Although…I would endorse “Christ Hunting” »« On using suicide as a rhetorical strategy

Comments

  1. Moggie says

    Really impressed with this series so far. Be sure to drop by feministfrequency.com, where you’ll find related links, and a chance to donate.

  2. The Mellow Monkey says

    I really want to play that hypothetical princess-rescuing-herself game.

  3. PatrickG says

    [unmitigated whining]

    Enough of Damsel! I want moar tropes!

    [/unmitigated whining]

    But seriously, awesome series. Always exciting when a new one video drops!

  4. microraptor says

    I really want to play that hypothetical princess-rescuing-herself game.

    Yeah, me too.

  5. crocodoc says

    Funny – I visited her channel today to check for a new video but it wasn’t there yet. Must have been some feminist frequency calling me. It’s a bit too late tonight, can’t wait to watch it tomorrow.

  6. QueQuoi, traded in her jackboots for jillstilettos says

    Part 3 is out! Hooray! Thanks for the link, PZ!

  7. ck says

    @#2:

    Yeah, but her description sounds like it would have few too many game mechanics for a single game. It almost sounds like two games.

    However, what is really important is the fact there still isn’t a sequel to Beyond Good & Evil! Seriously good, underrated game that deserves many sequels.

  8. daemon23 says

    @#9: You know, I was thinking the same thing. Either focus on the hack-and-slash or the stealth and that’s a solid story to frame a game around, though frankly I think I’d like the character better at the outset if she weren’t waiting for rescue.

  9. says

    I’ve been talking about wanting to play a game where a damsel escapes her imprisonment for years, even just as a point-and-click adventure game. I hope this eventually leads to something along those lines (and note that the character model and plot bear a striking resemblance to Princeless).

  10. says

    This comment is unrelated to this post, however Chris Clarke’s previous post has discontinued the comments field. Short: There was NOTHING wrong with his entry OR the way he wrote it. His post, written by an obviously super-decent cuss (for anyone paying attention and why the fuck are you here if you’re not) accused him of insensitivity in the plight of genuinely mentally distressed persons. I GET trigger warnings. I myself suffer severe suicidal depression from time to time, yet I somehow found myself WTFing the accusations of insensitivity levied at him. The article from the GET-GO set clear caveats for his completely valid position. Jesus fucking christ. We’re supposed to be better than bloody knee jerk reactionaries who only read the first paragraph before positing our 2 cents, especially regarding a post written by a trusted and consistently compassionate contributor. It could be me, but many of the commentors seemed to be ones I am generally unfamiliar with…. Especially given that I hang out here pretty regularly. My suspicion is that his post drew comments from MRA faux-concern trolls, simply because the post nominally touched on feminist issues. Chris seemed genuinely hurt and apologetic over the accusations. Not his bad…At all..Send him my love. He was clearly punked by the trolls. fuck those ‘people’. I don’t buy none of them crocodile tears. If I have any criticism of Clarke’s posts, it’s that he’s TOO nice and considerate!

  11. says

    This too…. after revisiting the comments, there seemed to be a campaign of deliberate misrepresentation of Clarke’s observations. I smell but can’t proove some degree of sock-puppetry. Did anyone bother to follow the links to the perp’s MO and history? What were you defending?

  12. cartomancer says

    What about a game where a female protagonist has to rescue a female significant other in the traditional manner? I mean, if you really want to use a tired old Victorian damsels in distress plot then wouldn’t this be the easiest way to stop it being consonant with traditional gender stereotyping? Has there ever been a game where a character has to save her girlfriend from some overweening calamity? Or her daughter? Or her mother? If both sides of the equation are female then clearly the passivity of the rescuee can’t be down to gender. Actually it’d work just as well if both sides were male too. Or genderless, given that many (most?) games that use this set-up tend to be of the very simple 8-bit variety, and invariably give neither party to the central rescue much by way of actual characterisation.

    In fact, there seem to be precious few characters in games whose gender is immaterial and unspecified. I wonder if that might not be the way forward – taking gendering out of games for the most part and just having interesting characters without all the cultural baggage of gendering. After all, how much of what characters in video games do needs to be tied in any way to gender? Virtually nothing I would hazard a guess. Unless you’re doing some kind of creepy gestation simulator, or something historical set in the real world, there’s really no call for gender to be specified. And it would encourage people into the habit of engaging with plots and game mechanics without overlaying the lenses of old-fashioned cultural prejudice too, which can only be a good thing.

  13. Rey Fox says

    This comment is unrelated to this post, however Chris Clarke’s previous post has discontinued the comments field.

    Did it occur to you that maybe he wanted to close the issue?

