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Video: The damsel in distress's modern, gruesome update
May 30, 2013 | By Kris Ligman

May 30, 2013 | By Kris Ligman
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    97 comments
More: Console/PC, Art, Design, Production, Business/Marketing, Video



Just how often do triple-A games kill off female characters for the sake of the story? The second entry in Anita Sarkessian's Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series explores how modern iterations of the "damsels in distress" cliche are increasingly violent.

Following on the first installment of the video series, in which Sarkeesian traced the origins of the "damsels in distress" trope, this video explores several further evolutions of the common narrative cliche. These include the "damsel in the refrigerator," in which women characters are killed off to provide character development for male protagonists.

A word of warning: the video does contain plenty of plot spoilers, but moreover it also depicts some pretty graphic imagery. Sarkeesian encourages her viewers to exercise discretion.

If a written transcript is more your style, or if you want to look up the full list of games featured in the video, head on over to Feminist Frequency.


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Comments


Dan Felder
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I'm sure Anita thinks it's just as sexist when the male partners of cops are killed to provide character development. It's a genre cliche'. I expect she'll shortly do a video on that too and explain why the patriarchy is also to blame for that.

How about fathers dying to provide character development for a protagonist? Is that sexist too?

The death of someone close to a compassionate human being can have shattering effects on their personal development. That makes it a powerful literary device, which makes it a popular one. If it was applied in exactly equal numbers, half of those people getting killed would be women. Naturally, that's going to be a huge number with lots of examples.

It's not at all arguable that there are different social attitudes towards the different genders, but when Anita comes out with these demonstrably flawed examples with weak supporting evidence - I think people assume these are the best arguments out there. In a strange way, she's setting up her own straw man for people to easily knock down.

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Ian Uniacke
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Can you provide examples of the opposite Dan? Your argument seems predicated on examples of men dying and women seeking revenge for which I'm not seeing the evidence.

Even beyond that, the more important part of the argument is that the next part of the plot device in many cases is the man exacting their revenge because 'their property was taken away from them', for which Anita provided several examples.

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Michael Josefsen
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@Dan
The OTHER Dan.
:P

Kevin Fishburne
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@Dan

"I don't know how you can see that segment of the video and not acknowledge a systemic pattern where female characters are treated like meat bags."

The vast majority of characters in video games are treated like meat bags from what I've seen over the last 25 years. Most of the characters in video games are male, so it's likely if you wanted to add up the number of male kills and compare them to the number of female kills the males would get the bloody end of the stick.

Randall Stevens
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@Ian

Well a quick look at my comic/game shelves I can come up with:
Sara from Witchblade, Alis from Phantasy Star 1, Chun Li, FFX-2 i guess
I imagine if I spent more than 15 seconds thinking about it I could come up with some more. If I can start looking at film then I know the list will be very long.


This video would feel more acceptable if there wasn't that extra 120k dollars hanging over this entire project. I don't mind it feeling like a standard low budget youtube production, but nobody paid that much money for those.

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Kevin Fishburne
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@Dan Eisenhower

"Well right, and they're killed by male avatars. If you can establish a pattern of matriarchal murder of men in video games be my guest."

I guess computer gaming fantasy land would be better balanced if there were an equal number of games in which the default avatar was female, killing mostly male enemies. :/ That's not the point I'm making, but in any case there is no pattern of men killing women in computer games that is not dwarfed by men killing men in computer games. If you break down the overarching "kill message" of video games, it is that killing anything in your way will get you the farthest fastest. Doesn't matter if it's turtles, women, men, or purple pixels. Kill it, and move on is the message.

What matters more, the sex of the killer or the sex of the victim? Should we make sure an equal number of each gender kill an equal number of the opposite gender? I think the entire argument is a bit short sighted, and to be blunt, stupid. The larger question would be why do the base progression mechanics of so many games involve killing people, of any gender, as the easiest method of progressing to the prized end game?

In most games your "avatar" is male. That's because historically most players of games are male. In most games the people you kill are male, because as in real life most "enemies" that use force to oppose you are male. Unarmed people, -historically- women and children, are considered collateral/accidental damage. When they are specifically targeted in games for murder it is a plot device to create feelings of injustice, rage, retribution, etc. in the player. It may be a cheap device, but it doesn't mean that game devs love the idea of killing women and take every opportunity to simulate it.

The problem is that there are thousands of years of human behavior that, in general, suggest the dominance of males over females, yet as civilized folk we all agree that males and females are equal in almost every respect that matters. So when games create their typical worst-case-scenarios of chaos and violence they frequently dip into our historical past with respect to the relationship between males and females.

The solution, other than changing the culture of gender relationships across the planet, is to stop making games that are so simple and shitty that the question of the gender of who's being killed is more important than the reason for killing them.

fred tam
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Also in disney movies the mother dies, why? Sexism? Patriarchy? Or perhaps its just more impact for a story.

Might as well ask why its sadder when your dog dies then when your gold fish dies, not everything is the same.

Daniel Balmert
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I don't know why people want Anita to let people comment on her videos. No meaningful dialog ever happens on Youtube, ever. The dialog she wants is the one we're already having - talking amongst each other about the video and (hopefully) considering some of her views. We don't have to internalize it all - just talking about it is a win.

I doubt she's "unwilling to accept feedback" - in fact, her 2nd video contains allusions to "response" videos from her first D.I.D. video. She's not engaging in the debate in real-time because, lets be honest - people are looking really hard for ways to tear down the arguments she submits, no matter how airtight or loose they are. There's no reason to have a sloppy slug-fest. People are already trying to drag that out, but I'll be just fine watching the video series and having ACTUAL conversations about it with actual people.

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Jeferson Soler
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@ Daniel Balmert - "No meaningful dialog ever happens on Youtube, ever." Exactly, which is why I don't blame Anita for not letting people leave comments on her video. A lot of YouTube commentators are not exactly mature and that's just putting it politely.

Michael Josefsen
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@Daniel
I saw what happened when comments were allowed on her material. I would have closed the comments too. It was like a kindergarten.

Daniel Balmert
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@Maciej Bacal

There's no debate to be had. You can't debate, "Hey, these games are pretty terrible at appealing to my gender." The best you get is data that backs up her point (90% male playerbase on these AAA games), and anecdotal evidence to the contrary.

The debate needs to occur over "What should we (as an industry and as individuals) do next?" People unwilling to move to that part of the debate will monopolize the entirety of pretty much every anonymous message board (see PAR, which had to close its thread).

So, no - youtube isn't entirely filled with idiots and evil spawn, but as a forum, there's no way to guide the discussion intelligently.

Daniel Balmert
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@Maciej Bacal

That LCD thing is a sad truth, but that's the fundamental idea Anita's trying to reject and explain. I think we agree on what's happening, but we disagree that it is or isn't a problem.

"Educating people requires dialog."

It kinda... doesn't, though. How stupid would school be if 14 year olds discussed the validity of Euclidean geometry instead of teachers just telling kids "Look, this is the way it works. Let's accept it and move on."

And besides, I believe there is a fundamental difference between a debate and a dialog. Anita wants dialog (where people listen to each other and consider viewpoints they don't already accept) instead of debate (where each side comes in with ammo and tries to "win").

