12 votes

Damsel in Distress Part 1 - Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

20 comments

  1. [10]
    Triseult
    Link
    I don't understand why this series generated so much hatred online. It's well-researched, topical, well-argued, and it does all of it from a position of clear love about the medium. I guess the...

    I don't understand why this series generated so much hatred online. It's well-researched, topical, well-argued, and it does all of it from a position of clear love about the medium.

    I guess the general public (or at least the angry male segment of it) isn't used to the critical analysis of beloved media. That's par for the course everywhere in academic circles. You can love something and still apply critical analysis to it.

    10 votes
    1. not
      Link Parent
      I think, as someone pointed out, that there seems to be a general nonacceptance in some parts of gaming towards the fact that Games are now a popular medium that can and should be criticized like...

      I think, as someone pointed out, that there seems to be a general nonacceptance in some parts of gaming towards the fact that Games are now a popular medium that can and should be criticized like any other element of society. This is also kind of shown shown by the general hostility and gatekeeping towards game reviewers.

      6 votes
    2. [8]
      chocolate
      Link Parent
      If it were critical analysis, people might take it more seriously. It's cherry-picking to support a narrative. The whole 'anyone who calls this out is a misogynist!' defense didn't help matters.

      If it were critical analysis, people might take it more seriously. It's cherry-picking to support a narrative.

      The whole 'anyone who calls this out is a misogynist!' defense didn't help matters.

      2 votes
      1. [2]
        Whom
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        I realize this is anecdotal, but in my experience people who like Sarkeesian are very receptive to criticism of her work or they might just agree with it. I actually do think that despite...

        I realize this is anecdotal, but in my experience people who like Sarkeesian are very receptive to criticism of her work or they might just agree with it. I actually do think that despite generally agreeing with her message, she's not particularly great at arguing her points, which should be very basic and easily defensible. Every time I've voiced that or my problems with a specific example not fitting or something, that criticism has been accepted nicely.

        While there are certainly exceptions out there, you're probably not gonna be called a misogynist for finding flaws with her research and analysis. However if you participate in or approve of those who do participate in the widespread shaming and harassment of the person who dared put out some subpar analysis videos, you will almost certainly be called a misogynist.

        If you disagree with the basis in simple feminist theory, then you might be called a misogynist. Obviously this is slightly more grey than they harassment, but Anita is generally working with very basic principles and just providing examples. Generally the idea will be something like "women having agency in art is a good thing." If you disagree with that, I'd say there's some misogyny in there. Usually she stays surface level, but specific theoretical disagreements are usually pretty open too. If you really honestly came forward with a critique of how she frames the concept of the male gaze, or if you honestly tried to argue against the concept itself even belonging in a feminist framework, the dominant response would almost certainly not be calling you a misogynist and dismissing you.

        What did happen which could make it seem that way (coming from someone who was mildly on the anti-Sarkeesian train at the tine), is that you'd have these long response videos that would mix the general mean-spirited anti-feminist rhetoric or harassment or whatever with some more specific and sometimes even quite valid criticism, and those would get called misogynistic. Because, like, they were...even if not everything in them was.

        Also, you don't get to strip it of being critical analysis because you don't think it's well supported enough or that it doesn't represent the industry accurately or whatever. The flaws are there but if that's all you think there is then denying it even being called critical analysis is just silly and strikes me as an over condemnation of a sub par analysis video that doesn't accurately portray games.

        9 votes
        1. Catt
          Link Parent
          For me, a short YouTube video on any subject is a starting point. I agree that her work is surface level and do find I often don't agree with one or two of her examples. On the flip side, I can...

          For me, a short YouTube video on any subject is a starting point. I agree that her work is surface level and do find I often don't agree with one or two of her examples. On the flip side, I can definitely think of examples she has not included.

          Your experience is quite similar to mine regarding the subject. Thanks for posting. It's far more articulate than mine would've been.

          4 votes
      2. [5]
        Catt
        Link Parent
        I am curious why you think it's cherry-picking and not just good examples? I didn't get this from the video at all. Can you elaborate on where this comes from?

        I am curious why you think it's cherry-picking and not just good examples?

        The whole 'anyone who calls this out is a misogynist!' defense didn't help matters.

        I didn't get this from the video at all. Can you elaborate on where this comes from?

        4 votes
        1. Whom
          Link Parent
          Yeah, this is important too. You're totally right. What I'd like to see a way of mapping trends that couldn't be called cherry-picking. The whole idea is that you're picking out things which show...

          Yeah, this is important too. You're totally right. What I'd like to see a way of mapping trends that couldn't be called cherry-picking. The whole idea is that you're picking out things which show this trend...because that's what you're trying to talk about...

          If she was picking out some tiny no-name games and making generalizations based on that, then the argument could be made that her points aren't applicable to games in general. Hell, you can still make that argument if you really want to, but "cherry picking" does nothing to discredit her point on the individual works, only generalizations she could make from there, if she wants to call it a broader trend. But like in this one she's talking about things like Mario and Zelda, and I don't think you could ever claim those aren't popular and influential enough to at least be indicators of this trend existing. And if those examples aren't actually fitting ones...well, @chocolate didn't say anything about that.