  14. says

    I was hoping this video would show more positive examples, but nope, it’s mostly games that try to be ironically sexist. That’s too bad.

  15. says

    OK, on topic here. As a non-gamer, I think I have a unique insight into an intractable problem.. Simply put, it’s the continuation of the the KINDS of narratives games dabble in that are the problem

    The obvious ‘first-thought, ‘out-of-the-box’ fix is to reverse roles….So now…congratulations, you have a woman who is playing ‘the man’. How ironic! You’ve successfully set male aggressive behavior as the preferred norm, and have additionally given tacit expression to a gender-split antagonism. Cute and cheap comes to mind…however, I can see it as a necessary step in the right direction, but far from satisfactory. The few games I DO like are puzzle games, where gender is non existent. Try Factory Balls (harder that in looks or maybe I’m dum). Games of antagonism and power discrepancies involving characters of ANY gender ( unless cooperation is the trope) will inevitably (and rightfully) offend those on the down-punch…IT’s like we’re starting off by asking the wrong questions….

  16. says

    @ Rey Fox:

    Yeah. It was awkward posting this off-topic here. But after reading the entire comment stream there, and not having the option to post, compounded by seeing him apologize for things he shouldn’t have had to apologize for , I used this post to defend him. Chris may have walked away from that post thinking he had been in error for his writing and the way he did it…. He doesn’t deserve that, especially given his stellar history… ( :

  17. says

    @cartomancer:

    Bam, a solution I didn’t consider… Have games with NO male characters at all. There are plenty out there with nothing BUT male characters….And female characters in THOSE games are at BEST gratuitous.

  18. says

    @cartomancer: part the 2nd: I also missed the D&D train by about 20 minutes, but characters having non-overlapping skills (cooperation again) would work too… they probably already have that though… i’m such a grampa…sheesh

  19. left0ver1under says

    Cue the inevitable next round of claims of “misuse of funds”…..by those who never donated to the project.

    I’ve heard not one gripe from those who donated to the project. I haven’t watched the third part yet, but I doubt that’ll change.

  20. says

    What about a game where a female protagonist has to rescue a female significant other in the traditional manner? I mean, if you really want to use a tired old Victorian damsels in distress plot then wouldn’t this be the easiest way to stop it being consonant with traditional gender stereotyping?

    A lesbian , bi, or pan girl saving her female love interest would probably be fine, yes. The tricky part is execution.

    Has there ever been a game where a character has to save her girlfriend from some overweening calamity? Or her daughter? Or her mother? If both sides of the equation are female then clearly the passivity of the rescuee can’t be down to gender. Actually it’d work just as well if both sides were male too.

    A few, but they’re rare exceptions indeed.

    Or genderless, given that many (most?) games that use this set-up tend to be of the very simple 8-bit variety, and invariably give neither party to the central rescue much by way of actual characterisation.

    …no, it’s still a thing, don’t worry. DiD hasn’t gone out of style at ALL. Sadly.

    In fact, there seem to be precious few characters in games whose gender is immaterial and unspecified. I wonder if that might not be the way forward – taking gendering out of games for the most part and just having interesting characters without all the cultural baggage of gendering. After all, how much of what characters in video games do needs to be tied in any way to gender? Virtually nothing I would hazard a guess. Unless you’re doing some kind of creepy gestation simulator, or something historical set in the real world, there’s really no call for gender to be specified. And it would encourage people into the habit of engaging with plots and game mechanics without overlaying the lenses of old-fashioned cultural prejudice too, which can only be a good thing.

    This doesn’t make any sense from a perspective that is AT ALL grounded in the real world. You have characters – assuming video games create a character that isn’t a robot at some point in the next forever, gender is going to come up. You can keep it out of protagonists, sometimes, but as long as humans are social creatures that perceive gender, gender will come up in games. What you can do is avoid gender stereotypes to the best of your ability, but most characters will have, and probably should have, a gender and gender presentation. Maybe if we were creating a brand new world from scratch, this would be ideal, but in the real world as it exists? Putting aside that nobody would do it (This is a big enough obstacle with what I said about no longer gender stereotyping), it’d be alien to its consumers, and alien isn’t generally what you’re going for.

  21. says

    If there was some way to play as Arya Stark in the Game of Thrones universe, I’d be all over it.

    Hey, video game designers: I’d love to play a game where I manage to evade a wedding and get to become a freaking assassin. Even if the rest of the universe is sexist as fuck.

  22. vaiyt says

    In fact, there seem to be precious few characters in games whose gender is immaterial and unspecified.

    Something “immaterial” can still matter in the real world, and something “unspecified” can be made specific by our cultural value system.