Anita began this project by considering the viewpoint of detractors, and creating an informed response to the contrary. She has no victory condition - only hoping to change people's minds. Then, instead of considering the possibility that these games are marginalizing women (even if it's only slightly), people think they can "debunk" it by either listing a paltry handful of games that don't (which are usually awesome games! Who knew?!), or by redrawing the definition of "marginalizing", or by using anecdotal evidence of "I know a girl..." or "I'm a gamer girl!"


All of this is entirely besides the point that she'd have to manually sift through a metric shit ton of ascii rape, hate spew and blatant sexism just to get to a NUGGET of dialog on youtube. Not worth it, IMO.

If you want a dialog, email her directly. She probably actually reads through those emails, though I bet they're no better than average youtube comments.

Johnathon Tieman
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@Daniel Balmert:

You said, "How stupid would school be if 14 year olds discussed the validity of Euclidean geometry instead of teachers just telling kids 'Look, this is the way it works. Let's accept it and move on.'"

It wouldn't be stupid at all. In fact, accepting statements as fact without debating why they are facts isn't learning; it is indoctrination - the kind used by cults/religions and politicians. Personally, that is my litmus test for whether an idea is currently worth investigating. If someone can't or won't discuss "why" with me, then I will spend my time on other issues where that question is answered.

You also said, "She has no victory condition - only hoping to change people's minds." Do you not see the problem in that statement? The victory conditions is "change people's minds". She pretty clearly is debating, and these videos are her ammo.

Lukas Hagg
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You know why people get a bit iffy when someone blocks comments? If comments are blocked, you are unable to make a video response. Video responses have pretty much been the de facto method of making a proper response to points said in a video on YouTube for a long time. People have been making rebuttals to her videos anyway, but since they can't actually make them 'responses', they are unlikely to pop up on her radar.
I am unconvinced that she can take criticism, legit or not.

And riddle me this. If YouTube comments are so obviously putrid, vile and bereft of any value, why should they matter? If you can dismiss them out of hand anyway, disabling them seems an unnecessary step.

Jeferson Soler
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@ Lukas Hagg - If disabling comments on YouTube was an unnecessary step, then why did YouTube gave that option in the first place? From the way I see, it's not an unnecessary step, especially to people that don't want to deal with cyber-bullies. Plus, Anita is not the only one that has the comments on her videos disabled. There are people and companies that don't have the time to moderate and to deal with comments/responses on their videos, so they turn off the response option to avoid the hassle.

Lukas Hagg
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@ Jeferson Soler

The remark about it being an unecessary step wasn't actually targeted at Sarkeesian directly, but people here. I see people here use very vitriolic and demeaning manner when talking about YouTube comments (much like the comments section they so detest, albeit using more or less refined wording in doing so), and while yes, there's a lot of inane blathering going on in there, dismissing all of it because of the parts that don't appeal to you is a mischaracterization.

But I'll humor you. Yes, YouTube gives the user the option to enable, moderate or disable comments on their videos. Why? Because it started as a community site built upon 'users' not companies (kind of ironic seeing how it's turning out).

Granted, the comments section is worse than it's ever been functionality-wise, so while having a decent discussion in there is, or maybe 'was', possible, it's getting increasingly difficult to make a proper reply to a comment, which leads to less coherent discussions and more haphazard opinionated statements.

If you read again, you'll see that I didn't say that she, or anyone else, shouldn't be allowed to moderate their channel the way they want, but rather why it is, in lack of better phrasing, frowned upon. That "other people do it too" is not a proper argument against this. So it's good that you expounded on it than letting that be the entire argument. It still doesn't change the perception of the act of disabling comments though.

Jeferson Soler
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@ Lukas Hagg - There's no need to "humor" me! You brought up a lot of valid and good points. At the end of the day, it seems that it is a no win situation when it comes to dealing with YouTube comments. Whether the video owner keeps the comments on his/her YouTube page on or off, there will be a backlash from viewers either way.

fred tam
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Problem is that she's using this as an excuse. Maybe no comments are going to be worth anything but maybe there will be some. She can't say, she just blocks because the truth of the matter is that its just a devious way to protect her own shallow scholarship from criticism.

People have already looked at her videos and found that much of her footage comes from other youtube video "lets plays", meaning she spend countless months making 2 short videos for 160k of money and couldn't even be bothered to spend on games, and thats why she's really into playing the damsel card, she can't take any closer scrutiny.

Dean Boytor
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I've been waiting for this video to show up here, since the owner decided to disable the comment feed on the video -_-

I had a great discussion with my roommate on this and I'd like to share some highlights of that conversation.

First off I would like to say, these are all very good and interesting points. I do very much support feminism and I'm a huge fan of lead Female protagonists Like Ridley in Alien, Terra in FF, Samus in Metroid and I am much looking forward to Milla Maxwell; one of the main leads in the upcoming Tales of Game.

This video has some very good topics but never offers an alternative of a better solution or how to even solve these dilemmas. However the only one that is offered a solution for is immediately shot down.
Just because you feel its "silly" that role reversal in the damsel in distress situation does not make it invalid.

Lets move onto death for significant others,
I understand this was just a light glossing and not a full depth review of each game but I would like to bring up the plot of "The Darkness".
If your familiar with the game Jackie kind of leads 2 different lives, a murderous one with the mafia and a normal one with Jenny. After Jackie's uncle betrays him in the beginning all he has left is Jenny.

When Jenny was taken away from him it wasn't because they wanted ti display macho abuse towards women, Jackie's significant other was an embodiment of his life away from the chaotic one, with her gone he had nothing except for himself and the Darkness. Even if Jackie was gay, it would have had the same effect.

Having ones family, friend and significant other die has been a corner stone in drama and especially Greek tragedies. I feel that you are confusing one great point to something that loosely applies because the main character's lover is female.


[Possible Bioshock infinite Spoiler]

If your familiar with the ending of Bioshock Infinite, which I understand was 2 days before this video was posted, you'll see that regardless of gender, it still has a powerful impact.


[END Possible Bioshock infinite Spoiler]

To conclude, I thought this video had amazing points honestly. But the sec you reference "Duke Nukem", I start to shake my head. Saying Duke Nukem is a prime example is not only too easy but the game is nothing but a fart joke(Not that there's nothing wrong with Duke Nukem but the game gives you an early warning that this isn't going to be a massively intellectual story). As For Psueda 51, that's just his style, I'm not saying its right either but that's his style of writing.

It is possible to write a story that doesn't involve any of these tropes to spice it up. I know have have written stories that doesn't utilize any of these, but I feel its absurd to say its fine to kill off a male character when its appropriate but if by chance that character was a female, I'm under scrutiny.

I dunno, I guess I am more of an equal rights activist more so feminist
But lets be honest, in most situations its not a matter of gender but maybe poor or cliche story telling.

~DB

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Daniel Balmert
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It's only a trope/cliche because of how terribly common it is. You can have a female character get killed, but you have to fight really hard not to make it cliche or possibly sexist. Sorry, but them's the rules.