          2 votes
        2. [3]
          chocolate
          Link Parent
          Because you could use the same technique to demonstrate anything (what 'cherry picking' is). An actual examination would have looked at the whole field and measured how prevalent themes are,...

          I am curious why you think it's cherry-picking and not just good examples?

          Because you could use the same technique to demonstrate anything (what 'cherry picking' is). An actual examination would have looked at the whole field and measured how prevalent themes are, rather than telling you they are prevalent and giving two examples. They certainly had the money to do a proper study, the fact that they chose not to is telling.

          1. Emerald_Knight
            Link Parent
            I watched roughly half of the first video and there were quite a few examples that were shown, albeit briefly, far more than just the one or two. It's not really feasible to cover all of them in...

            I watched roughly half of the first video and there were quite a few examples that were shown, albeit briefly, far more than just the one or two. It's not really feasible to cover all of them in depth, however, so focusing on the most popular series' that incorporate the subject in question is a sensible decision for the purposes of performing an accessible critical analysis.

            You're going to find this to be the case regardless of the subject you're dealing with--a critical analysis will only briefly touch on a subset of the data (because it's unreasonable to expect someone to provide an exhaustive list) and the main bulk of the analysis will focus on a sample of maybe a few popular examples from that subset.

            3 votes
          2. Whom
            Link Parent
            But their goal wasn't to do a statistical analysis of where those things are prevalent. They wanted to examine the works where you do see them. Those are both valid goals, and not every project...

            But their goal wasn't to do a statistical analysis of where those things are prevalent. They wanted to examine the works where you do see them. Those are both valid goals, and not every project has to tackle both at once.

            3 votes
  2. [2]
    Comment deleted by author
    Link
    1. Catt
      Link Parent
      Me too. And of course I can definitely think of exceptions and there are examples I may not completely agree with, but it's good food for thought.

      Me too. And of course I can definitely think of exceptions and there are examples I may not completely agree with, but it's good food for thought.

      1 vote
  3. [7]
    RamsesThePigeon
    (edited )
    Link
    If anyone is interested in a slightly different approach to this topic, I actually wrote an article for the United Nations about female characters in video games (along with other, related...

    If anyone is interested in a slightly different approach to this topic, I actually wrote an article for the United Nations about female characters in video games (along with other, related concepts). It's a little bit outdated at this point – I wrote it in 2016 – but it still does a decent job of highlighting the disconnect between the industry and its audience.

    The TL;DR of the article is that gaming is still viewed as a pastime dominated by adolescent males, and that perspective drives development... which perpetuates the misconception, and so on.

    5 votes
    1. [4]
      super_james
      Link Parent
      Is the view that adolescent males spend more time / money on games actually incorrect? It seems kind of odd to me if development studios are being so dumb as to overlook large and viable markets...

      Is the view that adolescent males spend more time / money on games actually incorrect?

      It seems kind of odd to me if development studios are being so dumb as to overlook large and viable markets if all it took was re-skinning their products.

      4 votes
      1. [3]
        RamsesThePigeon
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        That's a good question, but the answer isn't as clear-cut as it might seem. In simplest terms, yes, adolescent males do have the appearance of spending the most money on video games. However, this...

        That's a good question, but the answer isn't as clear-cut as it might seem.

        In simplest terms, yes, adolescent males do have the appearance of spending the most money on video games. However, this state of affairs hasn't come about because other demographics are intrinsically uninterested in the medium, but rather because the medium itself discourages their interest. Think of it like being invited to a party, but discovering that everyone in attendance would be required to punch one another in the face. You might very well have the desire to participate in a gathering of friends, but if the choice was between socialization and an unbroken nose, you'd probably think twice about making an appearance.

        That's obviously an extreme metaphor, but it actually represents the state of the industry rather well: The games with the highest budgets and the most marketing behind them are targeted at a group which has already shown itself to be composed of willing consumers. This has the added effect of further alienating potential buyers who might not be interested in Shootin' Dudes 17: The Shootening, and also of casting the pastime as a whole in a light that makes it unappealing to people who want more than flashy graphics and scripted action sequences.

        When we look at games like Fortnite, we actually see a significantly larger female userbase than we do when examining games like Call of Duty, despite the fact that both are ostensibly focused on introducing opponents to high-velocity lead. This is because the core mechanic – while still focused on violence and competition – is more intrinsically appealing from a gender-agnostic perspective. Splatoon was the example that I used in my article, which highlights the same point, and you can even see it reflected in games like League of Legends or Overwatch.

        This is why a reskin of an existing title won't actually help with anything: You could release Tom Clancy's Kitchen Adventures with relative ease, but the gameplay's appeal wouldn't increase by default. (You'd also probably insult most of the women to whom you marketed the game.) Creating inclusive games requires a ground-up approach, not to mention a lot of time and investment. For a more direct comparison, think about how Skyrim has proven to be popular with female gamers, but Dark Souls hasn't seen quite the same success.

