up a woman in a fight, I suggest you take some martial arts classes.

  256. 256
    throwaway

    Because most videogame players are white.

    Videogame developers also want to develop characters gamers can recognise themselveves in it.

    Are you putting the cart before the horse? Are video game players white because developers cater to them, or is it possible that the developers have simply been selling other demographics short all these years? Maybe there has been a cultural impasse that developers are finally overcoming due to society reinforcing the idea that video games are “for” young white males. The perception often makes reality.

    Your question would certainly blow my thesis away if gamer developers only cared about which population are the physically strongest.

    By your own admission, the physical prowess of whatever is represented on screen can be irrelevant to race and gender and need not reflect reality in the most absolutist of terms. Thanks for coming around to agreeing with us. I knew you had it in you!

  257. 257
    SallyStrange

    I didn’t really read a female opinion

    Hands down, the most truthful statement Dennis has made so far.

  258. 258
    vaiyt

    They are still true in some sense, but the differences are relative. Men are more into sports, science, politics, law enforcement etc (not sure about writing). There is a clear-cut sex segregation. These are still ‘natural laws’.

    Except they aren’t, since in order to keep the differences, opportunities have to be carefully segregated. You’re engaging in the exact same sort of just-world fallacy that people in the past used to justify forbidding women from taking part, or severely restrict their role, in all those activities I mention. You assume the playing field is level when it’s always been anything but.

  259. 259
    vaiyt

    Are you putting the cart before the horse? Are video game players white because developers cater to them, or is it possible that the developers have simply been selling other demographics short all these years?

    Classic example: for way too many years, selling games to “girls” meant unplayable crap like Barbie games, which neither sex wanted to play because they were crap. The lack of sales only reinforced the notion that gaming wasn’t “for” women, the exact kind of vicious circle Dennis keeps invoking.

    Up comes The Sims, a game that tapped into what many women actually wanted to play, and becomes a sales juggernaut.

  260. 260
    Rey Fox

    How can you identify a female opinion anyway? Lift up its skirt?

    LOL, he sounds just like Shermer.

    Oh Sally, are you witch hunting again?

  261. 261
    Amphiox

    Ofcourse a top female will run faster than 99% of the male population, but a top female has never won against a top male and also never will

    Don’t be so confident about that “never”, Dennis. In fact a woman who finishes 18th in a mixed race marathon has already beaten all but 17 of the top males.

    In fact, given differences between male and female physiology, in the field of endurance running you can make a pretty solid prediction that once all barriers to participation and training have equalized there will almost certainly be a distance above which females will on average do better.

    And it does not appear that you have yet answered my first question to you. Why do you think that in survival disaster situations that REALLY test an individual’s physical toughness and endurance, historically women have had a HUGE survival advantage over men?

  262. 262
    Amphiox

    And here is an example of one athletic sport where women have reached parity with men in performance:

    http://www.onlinetri.com/sites/romuald-lepers/documents/2012Channel.pdf

    And it is one where one can reasonably hypothesize that eventually women will be seen to outperform men, on average (due to higher percentage body fat which means improved insulation and increased bouyancy).

  263. 263
    Amphiox

    I mean, it’s not like she’s a badly written character: there are believable reasons why she behave like she does, but it makes her hardly likable. Some people react to this character by going all “Awwwwww, look at the horrible life she’s had, don’t you want to hug her?” While personally, i made me want to shake her while shouting “ You are stronger than the clown! So go fucking kill him!” which she eventually does, at the end of the game, after said clown has successfully wiped out most of the biosphere.

    From the point of view of game storylines, particularly in narrative dependent games like RPGs, it matters less what kinds of crippling neuroses the characters might have at the start of the game as how they are resolved over the course of the game.

    And with respect to the issue of sexist tropes in the FF6 game in particular, it should be pointed out that crippling psychological neuroses are gender indiscriminate in FF6. Every single character has them. And arguably the most psychologically balanced and healthy player character in that game is female, ie Relm.

    Also, Terra isn’t actually stronger than the psycho clown until near the end of the game, after the player level grinds her.

  264. 264
    flyingsquirrel27

    @la tricoteuse (re: #216): You asked me to talk to the women in my life, and I did, and I responded in to that specifically as well as a more generalized response. I was trying to be honest, forthright, and civil. As such, I don’t believe that snark was an appropriate response. Moreover, your snark negatively effects your argument. It has devolved to saying that you’re right because you experience things you don’t like while in the “real” world.

    We all experience things we don’t like that are outside of our control. My only response to your #216 comment and the argument it makes is that life is hard, where a helmet. We all have to face things we don’t like on a daily basis, the fact that you’re a woman may mean that some of those things are different than what I face but, generally, does not make what I face any less valid, nor yours somehow a special burden in some way.

    Obviously, this is remote from the greater discussion at hand – that being the video above, etc.

  265. 265
    flyingsquirrel27

    Sorry, “life is hard, where a helmet” should have read life is hard, wear a helmet. My only excuse is the late hour.

  266. 266
    Maureen Brian

    Dennis Strubbe,

    I acknowledge that English is not your first language but you have been told this repeatedly on two threads. Let me try again.

    Do not use the word female (an adjective) when referring to humans. The word you need is woman, plural women (both nouns). The use of the former in this context is not simply incorrect. It is regarded as offensive because it has been recognised as a known part of a pattern of disparaging and demeaning treatment of women.

    Even if you are entirely innocent, which I doubt, you are still behaving badly to repeat it once you have been told to stop.

    And if you don’t grasp this and act upon it I will pop across the North Sea to Belgium – swimming if need be as per Amphiox’s link at 262 – and fucking strangle you, slowly.

  267. 267
    theoreticalgrrrl

    Female is disparaging? How? I prefer the word female over woman or girl, personally. The words woman and girl are frequently used to by men to disparage other men.
    ‘Female’ doesn’t have the same baggage.

  268. 268
    Xaivius (Formerly Robpowell, Acolyte of His Majesty Lord Niel DeGrasse Tyson I)

    @266, and everyone else responding to Dennis: This man is a troll or an asshole of the highest calibre, simply because he said this:

    Half of your female gamers are probably not attractive (because they are gamers) so their opinions don’t really count + it’s an anecdotal argument.

    This little bit of sexist, man-splaining shit is all I need to see to know that every single opinion Mr. Strubbe has on this subject is going to be fucking idiotic. Please stop feeding the troll.

  269. 269
    throwaway

    Thanks for the concern rob but pharyngula feeds trolls til they explode or get splattered by the banhammer. It’s good to sharpen and sniny up our fangs. I don’t think they are a “troll” simply because their views are outrageously sexist and demeaning, because I see them parroted in all seriousness. I think he’s a fucking joke, but the views, the source of his views, are held by him in all seriousness. Because the Internet is like alcohol: you can tell yourself you’re not really that way, it was just the anonymity/booze talking, but really all that is just a cover for losing inhibition and finally getting something off your chest that you know will piss people off. Trolls? I really doubt they exist on the scale modern Internet denizens insist. Just assholes with opinions.