You shouldn't write a stereotypical black or gay character either. It's just the way it works. Other writers before you have saturated the space with derogatory work, so it's up to you to be diligent in how you approach the subject. It's not your fault, but you're supposed to advance the genre, not entrench it.

Luke Quinn
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Well said, Daniel Balmert.
That is precisely the problem here, but people are too concerned with absolutes.
Any given game exhibiting any given trope is not the problem; The problem comes when 95% of all games do the exact same thing.
It's really just laziness and I think more indicative of the iterative nature of the industry.
A successful game comes out and for the next 20 years it is followed by 1001 games that are that exact game + a brand new hook, or a simple mash-up of two successful games, which means it's easy for a negative aspect to come into active proliferation not by design, but by the nature of the process.

Johnathon Tieman
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@Daniel/Luke:

One of the reasons these story lines are used so much is because they work. They make for good, compelling stories that reach a lot of people, and when running a business, especially in a saturated market like gaming, it makes good business sense to use a story that you know works.

That is largely my problems with a lot of feminist critique currently. Rather than looking at all influencing factors (in this case, the business and risk factors), a lot of feminists just cry "patriarchy" as the cause of whatever they don't like. Given the investment of money involved, people funding and making AAA video games are very unlikely to want to accept more risk of writing a story that may or may not go over well.

This is my main criticism with what Anita is doing. She could have used Kickstarter to fund development of one or more games with the kinds of stories she and feminists want to see, but instead she uses it to fund videos to just make complaints. If she instead proved the viability of the types of stories she wants to see (they way many indies are doing at this very moment), she could get AAA game developers interested in those stories.

Daniel Balmert
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@Johnathon

"She could have used Kickstarter to fund development of one or more games with the kinds of stories she and feminists want to see."

I understand the idea, but this just isn't the way to get her point across. Her goal isn't to create a subset of games that are "tolerable for women" (separate but equal,) her goal is to get games people already want to play to become just a bit more empowering for women. Or maybe just less demeaning.... either way.

She's also not a developer or a fiction writer. She's a journalist raising money to do journalism (which makes sense.) You can disagree with her journalism, but saying she should have done something outside her expertise is an odd demand.

"One of the reasons these story lines are used so much is because they work."

They work for the target demographic (young males) to the exclusion of the largest demographic in the world (females). That's bad writing - it's why guys don't like "romance" novels. The idea behind GOOD writing is that the people you target will love it, but you'll get some splash damage to pick up other demo's too. Currently, developers are pitching laser guided sniper shots at young dudes then wondering why anyone feels excluded or left out. Or they simply don't care, which makes apathy the enemy.

Johnathon Tieman
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@Daniel Balmert:

"...her goal is to get games people already want to play to become just a bit more empowering for women."

Two things here. One, this flies in the face of some of the earlier comments you made where you claim she doesn't have an end goal. You aren't being consistent in your statements. Two, what does she care if those games don't treat women how she wants? You admitted those games have a target demographic that doesn't include Anita, so the only thing I see going on here is Anita - and feminists in general - are upset that games not made for them aren't, well, made for them.

"She's also not a developer or a fiction writer. She's a journalist raising money to do journalism (which makes sense.) You can disagree with her journalism, but saying she should have done something outside her expertise is an odd demand."

Several points here as well. If she isn't a fiction writer, then she doesn't have the requisite background to critique fiction either. Critics such as Roger Ebert study film-making before they critique it. If Anita hasn't done so, then her critiques don't hold much value. However, given that you admit Anita is a journalist, and journalists do typically research things before they report on them, then I would certainly give Anita the benefit of the doubt and say Anita has enough expertise that should she be able to contribute to a video game's writing, at least in the capacity of an editor who could make games currently in design better. Has she attempted to volunteer her services to make an indie game better - or encouraged feminist writers to do the same? It is easy to point out flaws, but far harder to actually work to fix them. Also, to call what I suggested a "demand" is an outright lie. You are intentionally falsely labeling my statement in such a way as to try to discredit an otherwise reasonable question - namely, why doesn't Anita, or even just feminists in general, use Kickstarter to raise money for a video game with a feminists-friendly story line?

"They work for the target demographic (young males) to the exclusion of the largest demographic in the world (females). That's bad writing - it's why guys don't like "romance" novels. The idea behind GOOD writing is that the people you target will love it, but you'll get some splash damage to pick up other demo's too. Currently, developers are pitching laser guided sniper shots at young dudes then wondering why anyone feels excluded or left out. Or they simply don't care, which makes apathy the enemy."

The "damsel in distress" trope is not one solely limited to young males; in fact, both men and women of all ages have long enjoyed stories with that trope (one of the earliest game designers, Roberta Williams, used that trope, among others). The fact that some people don't prefer that trope does not change the fact that it works for the majority of people. Your "enemy," as you describe it, isn't apathy, but business. Businesses have spent years studying what sells best to the largest group of people (one of which is the "damsel in distress" trope), which in turn justifies the large expenditure of money to produce AAA games. Until there is some evidence that other types of stories can sell well enough, no business is going to want to risk millions of dollars to create such a game.

That is again why I suggest using Kickstarter to make such a game. Make the game. Gather the results. Produce business studies about the game. These steps, not videos by journalists, will get the AAA market to pay attention. In general, investors care about returns, not content, so if someone can show a good return for a video game that has different story lines, they will get made, especially since it is an untapped market at this point (something investors love).

John Trauger
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Strikes me killing the love-interest is a time-honored way of building drama.

That suggests the problem isn't damsels in distress but a lack of female protagonists.

Dean Boytor
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There are actually plenty, she just never mentions them.

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Luke Quinn
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Dean Boytor - Care to list some games with a female lead and a male damsel in distress? Or even some that have the female exacting revenge for her slaughtered / kidnapped husband & son.
Here, I'll start.
*Super Princess Peach
*Umm... Ah.... Your turn.

Dean Boytor
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@Luke
FF10 2 for starters
Yuna is trying to bring Tidus back to her time, which if m not mistaken is the "dead Prince in distress in the microwave"

There is also Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, The lead role Shanoa eventual kills her male counterpart because he becomes possessed.

For Just the male in distress in the beginning of Baldurs gate 2 shadows of amn, the character Jaheira is trying to find her husband in the prison only to find him quite dead, she then swears to avenge his death.

As an added bonus, check out the movie "Run Lola Run" doesn't involve games but its a rock solid Prince in distress.

I'm willing to agree that the amount of games starring women in these situations are not as plentiful but when they're a few out there trying to break the mold.

@Dan
My comment has nothing to do with violence against women,
"....but a lack of female protagonists."
I was commenting that. There a few games with Female protagonist but not as much as a male lead.

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Jeferson Soler
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@ Luke Quinn - There's Kangaroo, which is about the titular heroine trying to save her son from monkeys and apes. Also, in regard to the element of "a protagonist is forced to kill the damsel", there's Valis in which the female protagonist, Yuko, has to kill her best female friend, Reiko (who is one of the bosses of the game), due to the main villain of the game, Rogles, having a control on her. Granted, the game of Valis wasn't a "damsel in distress" game, but Yuko having to fight and kill Reiko is still a very important part of the plot of the game that's nearly similar to the plot device in which a male character is forced to kill the "damsel" in the game.