    Think in terms of race instead of gender. How do you think human characters of unspecified ethnicity are primarily viewed as?*

    I wonder if that might not be the way forward – taking gendering out of games for the most part and just having interesting characters without all the cultural baggage of gendering.

    That would only work positively in a culture that didn’t automatically assign certain values to gender.

    *Hell, sometimes explicitly non-white characters can be misread due to conditioning and bias. See: Hunger Games.

  23. ekwhite says

    I’m sure Anita will mention it in a later video, but one game I liked with a strong female protagonist was Syberia. It was an adventure game from a few years ago with a very moving story. It was split into two games – Syberia and Syberia 2.

  24. Moggie says

    One example of a non-gendered game is Journey on the PS3. Since the characters wear burqa-like cloaks, and have no conventional voice, it’s impossible to assign gender to them. It’s a rather special case, since it seems to be an experiment in strengthening the inter-player bond by boiling interaction down to the minimum (just being there for someone), but it’s proof that you can create a moving and intensely human gaming experience without gender playing a part.

  25. howard says

    @ashleybell , 20

    There’s an open thread, Thunderdome. There’s meta-discussion of Chris Clarke’s post going on there, now. I’d suggest you repost this over there.

  26. howard says

    On-topic, not a gamer, so this particular video series hasn’t been very personal for me. I have high hopes for where she aims her deconstructive lens when this series is done.

  27. WharGarbl says

    @Tom Foss
    #12

    #9-10: Batman seems to do all right alternating beat-em-up and stealth sections.

    True. You can say that Batman did two game mechanics right. The danger with adding multiple game mechanics is that you MUST polish each mechanic to near perfection (or as perfect as you could make it). Otherwise, your game gets dragged down by the least-perfected game mechanics.

  28. says

    The thing that strikes me most about the whole DiD trope isn’t just its sexism and its pervasive attitude of continuing the stereotype.

    It’s that the DiD trope is so fucking lazy. Seriously, there has to be some other motivation video game developers can come up with besides “you want to save your woman” as the reason for a game.

  29. says

    My girlfriend said that king’s quest 7 falls under the “self-rescuing princess” category, and it sort of passes the Bechdel test, albeit not for a good chunk of the game (for the third requirement).

  30. Galactic Fork says

    ashleybell

    What about a game where a female protagonist has to rescue a female significant other in the traditional manner? I mean, if you really want to use a tired old Victorian damsels in distress plot then wouldn’t this be the easiest way to stop it being consonant with traditional gender stereotyping? Has there ever been a game where a character has to save her girlfriend from some overweening calamity? Or her daughter? Or her mother? If both sides of the equation are female then clearly the passivity of the rescuee can’t be down to gender. Actually it’d work just as well if both sides were male too. Or genderless, given that many (most?) games that use this set-up tend to be of the very simple 8-bit variety, and invariably give neither party to the central rescue much by way of actual characterisation.

    I can think of 2 games off the top of my head. Neither are significant others, both are friends.

    One is Jeanne D’arc for the PSP. (This contains spoilers sooo yeah… and maybe a rant too.) In the middle of the game, Jeanne appears to have been killed in battle and her best friend Liane takes her place in the war. Liane eventually gets captured, with everybody thinking she’s Jeanne. Jeanne (who wasn’t dead, just getting more POWER) makes a mad dash to rescue her friend only to get there just after Liane was burned at the stake… So a botched rescue, (plus woman in the refrigerator, as it strengthens Jeanne’s fortitude).
    I stopped playing there because Liane was the only character I really liked and they filled the void her death created with a talking frog. I was SOOO angry. Liane didn’t even want to be there. She was doing it just to support Jeanne who was all crazy and hearing voices. I wish they’d have had a way to get there in time.

    The other game is the new Tomb Raider. Lara has to rescue her best friend. (The game has many other problems though.)

  31. Scr... Archivist says

    The next video will be “The Fighting F#@k Toy”. It’s too bad it takes so long for each new part to be released, but the high quality of the production justifies the wait. (Although I still hate waiting.)

    As a reminder, there are supposed to be 12 videos in all, with the achieved stretch goals. But since the first episode was in three parts, I wonder how many parts there will be overall. This could take a while!

    ———
    left0ver1under @23:

    I’ve heard not one gripe from those who donated to the project.

    If I were them, my complaint would be that instead of doing twelve videos she’s going to probably end up making a couple dozen. And her claim that “Each video will be between 10 and 20 minutes long…” is a total lie because each part has been longer than that.

    And then there are the extras like the stand-alone short for “The Legend of the Last Princess”:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZKtFfHIGrA

    Totes unfair!