  270. 270
    Azuma Hazuki

    @218/263

    Very good points all ’round, though with others I think Laurent is being too hard on Terra, considering what kind of absolute hell she went through.

    FF6 is about a band of broken people, and eventually a broken world, teaming up and patching it all back together to save themselves and the planet they love from a cackling, insane nihilist sociopath with literally Godlike powers (the final battle looks a lot like something out of Dante’s Inferno, where the mutated Fiend statue is buried in black ice from the waist down…).

    There’s even a little self-aware shout out to this, where Kefka says “This is sickening! You sound like chapters from a self-help booklet!” But it’s good self-help. And neurosis is spread across a good 2/3 of the cast. Let’s survey:

    – Terra – half human, half Genjuu (how did Woolsey get “ESPer” out of “illusionary beast?”), exploited and literally mind-controlled for years, turned into a biological weapon for Gastra’s insane ambitions. Only learned of her parents after a massive freakout. Still saves the world. Cares for a whole village of children. Can, as stated, one-hit KO the final boss with a little planning, which is immensely satisfying for story reasons.
    – Locke – “Compulsive Hero Syndrome” indeed, tortured by guilt over failing to save Rachel. A genuinely noble man, but his thiev^H^H^H^H^H treasure hunting is classic displacement behavior. Even as a child his seeming carefree nature never fooled me.
    – Edgar and Sabin – Not that neurotic, really, but I do wonder about Edgar’s constant womanizing. He seems honorable though; seems more like flirting than actual objectification of women, and I have a funny feeling he’s still a virgin. Sabin is amazingly levelheaded by comparison, and one of my favorite characters for that reason. Also because he suplexed a friggin’ train.
    – Cyan – THIS is the character you just want to hug. This introduced me to “adult fears” (losing your family) as a little girl. His honor and discipline in the face of constant heartbreak are inspirational. I wish people in real life could appear in spirit and comfort the living as Elain and Owain did for him.
    – Gau – Okay, this one too. He seems a bit one-dimensional and growing up on the Veldt definitely means he’ll never develop normally, but that one scene with the old guy in the abandoned house…gahh, that physically hurt.
    – Celes – I don’t even know where to start with her. She was the one I identified with more as a teenager, after having had an innocent girlcrush on her previously. Arguably not as traumatic a story as Terra’s, but there are some seriously creepy bits of backstory if you read the Japanese source material…such as that Gastra intended to breed her and Kefka to produce a lineage of Magitek knights. A bit brittle, but amazingly tough still.
    – Shadow – Just…Shadow. “Remember there are many in this world like me who have killed their emotions.” No, Shadow, you didn’t. I know about the Memento Ring, and I know why Interceptor cares for Relm.
    – Setzer – Part Locke, part Edgar, somehow not as sympathetic as either. Definitely grew as a person since the party meets him though, and you can’t stay mad at a guy with two airships.

    I even feel sorry for Kefka: by all accounts he was driven insane by the prototypical magic-infusion process (“Gastra’s methods are incorrect; you can’t drain a live Genjuu of all its power”). Maybe he was a psychopath to begin with, but we don’t know that, and we’re never told what he experienced. And to end the way he did…Godlike power or now, he was completely insane and probably bored off his skull too. Anyone who spouts lines like “I will create a monument to non-existence” is not in a good place mentally.

  271. 271
    laurentweppe

    Every single character has them. And arguably the most psychologically balanced and healthy player character in that game is female, ie Relm.

    That’s false and you know it: the most sane and balanced character is obviously Interceptor: enough with the bipedal ethnocentrism!

    ***

    Terra isn’t actually stronger than the psycho clown until near the end of the game, after the player level grinds her.

    It’s a classic case of deliberate disconnect between the gameplay and the story: it’s why the elite soldiers sent with Terra as a vanguard in Narshe at the beginning of the game are level one, or how Celes, a general who easily conquered the western side of the southern continent, or Cyan, who’s supposed to be worth a whole company of soldiers on his own are only around level 10 when they joins the team. The game throw actually a few subbtle hints at you: like how in the early part of the games Magitek armors, which are supposed to be these virtually unstopable war machines, are quite manageable when Terra is in the Team, but lead to a near instantaneous game over when Lock is alone again them.

    One should also note that this is not the only game in the series which works that way: in FF7, Cloud is first presented as a former member of the elite division of the megacorp Shinra’s army, whose enormous strenght and martial skill are nonetheless hopelessly outmatched by Sephiroth’s. By the end of the game, we discorver that
    1. Cloud never was a member of the elite division “Solider” and was living in an elaborate fantasy, helped by the fact that he was used as test subject for an experience similar to the process that turns regular humans into members of “Soldier”
    2. Cloud had actually killed Sephiroth before he became a guinea pig, at a point when he was merely an angry teenager running on adrenalin
    The kind of “strenght” Cloud needed was not to be able to swing his oversized sword faster (since he was pretty much already the world’s stongest in this department at sixteen) but to confront his own inner demons.
    Back to the topic at hand, this game is another example were the protagonist does not starts at level 70 because if the gameplay perfectly mirrored the plot, the player would be left without any challenge. But it works in FF7 because neither the player, left in the dark in the early parts of the game, nor the protagonist himself, trapped as he is in his confabulations, are aware of this, while in FF6, the plot keeps telling us how special and in a league of her own Terra is.

    ***

    how did Woolsey get “ESPer” out of “illusionary beast?”

    Lack of space to write the text: a recurent problem in ye old timey cartidges with their very limited memory size to physical volume ratio

  272. 272
    vaiyt

    I’d like to say – if it’s so important that every video game hero be a clone of a Hollywood celebrity, why does a fat plumber with a giant nose outsells all of them by a mile?

    2. Cloud had actually killed Sephiroth before he became a guinea pig, at a point when he was merely an angry teenager running on adrenalin
    The kind of “strenght” Cloud needed was not to be able to swing his oversized sword faster (since he was pretty much already the world’s stongest in this department at sixteen) but to confront his own inner demons.

    It’s one of the reasons I can’t stand Advent Children. They not only arrested Cloud’s character development for the sake of one more fight, they also sold his skill short so Sephiroth would appear to be the superior fighter again.
    Crisis Core (the prequel that shows the backstory of FFVII) makes it clear that teenage Cloud was already the best swordsman around – better than Zack, Angeal or Genesis, maybe second only to Sephiroth himself.

  273. 273
    Legion

    It isn’t about imagining developers (etc) sitting down and thinking “I am going to make a sexist character! Because I loves me some sexism! Stupid women! Muahahahahaha”

    It’s that they are perpetuating existing, persistent and pervasive tropes which reflect and reinforce perceptions of women in the gaming community and wider world. It doesn’t matter if they’re doing it on purpose, out of laziness, or to please their audience. It is that they are doing it and the impact it has.

    (205, la tricoteuse)

    It seems to me that if there is no intent and the reasons for the situation have nothing to do with sexism at all, the video game makers are not to be blamed. It is not their fault that their creations get interpreted in a certain way.