Dean Boytor
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@Dan

Im quite aware.

Understand I'm not disagreeing with you.
There is definitely a trend in the story telling that needs to be broken.

Kheper Crow
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@Dean
But how many of those "princes in distress" are powerless, incompetent, utterly dependent on their female counterpart? I don't know those examples, but they all seem quite independently capable. One of the main problems with "damsel in distress" is that it portrays woman as frail little things dependent on their strong male for protection.
Even if you have a strong, independent woman who becomes distressed she usually falls back into the helpless role whereas the captured male tends to still retain their sense of power despite their situation. How many of those distressed men scream and cry for their female partner to rescue them?

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Dean Boytor
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@Kheper
Exactly, there are far too many of those "princes in distress"

Nathan Humpal
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I was a little surprised to see The void in her montage near the beginning. That's not to say that The void is a bad example of the Damsel in Distress trope, it's just that, within the game's rather convoluted and bizarre story and setting, it seems like that trope would be rife for deeper exploration.

Gian Dominguez
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People of all ages, genders and races have been killed/brutalized in video games. I dont think the developers of these games planned on including some sort of hidden message/condoned the actions. Merely that they had a story to tell and that try to make that story something that can resonate well with their target audience.

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Jeferson Soler
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@ Gian Dominguez - Dan is right! Also, based on what Dan pointed out and on what Anita showed, there's something more for any one of us to be worried about. The problem with recycled/cliched elements in games has been pointed out in the past by some people, but after seeing Anita's latest video, it looks to me that the "damsel in distress" trope has been recycled more times than FPS games and it doesn't help matters that there are FPS games that have a "damsel in distress" trope. Yes, I do like to play different kinds of games on different systems and on PC as well as I'm all for proper portrayal of female characters on games, but if anyone looks at Anita's video beyond the main message of her video, then you will see that the videogame industry is in desperate need of a shake-up as there are people that keeps on recycling the same plot device over and over again, displaying lack of originality. I don't completely fault game developers for that problem, but it is not a good thing to stay in the comfort zone for too long. Hopefully, Capcom's upcoming game, Remember Me, will shake things up a little bit.

Luis Blondet
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I'm disappointed that Gamasutra is supporting this troll. Getting hate mail does not magically make your argument objective, accurate or logical. There is sexism in our culture, but using biased, subjective arguments that cherry-picks and twists facts to paint a specific pre-chosen narrative is not the way to counter the hate-spewing.

Luke Quinn
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Getting hate mail does not magically make your argument objective, accurate or logical, but having an objective, accurate, and logical argument does.
Her statements can be easily tested by converting them into metrics.
She states that females are over represented in victim roles for the sake of narrative, and that females are under represented as heroic leads...
Now write down every game that you can think of that 1) uses females as victims for narrative or 2) features only/predominantly male leads and then a list of games that do the opposite. Is one list bigger than the other by more than 5%? 25%? Hell, even 50%?

If you think she has twisted facts, cherry picked, or been overtly biased, then please counter said points with some kind of evidence or reasonable example instead of just stating it as fact.
How far would any argument get if both sides just asserted things without evidence?
I may not agree with everything she says, but I think Anita has done a solid job of presenting her side and I haven't seen much of substance from her detractors.

Kris Ligman
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Gamasutra reports on quite a lot of stuff. We covered the first installment on this series, and provided the videos keep addressing issues topical to developers, we will continue to do so.

Disagreeing with Sarkeesian's conclusions does not make her a "troll" and it does not mean our readers can't take valuable takeaways from her criticisms, even IF they disagree.

Michael Ball
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"I haven't seen much of substance from her detractors"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJihi5rB_Ek
This stellar deconstruction of Anita's argument is the SECOND google result for "damsel in distress response". Just how hard have you looking, exactly?

Lewis Wakeford
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@Michael

It's nice to hear the perspective of a woman that actually, you know, plays games.

Regine Abel
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@Michael and Lewis

I am a female gamer and game designer. I fully support what Anita is trying to do though I do not necessarily share all her views. The points she's trying to make are very valid. I found myself nodding in agreement with a lot of what she was saying because that is how I (and many of my female colleagues in the industry) feel when playing games or watching movies. However, while the facts she presented may be true, her conclusions are not necessarily true. Is she cherry picking the facts? Of course! But she has enough solid examples to demonstrate there is an unhealthy trend.

I watched KiteTales' response on youtube and I couldn't help but think that she's guilty of the same things she's reproaching Anita. She didn't address all of Anita's video. She cherry picked the 2 "damsels" she had an emotional bond with and countered Anita's arguments with her personal views on what makes these women strong. She had valid arguments and I admit that she made me look at Peach with a different (more positive) eye. But it remains a matter of perspective. What she considered strength came across to me as the cliché role always given to women: the respected peace-loving nurturer, supporter that embodies beauty and grace. But that doesn't make them any less helpless/useless once you toss them in a cage.

It doesn't matter that I or anyone else agrees or disagrees with either Anita or KiteTales. Both of them are biased but what matters is that it opens a dialogue, a reflection on how we as developers portray women in games. They have both done a great job of presenting their views. I am looking forward to more of Anita's videos and hope other women like KiteTales will continue to counter her arguments with their own perspective.

John Woznack
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If the gender roles were reversed in all of these "tropes", would Anita be passionately creating videos decrying such "dis-empowerment" of men?

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Luke Quinn
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If the gender roles were reversed in all of these "tropes", would people like yourself defend it?

Christian Nutt
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Of course not -- because the historical, cultural baggage that goes along with the genders could NOT be reversed as easily as the genders of the characters.

Gian Dominguez
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@Luke Quinn
Considering these gender reversals have happened(although less often that the damsel trope) in several video games yes I would be willing to defend it. As an example In Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia you end up killing the male counterpart of Shanoa. In suikoden 2 you could kill Joey(the best friend of the protagonist) and he wants you to kill him. In Final Fantasy 10 Tidus "dies" to evoke an emotional response from the players.

Really the trope is neither good nor bad. Its just a story telling tool.

John Woznack
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@Luke Quinn - Yes I would, and I do. The "trope" (or for that matter, all "tropes") are just methods by which stories are told, and railing against them is akin to blaming the ocean for having too much water in it.

@Gian Dominguez - Exactly my point! Thanks! Anita is railing against what I consider, as you put it "just a story telling tool". Perhaps she has a point that the "damsel in distress" has been over-used, but again as you said, "the trope is neither good nor bad".

Amanda Lange
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She said at the end of this video she intends to address the gender-reversed situation in the next one. Maybe wait and see what she does say then?

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Adam Borno
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I'm sorta happy to see the video posted here, mostly due to the quality of commentors on the site.

I can never tell if Anita's videos over generalize by accident, or if it's all done on purpose to incite more discussion then it would have got had her argument been a little less one-sided.