        To summarize, there is a vast untapped market for video games, but that market is actively shunned in favor of repeating previous success. This fosters the impression that the medium doesn't (and shouldn't) welcome demographics outside of the existing one, which further discourages attempts at challenging the status quo. At this point, a game designed with the specific intention of holding cross-gender appeal would be seen as a risk... and if there's one thing that the industry hates, it's taking chances without a backup plan.

        11 votes
        1. [2]
          super_james
          Link Parent
          So do you plan on exploiting this fantastic opportunity to make yourself wodges of cash? If you're not particularly creative do you think there are any games companies worth investing in based on...

          So do you plan on exploiting this fantastic opportunity to make yourself wodges of cash? If you're not particularly creative do you think there are any games companies worth investing in based on your idea that glittering fortunes awaits those who target the gaming girls and women?

          This type of article seems a bit strange to me. Indie game creation has never been easier, your fundamental point is that the current industry is leaving cash on the table. But rather than putting in the effort & taking the risk yourself to chase this theorized cash you're... Asking that others do the work and take the risk.

          I don't think you're necessarily wrong, there are no doubt whole genres of game which would appeal to current non-gamers. I just think it's a painful over-simplification to suggest that developing these games and getting non gamers to play them is easy.

          3 votes
          1. RamsesThePigeon
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            Believe it or not, I've actually made several previous attempts at capitalizing on the opportunity. Not because I want to personally turn a profit, granted, but because I've always been focused on...

            Believe it or not, I've actually made several previous attempts at capitalizing on the opportunity. Not because I want to personally turn a profit, granted, but because I've always been focused on entertaining people. I worked in the video games industry for six years, with two of those being at the managerial level. During that span, I had multiple opportunities to pitch concepts, develop ideas, and try to make an impact on upcoming or proposed titles... but in every case, I ran into the same barrier as the one that I described above. (In the interest of honesty, I'll mention that I worked on a title that was phenomenally successful with female demographics, but it wasn't one that I would consider an intentional success. Truth be told, it was something of a fluke, and that fluke was later expanded upon by a shrewd marketing campaign.)

            This may seem like an exaggeration, but it's completely true: I have literally had meetings with folks in the upper rungs of the industry about this very topic, and they have explained that it isn't enough to expect a positive return on an investment. A given release needs to meet certain predicted metrics above that line, and that's just for concepts that are already proven. In other words, a game designed to be either for women or gender-agnostic might very well be seen as a sound investment... just not a profitable-enough one to mitigate the aforementioned risk.

            Now, the independent game market would seem like it represents a great opportunity... but the problem there is that it's already supersaturated to the point of being unapproachable to many. For every Undertale, there are literally a thousand instances of Captain Bland's Forgettable Adventure, and compelling titles often get lost in the mix. (This is the same issue that was faced by the publishing industry earlier in the decade, so it isn't exactly a new phenomenon.) The solution is to find a creative and compelling way to get the word out, but that first requires a person to have something worth offering.

            I'm not an engineer by any means. I'm a writer who pays the bills by doing editing and video production for a media development company (and its associated publications). As such, while I'd be more than happy to invest my time and energy into a project – to take that particular risk, as it were – I wouldn't get very far without the skills and expertise of people who know a thing or two about coding and animation. That may seem like a defeatist attitude or an excuse, and perhaps it is... but it's a perspective that was born of having looked at the industry from the inside out.

            7 votes
    2. [2]
      Catt
      Link Parent
      Interesting article, thanks for including it. I think part of the problem (and this is for media in general) is more the lack of women writing or developing content. It's hard to have a well...

      Interesting article, thanks for including it.

      I think part of the problem (and this is for media in general) is more the lack of women writing or developing content. It's hard to have a well represented POV without representation.

      1 vote
      1. RamsesThePigeon
        Link Parent
        My pleasure! Yes, I agree with your statement that the industry needs more women in charge. I wanted to include more of that focus in my article, but as you saw, I left it as something of a closer...

        My pleasure!

        Yes, I agree with your statement that the industry needs more women in charge. I wanted to include more of that focus in my article, but as you saw, I left it as something of a closer to my final paragraph.

        1 vote
  4. [2]
    Catt
    Link
    This is the first of three parts. As someone who grew up with a lot of the games mentioned and actually am still playing their remakes, I am a little surprised how numb I can be to the trope. It's...

    This is the first of three parts. As someone who grew up with a lot of the games mentioned and actually am still playing their remakes, I am a little surprised how numb I can be to the trope. It's been so normalized.

    I've also spent a lot of time trying telling nongamers about the stories of games, and looking back, they really are kinda terrible...

    3 votes
    1. super_james
      Link Parent
      Have you played homeworld 1 or braid? I think there are some games with good stories in them, it's rare though. Personally the games I enjoy a lot aren't very story driven. Sadly lots of very...

      Have you played homeworld 1 or braid?

      I think there are some games with good stories in them, it's rare though. Personally the games I enjoy a lot aren't very story driven. Sadly lots of very economically successful games are, in my opinion, terrible in every way except graphically. Testament to the power of advertising to generate hype & so sales.

      1 vote