    To put it in other words. Saying that Mario saving Peach promotes sexism is like saying Mario jumping on Goomba’s promotes violence. If that actually were to happen to individuals, there is something seriously wrong with those individuals. And we should do something about those individuals. Not the video games.

  274. 274
    Legion

    Damn, I messed up with the quotes. The quote ends at “impact it has”.

    Sorry.

  275. 275
    Rey Fox

    The words woman and girl are frequently used to by men to disparage other men.

    But the word “female” is used to disparage women. To erase their maturity and agency. Trust me and Maureen, we’ve seen it.

  276. 276
    freak

    Individual DistressedDamsel games say little about sexism. Their prevalence throughout the industry as a whole, and lack of reverse, however, does.

    (Similar to how an indidual movie’s failing the Bechdel test says little, but taken over an industry, especially compared to the reverse Bechdel test, says a lot.)

    Forgot to mention _Pludered Hearts_ among Infocom games.

  277. 277
    evilisgood

    Half of your female gamers are probably not attractive (because they are gamers) so their opinions don’t really count + it’s an anecdotal argument.

    The opinions of ugly women who play games don’t matter when it comes to the games that they play. You are a gem, sir! A real catch. How about the opinions of ugly men who are gamers? Do they matter?

    You know what? Don’t answer. Your opinion is irrelevant because you’re probably smelly (because you’re Belgian).

  278. 278
    Amphiox

    while in FF6, the plot keeps telling us how special and in a league of her own Terra is.

    With respect to Kefka though, the plot also tells us that he is in the same league as she is (along with Celes), and has seniority to both of them within it.

  279. 279
    glodson

    Half of your female gamers are probably not attractive (because they are gamers) so their opinions don’t really count + it’s an anecdotal argument.

    Go fuck yourself, asshole. You fucking idiot.

    Their appearances don’t factor onto the validity of their opinion, you douchebag.

    Seriously, you are an asshole that gives other assholes a bad reputation.

  280. 280
    Xaivius (Formerly Robpowell, Acolyte of His Majesty Lord Niel DeGrasse Tyson I)

    @Throwaway 269: Ah, well then. Can we at least make fun of them and repeated rub their noses in how wrong (or not even wrong) they are? Sounds like anyone trolling gets turned into a worst case training dummy for real arguments in this case. Still, that little line had me seeing red for a bit.
    One area I see that keeps coming up is that people seem to blindly defend Miyamoto. The man has done some neat stuff with games, to be sure, but I think people are taking his abilities a touch far.

  281. 281
    evilisgood

    WRT awesome female NPC’s: Bonnie McFarlane from Red Dead Redemption and Undead Nightmare hasn’t been mentioned yet, and she should be. Bonnie is tough, smart, sarcastic, and she saves John Marston’s life a couple times. If Rockstar is smart, they will feature her in her ow adventure.

  282. 282
    evilisgood

    own*

  283. 283
    glodson

    Here’s a couple of games that take the Damsel in Distress and turns them on their heads. Hard.

    Spoilers ahead for both Braid and Silent Hill 2.

    .
    .
    .
    .
    In Braid, you are Tim. You are trying to rescue a princess, who left you earlier for some reason. The game has a fun mechanic that lets you mess with time to solve puzzles. In the last sequence, Tim and the princess work together to escape the monster. You get the the end, but you don’t reunite with the princess. She’s still above you. There’s nothing you can do, but rewind time. By rewinding, you see the truth. She’s not really a damsel in distress, you aren’t rescuing her. You are a stalker, and you are pursing the woman and the monster is trying to help her. She’s trying to stop you. It subverts the trope hard. It takes the assumption that the main character is saving the princess and hits you over the head with it. (The game has another layer, one that is hard to find, but it is an allegory for the atomic bomb as well. It makes more sense if you play it.)

    Trigger Warning, Silent Hill 2 involves a great deal of violence against women.

    In Silent Hill 2, James is in the town after getting a letter from his dead wife. The town is full of horrors, almost all of them take the form of females. There’s even sexy zombie like nurses. One masculine villain is Pyramid Head. He is introduced violently attack two female like mannequin enemies, and seemingly raping one. James later meets a woman who looks like a highly sexualized version of his dead wife, Maria. Maria spends the game either being in distress or stuffed in the fridge. James witnesses Pyramid Head kill Maria brutally a few times. There’s a reason for this. These are manifestations of Jame’s psyche. He killed his wife, who was dying of some disease. The letter was just a blank piece of paper. He feels guilt for these feelings. The game leaves up to the player to figure out why James killed his wife, was it a mercy kill or was he being selfish? Was he angry with her? It can be a complicated answer. But in the end result is that he feels guilt. Maria is a fantasy creation meant to torment him by being an idealized version of his wife, and Pyramid Head plays out the violence against her, and other women. James is fueling these sexist images to great effect. It really plays with the notions behind some if these ideas. It does so to great effect by not being overt in the message. How you play can be evidence for James either being a decent guy who is feeling guilt over euthanizing his wife according to her wishes(Maybe he felt a little anger over her being sick, as well as hating himself for this unwanted feeling), or he can be a callous douchebag who was eager to kill his wife to end his suffering through her illness(and he is a violent douchebag, being forced to confront his violence towards women by the nightmarish creations he encounters in Silent Hill.)

  284. 284
    theoreticalgrrrl

    “But the word ‘female’ is used to disparage women. To erase their maturity and agency. Trust me and Maureen, we’ve seen it.”

    How does ‘female’ erase maturity or agency? I’m a female human, I haven’t seen female used in that way, but I very often hear things like, “what are you, a woman?” or “you throw like a girl!” said in a sneering tone.
    Pretty much anything used to describe women can be used disparagingly, because being a woman is seen as contemptible and inferior and weak.

    Isn’t this just splitting hairs? I really don’t find ‘female’ offensive at all.

  285. 285
    la tricoteuse

    theoreticalgrrrl,

    What you’re talking about with “woman” and “girl” being applied to men as insults is not about the words themselves, but how to men actually being like a woman is seen as negative.

    In the case of “female” as a noun, it’s using the language of animal descriptions in nature documentaries. It’s dehumanizing. It also reduces us to our gender. A woman is a female human. “A female” is just…gender. As if that is all we are. Not people, but ambulatory vagina vessels.

    It reminds me a little of people saying “a gay” instead of “a gay man/woman.”

  286. 286
    Maureen Brian

    Look, theoreticalgrrrl, if you want to spend the rest of your life as an adjective the don’t let us stop you!

    I learned the hard way, trying to negotiate an unbiased and non-discriminatory job evaluation and pay grading system. I saw up close how language and the gender segregation of roles were important to those who were very happy, thank you, with the status quo. Reason won in the end though some never quite resigned themselves to it!

    Perhaps your moment of truth is still to come?

  287. 287
    theoreticalgrrrl

    Grrrr.

    @la tricoteuse
    Yes, I know that woman and girl are insulting when applied to men because being like a woman is considered inferior or negative. But we still use woman and girl, and we still use female. It’s not a slur, like b**ch or c*nt. Doesn’t woman and girl aslo reduce us to our gender?