She bought up a lot of examples of her trope cocktails, but without the proper context for any of them it swings too broadly at the subject. It states the problem as "look at how many games use this trope," instead of something probably more worth the conversation "look at how many games use this trope wrong and what should we watch out for." Like when she used "God of War" in her list of games using the Damsel in the Fridge trope. Sure, it's there, but in the context of the story it has more meaning then a simple plot device. It's not like you could have replaced Kratos' wife and family with a pile of valuable possessions and realistically had the same player and character reaction.

Games that handle Damsels in Distress (and other similar tropes) like Super Mario Bros, where the character is practically interchangeable with an inanimate object, seem like more of an issue to me then just the sheer number of games using the trope. It's an act of lazy character design that hurts the industry's image.

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Kenneth Blaney
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The further issue here of criticizing "God of War" in using this trope is that Kratos' story is fairly shamelessly ripped off from Greek mythological stories such as Hercules (accidental murder of family). "God of War" doesn't just not work narratively if you take out the wife and family, it doesn't work allegorically.

So if we force this to be black or white, we are left either excluding historical works and allegories thereof OR we are forced to say that violence against women is never an issue. This, I think, is the problem Anita runs into as this is how she frames the argument. We could, instead, see the issue in an entirely different light and realize the big issue is that game stories tend to have crappy writing that is often at odds with the gameplay mechanics or the graphics. Trope-y women doing stereotypically female things often go hand-in-hand with trope-y men doing stereotypically masculine things, the only major difference is historical trends associated with these actions. Better writing would see fewer characters fitting so neatly into "TV Tropes" style categories and thus challenging the usual societal pressures.

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Nathan Humpal
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When I was an undergrad, I expressed interest in Jungian archetypal analysis to a professor. He agreed that such analysis can be interesting, but pointed out that, all to often, it can lead to articles that simply list archetypes, and slot characters into them without much critical discussion.

I bring this up because, in a way that seems to be the major fault of these videos so far. She does a good job of defining the tropes, citing examples, and bringing up the societal issues of the trope, but she doesn't really go beyond that. I think, in part, that's because of the format; you can fit far more content into even a small article than you can in a 30 minute video. And, perhaps, like you said, she's doing it to foster discussion. But in the end it's frustrating because she is a good presenter, but she leaves you wanting a deeper discussion of the topic.

But that's fine. I mean, that's how these types of things operate: she saw a lack of discussion of the topic, probably more within feminist circles than game criticism circles, and decided to start it. Hopefully in the future that criticism will run deeper. Perhaps by you! Or me! ...No, not by me, I've got other stuff to do.

Dean Boytor
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@Kenneth

Right on the nose, well said.

Kenneth Blaney
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Exactly right Dan. If we walk away from black vs white and do so with good intentions and the talent to execute on those intentions, we open ourselves up to all sorts of possible expressions of human states which go well behind falling into or purposefully subverting known tropes.

Jeferson Soler
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@ Kenneth Blaney - Doing stories and characters that reside within a spectrum of shades of gray is not a bad idea and I like that strategy, but it would definitely be a challenge to make such a thing appeal to an audience that still believes that everything is black and white and no shades of gray. At least, that would be the case with a great number of people in the USA.

Michael Josefsen
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I think she stretches her points beyond the breaking point at times, but there's a lot of truth in this video. Utilizing women in danger as a plot device is mostly very lazy and doesn't help the fact (ok, I admit, its just opinion) that game narratives are almost always dumb and trite.

Another interesting point was that the male characters who lose a woman dont really exact revenge because they miss her, but because their ability to protect women "like a real man" has been questioned.
I think this is true... I can't remember playing a game where I actually believed the hero to have any real feelings of loss and affection for the damsel in distress. Damsels in distress are mere lost possessions.

David Paris
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I'm happy to see her video here. She's a good presenter, and uses lots of nice examples to draw upon. The issues she champions ( gender inequity as propogated within the medium ) clearly exist. I don't necessarily agree with all her cause -> effect intepretation, but that's ok. It should be easy, meaningful, and in this case, entertaining, to have a discussion about it. I know I laughed watching the game after game of wife killed, daughter kiddnapped, examples, etc...
rn
rnAs for the underlying issue, I think the lopsidedness of portrayal has far more to do with the target audience than with a sexist developer bias. If your game is designed to target a predominantly male audience, then you construct a story that you hope will resonate with that audience. There are some pretty common goals that are being addressed with the background story - give the player a reason for their upcoming psycopathic rampage, perhaps make sure there is an availability for a NEW love interest, etc... which end up overusing a few easily recognized and perhaps tired storylines.
rn
rnCreative storylines, complex motivations, etc... are great, but if your game is really meant to capture the fun of shooting, bludgeoning, chopping stuff up, then you're probably not looking for a complex story. You're looking for an excuse to shoot, bludgeon, and chop.
rn
rnPeople get so threatened over stupid stuff. The fact that she uses patterns in game storyline as examples of the societal values isn't going to keep you from making another weakly storyline'd shoot, bludgeon, and chop game if that's what you want to do.

Carl Rutter
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Defiantly a touchy subject and one no one can not be bias about this since we all have gender. It can be very hard not to take things like this as a personnal attack but if you can seperate yourself from it and look at the games she mentions they are very sterotyped, for both genders, but since the video is about the gender sterotypes against women not men, I feel it justified to not talk about male sterotypes in it. As with most people I don't agree with everything in the details but the general point is there.

Adam Bishop
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I'm not going to wade into this in any detail, but I think it's pretty telling that nothing seems to get gamers angrier than a woman talking about sexism.

Benjamin Quintero
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Adam, not just a woman, not just a feminist, a self proclaimed "hard core" feminist who thinks the world problems are a result of men and only men... Her beliefs are so far over the line that she thinks the solution is to simply put women in power everywhere under the assumption that a superior woman can't possibly make the same mistakes that any man in power makes. She feels that if a man is holding a door for her or extending a hand to help her up when she falls that it is degrading and sexist.

There is a difference between legitimate sexism and the narrow views of a "hard core" feminist who admitted in her own TED talk to be "known for stirring up trouble online" (ie: trolling). =(

David Paris
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Re: Benjamin. Nothing in that video conveyed what you have said in any way.
rn
rnIt pretty calmly and civilly points out the abundant examples of the 'damsel in distress' storyline used in gaming, and then puts forth the opinion that this disempowered / objectified female stereotype is reflective of and reinforces a wider social expectation.

Adam Bishop
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@Benjamin

I'm not talking about Anita, whose beliefs I think you're grossly mischaracterising. When the topic of sexism in gaming comes up, especially when it's a female talking about it, the number of comments and the degree of vitriol in them is hugely disproportionate to any other topic in gaming. Even other hot-button topics in gaming like always-on DRM don't garner nearly the same degree of anger or the same quantity of commentary as sexism does. And this seems to be true regardless of the particular forum, whether it's an industry focussed site like Gamasutra, a hardcore PC site like Rock Paper Shotgun, or a mass market consumer site like Kotaku. There is no other topic that so many gamers feel the need to so loudly rage against. I think that's something that people ought to reflect on a bit.

Benjamin Quintero
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David, I'm responding to Adams comment with respect to her personal angle, not directly to the video content itself. You'd have to cross reference all of her whitepapers and appearances from her Kicstarter video to her other pieces online to to put my response into context.