  32. WharGarbl says

    @KevinKat
    #33

    It’s that the DiD trope is so fucking lazy. Seriously, there has to be some other motivation video game developers can come up with besides “you want to save your woman” as the reason for a game.

    It is also cheap AND safe. It is also low risk trope to use since every other game that used it, unless grossly misused it (sometimes even then), don’t suffer because of DiD. For game developers low on resources and/or cannot risk their game failing, it’s a very tempting fallback/foundation from which to build their story (however robust/minimal it is) from.

    Regarding a “damsel rescuing herself”. Alice: Madness Returns seems to fit that bill.

  33. WharGarbl says

    Extension to #37
    @KevinKat
    #33
    A very, very pertinent quote from Cracked

    [regarding racism and sexism in games]We’re not saying that this stuff exists because of some hidden malice or secret industry-wide conspiracy to keep minorities in America down. The much sadder truth is that all this bullshit comes from simple, old-fashioned laziness. There’s no good reason video games can’t be infinitely smarter, more responsible and better than this — it’s just going to take time, thought, hard work and a bit of empathy.

    And shit, who has time for that? Game developers have got to get another Callfield: Dutybattle out the door by Q3 or the EA monster will devour their children.

    For game dev under big publisher, they’re beholden to their stockholders, where every games must make back a LOT of money or they risk getting cut.
    For upstarting indie game studios, they’re beholden to the simple fact that they need to make enough money just to survive.

  34. andyo says

    Has there ever been a game where a character has to save her girlfriend from some overweening calamity?

    I was just thinking about how Fear Effect (which is basically an example of that) for the PlayStation 1 would fall in this damsel in distress context. The other side of the coin is that the game was very obviously highly sexualized to cater to male lesbian fantasies, with one scene almost right out of Japanese cartoon porn. I actually liked the story and the mechanics otherwise, similar to the first incarnations of Resident Evil, Dino Crisis, Onimusha and other such games.

  35. lesofa says

    What about a game where a female protagonist has to rescue a female significant other in the traditional manner? I mean, if you really want to use a tired old Victorian damsels in distress plot then wouldn’t this be the easiest way to stop it being consonant with traditional gender stereotyping? Has there ever been a game where a character has to save her girlfriend from some overweening calamity? Or her daughter? Or her mother?

    On Mirror’s Edge, the protagonist has to rescue her sister, who was framed for murder by a totalitarian government.

  36. WharGarbl says

    @KevinKat
    #40

    I hate lazy storytelling more than anything else. Falling back on old tropes is just… lazy and pitiful.

    True. Yet the market in which they have to sell these game into seems to disagree (at least they don’t seems to mind games with lazy stories).

    @otranreg
    #42

    My thoughts exactly. It’s lazy writing, pure and simple.

    In my own opinion, it’s a simple resource allocation. Ultimately, a game needs to make its developers money, if for no other reason than to let them have money to sustain themselves.

  37. says

    In my own opinion, it’s a simple resource allocation. Ultimately, a game needs to make its developers money, if for no other reason than to let them have money to sustain themselves.

    Writing is not ever going to be close to the primary cost of development in a game – even the littlest indie production. ‘limited funds’ is not an excuse for a lazy plot given the sheer budget for graphics. And this isn’t a graphics rant – I merely recognize where the largest costs are, I don’t mind them per se.

  38. says

    True. Yet the market in which they have to sell these game into seems to disagree (at least they don’t seems to mind games with lazy stories).

    Yes, when you intentionally build yourself into a niche where your market is only one kind of person, they don’t mind a particular kind of lazy writing. As it happens, if you want to make this argument, inclusivity will make more money. Companies are still operated by people, not rational market bots, remember?

  39. says

    @WharGarbl:

    And that’s the thing that sucks about the free market. It’s all about money. What makes money? Boring, lazy storytelling with flashy graphics and maybe some visceral elements. It’s how it is with books and movies and video games. What sold well last month? You’ll be sure that ten copycats will pop up the next month cause why not.

    Companies won’t fund things that try to change the status quo. Amazing projects get side-lined cause no one’s willing to take the risk. Great products are ignored for your Call of Duty, Transformers, and Twilight wannabes. The only way to solve the problem is to not buy into the brown and grey dullness, but seriously good luck.

  40. WharGarbl says

    @Rutee
    #45

    Writing is not ever going to be close to the primary cost of development in a game – even the littlest indie production.

    It’s not just writing. It also influences game mechanics/aesthetics. Take Castle Crasher, reverse gender role, have them sold side-by-side, which one do you think will sell better (note that it was first developed for Xbox and its demographic).