    “In the case of “female” as a noun, it’s using the language of animal descriptions in nature documentaries.”
    Are you saying humans are special creatures and that animals are inferior and beneath us?

    @Maureen Brian
    “Perhaps your moment of truth is still to come?”
    That’s very patronizing. Thanks.

  288. 288
    la tricoteuse

    theoreticalgrrrl:

    @la tricoteuse
    Yes, I know that woman and girl are insulting when applied to men because being like a woman is considered inferior or negative. But we still use woman and girl, and we still use female. It’s not a slur, like b**ch or c*nt. Doesn’t woman and girl aslo reduce us to our gender?

    A woman is a female human. A girl is a juvenile female woman. Our humanity is included in the word. Female as a noun does not include our humanity, thereby reducing us to our gender.

    Are you saying humans are special creatures and that animals are inferior and beneath us?

    Oh dear. I am saying that human is what we are. I would say we are special, yes, but that is not the same as saying that (other) animals are inferior or beneath us. It takes a special kind of willfulness to interpret merely recognising the ways in which humans are different from other animals as somehow anti-animal.

    Talking about humans the way you would talk about other animals is dehumanising (the meaning is in the word. de-humanising, rendering us non-human).

    When documentaries about so-called “primitive” cultures talk about the people of those cultures like they would talk about a pride of lions, it is dehumanising and offensive. So it is with talking about women as if they are (other) animals. We call the first racist and the second sexist, but they’re both dehumanising.
    One does not have to be a heartless baby seal clubbing raw puppy eater to recognise that there are distinctions to be made between humans and non-humans. There is a pretty clear line. The meaning you’ve decided to infer was not actually contained in my words.

  289. 289
    la tricoteuse

    *That should say a girl is a juvenile female human, not woman. Derp.

  290. 290
    Rey Fox

    Theoreticalgrrrl: Have you been reading Dennis Strubbe’s comments on this thread, or any of the other threads he’s blundered his way into lately? They illustrate exactly what we’re talking about.

  291. 291
    SallyStrange

    You’ve never heard a man show his contempt for women by referring to them as females? How lucky for you. I know one guy who not only does that, he also uses “estrogen” as a synonym for “woman.” As in, “Man, you can’t listen to those estrogens. They crazy.”

  292. 292
    throwaway

    “In the case of “female” as a noun, it’s using the language of animal descriptions in nature documentaries.”
    Are you saying humans are special creatures and that animals are inferior and beneath us?

    It’s not really even a question of superiority to animals, it’s the purpose of the language – to distance from that part of the species. Man is the correlating word for woman because both are human. Male is the companion word for female and applies, generally, to most species of animal. When someone says one of ‘men, boys, guys, lads…’ we know they are referring to human men. When someone uses the term ‘female’ we may know they’re trying to refer to human females, but it ends up just disparaging them by not acknowledging that they are part of humanity. It’s like Dennis is an alien naturalist who sees women as a distinct species.

  293. 293
    anuran

    Meanwhile the World’s Coolest Dad has hacked Donkey Kong so the Princess rescues Mario:
    http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2013/03/dad-hacks-donkey-kong-for-his-daughter-princess-pauline-now-saves-mario/

  294. 294
    glodson

    Theoreticalgrrrl: Have you been reading Dennis Strubbe’s comments on this thread, or any of the other threads he’s blundered his way into lately? They illustrate exactly what we’re talking about.

    I wonder if he is a hyperskeptic as well. I just notice that the hyperskeptics are not merely content with being assholes, but rather insist on providing evidence that they are in fact assholes by means of their comments.

  295. 295
    Dennis Strubbe

    1) Silent Hill 3 had a female protagonist. Doesn`t get a mention right.
    2) not every game where a guy `saves` a girl is sexist or whatever. It`s also incorrect to say that james was saving his wife. His wife was already dead and he got a message, he was confused and started look for her. Thats not really `saving` her.
    3) this game tapped into the mind of a males sexual fantasy. It therefor should not be surprising if you see a sexy nurse, pyramid head violently attacking a female or raping one etc.

  296. 296
    leebrimmicombe-wood

    Miyamoto is in the rare position of being a creative director who can pretty much call the shots on his titles. For the rest of us devs things are not so smooth. A hurdle we have to clear with character creation and writing is getting sign-off from Marketing.

    It’s hard to convey how much high level design is influenced by Marketing. They don’t have sole control, of course, but they have a vast amount of clout, particularly when it comes to characters and brand. I’ve been involved in several attempts to position women in lead roles only to have the pitch shot down by a Marketing muppet, often with a shed-load of data to back him.

    Ah, the data. The data purports to tell us that women leads rarely sell game product, or sell it big. It tells us that focus groups of twentysomething Midwestern males don’t like women characters as much as men, or that the female characters in the Left4Dead series are the least-selected roles, that the FemShep audience was a fraction that of MaleShep. (Though at 13% [or 18% depending on your source] that’s still a significant number.)

    All of this may be true, though I suspect it is partly the product of institutional biases, particularly in focus testing, but it makes it hard to resist Marketers who are calling the shots on the brand. Particularly as the executives are liable to follow their lead.

    A friend of mine teaches a course based on his experiences working as a story writer for Lego. It shows how great ideas and imaginative concepts get shot down when the agendas of a lot of interested parties overlap, from production, to packaging, to animation, to distribution. The result is often bland and flavourless product, not out of malice, but out of a desire not to fail.

    I think the patriarchy works its voodoo in a similar way. On a 30+ million dollar AAA project (and double that when you add in the Marketing spend) the desire to minimize risk is strong. And so long as Marketing can continue to position women lead characters as a ‘risk’, unless they are an established brand such as Lara Croft or Samus, it’s going to be difficult for those of us who want to change things to change them.

    These are the words of a frustrated and fecked off dev, so take them with whatever pinch of salt you wish. But if you want to make more games with heroines, you might well have more success by going into Marketing than development.

  297. 297
    vaiyt

    It seems to me that if there is no intent and the reasons for the situation have nothing to do with sexism at all, the video game makers are not to be blamed.

    Intent isn’t magic.

  298. 298
    leebrimmicombe-wood

    It seems to me that if there is no intent and the reasons for the situation have nothing to do with sexism at all, the video game makers are not to be blamed. It is not their fault that their creations get interpreted in a certain way.

    It’s not about interpretation. It’s about creative laziness, about a culture that values women in a particular way, about what audiences will buy.

    Intent does not give you a pass. The dev studios I’ve worked in, in the UK and Sweden, have all been fairly liberal environments. The staff would be mortified to be thought of as sexist.

    And yet, when we create games, we keep an audience in mind. We think about what will sell. And the audience in our mind’s eye, the audience we pitch to is an archetypal twenty- to early thirty-something guy with a disposable income. And there’s an army of Marketing guys who will confirm that belief to us. You might not regard that as sexist but it surely is.

    The bias runs deep. And even those of us who are trying to change things are subject to it.