---

So you are okay with making an argument like hers that ignores all of the counter points and facts? That sounds strange to me, to defend someone who is just spouting off their own views with their eyes shut and their ears plugged. If you are okay with that kind of unproductive monologue then there is nothing I can say here to change that. I'm struggling to see the difference between her narrow views and those of any other extremist group who is unwilling to hear the other side.

What I find even more interesting is the lack of women in video games supporting her. That is pretty telling in itself, don't you think? We should be shining a light on the productive work that women are doing in the industry, not this kind of baseless trash about why Mario is a jerk for saving his girlfriend from a giant lizard-turtle-dragon...

Benjamin Quintero
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[NOTE: I was writing my post while Adam responded, so this is an addendum]

Adam, yes sexism is a hot button topic, much like many others you mentioned. I think the issue with sexism that makes people respond so passionately is that no one wants to be wrongfully mislabeled as some kind of sexist jerk. That is a human rights issue, not a global agenda.

DRM is a less personal matter that is attacking all of our basic rights for goods and services. But when a man is called sexist; in an age where a misunderstanding will get you fired for harassment, people have a right to get defensive. Men are touchy about a subject that is directed at them and not the global agendas like privacy and DRM.

What bothers me most is not that she wants to defend women but that her defense is at the omission of all other examples of women in video games. This is no different than proving a connection between video games and violence by only submitting the fact that someone played video games, as if it had nothing to do with the persons mental health or the fact that his dad beat him every day for 10 years of his life.. No, it must have been those video games...

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David Paris
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@Benjamin - I'm perfectly happy to have her discussion here with its directly corresponding examples. It is clearly an opinion piece, but it comes along with good supporting research and an enjoyable delivery. If someone wanted to debate with it, she has clearly laid out her material and expressed it reasonably.
rn
rnContrasting this to your response which makes a lot of claims that aren't actually supported by the material presented. You've effectively set up a straw man to argue with well she did crazy *** elsewhere as your reason for why this well constructed piece should be ignored.
rn
rnOf the two, I'll take the prior every time. If you'd like to do a response video that numerically evaluates gender roles in game storytelling, provide your supporting material, and deliver it in an enjoyable style, then by all means good sir, game on!

Kheper Crow
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@Benjamin - I'm gonna go out on a limb and say maybe the media and stories we consume have a direct effect on how an individual sees and understands the world. Many working in the game industry have spent a LOT of time consuming the stories and characterizations in video games. Anita raising these issues is not important for the women but for the many (from my experience) who are inadvertently perpetuating negative stereotypes that are influencing society.

While I have not met many "sexist jerks" in the game industry, I have encountered too much inadvertent sexism to not think these videos are extremely valuable. It's too bad people are too busy attacking her and her points than listening and critiquing their own thoughts and works.

I look forward to a day when my girlfriend is comfortable visiting me at work. I fear this day is still very far away...

Benjamin Quintero
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I guess not everyone is expected to differentiate objectification and the object of affection... Some say that love is simply to endure and for all the struggles that a male protagonist endures could be out of a need to seek out his "possessions" and not simply to help the thing that matters most to him. Or maybe the damsel is simply a device for instinctive reaction in men to protect the thing that keeps them whole. Who knows.

Classic games make for good conversation because nothing was explicit then and anything can be derived from 8x8 pixels. Modern action games are much the same in that you must infer meaning from action, thus no one is right or wrong without the character speaking out to express his feelings. What you see is what your minds eye wants to see. The curious or the spiteful will cry foul and the others will accept the content more literally.

The male protagonist is cursed to a viscous cycle of death and faint praise at the end of his long journey. At most he achieves meaningless revenge or suffers the loss of the one person who completed him. But sure, lets just assume that he is doing it because someone stole his trophy. It makes for better headlines...

Jeferson Soler
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@ Benjamin Quintero - "The male protagonist is cursed to a viscous cycle of death and faint praise at the end of his long journey. At most he achieves meaningless revenge or suffers the loss of the one person who completed him. But sure, lets just assume that he is doing it because someone stole his trophy. It makes for better headlines..."

To me, that sounds almost like a defensive technique that McDonald's would use to defend its commercials, especially in the 80s. Seriously! I recall seeing videos of two McDonald's commercials that were followed by commentaries that completely dissected those commercials, analyzing the psychological and sociological aspects of those commercials and revealing the flaws behind those commercials. If those videos with the commentaries were made more mainstream and representatives from McDonald's saw those videos, I wouldn't be surprised if the representatives would tell a lot of excuses to the public to justify the production of the commercials. Anyhow, here's the following link on Don Bluth's comment: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=zQ4OAAAAIBAJ&sjid=jnwDAAAAIB
AJ&dq=dragon%27s%20lair&pg=6462%2C517664. By the way, the link is credited to someone else for finding it. From that link, here's some of the information that's found on the article about Don Bluth's explanation on Dirk, Daphne and Kimberley:

- Princess Daphne and Dirk - "Daphne's elevator definitely didn't go all the way to the top floor," Bluth continues. "But she served a purpose. She was the prize at the end of the first in a series of very difficult games for a then-unsophisticated audience. And besides, Dirk, her knight in shining armor, was no mental giant."

- Kimberley - "Oh, she's just as tall and, in a more civilized way, as pretty. But - curse or bonus - she's got a brain, and with it, a mouth."

Now, I'll admit that this was from years ago, that things may have changed with Don Bluth from that time and that I'm a fan of Don Bluth. However, that still doesn't change that Bluth himself said that Daphne and Kimberley were viewed as prizes years ago. At least, Bluth was being honest, unlike some other people in the videogame industry. Also, people don't have to completely agree with or be married to Anita's comments/point-of-views, but she still brings up a lot of good points (if not great points) about the treatment of female characters on games. In comparison to how some people deconstruct commercials, what Anita did is not bad and quite informative. Her project may not be 100% perfect, but it is a great starting point for discussion and information, in my opinion.

Benjamin Quintero
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@Jeferson

I think people see what they want to see. My 4 year old just today was playing a game where she rolled off her inflatable slide into a little kiddie pool that came up to her ankles. With no real threat in sight she then playfully yelled, "save me, save me!" Now; she doesn't play video games and most of the cartoons she watches don't really have stereotypical hero and damsel archetypes, so where did she learn that? What does that mean? Do women secretly like to be the damsel just as much as men love their power fantasies of being a bad ass? Or maybe people spend too much time thinking about all of this instead just enjoying the moment =). Much like tootsie roll pop centers, the world may never know.

And I never said that I disagreed with her. I think a lot of people in this thread think I am fighting against her words. As I've said before, I don't really care what her views are. She could be defending the lack of representation of Stay Puff Marshmallow people for all I care. What I don't agree with is when someone (anyone, boy, girl, cat, dog) steps up on a soapbox at the rejection of all other possibilities. Does she really believe that games are feeding this cycle of mistreatment of women, or is a reflection of society? Good for her, go for it; let her life have meaning.. But if she is going to do it with her eyes shut and ears plugged then I'm going to dismiss it as the ramblings of a person who thinks that change can happen in isolation and not cooperation.