    #46

    Yes, when you intentionally build yourself into a niche where your market is only one kind of person, they don’t mind a particular kind of lazy writing. As it happens, if you want to make this argument, inclusivity will make more money.

    Inclusivity works for industry as a whole. It may not work for individual studios. Inclusivity MAY alienate some of your current market (not alienate as in you make them angry, but alienate as in they decided to buy a different game), and if you don’t get enough new customers to cover that, a studio may not make enough money to cover for it. Over time, it may be good for the industry as a whole, but the risk is borne by individual studios who may not be able to bear that risk.

    Companies are still operated by people, not rational market bots, remember?

    True, they’re operated by people, people who already know what kind of game sells well (or at least won’t tank) through “experience”. Ironically, those experiences came from a self-feedback loop that says “female-game lead games don’t sell well”. See Beyond Good and Evil case.
    1. Preconception “female-lead won’t sell well” or “female-lead game is niche”.
    2. Female-lead game came out.
    3. Marketing put less marketing dollars to market it.
    4. Said game don’t sell well due to poor marketing.
    5. Reinforce preconception in 1. Repeat.

    It all boils down to two problems:
    1. The perceived risk of having a female-lead game is high.
    2. The actual benefit/cost of having a female-lead game is undefined. On account that we don’t have any female-lead video-games that received anywhere near the same marketing treatment as male-lead game.

    @KevinKat
    #47
    The emergent of indie developers might help. Yes, a large majority of they are still risk-averse to break new ground. But with many, many more studios, chances are good that some of them are doing better. Do what Anita’s did in this video, spread the word of games that do better, help make them financial successes.

    Another game that looks to be a good potential (and maybe a DiD subversion).
    Transistor, by Super Giant Game
    From the initial game-play footage, the storyline appears to start with.
    A male hero trying to save the main female character (Red). Got himself killed in an attempt to do so and got himself trapped in the titular weapon “Transistor”. Red proceed to use the transistor to kick-ass and try to find those responsible for taking her voice.

  41. jodyp says

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJihi5rB_Ek is apparently the popular response now. It’s making the rounds at Kotaku and being heralded as Anita’s death knell or whatever.

    Basically it’s another woman concern/tone trolling her for 15 minutes.

    “How can you focus on Zelda just being a DiD when her character is so much more complicated than that?”

    Damn near gave me an aneurysm.

  42. Khantron, the alien that only loves says

    @jodyp 49

    It’s like she never even watched the video. From Damsel in Distress, Part 1:

    However it must be said that not all damsels are created equal and Zelda is occasionally given a more active or integral role to play than her counterpart in the Mushroom Kingdom. Unlike Peach, Zelda is not completely defined by her role as Ganondorf’s perpetual kidnap victim and in a few later games she even rides a line between damsel and sidekick. Remember the Damsel in Distress as a plot device is something that happens to a female character, and not necessarily something that the character is from start to finish.

  43. jodyp says

    I knew it was in there somewhere. Thank you.

    They seriously didn’t pay attention and are just looking for excuses to shout her down. The mind reels.

  44. says

    Rutee Katreya

    Writing is not ever going to be close to the primary cost of development in a game – even the littlest indie production. ‘limited funds’ is not an excuse for a lazy plot given the sheer budget for graphics. And this isn’t a graphics rant – I merely recognize where the largest costs are, I don’t mind them per se.

    Indeed, the number of person hours involved in rendering a game like Skyrim or Halo likely exceeds by a wide margin the number of person-hours that went into the entire Dresden files series, counting all of the novels put together (15 books and counting, for those not familiar)
    Kevinkat

    And that’s the thing that sucks about the free market. It’s all about money.

    Yes and no. Not to sidetrack, but technically, that’s the thing about profit- maximising companies, not an intrinsic feature of a market; it’s mostly an intrinsic feature of companies that are run for the benefit of shareholders. A company that’s run because the people there want to make a given thing (e.g. a really cool game) will, if sufficiently capitalized initally and therefroe not beholden to shareholders, quite often price a product sufficently that everyone gets a salary, and any extra gets ploughed back into making cooler stuff. It would be perfectly possible to have a largely market economy without shareholders, though.
    michaelblayney

    I’m still waiting for my Deed of Paksenarrion RPG. Goddamn I loved that book.

    Unfortunately, not going to happen unless Moon actively goes shopping it around; licensed properties are a huge pain in the ass for game companies to deal with, which is why most of them are going with original properties that they license out instead of the other way, except for the really huge iconic properties like Batman or the like.(I’m assuming that you mean computer RPG, due to the content of the post; if you want to do it tabletop there’s three or four systems out there that could do it perfectly adequately; I’m a GURPS fan myself.)