  299. 299
    Gretchen

    leebrimmicombe-wood said:

    And yet, when we create games, we keep an audience in mind. We think about what will sell. And the audience in our mind’s eye, the audience we pitch to is an archetypal twenty- to early thirty-something guy with a disposable income.

    I certainly think it’s the case that these archetypal twenty- to early thirty-something guys want to be able to play guys. I think it’s a well-founded assumption that people who play video games in which they are controlling a character want to be able to see themselves in that character, even if the character is very different from who they actually are– perhaps an idealized, fantasy version. So I don’t blame video game developers in the slightest for continuing to make games in which you play a male character.

    That being said:

    1. Women who play video games also want to see themselves reflected in the character they play, and oddly enough our idealized fantasy versions of ourselves do not necessarily line up with the idealized fantasy versions that straight men often have of us.

    2. To that end, making it possible to choose to play a male character or a female character would go a long way. It should be standard, for that matter. And I know not even all RPGs let alone all games involve character customization, but you could make the female character….well, something other than a sexpot. Wearing clothes that are actually appropriate to the task she’s supposed to perform, rather than items like a bustier, garter belt, and five inch heels.

    3. The damsel in distress trope is exactly that– a trope. You can have a male fantasy of being a powerful badass without invoking this trope. He doesn’t have to have going to rescue a helpless woman as a goal. Relying on this trope is not necessarily for marketing purposes; it’s just creative laziness. It doesn’t have to be this way.

    (I finally got around to writing a blog post on this topic, btw, if anyone’s interested.)

  300. 300
    Gretchen

    Crap, and of course I HTML failed the hyperlink. Here it is: http://cheapsignals.blogspot.com/2013/03/thoughts-on-first-tropes-vs-women-video.html

  301. 301
    vaiyt

    And yet, millions of people have “been” cartoon gorillas, blue hedgehogs, fat plumbers, robots, POCs and women in an assortment of sucessful games. They, apparently, never count.

  302. 302
    la tricoteuse

    Vaiyt*, apparently, being a man/boy playing a female character requires a WAY bigger suspension of disbelief than being a human playing a non-human.

    *I know you don’t capitalise your nym but it’s the beginning of a sentence and AAARGH CAN’T LEAVE IT LOWERCASE *pedantsplode*

  303. 303
    Ingdigo Jump

    wait there is only 18% playing Shep right? How the fujck is this series popular and where are all these male shep fans?

  304. 304
    leebrimmicombe-wood

    I certainly think it’s the case that these archetypal twenty- to early thirty-something guys want to be able to play guys.

    I like to ask colleagues what characters they play, particularly in RPGs and MMOs. I think it definitely trends towards guys, though I’m in the group who prefers playing FemShep and nearly all my RPG/MMO characters look like Flo Ballard from The Supremes. Make of that confession what you will.

    Fact is that dev teams are still overwhelmingly male (by which I mean 85% or more) and a lot of the senior creatives like myself want to make games for themselves. Which means where they have influence over the characters, you’re going to see things tilt a particular way.

    However, they don’t do this exclusively. I’ve been on a number of projects where we’ve wanted to focus on women as leads, but this is where we run into the institutional biases, led by Marketing. I have some war stories to tell if anyone is interested. What we are fighting against, is less a conspiracy and more inertia within the industry. Whether folks frame the contributing factors as preference, patriarchy or risk management, the result is the same.

    1. Women who play video games also want to see themselves reflected in the character they play, and oddly enough our idealized fantasy versions of ourselves do not necessarily line up with the idealized fantasy versions that straight men often have of us.

    As a dev I’d genuinely be interested in data on what women really want to see as their avatar. By that I don’t mean internet polls but some proper study of what they play in games with customisable characters and a survey of what women gamers desire.

    I hope people like Anita could put some of their effort in that direction. A study might be ammunition for those of us who want to try and nudge the supertanker onto a slightly different course.

    3. The damsel in distress trope is exactly that– a trope. You can have a male fantasy of being a powerful badass without invoking this trope. He doesn’t have to have going to rescue a helpless woman as a goal. Relying on this trope is not necessarily for marketing purposes; it’s just creative laziness. It doesn’t have to be this way.

    You’re right. It’s there because it’s there. An over-familiar part of the creatives’ toolbox, used when the brainstorming cannot come up with anything better (or as cheap).

    I spent the weekend playing the new Tomb Raider. It’s an interesting game in that:

    (a) I feel that the new Lara has been somewhat desexualised. Whether it’s the box art (at least on the UK edition), where she is shown with a weapon and is covering her boobs, to her presentation in the game as covered in muck and blood and scars.

    (b) They employ the capture/kidnap tropes multiple times, to the point of comedy. (I started shouting ‘not again’ at the screen after a bit.) Though here the victims are mixed gender, and only Lara gets to save the day, though at one point she gets support from a surrogate father figure.

    A good game. I need to finish it first before I can really pick it apart.

  305. 305
    Ingdigo Jump

    I seriously don’t think I know anyone who played as not Fem Shep

  306. 306
    leebrimmicombe-wood

    Well, let’s face it, the voice acting for FemShep is far better. It’s a great example of how a vocal performance can lift or sink a game.

  307. 307
    laurentweppe

    wait there is only 18% playing Shep right? How the fujck is this series popular and where are all these male shep fans?

    Remember the immature entitled wankers who went ballistic because the third episode did not end with a V-Day celebration and then started some of the most elaborate display of mental masturbation even produced in public in ordeer to hide that they mad simply because they tennage boy power-fantasy did not end like a tennage boy power-fantasy? That’s where all the male shep fans are

    ***

    I have some war stories to tell if anyone is interested

    Not only should you tell them, but you should probably find a gaming-centric site willing to publish them: the more these “war-stories” are known, the less denialists will look sincere.

    ***

    Well, let’s face it, the voice acting for FemShep is far better.

    It’s less obvious in other versions: I’d say that the french male voice actor is better than his distaff colleague for instance. (but then again, after the time spent playing the games in english, choosing a female Shepard has pretty much become a reflex)

  308. 308
    Ingdigo Jump

    Um I hated the ME3 ending so I think you’re unfair at why people didn’t like it. I had anticipated a Shep death, just hated the short sloppy lazy execution. Update is…ok. it’s not ME2 level and not a stepper ending but it works as an ending.

  309. 309
    leebrimmicombe-wood

    I rather enjoyed the ME3 ending. It was braver (and therefore ‘riskier’) than I’d expected. I wonder how that got past Brand and Marketing?

    I confess to tearing up at the Buzz Aldrin voiceover.

  310. 310
    glodson

    I hated the ending because it was a massive asspull, the whole Star Child thing bothered to no end, and it made my choices up till that point inconsequential. I didn’t need the super happy ending, and I like the idea of the main character dying at the end, it finishes the story… but the Star Child is… terrible.

  311. 311
    leebrimmicombe-wood

    Not only should you tell them, but you should probably find a gaming-centric site willing to publish them: the more these “war-stories” are known, the less denialists will look sincere.

    War stories? You got ‘em.

    I think I’ve told this one before here, but it dates from back when I was working on a well-known AAA first-person shooter franchise.