I make video games for me, not my neighbor or even a stranger on the street. I makes games that I like to play. If those games happen to involve a male protagonist, well guess what? I can relate to that. If people like Anita have an issue with video games she needs to understand that people like me (who makes games for me) don't cater to her. She should be okay with that just as I would be okay if she entered this industry with a mission statement to make feminist video games. Rock on I say, good for you. But don't point the finger at an industry that is 80:20 male dominated and act offended because most of us are making games that appeal to us. There is a reason why other male dominated consumer products don't come in glitter and smell like Bath & Body Works. =/

Jeferson Soler
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@ Benjamin Quintero - "What I don't agree with is when someone (anyone, boy, girl, cat, dog) steps up on a soapbox at the rejection of all other possibilities. Does she really believe that games are feeding this cycle of mistreatment of women, or is a reflection of society? Good for her, go for it; let her life have meaning.. But if she is going to do it with her eyes shut and ears plugged then I'm going to dismiss it as the ramblings of a person who thinks that change can happen in isolation and not cooperation."
Well, before I assume that she has that kind of attitude, I want to wait for her other video installments and see what she has to say on them. I'll admit that it is not everything that I'll agree with her on and there are some things that she could have done better with her videos (there were even missed opportunities that would have helped her bring her points across a whole lot more), but I can't assume that she has a close-minded attitude until I either communicate with her (which I'm considering doing so) or see anything recent about her and her personality (like a legitimate biographical work on her). Based on this video alone, I'm not even so sure if she sees everything as black and white and no shades of gray. There's a part of the video that did show her viewing violence on women in fighting games differently due to women being on equal footing with men on fighting games, so it is possible that she may believe that for every rule, there's an exception to the rule. Besides, even if it turns out that she does have the kind of attitude that you talked about (and I'll say that I don't like that kind of attitude, too), that still doesn't change that her videos do bring up some valid points as well as unintended insight. Plus, in comparison to the videos on the dissecting of the McDonald's commercials that I mentioned earlier, Anita's videos are not bad and are rather informative.

Michael Josefsen
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@Benjamin
"But don't point the finger at an industry that is 80:20 male dominated and act offended because most of us are making games that appeal to us."

This is the part I agree with the most. I REALLY think it would be cool if we had a much wider, more diverse palette of games and stories on offer, but I'm going to make something that appeals to me regardless.

Jeferson Soler
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@ Michael Josefsen - Actually, there's a certain fallacy in Benjamin's comment. While it is true that you must do a game, a comic, a book, an animation, or a film that entertains you first (after all, it is one of the biggest rules for creating any media project), one can't come off saying something like that this is a male dominated industry, creating a stigma that this is a "boys only" club and that games should be exclusive to boys. From what I gathered, when Toru Iwatani came up with Pac-Man, he didn't just have the male audience in mind; he also had the female audience in mind. Likewise, Nolan Bushnell was vocal in the past about games needing to appeal to men and women (he especially viewed arcade places as a great way for men and women to get together and meet). Regardless of the nature of the games of old, those games tended to appeal to men and women alike, which worked well for the game developers from the 70's/early 80's as they wanted for their games to appeal to as many people as possible. They still developed games for themselves, but they also used empathy among other things as they developed games. Now, those developers may not have been perfect, but there's still things that we could learn from them and find out what they did right, what they did wrong and what they did that made things work. Also, even if one does a media project with a female audience in mind, that individual can still do the project to entertain himself/herself first, and if it is a guy that's doing that project, then that project could also appeal to the male audience as much as it would appeal to the female audience. The more people enjoy the media project, the better.

P.S.: If you truly want to counter anything from Anita, then you should consider collecting data on how many women enjoyed playing Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros.. Things were different back then and were viewed differently, so it is very much possible that the two aforementioned games appealed to the female audience as much as they appealed to the male audience. In case of the Super Mario franchise, the games from that franchise do tend to still appeal to both audiences as they are viewed as family games. The games from the Super Mario Bros. franchise would be an interesting case study.

Michael Josefsen
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@Jeferson Soler
I absolutely don't want to maintain the "boys club" status quo of the game industry and I admit I was a bit quick to form an opinion here.

What I mainly get from your comment is that it makes a lot of sense to put ones own vision for a game first, then see how it can be changed/improved to be more inclusive without compromising the original vision. I can't argue with that!

There will be cases where a game is destined to appeal less to women, if even at all. In those more extreme cases (Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball, for example) I really wouldn't want to tell those designers that their game is wrong, because I dont think it is. If at all possible, I would love to push a game towards being more inclusive, but you can't always put everything into a game. There is much to be said for a focused vision, not to mention limited resources. It is all going to be a question of priorites I guess. I really dont think its fair to imply that making games women dont want to play is akin to keeping women down.

My 3 current hobby game projects, in random order, star an invisible, unnamed protagonist, a strong female rebel and a gender neutral, racially ambiguous character, so I'd like to think those characters wouldn't set the feminist blogosphere ablaze. It's just that I would also like to feel like I have the right to make a game about a buxom lady in a chain-mail bikini if I wanted to. I guess my beef with Anita is less about message and more about rhetoric.

Jeferson Soler
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@ Michael Josefsen - "What I mainly get from your comment is that it makes a lot of sense to put ones own vision for a game first, then see how it can be changed/improved to be more inclusive without compromising the original vision. I can't argue with that!"

Exactly! Also, you are correct in that some games are just destined to appeal solely to men (like the DOA volleyball game that you mentioned), just like that there will be games that are destined to appeal solely to women. That's to be expected at times as there will development teams that will want to design games for a specific target audience and not for a mass audience. By the way, I myself am creating a game in which the main character of the game is a strong young woman, but I'm doing it more due to wanting to see something different and to have fun with the idea than due to wanting to do the game for a particular audience. As I keep on pointing out over and over again, I grew up with the Valis series, El Viento and Valkyrie Profile, so I always felt that it would be interesting to see more female leads in games. Even without Anita's videos as well as some of the articles from Gamasutra, I would still go forward with the game idea, because I want to see something different and feel that this would be a great challenge for me.

Michael Josefsen
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@Jeferson Soler
I do think making games with a female protagonist can be particularly challenging, especially if you (like me) worry about how people will interpret you choices of representation.
I grew up with Ripley from Aliens, Zanthia from Hand of Fate and Yoko Tsuno comics, so I always leaned towards female game avatars before it became a hot potato issue.

Eric McConnell
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It's ridiculous how many people feel offended by this. Most of it is true. The game industry is lazy, and still thrives off catering to male power trips. How anyone can deny that is beyond me. It could be a byproduct of being a white male dominated industry, or that our audience are generally males from 14-??(some number that doesn't matter because most of them have the mindset of a 14 year old).

You can get defensive, but just look how stupid those story-lines are in her examples. In all honesty, SyFy movies have better plots. Oh no, my wife is now a part of my arm? My wife is now grafted onto an alien/demon and I must kill it... then her! This shit is ridiculous. Imagine showing you daughter these games and having to explain it to her.