  45. laurentweppe says

    “How can you focus on Zelda just being a DiD when her character is so much more complicated than that?”

    Zelda was never simply a Damsel in Distress, the first thing she ever did in her series was throwing an enormous Fuck You to Ganon by shatering then locking in the Triforce he was trying to steal from her, and most games present her as the greatest threat to the villain who targets her because he knows that he’s toast the moment she’s allowed to flex her muscle.

    Then again, this aspect of the series backstory is often ignored by a lot of people (including Nintendo’s own PR department) who treat her as the final reward instead as the pro-active character she’s always been.

    ***

    They seriously didn’t pay attention and are just looking for excuses to shout her down

    When a Bully can’t beat the opposition into submission, he whines: it’s part of the natural order, like gravity and GOP politicians being bribed to lie.

  46. Old At Heart says

    Now, a lot of the gamers here are going “BEE!!! – ESS!!!” at the thought of the trope being overused, because more modern popular games are a lot more even than the older games. Look at the major RPGs of the era: Skyrim, Fallout 3, Oblivion, New Vegas… You can pick the main’s gender… AND IT CHANGES THINGS! Slightly. Not much, maybe one or two dialogues, one or two pronouns. A good bit in New Vegas with the anti-women faction gets interesting if your character is one. In Skyrim, if you wind up making one of the reptilian folk, guards will on occasion ask if a “stinking lizard” is allowed in the city, you wind up needing to fight off racism in-game, while if you picked the Mighty-Whitey Nordic race, that would never come up. Fallout has particular dialogues only if you were clinically retarded (INT score 3 or less), that made the game far harder and locked off many quests for fear of you hurting yourself… You could still do them, of course, but with no reward, since they assume someone with a disability could not have done it. You customize your discrimination in these games, which is fascinating.

    Old games had issues, since you had so many restrictions and the creators were only making things that would appeal to them, and since they were the hard done by lonely nerds, it was a sexual empowerment fantasy (defeat your enemies, “win” a woman, like the football team leader). The plots were simple. The man kills a gorilla to save a woman. The woman kills an entire species because pirates are evil (Samus Aran).

    Dark Souls, WRPGs, modern MMOs…

    But what about the JRPGs? Well, FF12 was really about a princess rescuing herself. Vaan may be the first character you get, but everyone playing it knows Ashe was the main character. FF13 had Lightning, a strong military woman, accompanied by a single father black man, out to save her sister and the world.

    The real problem is the War games. The ones that glorify guns. Stop glorifying guns, and the situation will be greatly ameliorated without the surplus of America’s Modern Call of Warfare Duty type games.

    Not every game needs to be woman dominated, there’s only one main character in most games, but if you take out the worthlessness that is the AMERIKUH F-YEAH first person shooter genre, it is a lot more equal than many like to purport. The options of good games for both genders as role models exist, and are becoming more common as time goes on. The situation is fixing itself through the economy: More women developing and buying games pushes games to be better, well before people whining about it comes up (though I’m sure they will be the first to claim the credit for it).

  47. laurentweppe says

    But what about the JRPGs? Well, FF12 was really about a princess rescuing herself

    Ashe spends most of the game struggling with her lust for revenge. There’s a scene where she’s holding what is essentially a magic nuke, and proclaim to the rest of her group something like “This will become my Sword, with it I will avenge the dead, and the Empire will know remorse“: her husband and father get killed in a war, and here she is: expressing the desire go old testament on neigbouring country, to nuke millions of civilians as retribution “Hello, my name is Ashelia B’nargin Dalmasca: your emperor killed my father, prepare to wish my country was ruled by Dick Cheney instead of Me“.

    In a way, Vaan does rescue her from her own bloodlust, by displaying compassion and empathy toward the Archadians. Interestingly, the dynamic reverse the traditional gender roles, where virtually everytime the ruthless vengeful badass is a male in need of a kind, carring female soul to soothe his anger. Add in the fact that there is zero romantic subplot between the two characters, and we do get away from the usual cliché, but the fact remain that Ashe is still a princess who ends up somehow rescued from something by the male protagonist.

  48. Cyranothe2nd, ladyporn afficianado says

    What about a game where a female protagonist has to rescue a female significant other in the traditional manner?

    This doesn’t subvert the trope. The trope is not that a man is doing the rescuing, it’s that a (usually the only) female player is disempowered and reduced to an object that needs rescuing. Changing the gender of the rescuer doesn’t fix the problem.