    Now, character design is certainly one of the fun parts of the job. Part of the brief is to put together a board that shows you’ve really thought out the characters and how they fit the brand. So, in addition to the backstory, the one-line description, the colour palette and the concept art, you do an exercise that lists all sorts of stuff. What’s the character’s silhouette and how is it distinctive from the other characters? What animal are they? How do they look as a cartoon rabbit? What actor would play them in a movie? It may sound silly but it’s genuinely a useful way to hone your design and to pitch the characters internally.

    You do this because Brand and Marketing will have signoff. And they in turn will have to market the game to the regional sales teams. And they will have to sell to the big chains and distributors. If you don’t have everyone in the Marketing and sales chain on board with complete confidence in your product, then you should expect a lower marketing spend and smaller pre-orders.

    Now this game had a four-player co-operative mode and so we worked at creating a foursome for the co-op story. The plan was to have a gender balance: two guys and two women, with one of the women being quite mature. On the board we cast our ideal actress as Helen Mirren.

    Brand and Marketing *hated* the idea. You could feel the hostility radiating off them. They were prepared to permit a single woman in the quartet, because they knew it would look bad if they didn’t. (Just as we also had to have a token black, and at least 50% US Americans.) But they threw everything at us to try and dissuade us. All the data and all the stories about how few folks played Rochelle from L4D2, etc.

    Anyway, we got the characters as far as a focus group. Predictably, Marketing did not present the mature lady in the best of lights. It wasn’t that they overtly sabotaged the focus group, but they certainly didn’t sell it either. Their prophecies were self-fulfilling. So we ended up having to pitch a guy in place of the Helen Mirren-a-like.

    Of course the focus groups were mainly Midwestern men in their twenties and early thirties. They hadn’t realised that they were being watched through two-way glass by women designers. Predictably, they said some fairly douchey things about the characters. Now, we’d made an error on the younger woman by not showing her with a gun, as we’d intended. This was a foul-up on our part. But the reactions were interesting, in that she was immediately dismissed as a medic/healer class with a lot of verbiage about how uninteresting the panellists felt about that. There was also some discussion about her fuckability. I suspect they wouldn’t have been so vocal had they realised they were being watched by one of the women who had created her.

    And that’s it. A group of ordinary joes from Bumfuck, Illinois, had more say over the final character mix than we did. They sank a cast member while the Marketing wonks, who hated her, danced around in ‘I told you so’ T-shirts.

    This is the reality of the biz, I’m afraid. And it’s why so many of the games we play feature musclebound lunkheads.

  312. 312
    laurentweppe

    I wonder how that got past Brand and Marketing?

    I suspect it came in the form of a “We’ve already spent over 60 millions on a game that will sell around 4 million units and rewritting the ending will increase the cost beyond rentability threshold” declaration of fait accompli.

    I confess to tearing up at the Buzz Aldrin voiceover

    Yeah, one reason I don’t like the expanded cut is that the monologues take away the punch of this part: it shows that whatever choice is made, the ragtag alliance of species who fought under Shep’s banner found a way to triumph the hardships ahead and filled the Galaxy with life.
    Also, I pictured the Reapers leaving the Galaxy and fining a purpose of their own in the two endings where they’re not destroyed: the expanded cut shows them as glorified house-servants, which I fin increadibly disapointing: it’s like if Babylon 5′s Shadows War had ended with Sheridan shouting “Get the Hell out of our Galaxy! But first, clean the mess: you broke it you bought it
    ***

    it made my choices up till that point inconsequential

    Funny how Walking Dead, which did exactly the same thing, ended up named Game of the Year by… what? three fourth of the gaming media?
    Of course, The Walking Dead started as a fatalistic tale: as the main characters had little control over the events that unfolded, so it was easy to “get” that there would be little choice regarding the conclusion, while the way the first two episodes of the Mass Effect trilogy were structured made is relatively easy for players to delude themselves into thinking that they had some control over the plot.
    But personally, I always saw the Mass Effect as the high-budget version of the Lone Wolf gamebook series: sure, as a player, you had some minute control over how the events unfolded, and choices made during the past volumes (well, mostly wether you had the Sommerswerd or not) impacted a little over the events in the following books, but in the grand scheme of things, the only one who had any real control over the story was the writter.
    And it’s not that the choices have no impact whatsoever on the final game: during Javik’s recruiting mission my Shep talked about how it was easy for her to picture the slum where she grew up turning into a war zone, while during the assault of Cerberus HQ, a radio conversation between Hackett and an increasingly unhinged Shep litterally asking to have the very base she’s on bombarded is eventually cut of by Hackett’s “You’re not on Torfan anymore“: these are the two first choices made at the beginning of the first game. Sure, they don’t affect the last negociation with Mechazathoth, but frankly, that would have not made any sense, and it’s better than the convoluted “there-are-10-endings-and-95%-of-the-audience-will-use-the-faq-to-get-the-golden-one” system that some were demanding.

  313. 313
    theoreticalgrrrl

    “You’ve never heard a man show his contempt for women by referring to them as females? How lucky for you.”
    Sally Strange, fuck off. ‘Woman’ is used contemptuously, so is it sexist to use the word woman? I haven’t heard female, to my recollection, being used in that way, that doesn’t make me ‘privileged’ as you are insinuating. I didn’t say it’s never been used as a put down. I have experienced sexism, I am a woman. You have some nerve. Female isn’t offensive anymore than woman is.

    Rey Fox, Dennis could just as easily used ‘woman’ in the place of female, it wouldn’t make a difference.

  314. 314
    Ingdigo Jump

    @312

    So are you done explaining why I’m an unwashed moronic pleb now? Are you interested ata ‘ll in my opinion or have you prejudged it as stupid and I should save my breath?

  315. 315
    rrhain

    Good stuff. I wanna see the rest of it. But ooh, my acting coach persona is coming forward with two comments:

    1) Get a little bit more enthusiasm. The end of the piece where you’re setting up the next one had more energy and persona than the actual talk you just gave. You need to take some of that and keep it through the talk. It’s a tough line to walk. You want to give enough energy to show that you’re talking about something important and the audience should pay attention but not so much that it comes across as hype. And especially on a topic such as sexist imagery, it runs the risk of sounding preachy, but I’m sure you can find the balance. I’ve seen the TEDx presentation where you talked about the backlash from the Kickstart project and that was spot on.

    2) Stop looking off to the side. I don’t know if you’re trying to check something on a secondary screen, but it’s distracting to have you shift your focus to something we can’t see. If there’s nothing over there, then stop it. I have the same habit, so I understand that you may not even realize you’re doing it.

    But the diction was good, the speaking pace was fine, you weren’t dropping the ends of your lines (god, Apple and Google need to stop having their techs do their videos and hire some actors who know how to talk.) Anything else is more about production values which I know are constrained by resources available. Really wanna see the next part.

  316. 316
    laurentweppe

    @ Ing: My: aren’t we defensive

  317. 317
    Ingdigo Jump

    there’s nothing wrong with your opinion but I’m finding you acting rather rude

  318. 318
    Ingdigo Jump

    oh ok well that answers my question.

