May 30, 2013

Tropes vs Women in Video Games

This week, Anita Sarkeesian released the second video in her Tropes vs Women in Video Games series.

Predictably, given the feathers she's ruffled in the gaming scene, critics flagged her video as inappropriate and taken down by Youtube, despite the fact that there's nothing inappropriate in the video. That said, it does warrant a trigger warning for depictions of violence against women.

I know Anita Sarkeesian takes a lot of flak, but I'll be honest, I think she's totally on the ball when it comes to gender issues in games. The important points that many of her critics overlook are that (1) she'd not saying you can't enjoy games that depict women negatively and (2) just because the mistreatment of women might be considered realistic or believable (which are not the same thing, I assure you), that doesn't mean it's appropriate or should be used without due consideration to the implications and impact it may have.

I don't believe these tropes are used maliciously. And I don't believe they have to be avoided all the time. But I do think that writers/developers and readers/players alike need to be aware of them, because they do play a part in normalizing violence against women.

Anita Sarkeesian has come under fire for "forgetting" or "ignoring" games like Metroid and the heroine Samus Aran. However my response to that is to ask whether Uhura being on Star Trek meant there was no more racism on TV? Or if Will & Grace brought on a golden age of gay characters in lead roles? One exception does not disprove a pattern. If anything, the presence of these few exceptions should be taken as just a starting point, something to build on, instead of stepping away and saying "There, that's enough."

Does anyone have any other examples of this kind of treatment of women in games or other entertainment? Or any counter-arguments to the video?


  1. I think Anita Sarkeesian brings up an important point and one that hasn't gotten much attention. A potential benefit to the gaming industry for toning down this sort of depiction could even be an increase in the number of women who buy and play games.

    1. I think you're right. Whatever else is said, it's a fact that the more accessible someone is to different demographics, the more it'll sell, and that's good for the people making these games.

      The best part is, it's not even difficult to make entertaining games that leave behind old-fashioned tropes. I'm re-playing XCOM: Enemy Unknown right now, a fantastically fun game, and there's nary a damsel in sight. Your make and female soldiers are just as badass as each other, and while there are rescue missions, you save men as often as you save women.