  49. rrhain says

    #2: I’d say Portal is that game. You play a female who has been kidnapped and you have to save yourself.

  50. ck says

    #55:
    JRPGs don’t exactly have a great record here. FF4 has Rosa get thrown the distress ball twice in the game. FF6 hits each of the female characters with one (Celes at the start, Terra shortly after contact with the Esper, and Relm in the burning house). In several of the games (especially FF4), the women are all limited to back-row magic duty, and only men are front-line brawlers.

  51. says

    Inclusivity works for industry as a whole. It may not work for individual studios.

    Yeah, after building your market not to be how can you change now?

    And actually, we DO have that data. Final Fantasy XIII is

    JRPGs don’t exactly have a great record here. FF4 has Rosa get thrown the distress ball twice in the game. FF6 hits each of the female characters with one (Celes at the start, Terra shortly after contact with the Esper, and Relm in the burning house). In several of the games (especially FF4), the women are all limited to back-row magic duty, and only men are front-line brawlers.

    You say that, but there weren’t exactly a lot of women as characters in Western games AT ALL throughout that era. Having women present as PCs – even with distress balls, even as back line casters – trumps a lot of games at the time. Which is pathetic, and sad, but true. And to be honest, most western games that don’t let you create a protagonist STILL lag behind. 4 of the last 4 mainline FF games have had female protagonists. Just straight up women-as-main-characters, and primary drivers of the plot via their actions. And yes, I know they’re not even close to the only JRPGs – I just also know that Mass Effect is not even close to the only Western game.

    My reasoning q

    In a way, Vaan does rescue her from her own bloodlust, by displaying compassion and empathy toward the Archadians.

    FTR, that wasn’t Vaan, that was Balthier constantly stymieing her as a foil, along with a host of NPCs. Vaan’s plot relevance is short, and his role is summed up by that one scene where Ashe, Balthier, and Baasch are all discussing plot, while Penelo and Vaan are playing with sand castles.

  52. says

    Ah crap. My reasoning for pointing this out is primarily that I’ve noticed a tendency to try to limit the problems to the Other – Yes, Japan is worse on gender rights as a whole, but the gaming industry IN TOTAL has a problem. If it were just Japanese games, that’d honestly be wonderful, but it isn’t. Some Japanese RPGs actually do a damn fine job, most don’t. The rate may be a bit worse than western games (I haven’t done an extended survey, and even if I did, a lot of terrible JRPGs don’t actually make it across the pond for me to check), but it’s a matter of scant degrees.

  53. Galactic Fork says

    55 @Old At Heart
    The focus of the DiD trope was mainly on games with a specific main characters, bringing up skyrim and the like really doesn’t address the issue. Look at the first and second videos. Many many games are listed that are modern, and as Anita said, it’s been making a resurgence in the last few years. The problem isn’t going away. And this isn’t about the war games. These are games where the female characters end up as just being plot devices or objects to give the dude some motivation.

    And it’s not about making all games female dominated (though more would be nice), it’s about not portraying women so often as helpless things that need to be rescued. Seriously go watch the 2nd video.

  54. Amphiox says

    JRPGs don’t exactly have a great record here. FF4 has Rosa get thrown the distress ball twice in the game. FF6 hits each of the female characters with one (Celes at the start, Terra shortly after contact with the Esper, and Relm in the burning house). In several of the games (especially FF4), the women are all limited to back-row magic duty, and only men are front-line brawlers.

    However, in FF4, Rydia’s character arc completely subverts the damsel in distress trope in at least three different ways simultaneously, and it culminates with Rydia pulling a Big Damn Heroine and saving Cecil’s ass.

  55. Amphiox says

    And in FF4, while the women are limited to back-row magic duty, the men are limited to front-line meat-shield duty. And Rydia is the single most powerful offensive character in your party.

    In FF6 Terra and Celes are your best front-line weapon-wielding, heavy-armor equipping attacking characters in the mid and end-game, and they are your 1st and 3rd best magic wielders as well.

  56. anteprepro says

    JRPGs don’t exactly have a great record here.

    *starts firing up memory, double checks with google*

    Dagger in FF9 needs to get rescued from her own home in order for the main plot to actually begin.

    Yuna is kidnapped by Al Bhed twice in FF10 (the second time so she could be forced to marry Seymour). The entire rest of the party exists as Guardians, because she is too helpless to defend herself, apparently.

    FF7 sort of subverts it with Don Corneo, where Cloud sneaks in dressed as a woman to save Tifa who was there of her free will, trying to find out information. And then it plays it straight later on when he kidnaps Yuffie. In addition, Aerith gets captured by Sephiroth early in the game.