  319. 319
    theoreticalgrrrl

    “Oh dear. I am saying that human is what we are. I would say we are special, yes, but that is not the same as saying that (other) animals are inferior or beneath us. It takes a special kind of willfulness to interpret merely recognising the ways in which humans are different from other animals as somehow anti-animal.

    Talking about humans the way you would talk about other animals is dehumanising (the meaning is in the word. de-humanising, rendering us non-human).

    When documentaries about so-called “primitive” cultures talk about the people of those cultures like they would talk about a pride of lions, it is dehumanising and offensive. So it is with talking about women as if they are (other) animals. We call the first racist and the second sexist, but they’re both dehumanising.
    One does not have to be a heartless baby seal clubbing raw puppy eater to recognise that there are distinctions to be made between humans and non-humans. There is a pretty clear line. The meaning you’ve decided to infer was not actually contained in my words.”

    @la tricoteuse

    It takes a certain kind of willfulness? Whatever. You’ve decided to infer something offensive in my comment, I didn’t accuse you of being ‘anti-animal.’ Jesus. In what way are humans different? What is the distinction? You didn’t offer one. You believe there is a clear line, good for you. I don’t. We are mammals.

    If animals weren’t considered inferior, it wouldn’t be an insult. People couldn’t denigrate and degrade so-called “primitive” people and women by claiming they are more like animals than humans. Animals must be seen as lesser creatures for that to work as an insult or a way to degrade other human beings. I just asked if you believe humans are special, to which you said yes

    I don’t see how woman includes our humanity in a way female doesn’t. It’s really a stretch to think ‘female’ is denigrating. And it would be really nice if people could disagree without assuming I’m some kind of asshole who is willfully misinterpreting things. I haven’t done anything to deserve people inferring that I’m in need of ‘a moment of truth’ or that I willfully misconstrue your words or somehow I’m ‘luckier’ than the average women.
    Never heard anyone, ever, refer to women as ‘estrogens,’ does that make me a privileged jerk? Does that mean I have never experienced sexism or misogyny?

  320. 320
    SallyStrange

    I haven’t heard female, to my recollection, being used in that way, that doesn’t make me ‘privileged’ as you are insinuating.

    If I meant to say that you were speaking from privilege, I would have fucking said so. All I meant was that you were lucky in that respect. So, I guess, fuck you too.

  321. 321
    SallyStrange

    Also, if I meant to say something as blatantly ridiculous and straw-mannish as “You’ve never heard women referred to as females in a derisive manner, therefore you have never experienced sexism or misogyny,” I would have fucking said that too.

  322. 322
    theoreticalgrrrl

    SallyStrange
    I’m sorry for saying “fuck off”, that was really way out of line for me to do.

  323. 323
    SallyStrange

    I don’t really care that you told me to fuck off. What’s offensive is your level of defensiveness, which appears to be causing you to attribute absolutely ridiculous positions to your interlocutors. I get that it seems like a stretch to you to see “female” as a derogatory term. Okay, so? Plenty of people have experienced it that way, and they’ve explained why. Misinterpreting their explanations as accusations of never having experienced sexism is what’s over the line.

  324. 324
    Ichthyic

    I haven’t heard female, to my recollection, being used in that way, that doesn’t make me ‘privileged’ as you are insinuating.

    no, it makes your entire position nothing more than an argument from incredulity.

    this, aside from whether “privilege” is the motivating factor FOR that position.

  325. 325
    Ichthyic

    When documentaries about so-called “primitive” cultures talk about the people of those cultures like they would talk about a pride of lions, it is dehumanising and offensive.

    would you feel the same way about an anthropologist or sociologist conducting a study on your local community?

    because you are personally offended, does not mean that the purpose of dispassionately studying aspects of human behavior within defined populations is designed to offend you.

    not saying that there haven’t BEEN cases where some have examined different populations with the subtext that they were somehow “subhuman”… that’s part of our history. But, it simply isn’t the case that the vast majority of documentaries on human behavior had that intention.

  326. 326
    David Olsen

    As a major fan of FeministFrequency even well before the dust up. All I can say is its about damned time. Seriously, I was happy with the trickle of videos coming along for a while. The dust up happened, she expanded her series, and it took a really long time. Seriously, I was left without a vlog entry for like a year.

  327. 327
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    I seem to have a knack for reading threads after they die.

    Anyway, here’s the thing.

    Game X using the Damsel in Distress trope is more-or-less a non-issue. Just like Movie Y failing the Bechdel Test is more-or-less a non-issue.

    The issue is when so few FAIL to use the trope (or other sexist tropes). The issue is when so many films fail the BT.

  328. 328
    palebluedot89

    laurentweppe @ 312

    Alright I’ll bite.

    Re: The Walking Dead. You answered your own question here. As you have already told us why you are wrong the only thing I have to add is to ask why you felt the need to mention it in the first place.
    The Walking Dead quickly made it clear that the course of the narrative was not up to you. And in fact you could change the relationships you had between the characters much more extensively than you could in Mass Effect.
    Incidentally, if listening to the developers in interviews and taking them at their word that they were not flat out lying and using the first two games to bolster that lie is “deluding ourselves” than yeah, I guess we deluded ourselves.

    As far as Mass Effect itself goes. Spoilers follow obviously….

    Lets take the example of the Rachni Queen. We are asked, in the first game, whether or not we want to commit full on genocide of a species which at one point threatened all life. I absolutely agonized over this decision and eventually decided that I simply couldn’t do it. It was a huge moment in the first game, and was completely undercut by the fact that there is literally no difference on a pratical level for the story. Either you fight the queen, or surprise surprise they managed to make another one.

    Or whether or not to kill Wrex. Could they have at least implied that there was some sort of difference in the leadership Wrex would give versus his brother?

    Whether you want to admit it or not they very clearly implied that your choices could actually change the outcome. If they intended for the ending to be a fatalistic statement that is fine but they did a very poor job of reinforcing that notion throughout the game.

    Trying to say that nothing you do can change the outcome is all fine and good, but it made no sense in ME. You had already changed lots of things. You could kill or spare the Rachni Queen. You could choose between the Quarian and Geth. You could kill Wrex, which changes the leadership of the unified Krogan, you could kill or spare the leaders of the entire goddamn civilized universe and replace them with humans. You could choose the human council member to represent your entire species.

    All of these choices are systematically nullified throughout the game and those which are not are given short shrift by the ending.

    An ending I might have liked would have been one where your choices matter to a point, but you can rearrange the chairs on the Titanic all you want but when the reapers come everyone gets sent back to square one no matter how you’ve arranged things. They didn’t do this though, the reapers are ultimately defeated, so those choices should matter. Life everywhere is separated, but whomever they are stuck with should have their relationships affected by your actions. They just don’t, or at least are not shown to.

    I have no watched the new ending so I can’t comment on that.

    As a statement on fatalism, it was sloppy at best. As the kind of ending they all but promised, it was extremely dissapointing.