Yes some of the examples are stretched a little far, but we can't point out tiny flaws and ignore the message. People need to grow up.

Jeferson Soler
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@ Eric McConnell - "It's ridiculous how many people feel offended by this. Most of it is true. The game industry is lazy, and still thrives off catering to male power trips."

I agree with you and I'm definitely not ignoring the message. I'll admit that I grew up with games that use "damsel in distress" trope, but I also grew up with Kangaroo (a game that has the "mother rescuing son" plot, predating the "father rescuing daughter" plot) as well as games with female leads (the Valis series, El Viento, Valkyrie Profile, Metroid, etc.) and I don't mind having games with female leads (especially properly portrayed female leads) as I want to see more variety in the videogame industry. As much as I like the videogame industry and to play different games from that industry, I have to agree with you about the laziness of the videogame industry and that's the point that I was trying to bring earlier. Regardless of how people feel about Anita's video and the message that she's trying to convey, they should look beyond all that and notice that the "damsel in distress" trope has being done/recycled more times than the FPS games (and there are also FPS games that use the "damsel in distress" trope). As I said before, I don't entirely fault game developers for this predicament, but this predicament does show that the videogame industry has spent more time being in the comfort zone than trying something totally different.

Johnathon Tieman
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@Eric: It's easy to to point out how ridiculous these videos are, by actually applying science to the problem. For instance, your claim that the audience is "generally males from 14-??" shows you are not educated on the subject. The average gamer is in their mid-thirties, and that is for the "hardcore" (not casual) gamers. Also, women make up nearly half of gamers currently, so the industry must be doing something fairly well. http://www.theesa.com/facts/

Anita also commits the most common sin when it comes to proving a point - namely, picking the point first and then looking for all corroborating evidence. Notice by and large the games she picks have one thing in common - namely, that they are action games that you primarily interact with the environment through violence (her videos even state so). It completely ignores games like Wing Commander (several female fighter pilots who were just as strong as the male characters), role-playing games like Final Fantasy (which has had many female characters who were *not* the love interest of the main character), adventure games like King's Quest, and so on. All Anita does is cherry-pick her data and present anecdotal stories that sets off red flags for anyone who actually understands how to make a logical point.

One of the rebuttal's I saw to Anita's claims points out that there are only 36 dramatic situations (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Thirty-Six_Dramatic_Situations), and Anita's arbitrary description of the "damsel in distress" trope covers a rather large number of those, so of course that is used a lot.

I will say it is interesting that I see no comments describing the videos or supporters of the videos with terms such as "lazy" or "ridiculous" (such as it should be), yet somehow this ad hominem comment is allowed to stay.

Kyle Redd
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Wow, Gama editors are really on a comment-deleting spree with this one. I don't suppose you all are keeping a record of all of these remarks somewhere, so that we could view them and judge for ourselves whether your actions were appropriate?

Further, is it seriously not technically possible for you to edit out *only* the "offensive" parts of the comment, and leave the rest?

Jerome Grasdijk
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From the video, and taking it purely on its own merits, it's hard to argue that there isn't a very unhealthy pattern there, which is far more prevalent in games than in the wider culture. It's a good point made with significant impact, and you would hope that those working within the industry will take care to adress it.

That said, it certainly isn't an all-encompassing trend, it's easy enough to think of counter-examples, or even interactive narratives which are symmetrical (Mass Effect comes to mind). I can also think of plenty of revenge movies, especially Japanese or other Eastern, where this trope is also strongly represented.

The point is, most of the non-game examples of the worst sub-tropes seem to be in niche markets. I'd love to see a proper statistical breakdown - I guess we can all dream - but in the meantime I think the best we can do is try to give the world's teens a slightly better quality of fiction in the future.

One last thing i would add is that there are game design reasons for the frequent euthanised damsels. If you rescue a damsel and she lives, what do you do? Suddenly introduce her as a persistent buddy character tagging along in your FPS who you have to make sure not to hit with friendly fire in subsequent encounters? It adds a significant snag which spills over into game design, encounter design, voice acting, coding, all kinds of areas, and it's often not believable from an emotional or realism point of view to have the rescued damsel just walk...

Regine Abel
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What to do with the damsel once freed is a challenge, but I guess that's something that each game must address differently based on their genre, game mechanics and narrative.

A good example was in Dragon Age 2. If you allowed the Arishok to take Isabella prisoner, she not only manages to escape by her own means but steals again the Tome for which they came after her to begin with. She vanishes after that so you don't have to deal with her any more. They didn't give any details on how she pulled it off. It doesn't matter. What does matter is that she isn't a damsel in distress. She's resourceful, smart and strong.

The problem is that all these damsels just sit there weeping and waiting for an external (male) force to free them. I would want to see more cases where the damsel actually found a way out of her cell but still needs extraction. She's hiding in the fortress where she's held captive, and helps the rescue team by whatever means available to her without actually making her a companion. This can be done by her unlocking certain passages, knocking out some guards, creating a distraction or leaving breadcrumbs for the hero to follow.

Jeferson Soler
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@ Jerome Grasdijk - "One last thing i would add is that there are game design reasons for the frequent euthanised damsels. If you rescue a damsel and she lives, what do you do? Suddenly introduce her as a persistent buddy character tagging along in your FPS who you have to make sure not to hit with friendly fire in subsequent encounters? It adds a significant snag which spills over into game design, encounter design, voice acting, coding, all kinds of areas, and it's often not believable from an emotional or realism point of view to have the rescued damsel just walk..."

While I agree with most of your comment, I do have to question this one paragraph from your comment. To me, that kind of reasoning for killing off the "damsel in distress" during the game makes me think that the development team got lazy and didn't want to think of a creative way to deal with the damsel after she's being rescued as well as didn't want to deal with additional programming for the game. In other words, it sounds to me like that killing off the damsel was like a cop-out from doing extra work on a game that would have more substance and character if more work was put into it. Regine brought up an interesting example that shows that there was/is a way to handle the damsel after she either is rescued or rescues herself, so there's a way that the job could have being done.

Stephanie Kyrin
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Why was Child of Eden in there...? (I'll have much more to say once I've actually watched the whole thing, but I was stunned for a moment when seeing a clip from Child of Eden in the montage near the start... very much not anything to do with damsel in distress, that game.

Michael Josefsen
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"Of course, if you look at any of these games in isolation, you will be able to find incidental
narrative circumstances, that can be used to explain
away the inclusion of violence against women as a plot
device. But just because a particular event might make sense within the internal logic of a fictional narrative
, that doesn't in and of itself justify its use."

Yes it does. Or rather; it doesn't need to be justified
in the first place unless the narrative context is not something particularily problematic.

Also, she uses rather loaded language by calling the
narrative circumstances of a game "incidental" and
saying things like "might make sense" and "explain away". It will defuse arguments when half your retoric is aimed at painting an unflattering image of your "opponent".

I agree with much of this video, but suggesting a kidnapped girlfriend in a game is somehow always a bad move on the creators part and always a result of an ill-informed mind is pretty arrogant.

fred tam
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Feminism versus FACTS (RE Damsel in distress)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJeX6F-Q63I


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