    Blue Dragon has the Big Bad kidnapping Kluke, the only girl out of the original 3 child characters, and putting a fucking exploding collar on her neck.

    The original Breath of Fire has you play as Nina and two guards for one (rather long) mission, and then has you lose because the fucking cheating Wizard uses ridiculous fucking Anti-Bird-People Gas and then you fly (literally) in as The Big Bad Main Character again to take out the final boss as The Hero, rescuing the characters who did all of the real heavy lifting for one of the most annoying and tedious dungeons in the entire fucking game. (You also have to cure Nina of amnesia later on in the story!)

    In Illusion of Gaia, the princess who is with you on your journey the entire time (and who contributes absolutely nothing, just like every other character “with you”) is a Damsel Who Was In Distress And Would Be Again If You Weren’t Bringing Her Along With You. (At least, that’s the jist of my vague recollection).

    Dragon Quest 8 [SPOILER] has Jessica, the only female party member, possessed by the staff of the main villain. Sort of an indirect kind of kidnapping, I suppose!

    I think I’m depressing myself. But at least (with the exception of the princess from Illusion of Gaia) all of those characters really do kick some serious ass, even if they wound up captured/disempowered at some point.

    You say that, but there weren’t exactly a lot of women as characters in Western games AT ALL throughout that era. Having women present as PCs – even with distress balls, even as back line casters – trumps a lot of games at the time. Which is pathetic, and sad, but true.

    Honestly, even with its problems, JRPGs still seem better on even having women characters at all than a lot of entire game genres, even today (thinking: sports games, fighting games, first person shooters).

  57. ck says

    Re: Illusion of Gaia: Kara is the one who sends you the key to the cell (via her pig pet) during your prison escape. She doesn’t really help any beyond that, though.

  58. Angela Freeman says

    I do like this series. The sexism in a lot of games is… just… sort of ridiculous. For me it’s the women fight in bikinis, men get to wear armor.
    While I find that this DiD trope has been overused, I’m not opposed to the general theme of finding your sidekick is in peril and trying to help them out. Unfortunately, yes, the sidekick/friend tends to be a woman and the hero is the big strong man! (And the video host does a good job in the first video talking about how the damsel is more of a prize than a person, which is annoying).
    Other folks above mentioned the RPGs. As a woman, those have ALWAYS been my favourite games, especially fallout (and sequels), skyrim and the like. I enjoyed that different sexes/races had different interactions with characters because I felt it made the world seem more real.
    I hope that these types of games are discusses in future vids.

  59. says

    34 @Alteredstory:

    My girlfriend said that king’s quest 7 falls under the “self-rescuing princess” category, and it sort of passes the Bechdel test, albeit not for a good chunk of the game (for the third requirement).

    I was thinking about this game as I watched this third instalment. In a way, this game has a damsel in distress and a self-rescuing princes (in the form of one of the game’s protagonists, Rosella), in addition to a dude in distress (well, two: Prince Edgar and the Troll King Otar Fenris III). There are other characters in need of rescuing- kings, queens, even a cat at one point- but these are the main ones. The DiD trope is still present, but it gets flipped a couple of times. For starters, there is no male protagonist: you play as Princess Rosella or her mother Valanice, and the game switches between the two playable characters in alternating chapters. In the introductory cut scene, Rosella gets kidnapped, and chapter 1 starts with Valanice trying to figure out what happened so she can rescue her daughter. So, Rosella’s the DiD, but in the first twist on the trope, we have a mother setting out to rescue her daughter. In chapter two, you play as the kidnapped Rosella, who has been turned into a troll and is now engaged to the troll king. This is where Rosella becomes a self-rescuing princess. We also learn that the real troll king has been kidnapped, and the one Rosella is supposed to marry is an impostor. In order to not be a troll anymore and to get out of the troll kingdom, she agrees to find out what happened to the real troll king (which is when the dude in distress plot kicks in). So for half the game we’ve got Valanice trying to rescue her daughter (and completing a few world-savinbg side-quests in the process), and Rosella being a self-rescuing princess and setting off to rescue the dude, and ultimately rescuing two dudes and saving the world.

    The game certainly takes the trope in new directions, but it’s still very much present. There’s even a smooch of victory at the end, at least with the happy ending. And yes, the game does take a while to pass the Bechdel test, which is pretty sad for a game where the playable characters are women. (Valanice rescues a hummingbird early in chapter 3, I think that might qualify. Chapter 1 has no women other than Valanice, and while chapter 2 has multiple women, they only talk about men.)

    I’m kinda surprised it wasn’t mentioned in this video, actually, because of the ways in which it twists the classic DiD trope around.