  329. 329
    evilisgood

    The Mass Effect ending, from a storytelling POV, is just awful. You never introduce a character in the last 5-15 minutes of a story, and he is the guy who’s behind it all. That’s just lazy.

    The Rachni thing bothered me, too. From what I understand, Wrex is a much better leader than Wreave. However, I’ve never done a playthrough with a Wrexfail (because Wrex is my homie) so I can’t speak to that.

    The Extended Cut is sentimental. It tries to give some closure, but there are some moments that are just absurd. For example [SPOILERS], just before Shepard runs into the conduit, if their love interest is in the ground party, the LI is injured and a transport comes to take them back to the Normandy. Harbinger, who previously was shooting horrible death beams out of its eye-thingy, just sort of chills out there for a few minutes while Shepard and LI express devotion to one another. It’s goofy. Sweet, but implausible. Who knew Harby was a romantic? [/SPOILERS]

    Anyway, yeah, not a teenage fanboy, and not happy with the ending. Way to fight stereotyping.

  330. 330
    laurentweppe

    you could kill or spare the leaders of the entire goddamn civilized universe and replace them with humans

    This was quickly retconned in the second episode probably after someone pointed out that Asari + Salarian + Turian had the combined firepower to eat the Systems Alliance for breakfast and would not tolerate a human dominated council.
    .
    Funny thing: no one complained about this obvious and necessary retcon until Mass Effect 3.

    ***

    Lets take the example of the Rachni Queen.

    The Rachni Queen subplot is there to reward players who are consistent:
    Save the Queen, then change your mind and kill her in ME3, and you lose the Rachni
    Kill the Queen, then change your mind and save her replacement, and the Rachni turn against you.
    .
    Same thing with the Krogans: if you become sympathetic toward the Krogans while travelling with Wrex, spare him only to betray him during the third episode, you lose the support of the Krogans. If you remain a heartless bastard and kill him on Virmire, then switching side and becoming sympathetic toward Krogans under Wreav’s leadership will doom them to relive their own self-destructive tragedy, while fooling him and not curing the genophage nets you the support of the conned Krogans and of the Salarians.
    .
    Same thing with the Geth: if you’re sympathetic with Legion during ME2, you get the opportunity to broker a peace between Geth and Quarians. If you remain untrusting, it is too late in ME3 to find a modus vivendi between the two races and one of them is slaughtered.
    .
    This theme is so prevalent in the game that seeing people not recognizing it dumbfound me: it’s almost like they did not pay attention to the story and kept playing for the pew-pew sequences [/sarcasm]
    .
    That’s the problem, you see: they never lied to you:
    They promised you choices which had an impact on the story, and the choices you made during the game had very minor effects like, well, whether the Krogans were cured of their infertility or not and what kind of leader they had, Who owned Rannoch between the Quarians, the Geth, or both, which Team Members survived to tell the Tale of The Shepard, and, oh, yes, that little pointless detail about Earth being incinerated and made definitely unhabitable or remaining the Home of Mankind. By “rearranging the chairs on the Titanic”, you changed the number of people who made it to the lifeboats, and probably also the number of lifeboats available which is actually a pretty fucking big deal.
    .
    On the other hand, they made a 30 hours long game following the 60 hours long previous episode, churned short DLC at a 15€ price tag, and made a derivative multiplayer mode which wasted ressources which should have been dedicated to the main campaign, stuff which should have produced much more indignation than discovering that -How Dare They!- the writters had decided to tell a story which did not entirely revolves around your precious little self.

    ***

    If they intended for the ending to be a fatalistic statement that is fine but they did a very poor job of reinforcing that notion throughout the game.

    .
    They established the Reapers as a power that had been around for over one billion years, a power which started a new genocidal campaign every 50.000 years, and most importantly, a power which had never lost, not once in their 30.000+ harvests. The Mass Effect backstory is Lovecraftian in its fatalistic “The Universe is Huge and Uncarring and Terrible Things against which we are powerless Dwell in it” backstory. Except that, as a compromise and a way to attract customers, Bioware grafted on it an archetypal main story: “ Badass Space Marine to the Rescue!“.
    .
    It’s not the only case: the Dragon Age series has always been about a social order collapsing under its own contradictions and the mess that follows. Except that, once again in order to attract customers, they added Dragons and a Zombie horde, and unsurprisingly, the series has been compared to A Song of Ice and Fire, because George RR Martin used exactly the same trick: “Oh! Hey! Look! Dragons! Ain’t it cool? Now be nice and read my next 300 pages of political backstabbing
    .
    Back to Mass Effect, this Badass Space Marine put on top of the backstory is something much, Much more annoying than any multi-colored ending will ever be: if you put a Mary Sue in your Lovecraft, it stops being Lovecraftian: it becomes Lumleyesque lovecraft-lite, it becomes Halo: the blandest blend of bland artstyle and blander writting. And if we’re going to talk about Male Power Fantasies, this disconnect being so ubiquitous in story-based games that people started to expect their games to end with the protagonist’s triumph regardless of whether this made sense or not is a much worse incarnation of the dreadfully dominant MPF than than any army of Damsels in Distress.
    .
    To be frank, until the third episode came out, I fully expected the series to take the easy Halo road. In fact, the early parts of the third episode follow stricly the formula: New Secret Super Weapon Blueprint found by Sidekick! Reapers about the be Blown Out of the Sky! Humanity, Fuck Yeah!
    .
    But then, a miracle occured: the Virmire survivor gets broken in two by doctor Eva Bot, Shep starts displaying her first signs of a mental breakdown (Which was a welcome surprise: after a hundred hours, we finally see that the protagonist is not a mere hollow cypher). Despite this, she’s given a tremendous amount of political power so she can finally twist the arms of the politicians and technocrats who did not listen to her and how does it goes? Thessia is lost, Palaven is ruined, Sur’Kesh try to isolate itself to delay the inevitable and the Cerberus assault on the planet shows how much it will work; and no matter how big it is, the assembled fleet which attacks the Reaper at the end can only do a desperate assault meant to give the people on Earth a minuscule window of opportunity to reach the Citadel.
    .
    Until that point, Mass Effect was just another Heinleinesque quasi-fascistic jingoistic military-SF story where the courageous commander is always right against everyone else (and especially those devious elected officials who are either demagogues or cowards or both: coughUdinacough). Then the third episode came out and turned the whole story on its head: the courageous commander is losing her mind under the pressure, turning her into a space dictator does not change the writting on the wall, and everything is going to hell no matter how much she struggles.
    .
    And That-Was-Awe-Some. This is the episode which turned me into a fan of the franchise: the first episode was often underwhelming, the second episode, when the protagonist becomes the lackey of a far-right milicia started to really grate me, to the point where I was ready to not even give a chance to the third episode until I started to read reviews which pointed toward a fatalistic ending, and oooooooooh boy did it deliver, up to the conclusion, which is like the punchline of a very elaborate and brilliant joke: “So you thought that, despite the backstory, despite the foreshadowing, despite the more and more obvious hints we dropped as the games progressed, Shepard would win simply because you(re the one with the Gamepad? HA-HA-HA-HA-HA“.

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